Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Just Padangbai

I 'did' Bali at the end of my first year of travel. Zooming around notable temples on package day trips; trundling between the coast and the highlands on hazardous local buses; donning sarongs to hang out with urban monkeys - it was paradoxically one of the most stressful and most tranquil months of my life, and I always planned to go back.

Two and a half years later, I headed back to Bali with my girlfriend and without any tourist obligations. The plan was to basically enjoy doing nothing, which seemed to confound everyone from the sarcastic immigration officer to our fellow guest house tenants I'm forced to interact with when held hostage by common area Wi-Fi. Is this self-appointed paradise island not the place for that sort of thing? It seems pretty peaceful to me, apart from all the motorbikes.

Our first port of call was exactly that. Padangbai is the gateway to Lombok, and consequently a well-worn resting stop on the backpacker trail that many visitors express regret at not having spent more time in before eagerly speedboating to an essentially identical destination. I'm far too experienced and lazy to fall into that trap, of course. We stalled our boat for a week.


This dinky harbor village probably would have looked brilliant if this was four hundred years ago and a Monkey Island game, but its development around servicing the short-term needs of vagabonds has resulted in another high street of indistinguishable travel agents and Westernised restaurants opposite a dirty beach crowded by flimsy outriggers and flanked by boat touts. On the plus side, there are some great used book shops for exchanging your cast-offs, and some secluded beaches if you put in the leg work.

It wasn't exactly the best introduction to the 'real' Bali for my girlfriend,
but it beats my introduction of spending the night getting rained on in a field

Implausibly, there are real people going about their regular lives in this ridiculous place. I'm not sure how that works, presumably it's something to do with parallel dimensions occupying the same physical space

Oh, and there are the usual temples, shrines and stuff, forgot to mention that.
I've done all that already

We knew we were catching the tail-end of Bali's rainy season when we booked our discount flights, so can't complain. I still will, obviously

The past year you spent sorting and recycling your plastic every day helped to offset one lazy Indonesian trash bonfire. Good on you!

Oh sod off, this is how I enjoy myself

Today's irrelevant soundtrack: Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale

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