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 LXXV – JUNE 01, 2012

I’m waiting for Koming. We’d go to Tirta Gangga, he’d pick me up at 11.30. But we both overslept. When I called him half an hour ago –well after 1pm- I woke him up with the same shock I’d just woken up with.
I realize we’re never going to make it; he would have to be back at Sunshine to open at 5pm.
But I am completely fine with just doing another day of the exact same I have these past weeks here: going to whitesands, hang out at the warung, playing cards or frisbee, jump in the waves. It still brings enough excitement and diversity every day not to ‘like’ to come back but to WANT to. I could easily do this for a month or so more.

I’m still a little wobbly when I see Koming turning up next door at Ozone Cafe. I fear the wobbly feeling might have something to do with bad arak last night… He calls me over to have a beer first. “Good breakfast, haha!” Doesn’t sit too well with me though.
It’s already 3pm when we get on his bike, but 40 minutes later he parks his bike at Tirta Gangga.
You know I like to get a little crazy in traffic myself, but he’s got me clenching a few times; out of excitement of course! And he laughs at me as I do. He promised he’ll be extra safe with me on the back, but still it must’ve been the fasted I’d gone in all of Asia.
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It‘s quite cloudy and cool up here, and the temple complex is much smaller than I expected it to be. There are 4 ponds filled with huge koi-fish that Koming feeds and I take pictures of, and a lot of beautiful statues and fountains. Agains the side of the hill some increadibly magestic ancient trees climb up that would take over 10 men to encircle them. They must have been here since the dawn of time.
We sit down at the farthest temple where it’s quiet to get some peace looking out over the temple and the valley. A good way to spend the last day with a very good friend.
Check Flickr for more pictures.

It’s funny how walking up there and back again the retailers keep throwing “You need cool drink, massage, guide, transport?” at us. Jokingly I reply: “Terima kasih, tidak, saya suda punya transportasi.” – No thanks, I already have a ride.

Then we sit at a warung where the food is bad, the view is good, we laugh at the menu and he tells me his war-stories of Kuta.

ttggHe didn’t know the places there, had only been just once himself. We look at one, but he doesn’t like it so we cross the street. It’s a cute place, but when the food comes it’s so disappointing he sends it back to the kitchen. Still he’s not satisfied with the result, so we hardly eat a thing. ‘Grilled fish’ ment fried fish ans ‘springrolls’ ment vegtable-envelopes, both soaking with grease.
We’d been talking about Engrish before and have some laughs aver this menu, not only at the spelling but also at getting the translations wrong.
I had to ask him about the one on the wall in Sunshine Bar ‘Do you keen for a nice drink?’ “Yeah I know, I still have to change that.” His English is as good as anyones, with a few grammar errors here and there, but no none-native is perfect.
He tells me of his adventures in Kuta where security protects tourists, aka annoying drunken Aussies who are always looking to pick a fight, instead of being fair towards locals. But other local have each others backs. There are some heavy stories there.

When we get on the bike to drive back we pass the other place, the one he dismissed before, and we see them grilling a fish over an honest fire. “Well, shit!”

There is so much more for me to learn about the this island and the local lifestyle and it’s religion and traditions. And there’s so much more I want to see of this tiny town Padangbai.
Last night I sat with one of the guys for a while, and asked him to sing to my phone so I could record their genius version of Land Down Under to get me through the time I’ll be away from here:

I come from Padangbai
don’t forget drink jus avocado
tomorrow go to Gili Meno
in Lombok many mosquito

I expressed being sad to leave and wanting to come back soon, for longer, and he replied “You say that now, but in a few weeks you’re going to be stuck in your job again back home and you’re going to forget all about us. Believe me. You’re tourist #10.039 to say this.” And I believe him at that.
But I am decided to prove him wrong. I told him I will be back to find a job and stay.
Wawa of course, I realize that too.
But plenty of expats have landed here in this lovely little town and run successful businesses or are happy freelancing for a few months or years.

And then it’s here; time to say goodbye for the last time. The longest goodbye, it’s ridiculous. And somehow we made it again sampai pagi.

Day LXXIV – MAI 31, 2012

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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

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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.
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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!

Day LXXI – MAI 28, 2012

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Fck man, I have to move, I appearently can’t go to bed here early; only once did I almost make it home before midnight. And I can’t sleep in on these swaying floor in this lounge with a family now occupying it every morning from 8am on, taking away that little privacy I had here. No wonder I got sick.

I still have a choice to make: go to Lombok and climb Rinjani with Chris and Joe; probably a little cold and hard work but awesome. Though am I up for it, I’m still barking like a bear and have a minor fever at 37.3.
Or, stay to spend my last days in this lovely little reggae town.
Just one week to go… It’s funny how suddenly I’m counting days again. And at the end of my trip I don’t feel like the whole bother of packing up and moving anymore. And I’m not the only one: a lot of people I met here are on their last stop and refuse to leave for as long as they can, ‘stuck in Padangbai.’
Or maybe I’m just talking myself into staying because I’m secretly curious to find out where this little summerfling is going.

