Day 1 back home – JUNE 5, 2012

Reversed jetlag. Waking up on Dutch time while my internal clock is still on Bali, 6 hours ahead.
I open my curtains to the cold grey street I’ve been looking at most of my life. I pull on a robe and take a look around.
I moved in with my parents again when I got back from France half a year ago and unpacked my books and clothes. When I look at all that now I can’t believe how much stuff I have! Especially the clothes; who needs so many clothes?!
All these cute little dresses and pumps and funky sneakers. They feel brand new to me. And they make me feel rich, but at the same time I’m overwhelmed.
I never owned many cd’s but already messed that pile up last night looking for Bob Marley to chase a feeling.
My books… I didn’t even manage to leave the ones I bought on the way. Yes, bought, because I didn’t manage to swap either. And all of them are dear friends with a story and memory behind the one they describe.

I never used to be one for breakfast; but in Asia I learned, and I’m hungry. But all the food that I craved out there isn’t as good as I imagined it. I’d just like some campur.
Banana’s here look weird too, huge and pale.
Going to the loo, I really have to tell myself it’s okay to throw the paper in.

Two steps forward one step back I make my way back into homelife.
And then there’s a letter from a retirementfund I’m apearently in. A feeling of being pinned down by our bureaucrastic society chokes me.

The biggest difference and what I’ll probably miss most is living outside, together. It’s just too cold for outside life here.
And everyone is used to living their own little tunnelvision, hidden from the fresh air. There is a lot of talk, a lot of communication, through facebook and phones, or even face to face, but it’s nowhere near as warm; so much more focussed on ‘me’ and ‘looking out for my stuff’ and ‘taking care of my business’ instead of “How are you, really? Where are you going, where have you been?”
I’ll be homesick to that for a good long while I imagine. I came home much, much too soon.

From singlets and flipflops it’s back to trousers and longsleeves under my same same shirt.
All I want to do is drown myself in all these memories – and I don’t know where to begin.

Lists!

Sights
ngkor
#1 Angkor Wat, Cambodia
#2 Halong Bay, Vietnam
#3 Nam Kha National Park, Laos

Country
#1 Laos
#2 Indonesia (Bali)
#3 Vietnam

Town
#1 Padangbai, Indonesia
#2 Luang Prabang, Laos
#3 Hoi An, Vietnam

Locals
#1 Padangbai, Indonesia
#2 Samraong, Camboia
#3 Canggu, Indonesia

Padangbai Weekly

But the dreams of Southeast Asia never faded. All through the long days at work and quiet nights at home I kept dreaming of all the alleys yet to be roamed, waterfalls yet to be jumped, villagers and fellow travelers with the same passionate will to live and explore yet to be met.
And on October 13th I finally flew back east to the island I left last, straight on a bus to the town that stole my heart; it only seemed fitting to begin again where I left off.
Initially I intended to stay for about a week. But before I knew it a month had passed.
And I was almost ready to finally move on. You can’t ever stay in one place too long or you get sucked into routine again; precisely the reason you went traveling in the first place, no?
But the lack of contact with fellow travelers made me wonder how much I wanted to go down that path again; the lonely busrides, the ever continuing goodbyes…
This is about where you lost me. And it must have been destiny this is about where it happened.
(Yes I know, destiny is one of those iffy terms. But I’m not afraid to use it here.)

Another one of those encounters where right away it feels like you’ve known each other from before, like you’re old friends who just haven’t seen each other for a long time.
“Why didn’t I meet you before?” finally met it’s context for me.

I’ve been mentioning boyfriends before. After the dark months back home I’ve been getting eager to find someone again. And the closer I got to leaving, the easier that became – long story.
Short: finally I got the commitment I wanted before, but by then I was so close to departure I didn’t want it anymore. I already knew travel and relationships don’t go together. Another long story I mean to go into later.
I’m drifting off again. (Must be because the waves in front of me keep rolling in and out different thoughts.)

