6 minute read
June 3, 2018
This fourteen-part series is based on our journey to Japan and Indonesia, beginning September 13, 2017. In each post we use our presence in Asia as a broader background to the usual exploration of how we fit into this world. Welcome to our private life.
Padang Padang beach is such a tourist trap. Normally we avoid these kind of places, but it is beautiful enough to tolerate all the fair-skinned Aussies browning themselves in stylish swimwear and drinking beverages from coconut shells, which I thought was imaginary until today. The urchins, eels and crabs keep us entertained — tourists “swim” in the tidal pools and surf on the six meter waves while their shore-bound compatriots take selfies and fend off the monkeys under the cliffs. Locals are not around.
After a half hour on the scooters we found one-eighth the beach and three times the people at the sea cave in Uluwatu. The tourist situation was even worse. Not to mention the trash there, it’s amazing how poorly some people treat the areas they visit.
Being here is totally clinical for me, a contrast between my natural curiosity and the condescension of passive tourism. When we travel we try to avoid hotels and we respect local culture because we want a more embedded experience, but does that make us any more genuine? I don’t know. We still go to some local attractions, we visit the same places, and in the end we are all paying for access no matter how we spend our time. At least we respect our destinations.
Gyanyar, Bali Indonesia
My trajectory in 2008 was altered when I stopped ignoring the things that stunted my personal growth, and the decision to trust myself has since brought me more places than I ever thought was possible for a dirt poor kid from south Louisiana. Like Bali. I never thought I’d come here. Hell I didn’t even know where it was until before this trip. But the past doesn’t matter, and now we can say we’ve bathed outdoors.
I wasted a lot of years with my ignorance. You don’t need to know what that means except that now I just want to spend the remaining time appreciative that my awakening occurred.
Ubud, Bali Indonesia
Even into my late thirties I felt like there was a mystique around creativity. Although I was interested in art I thought the source was more divine than a simple love of beauty and different methods of expressing it, but eventually after getting reacquainted with my own artistic interests something clicked.
We might be individuals, but we are all the same. Our difference is in the way we use our feelings because we all react the same to the environments around us. What does that mean? Well, frankly, to appreciate the beauty in anything you only need to pay attention. And remember you will die.
Bali is just south of the equator, a hot, humid little island among 18,000 others (literally) that make up Indonesia. When we first spoke about visiting I thought I knew what to expect: heat, humidity, bugs, tourists. Turns out I was totally wrong.
Ubud, Bali Indonesia
Okay I wasn’t entirely wrong. Yeah, there is a ton of tourists here, especially in Ubud where I think the entire Aussie population is staying, but all we have to do is drive a few miles to get away from rich white people. If you want to be alone on the island, that’s totally plausible.
Yes, it’s hot. In my mind it was going to be south Louisiana/ south Texas hot and humid, but that’s not really how it feels. Unfiltered Sun on the beach will burn the hell out of you, but you’ll spend a very pleasant time baking in the cool breeze that nearly constantly filters inland. It’s quite comfortable.
And somehow, despite the perfect breeding conditions, the insect presence is not like in the southern US, where it’s damn near impossible spend any time outdoors during the summer without being bled dry.
Padang Padang Beach, Bali Indonesia
Padang padang beach on a perfectly clear day was a trifecta of discomfort: I don’t like beaches, tourists annoy me, and the threat of mugging, however ridiculous the thought, is constantly on my mind when I’m in another country. The only way for me to cope is to treat the experience as a sociological experiment by monitoring everyone else there, which takes care of two out of three of my anxieties.
Except this damn cloud caught my attention. Before the rest of them started appearing, this one reminded me of a magazine from a while back, a collection of landscapes with a single cloud in the frame above a scenic bit of land. I never understood the concept of those images, they just seemed dumb, but it was a collection in a magazine so clearly I must have been missing something.
Tegenungan Waterfall, Bali Indonesia
His answers were fairly articulate when I asked him why he took this picture, but I was more interested in why he takes so many self-portraits and videos. We give him just enough responibility that he doesn’t kill himself, so carrying that 35mm camera around southeast Asia was a huge deal, and he said he didn’t want any help with it. He said that he takes self-portraits instead of asking us to shoot him because he doesn’t want our help and wants to work on shooting alone. The waterfall just happened to be the current subject, so he stuck the camera over his Bintang hat.
I’m pretty sure he will be a creative person. Maybe he will grow up to be a documenter? Whatever he does will be good. It won’t bother me if he does not have a formal job, or even consistent income as long as he is productive and does what he loves, without compromise.
Gyanyar, Bali Indonesia
Even though I don’t like traveling among crowds, I understand why they are here. Indonesia is not a economically rich country and its government struggles with interntional politics to a certain extent. My perhaps ignorant opinion is that the government is somewhat detached from its citizens, evident by both the condition of this place (not good) and the fact that Indonesia is made of more than 18,000 islands. How can a single government preside effectively over so much diversity?
The influx of tourism into unprepared areas is the result of this detachment. It isn’t clear to me how much any of these local places care about tourism or what it brings to the island because the people seem happy enough to live the historical life. More probably the people here (and most third-world countries) work in service industries because they crowd out other labor options with the improving economic landscape rather than by choice. I feel somewhat selfish about being here because our presence is changing their culture.