My very first day in Padangbai
In luck again: I can hitch a ride into town with RipCurl, otherwise the taxi would’ve cost another 100.000rph. Pick-up leaves at 7am, so there’s hardly any time to say goodbye.
I’m in for a surprise before I leave though, when I’m getting my bill. It turns out to be more than twice as much as expected.
I’m sorry, I’m talking money and budget a lot, like I’m constantly cracking numbers. But I’ve gotten to this point where I really have to start watching out, I’m running tight!
So here I go again on my own.
From Ripcurl it’s a 15 minute walk to the Perama busstop. All the while taxi’s and bikes keep slowing down to offer transport.
Bemo should be the cheapest option, Lonely Planet says it’s 22.000rph and across the street from Perama.
But I don’t see an office. There’s an elder man asking, the way drivers always keep doing “Where you go?” I almost dismiss him like I did with every transport offer, but then he says “Bemo?” So he’s got my attention. “I give you good price, 200.000rph, we can leave now.” So basically he’s just offering me a cab ride there. It’s faster, but a lot more expensive too.
So I book a busticket with Perama for 60.000rph from Kuta to Padangbai. It’ll be another 2 hours and I’m welcomed in the waiting area where I can grab some complementary instant coffee, and we’re back to Thai/Laos/Combodian quality.
This girl, Putu Dia [17, Sanur, Bali] who’s a trainee with Perama comes to sit with me for a while. She’s so darling.
She tells me she wants to visit Holland, but I tell her she’s so much better off here in this beautiful country with it’s friendly people, than to go to a flat, grey, cold country where nobody has time to sit down for a chat like she’s now doing, because they have to be some place else to make more money.
She tells me a little more about their country and culture. Like the Bali names. The first child is always named Putu, the second always Made, the third always Komang and the fourth always Ketut. For the fifth and so on it starts over again. And after that comes a given name, in her case Dia. She’s an only child, so the oldest, therefore Putu Dia. That would make me Ketut Merel. *
Dia comes to wave me off when the bus leaves. And finally it’s the really shabby one, no AC, sliding windows and wobbly chairs like I wanted to be on since I first saw them in Bangkok. Too bad there are hardly any locals on, and behind me sits an American who can’t stop talking about the awesome things he’s done and going to do and seems to really have to prove himself with his big talk.
There’s a stop and swich at Ubud, in a little courtyard of gravel and concrete. That’s all I see of Ubud now, but I guess I’ll be back. It looked like a charming town and I’ve heard it’s a must.
The road takes us through tropical forests with limestonelike hills and along the shore to the end of the road, right up to a harbour.
So this is Padangbai.
At the Perama info desk I get a map, but I don’t really get to study it as I’m tugged on from all end to come to their guesthouse or take their fastboat to Gilies.
Such a shame they’re trying so hard to sell; makes it incredibly hard to tell who wants to just have an honest conversation. And the few of those you do have are awkward because you seem to have to be on your guard with what you say.
Walking in to town I’m asked over a dozen times if I need a room. I tell them I need to find a bed for no more than 60.000 rph, and most of them let me go. Until an older man says he can do. “Walk with me, I live closeby.” It’s a 10-minute walk still, over the parking area and through another maze of gangs. We walk into a garden that belongs to many houses wih many plants and flowers and little altars and family busslte going on.
A few steps up is a simple and slightly dirty room with 2 double beds, a fan and a shabby bathroom, but it will do for tonight. So we shake hands, I ask him to draw me a map and fill out his little book of guests.
After I dropped my bag and take a look around I ask him who’s supposed to take the dead rat out of the alley, and go back in for a shower.
All freshened up I take my cam and go to find Bloo Lagoon beach.
On the way there I walk past Topi Inn, a Dutch set up, now run by Australians, guesthouse with an eco diner and in the upstairs loungeroom they have a few beds laid out by way of dorm. Those beds are 40 a night, so I book it for the next night.
When I get to the beautiful Bloo Lagoon tide is just moving out. The waves look like they could eat you up and the water is the bluest of blue, here in this little bay surrounded by tropical greens and black lava rivers of stone. Too bad that I can only enjoy its peace for 20 minutes before the bar starts pumping up the volume with more of those hits. Time to discover the rest of this town and find a warung.
The thing is: it’s all awesome once you’ve made your friends, even if they’re just there for a day.
But when you’re alone, you have too much time and get inside your head. And you need that, from time to time. But zoning out with other people around, by choice, is so different from that whole sense of extreme loneliness you get when you’re just in a new place.
You are really alone. And people may be friendly, but they’re all ‘them’ and there’s no ‘us’, just ‘me’.
Time to meet some new people, time to meet Koming at Sunshine bar. He’s not in yet, but since I’m the only customer his staff comes to sit and chat with me, a younger boy that introduces himself as Tude. I don’t know him either, but suddenly is doesn’t feel as alone anymore.
Just like a wave it turns and tosses me around.
Then a man on a tough scooter with long hair, tattoos and tunnels in his ears comes over and greets me in a slightly Australian accent “Hi Merryl, how a’ yoo? Yoo ge’ he’ weal?” and I meet a great friend.
We talk a while, about our mutual friend, about her boyfriend; my brother, me, him, and get to know each other.
We find a shared passion in playing guitar and singing so start live-night early with a little acoustic set on the terras. He reminds me of this great at fitting song by Alanis Morisette – Hand In My Pocket and I can’t even imagine how lonely I was feeling two hours ago.
Some drunken Aussies come by, a father and son looking for pussy; they’re the rudest. Koming is still a proper host and gives them the beer they ask for. He’s as happy as I am when they leave though.
Later in the evening a band comes in and plays the night away with more hits from memory lane, while at the long table outside I meet Kayla [Aus] Josh and brothers Chris and Joe [USA] and some more formidable people like the Aussie granddad.
Koming feels it’s his duty to properly introduce us all to arak after the band’s gone home.
Arak is the local spirit made of coconut, that sort of reminds of petrol. He fills an empty beer bottle with it, takes out a saucer with salt and limes and keeps pouring and handing a shotglass around the table, again and again.
All the while we’re discussing al kinds of silly and serious matters; the word ‘fuck’ and the locals misunderstanding it for a swearword instead of an adjective, religion and marriage on Bali and in Indonesia and how they go together in a generally Muslim country with Hindu and Christian islands – when they marry both can keep their own belief, but for the sake of the children one will be chosen over the other. Often it will be the man’s as the woman always moves in with him and his family.
At around 3am Koming sends Tude to go get a midnight snack. A little later he’s back with a few paper cones filled with rice, noodle and spicy chunks of meat. I try to be tough but five bites in and I have to give up crying. Enak sekali though! The rest of it goes to the streetdogs – they’re between stray and pet, though these mainly live on the street.
We continue with the beers and talk until a lighter shade of blue comes up.
Koming and I finish ours after the others leave, and he dares me to one more arak. I never not accept a challenge; he’s got me figured there. We spend what feels like at least another hour talking and it feels like I met another soulmate.
* And still I’m surprised how important this numbering is. When asked about my family it’s how many are you? The howmaniest are you? When asked about my boyfriend, when I’m telling about my brothers.
Also I’ve found out in the mean time there are a few more options:
1 Putu, Gede, Wayan, Tude
2 Made, Kadek
3 Komang, Nyoman
But still it can get very confusing. And most have either tweaked their Bali name into something personal or, more common, invented themselves or their friends nicknames. Plenty I know only by their alias, which they sometimes change to play a trick on the one-night tourists.