He’s different from the other boys here, who all make hunting the many tourist girls that pass through their town a sport. He’s not hitting on me.
But he’s ever so friendly, and open.
On the beach, after attempting to teach me riding the boogie-board, we sit and he tells me all about his life.
And he’s so clever and funny and honest.
And every day I’m looking forward to hanging out with my new friend more and more.
And so charming too.

I don’t have to elaborate on how this turned from friendship to fling to serious. Or maybe I will, for chicklit’s sake. Another time.

This blog is not a dairy. “Today I went to the beach, again. There weren’t any waves though, so I spend most my time sitting at a warung, listening to my boyfriend talking with the other locals, trying to pick up some bahasa Bali. Thinking about how I’m going to find a job so I won’t have to leave the country in three weeks…”
There’s not a lot of new stuff happening yet, since I came back here already more than a week ago. We’re figuring out how we’re going to make our life together. But I don’t have much to tell you yet.

I should tell you about my week in fresh Singapore, the city/country unlike any other, where I received the warmest of welcomes by my awesome friend and host Fauzy.
And the complete opposite in third-world Cambodia where I visited some of my best friends from home; a blast!
But that all doesn’t go in the Padangbai Weekly. Once again I’m telling you “later” – see, I’m talking like a local already.

So I’ll devote this one to this last week, back in the town that started to feel like home since I was first here 1.5 years ago.

I came back so quickly because this guy I met in November and I just couldn’t wait till February; when I’d originally booked my flight back.
I abandoned my traveling dream for a different, no less dreamlike life.

And after a week pretty much off of everything, I’m back in the office; a warung by the ocean, my pen and booklet on the table, describing the same scene all over again.
A tourist couple in the sand, a local sits down with then to make friends and invite them to the bar tonight to get his friend some business. The sarong/massage girls and sunglasses/henna-tattoo guys on the prowl. A little further the kids are playing, throwing sand at each other, shouting at the waves. And a little farther still a group of tourists gathers to pose for a photo with the musicians. My guy’s grilling the fish he just caught to feed me the best of flavors again.

It’s going to be a rocky road. Indonesia is not eager letting Westerners taking their jobs, so getting my long-term visa is going to be a hassle.
My love is four years younger, a surfer, an raised in a completely different culture where ‘hurry’ and ‘now’ don’t have much meaning anyway.
But as long as I can turn off my Western brainwashed “what if’s” and just relax, I truly do live in paradise.
Like I would joke to my friends back home. Most of them haven’t backpacked solo so would ask me “What is your plan, when are you coming back?” Questions that don’t exist on the road.
So I would joke “Maybe one day I’ll meet a hot surfer and we’ll fall madly in love and spend the rest of our days in a shack by the ocean.”
I can’t help it happened this soon. But I’m sure it will bring me plenty more stories to tell.
For now I’m going to put my pen down and just enjoy it some more though.

Day LXXVII – JUNE 3, 2012

Every day a new adventure.

That this should just happen to be my last doesn’t even start to break that rule.

I’m woken by a knock on the door at 9am. And then again at 11 am, and at 12pm –check out- I awnser it.
Last nights there was a little incident where one of the employes knocked on my door with broken English and pretty much forced himself in, sat down and asked if I had beer and if he could stay. I got him out again easily enough, but still he scared me and I kept my door locked and closed for the rest of the night.

Now it’s just the minivan service to the airport. And while waiting the guys make some more (rude?) comments, and one of them wants to take his picture with ‘the blond girl’.
But finally we load up and leave this place. I share the backseat bench with 4 other customers and we pick up 2 more who get the passenger seat. Not too crowded.

At the airport again I have to pose as ‘the white girl’ a few times. I’m sure they were saying in amazement “and she was smoking too.”

I was hoping to stash my bag in the Emirates office, but after trying to arrange that for 2 hours with a lot of asking, walking back and forth, and no success I give up. Not a lot of English is spoken or understood around here on Soekarno Hatta International Airport. I’m glad the signs at least have translations on them in small writing.