As it’s past noon and still haven’t heard from my American brothers, I guess that’s it. No Lombok.
So I go over to the beach to meet Gede for our little trip. Bring on the fling.
Mario makes a big fuss when I go over there, “I don’t like him.” After some asking Mario admids two reasons: 1) he’s not from here, he’s from a neibouring town 2) he borrowed a language book from Mario and hasn’t given it back yet.
So I tell Gede to give it back, and tell Mario to take it easy and not to worry. I do feel a little bad though. And I have this theory; people like Mario usually have a sixth sense about things…

We have to go by his house to pick up some helmets, and I’m looking forward to see more inside of the local life.
The off-road ride there is amazing. We go from broken asfalt to more broken asfalt, and just as he’s apoligising for the road being so bad the asfalt disappears completely and it’s just a dirtroad, or actually a 2-feet wide path, through a forest of banana and palm trees and loose cattle running around and ricepaddies on both sides, here and there making an opening so you can see the ocean. Sometimes there’s a sort of fence and a hut and people working the land.
He stops at a concrete building that functions as a roadside shop to get some petrol and walks in. I figured I should just wait outside but he waves for me to follow, “This is my house.”
We go through a door in the back of the shop that leads an alley where his mum and some kids greet us with awe and yells of enthousiasm (?) He tells me she is saying I’m so beautiful and I blush. We walk on to a courtyard with more households and a big shrine and more women asking me if I speak Bahasa Indonesia and I’m stuck with “Sedikit. Permisi, anda bisa bitsara Bahasa Ingris?”
Now we’re supposed to wait for a cousin that will bring over the helmets, but Gede makes a phonecall to find out there’s no police, so we’re safe to go. He tells me it’s just a 20 minute drive, and I guess he knows best, so just go with it.

In the end we’re driving for 45 minutes, on big roads too, and it looks a little dangerous, with all the traffic and sharp curves. Then again, many people on scooters aren’t wearing helmets.
A few occasions even make him go “shit” and I do get little fright then, but over all I guess he’s driving pretty safely… except for maybe the speeding when taking over. But hey, live a little.
Not done in Europe of course, and I can see a few of your faces screwing up, but no worries, everything’s fine.

The views all along are amazing, the hills and the valleys, the ricepadies end on end, the ocean showing her face every time she gets the chance.
Sometimes he slows down to point out something, like when we pass a parkinglot crowded with monkeys, just sitting there, but I don’t get most of what he’s trying to explain.

At some point just after Candidasa he turns into a smaller alley and up a hill. We pass another one of those gazebos with a group of men sitting in them. He stops and one of the men comes over to collect a fee for I don’t know what with a little ticketbook and Gede pays. Not a word; everyone is quiet and it feels rather awkward.
We continue on a sand road that leads to a parking the ticket must have been for.

This beach truly is very beautiful. A straight mountainside on one end and some green hills on the other, and the most amazing island up ahead. It looks very Petit Prince, a little dot that sticks up out of the ocean, half of it covered in grass and one single tree. I want to live there!
We go for a swim in the almost boringly calm water and share a romantic kiss.
When we sit on the beach there’s a group of local boys playing football. We’re kissing again but Gede tells me he’s a little shy and scared they’re making fun of us and might kick the ball into our heads.
It’s interesting how a thin borderline between villages would make such a difference. Mario wasn’t the first to be saying he doesn’t like someone because he’s not from the same town.
When he needs a light, he first goes to the white girl lying a little farther, but she doesn’t have one, so now he’s forced to go to those boys anyway. They saw what he was looking for and are already calling him over. And it’s all fine and fun and games. They do make a joke later when we’re kissing, asking of they can join…

So he asks me “Where you want to go tomorrow? Tirta Gangga? And the day after we have big ceremony and I want to take you with me, to introduce you to my family so they can meet my girlfriend, ya?” That’s too big an honour and too awesome and experience to turn down, and I’ll be leaving soon anyway, but suddenly he’s not so shy at all anymore.

On the way back we’re overtaken by two guys on a bike carrying at least a dozen rabbits. Seriously. Even Gede had to laugh at that.
We stop at a roadside warung to have some gado-gado and it’s the best I ever had. He asks me if I want to pay, so I’m like “Sure…” and put down the 14.000rph requested after he ordered some cigarettes, a small bottle of arak and an energydrink. I think he paid something too, but I explained before how we have quite a language barrier and it’s not all clear to me.

He asks me if I want to go to black sand beach for sunset and a glass of arak. “Just for a little while then.”
It’s the most bizar beach I ever saw, all black sand, with a few grey and white pebles here and there and the water is a beautiful dark blue. I have to come back here with my cam!
It’s insane how quick it gets dark here. The moon is just a small slice tonight but lights the whole place so brightly still.
So we sit down and have that drink. And of course he stars kssing me again. And of course he tries more. I tell him ‘no, and ask him to take me home and reluctantly he does.

I get to Sunshine around 9pm. The live music is already playing. It turns out another late night, and at the end of the table I meet Clare.
She is one of those people. You know when you meet someone new but it feels like talking to a very old and dear friend you’ve lost out of sight and you can talk about anything, you can talk all night long and you’re on the same line on everything but still you can give eachother such great advice; because you understand completely.
So we’re drinking and talking the night away. I ment to leave early, but Koming keeps saying “No, come on, have one more drink.”
Finally at 2am I say goodbye to everyone inside and walk out where he’s helping a guy that got himself too drunk on the back of a scooter. And again he says “No, come on, have one more drink with me.” “Oh allright.” I turn around, walk back inside and do my favorite yell these days: “Satu lagi!” – one more!
Koming and Clare have been friends for ages and they have really deep stuff to talk about. I feel a bit like an intruder now so again I try to leave again. But they won’t let me and are all like “Sorry, we didn’t mean to put you off and we don’t want you to go.” So we share a round of arak to make it all better, and make the deal that we have to stay until dawn because I never saw the sun rise over Padangbai before, not properly.
An hour later when he’s lost for 15 minutes and we go searching for him we find him asleep in the porch next door.
At 4am Clare let’s me borrow Tude to drive me home and cleans up Koming.