Observations of Bali

Before returning from south-east Asia, Angela and I visited Bali for about 4 days.  We stayed the first two nights in the Hard Rock Hotel (with a poster of Billy Corgan (sp?), the lead singer for Smashing Pumpkins in our room) and the next two at a more traditional style of Balinese house.  We learned a number of interesting thing there, but none more interesting than how to confuse evil spirits.  Apparently, there are a lot of evil spirits wandering about the countryside of this small island, because their entire style of architecture is designed to befuddle and thwart entrance by evil spirits.  Just in case you have any evil spirits of your own, hereís how to confound them:

  1. Make them walk up and/or down stairs at the entranceway.  This does a major number on most evil spirits; maybe they have sort of an inner ear problem and their balance is affected, I donít know.  But, it seems there are some evil spirits who have figured out the stair trick, so there is another, fool-proof method to ensure evil spirits donít enter your house:

  2. Make them turn corners.  The Balinese style of architecture has a low wall around the compound of your house with one or more entrances (with stairs up and down), and right behind the entrance is a wall, so you have to turn either left or right to get in. 

Thatíll teach those evil spirits.

When we bought things at the grocery store, they always gave us little candies with our change.  The change, however, wasnít change; they have paper money for all denominations.  Eating and living in Bali is very cheap if you stay out of the main hotels (like the Hard Rock); we were eating full dinners at nice cafes for a few dollars apiece. 

Bali reminded me of Greece in two ways:  First, the ancient Balinese (like the ancient Greeks) always picked dramatically beautiful spots to build their temples.  Many of them are on cliffs over looking the sea, or high in the mountains with a beautiful view into distant valleys.   Second, the modern Balinese (like the modern Greeks) all seem to love driving on scooters, and the crazier the pace and the maneuvering the better. 

If you happen to be a surfer, or think you might possibly want to be one someday, try Bali.  There seems to be good surf more or less all the time, and tons of surf shops and other surfers to compare notes with at the end of the day.

Bali is not a rich country; in fact, itís not a country at all, but part of Indonesian.  But, thatís not important right now.  Because Indonesian is not a rich country, itís like a lot of less wealthy countries where if you stand still for more than a few minutes (or, sometimes, seconds) you will be swarmed by people trying to sell you hand made handicrafts or genuine-fake antiques (or, in some cases, genuine-fake Rolex watches).  Itís a living, and I certainly donít blame them for asking, but of course they can be somewhat persistent in how they ask, and that can make it difficult to enjoy the splendor you are there to see.  So, on the third day we hired a driver to take us around the interior of the island and we became guerrilla tourists: the van would stop, weíd jump out and take our pictures and then weíd retire to the van before the swarm of salesmen became too overbearing.  I guess you could say weíd strike, and then quickly shrink back into the minivan.

So, thatís Bali for you.  I hope everyone out there is doing well, and I look forward to sharing some observations of Turkey (the country, not the main course) in a few weeks.  Later.