I sit down with starfucks and order a ‘coffee’ to get on their wifi.
A nice young man from Bandung asks if that other chair is taken. His Ingris is very good and we have a nice chat.
Yeah. Airport days aren’t that bad.

And that’s what you get for talking to strangers.

A look into the airport backstage and a free local meal. And of course the company and insight of life of a local.

Sjaf, who works here in logistics –but not today; so what was he doing here? – took me.
He just starts talking to me, not in the annoying way the ignorant-to-buleh guys at the hotel did. He’d actually seen and learned something of the world, has a French girlfriend now living in Bali and aspires a trip to New Zealand to visit a friend and work in the kiwi business. Good English too.
I ask him for a tip on good, cheap, local food and he tells me there is a place he can get that. “You want to go now?” So I follow him into a staff only area where a woman sits behind a table filled with local goods. He gets a fish pindang and fried potato and nasi goring. Enak sekali!
He insists on paying, and makes sure I put down his contact info for when I come back. “You can stay with my girlfriend maybe, she lives in a big villa. No charge of course. Call me when you get back ya?”

It’s funny: back there in the staff area I expected more funny faces like “Who the hell is this?” but I didn’t get any at all.

Sjef walks me outside and tells me “Thank you for your time.” For real? All of that, you just get, all it takes is an open mind, or maye some would call it naivity. I’m still just a little blond girl travelling alone with my big backpack. But you’ve got to be able to let go of those things and just roll with it.

At 9pm check-in starts, my visa gets that big ‘used’ stamp on it and in line the number of none-asians suddenly grows fast.
The only smoking area on this side is a café where I wasn’t allowed a table without consumption, but another guest invites me to sit at his. However, he continues down the tunnelvision of his smartphone. Welcome back into ‘the real world’…

An other airport employe has seen me walking around this gate the past 3 hours, and comes to sit with me while I steal some power to make sure my music won’t die on the 16 hour-flight ahead of me. He hands me a can of coke and tries to strike up a conversation, but is something like a deaf mute. At least it’s not the language that’s the barier, and he’s such a sweetheart for noticing and sharing this with me!
I cannot bare to leave this place! But he signs for me I should probably precede to bording. I give him a peck on the cheek, swing on my small backpack, and walk out of Indonesia and on to Emirates.
About 6 hours later I find myself on Dubai International Airport again. With a new free for use smoking lounge sponsored by Winston. So I walk past the Irish pub I once envisioned running into one of my on-the-road-crushes. As all of those have faded, so will eventually do my feelings for Padangbai and becoming a Balinese, I suppose…

And thus I get on another airbus, back to Amsterdam.

Day LXXIV – MAI 31, 2012

120531 dogpile 2
For the first time ever do I go out snorkelling. And my god, what have I missed?! I can’t believe how ignorant I was about everything down there. Finding Nemo is so accurate! All the colours, shapes, in coral as well as fish. Wow!
My friend even saw a shark. Good thing I think I didn’t know that was what he was signing, as I don’t understand underwater language and only found out after we were back on shore. I would have been shit scared and it would surely have come after me.

My last days are here and I’m at the point where I can start my lists, and when it comes to town and locals this place is by far #1, leaving all the others far behind!

I’m trying not to focus on the going home, and even though I’d love to see my friends, the whole concept of it; stepping back into a daily life of school and living in a house and all that slur, I can’t quite grasp it, even after just being away for so short a period.
Damn, now I’m getting sentimental. I don’t want to leave!

