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.
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 VIII – March 26
I wake up at 7am sharp. Today was going to be sleep in day. Well damn it.
We went out for drinks last night and looked for a pool table, but ended up just barhopping until midnight when all bars closed; apparently Chiang Mai does ‘Sunday’.
This first place we were, named Freedom, is ran by an English bloke and looked like he build it with his own bare hands. It had a really nice vibe! It was just another one of those shacks that are so surreal to us who come from a land where rules and regulations decide how a building should look. But here you see them everywhere and I feel like I’m in a fairytale; this is anything-goes Asia.
We sat at the rooftop/balcony on the 1½th floor in and open sort of veranda, I had a very good long island iced tea, and we talked of brothers and sisters while a gecko quietly listened in under a starry sky.
A little later we walked by that same backpacker central we’d been the night before and it looked like I’d expected it to be now; mellow, a reggae band playing some live tunes, and a couple of hippies on the couch with their kids running around, playing in the dirt and whatever. The fullmoon craze of the other night had died down completely. There weren’t even any fire dancers.
I try snoozing for a while but with just a fan it’s too hot for that and my sticky body disgusts me.* And it does feel like a waist; trying to spend more time in bed while Asia is right there being my oyster.
Today we’re having an easy day. After breakfast –a pineapple pancake and a mangoshake- we walk around the quarter for a bit, check out some temples, yet after three hours we’re both templed out. It’s all beautiful, but has this touristy feel about it that takes away a lot of the magic.
We spend a little time online. Or so it feels. Yet when I log out I’m charged for one and a half hour and they’re not ripping me off… Time flies, ey.
Before we have dinner at the nightmarket again, we go by the park. A nice place where one can relax. But it’s more to be used as a gym. The one path going around is the well-used running course, and at 6pm sharp the music starts banging from the speakers, a body-pump instructor steps forward and leads the crowd that has gathered. Very amusing to watch!
At the market I score my first RaiBans, to replace the shades I broke the other day. First asking price: 380b, bargained for: 160b.
We finally find that pooltable, in the free-show-alley. One game and one beer Leo and off to bed we are. Tomorrow’s going to be an early morning.
* It’ll take little over two weeks for your body to adjust to the heat and for you to get used to that sweaty feeling.
Lesson learned: Look for the fans and then pick your table.
Have you been to Chiang Mai? Any tips on what I should do next time I’m there?