Bali: Turn off your mind . . .

 |   |  2 min read

Gusti Sudarsana: Fisherman
Bali: Turn off your mind . . .

Being a travel writer – as I have sometimes grandly described myself – means never being able to say you're on holiday. Every destination – even the most mundane or local – may hold an experience, a story, or a character you feel compelled to explore and perhaps convey in print.

And so I have gone out of my way to see a bizarre museum dedicated to Elvis Presley in smalltown Mississippi, followed my instincts to a tiny island off the coast of the bickering Koreas where the sole attractions were pumpkin candy and dried seaweed, and travelled up a river in Sarawak to spend the night with people who had shrunken skulls hanging on the wall of their longhouse.

But at my insistence and with encouragement from my wife – who has supported my explorations and frequently accompanied me as I follow a whim – we took A Holiday. There was what people of “a certain age” call A Significant Birthday to acknowledge – from here on they become increasingly significant, I think – so we went to Bali.

We avoided the fleshpots of Kuta and my wife found the comfortable, quiet Santi Mandala Villa and Spa in a pleasant valley just 20 minutes from Ubud. For a week I did a whole lot of nothing.

We spent hours by the pool drifting in and out of consciousness to the sound of ambient gamelan-styled music, watched colourful kites in the clear blue sky, sometimes went into Ubud to poke around the market and eat, and had a holiday just like other people do.

We slept deep and late, and . . .

And then I fell off the wagon. I couldn't help myself.

P6260053Curiosity got the better of me so we went into Ubud and I bought CDs of Indonesian rock and pop to investigate (I'm listening to the punk band Superman is Dead singing Kuta Rock City right now), at night we attended traditional dance and gamelan concerts (one of steel gamelan in the famous Ubud palace, the other of bamboo in the nearby village of Bentuyung).

I bought a book on gamelan and started to ask questions.

We joined in a local festival then, with a young couple from San Francisco, we hired a knowledgeable driver for a day who took us into traditional homes and ancient temples, down to the impoverished village of Kedisan beside Danau Batur (the lake) in the shadow of Ganung Batur (the mist-covered mountain), tramped off into chokingly claustrophobic jungle near the Elephant Cave, took photos, I made notes . . .

On our final day with a late night flight home we decided to go in to Kuta, then wiser and lazier thoughts prevailed. We stayed poolside.

It was an utterly relaxing day, I felt I could get into this.

And so I had a holiday, and kept a promise to myself: I haven't written a thing about it.

My travel books are here and many "proper" travel stories are here.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Travels articles index

Portland, Oregon: A light in the window

Portland, Oregon: A light in the window

Dusk was dropping into night when I saw her. She was on the corner of North Russell and Mississippi in an industrial area of Portland, Oregon. She looked old and slightly painted up when I spotted... > Read more

Hanoi, Vietnam: Milking it

Hanoi, Vietnam: Milking it

Marcel was so French you could spot it across the cafe. The shrug of the shoulders, the downturn of the mouth and sulking bottom lip, the sleepy eyes and cigarette permanently attached. He was a... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

AMERICAN WAR GENERALS (Madman DVD)

AMERICAN WAR GENERALS (Madman DVD)

Two true stories from days gone by. In 1969 as an 18-year old I flew into and out of Saigon and looked down on that blasted landscape of craters around the city. And then the thick jungle... > Read more

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown: The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (1968)

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown: The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (1968)

By the latter part of the Sixties there was a clear difference between how American and British "hippies" perceived "the psychedelic era". If it's true that no music movement... > Read more