One of my friends has her last night tonight, so we invent a little event to make it special. We call it sampai pagi: we’ll watch the sun set on black sand beach – we don’t actually make it out that far, but the idea was there. Then there’s the bar for some live music, good fun and drinks all night, until we go to the dock to see the sun rise again.
It got to a saying and yell and all. People would be asking what we were talking about and I’d like to explain “You know fullmoon parties, blackmoon, halfmoon, all that crazy shit in Thailand? Well, this is the Padangbai version, from dusk till dawn!”
When at 2am we’re all sort of dozing, I suggest we head over to the bay early and have a wake-up dive. They respond with more enthousiasm I embarked on. So I quickly go to pick up my bikini and say goodbye to Koming who was already asleep on the chairs in the café.
We pay our bill with the boys and clear out their supply of bir.
Wayan, a friend of Tude, who really wants to practice his English, comes with us. He and Carmel decide to guard the shore while Chris, Joe and I go in the shallow bay. I have my bikini, Chris strips to his shorts, but Joe thought it more appropriate to go skinnydipping. The water is so nice and cool at night. But there’s a lot more creeping the dark waters here. I get caught by some evil plants or whatever it was that was trying to take me down to depths, but break loose and get out. I win, bitch!
We move over to the dock for the rest of the night and Chris pulls out Otis Redding to complete the feeling.
Two thousand miles I’ve roamed, just to make this dock my home.

After an hour or so we see a light coming our way, and worry for a second someone might be coming over to tell us we can’t be there. It’s just Tude, who tells us he’s been all up and down the shore looking for us, that little partyanimal.

As I lay back to do some stargazing we somehow end up in a violently playfull doggy pile, and eventually we all fall asleep.
I wake up with Joe tugging my arm again. “It’s here! Come on, get up.” I look up and see an already blue sky turning yellow just over the hill near Blue Lagoon. I look around me and see a few fisher men readying their boates. Many are already out there. It’s 6am and the new day is breaking. We’ve made it, sampai pagi!
After sitting there widnessing it for a while, Joe already chatting away in Bahasa with the fishermen, Tude and Wayan gone and Chris and Carmel still asleep under my sarong, I figure I’d best turn in for a few hours. Koming will be picking me up to go to Tirta Gangga in less than 5 hours. Suddenly the boys turn up and tell us we should get going with the ferries coming over soon.
Tude insist on driving me home, even though it’s light out now, and still no 5 minutes by feet. These silly asians are worse with their bikes than the Dutch are taking our bicycles out for every little distance.

As soon as I see my bed I pass out.
To be awoken again by 10, it’s Wayan with a little hard-to-follow story, but what he’s trying to say is “Come have breakfast with us.” “I’m so sorry but I really need to sleep some more…”

Day LXXIII – MAI 30, 2012

DSC_0824
Bali is a very religious place. Almost every day there is a ceremony going on in one of the town’s temples.
This time it’s a big one though, lasting for 3 days. The town is flooded with people from all over the island. The warungs are all packed and there’s more happy chatter and music even then normal.
They all come to bring offerings to this temple, dressed up in their finest attire. The temple’s been dressed up with brightly coloured cloths and decorations and flags and bells.
My American brothers have been attending since 7am this morning. The show starts much earlier, around 4am.
But I relax at the beach before going. In the afternoon I go home to change in a long sleeve and putting a sarong around my waist. It’s make do, wrapping a simple scarf around my middle and putting a flower I found in the street in my hair that miss Pari showed me to tie. Nowhere near as pretty as the locals, but the all nod at me approvingly.
In the courtyard I meet Nyoman who ushers me in to the temple. She tries to explain when to take which flower and what to do when a priest comes handing out rice or splash water. But I don’t understand what’s being said in the prayers, so still feel much the outsider. Very cool to see it from the inside though!
Later there’s a danceperformance by the cutest little girls, covered in a thick layer of make-up and golder sarongs. And then the Baron dance; a big hairy creature and something about keeping bad spirits out.
In our (semi) traditional clothing with the rice still stuck to our foreheads where the priest put it, we go for dinner in a small warung on the big road out of the town center. From the counter we pick out some nasi, chicken and tempeh and sit by the single table in the little dinning area between the many figurines and masks hanging on the walls and stalled out.
DSC_0845
So on the road, parked in one town, your group of friends, you ‘everybody’ is changing daily. Every day someone leaves for a new destination or home, sometimes with goodbyes, sometimes they’re just gone. And every day someone new shows up, joins for a drink and instantly becomes part of ‘everybody’. So I’m not sure if ‘group’ is the right word.
There are no criteria, even uncool people who wouldn’t be accepted nack home because they’re too loud or make bad jokes all the time can join for a few days, as long as they stay in line.
I’ve made friends with here, for example, who I wouldn’t have hung out with back home. This one girl: she’s sweet but very big on the party party, unlike me. I wouldn’t have bothered to befriend her, she just wouldn’t be my type. But here she’s my friend.
And in this particular town it’s much of the locals aswell. They like to befriend travelers who can tell them more about the world; just like anybody.

