We arrived in Bali, Indonesia. And, this is what we stared at for 8 days straight in between looking up from our books.
Nicknamed, “Snore” by some travellers, Sanur, Bali was just the right speed after travelling every two days in Cambodia.
It’s billed as Bali’s first tourist center, where resorts pitched Bali style bungalows on prime locations right along the beach, off the eastern coast. There, adventurous early European travellers would land pre-1960 to indulge in what they understood, through travel advertising of the time, would be exoticism and blissful weather.
Today, Sanur is more popularly known as a family vacation spot, where the swimming is easy for kids, and there’s a long boardwalk that stretches the beach’s length with cafes, restaurants, and charter boats for hire.
Being our second visit to Bali, we were more familiar with things, but no less enchanted. Our perspective only meant that things we saw as exotic the first time around, were now more understandable. Plus, as a family destination that includes occasional screaming children, temper tantrums, and kids with ice cream goatees, it further highlighted that exoticism would remain out of orbit.
Thankfully, though, good weather was in full flux.
We found a room at a homestay – basically a hotel, but built within a family’s compound. The cost is much less, and it’s a way that allows you to interact with a family as you might through AirBnB or a European pensione.
Immediately, Rose was mistaken for Indonesian, and the family addressed her in Bahasa. “Oh. You look like you’re from Sumatra”, they’d say after Rose had politely smiled, and gave away her non-Indonesianess by answering with “Terima Kasih”, which means “thank you”, a reasonable response, but in the family’s eyes: a sign she was clearly as foreign as me.
Amazingly this pattern would repeat itself in 98% of the interactions we had. In one, it even got us a local discount, because the guy, couldn’t quite understand where Rose fit. By that time she’d mastered a few sentences, I think purely because of all this undue attention – she felt she had a persona to live up to – and with that combination and an apparent Sumatran face that got more and more tanned as the days went on, the guy just went ahead and gave us “local price”.
For the record: this never happened in the Philippines. Most salesmen barely understood her Tagalog. And, the ones that did, spoke back to her in English to help out. Discounts? Nada so much.
In any case, I think Rose has enjoyed all the attention, and the family at the homestay were eager to indulge by explaining how to say certain things in Bahasa – which she’d then tutor me on later in the day, though I haven’t really progressed much better than a “Terima Kasih” level.
As we lived out our slow paced life in Sanur, we mapped out the place pretty well by bike and on foot, eating at small local eateries for insanely low prices. Called “warungs”, Rose and I could eat a substantial meal for a total of $6 CAD for two. Pretty great.
On a not so great note, I broke a tooth. I thought a piece of fish was extra crunchy in my mouth, so added some extra pressure to snap it in two. The crunchy part was actually a bone. And my tooth forfeited.
Interestingly, it gave me a peek into a whole medical tourism industry supported mainly by visiting Australians. Dental procedures were a third of the price in Bali. So, for Australians who couldn’t afford the work at home, many flew here to get it done. Mine was no exception. For a new part of my tooth, I paid about 70% less than I had in Canada.
The good news is that 100% of it is still in my mouth. So far, so solid. But I’ll let you know if the savings later fall out.
There was another event that stirred us from our peaceful stupor, and allowed us to wipe the drool from our mouths, after reading books on our iPads for hours:
All of a sudden there was a commotion on the beach in front of us, and as one person showed up, then two, then three, I thought I should be the fourth, and there they were, baby turtles, which another lady had volunteered to pick up and put in a bucket, while another guy with “Security” on his t-shirt seemed to be directing her actions.
Rose, seeing the life or death struggle of the little guys, decided to take things into her own hands, and picked up the lady’s collection, ran them down to the ocean and released them – thinking, “Swim little ones! Before I reconsider and ask a chef to put you in a soup”.
A fair analysis. But, unfortunately, hasty. The “Security” guy said they had a small tank, which they kept newborns in BEFORE sending them out in the ocean. Rose looked up, guiltily, realizing she’d just rushed them to what she thought was safety, but in fact, may have put them in peril.
So, with the help of some local kids, we brought them back in – dropped them in a bucket, and quickly returned to our iPads where we could once again make safer mistakes, like streaking the iPad glass with sticky fingers from a brownie.
We really discovered how long we’d been here, when the beach touts stopped approaching us to sell us things, and we no longer heard the omnipresent two questions on the street:
Ok. It was a sign to move on. We packed up and would bring our low pulses to watch an entire village of men cut each other before patting each on the back with a smile. After that temporary excitement, we’d head East to a snorkelling spot called Amed, where we gawked at undersea life and listened to our toenails grow some more.