Day LXXII – MAI 29, 2012

sunshine
I actually manage to sleep in today and wake up with Gede gently poking at me feet to wake me at noon when he was supposed to pick me up. We we’re going to go to Tirta Gangga.
But it’s been storming so hard, the streets are still flooded. So he’s here to tell me we can’t go today, we’ll go tomorrow. “And I see you in white sand beach later maybe? But first you sleep more and get better now. You don’t look good.”

This town really isn’t too good for your physical health.
Very good for the mental though. Doesn’t matter when or where, there’s acoustic guitars singing in the wind, often accompanied by jambés. Every night one of the bars has live music for the audience, always requesting them to join in. It’s like a reggae town without marihuana. And every single traveller who’s spend more than one night here is absolutely in love with it.

A little surprise from France comes in to save the day. After 8 months they finally rembourse the 80€ they owed me.
Time to move to a real room with walls and things! I take the whole day to arrange a room at Kembar Inn -a simple concrete box with a double bed and my own bathroom with cold shower for 80.000rph a night- and say goodbye to Topi’s crappy dorm.

Today is the first time since the day I got here that I was in the town center during traffic hour. I’m so surprised by the amount of people coming through! Low season, but still the streets are packed. And you see nothing of them on the beach. Symptoms of a harbour town I suppose.

I get to the beach by 4pm and take a little time to write and process the heavy happenings.
When I walk over to Gede by 6pm he tells me he’s been waiting for me all day and offers me a ride home. On the way he asks if he can use my shower, because his is broken. I guess that’s ok ..?
I ask him if there’s an entrance fee for Tirta Gangga, but he doesn’t understand my question and tells me “You don’t have to pay me, maybe just 20 for petrol…” No of course I’m not paying you, you invited me? So this is getting weird.

When we get to Kembar who do I see walking up the street but Joe and this girl. I jump off the bike and run over to him all dramatically.
“You ARE here still? I thought you guys had left town?!” And he’s being all casual about it. “We’re having drinks at the place around the corner, Chris and the Aussie granddad and Karmel are there. Come join us if you want…”

When I show Gede to my shower he asks me to join him and proudly shows me he’s got a condom. Luckily I find an excuse in the water being turned off, and get him out of my room.
I don’t think I’d like to go anywhere with him anymore. So I tell him any future plans are off. “So I want to go home now ya?” Kthnxbye!

Before we get to the serious drinking I go by Martinis to have some dinner and sit by myself some more and reflect.
I was so convinced Chris and Joe, my American brothers, had left, and I’d been feeling a little lost myself. Maybe that’s why I let myself be swept away by Gede and got into shit I never wanted to get into. But what was I thinking, naïve little buleh girl…
When I tell Koming of the disappointing experience I had he offers to take me to Tirta Gangga instead. Truly a good friend.

Eventually everyone finds their seat at Sunshine Bar once more, and after sharing a jug of gingertea for the fluish thing everybody’s been suffering we fight it with stronger messures like arak and pull out the guitars to sing the night away behind closed doors to keep rain out and noise in. For a real afterparty feel.
And everything is good again. This has to be the best night ever. This is the exact and only place I want and need to be. Bagus!