When I first arrived in Bali it appeared to be just like any other island with its beaches and beautiful people. Months later traversing the hinterland I have had the pleasure of meeting so many wonderful and interesting individuals; confronted with customs that were alien to me; eaten food that I would have never eaten; and above all enjoyed every moment talking to the Balinese and attempting to comprehend their way of life. For example the Balinese artist, Wayan Tuntara, who had appeared out of thin air when I had parked my jeep near Batur, to hawk his paintings. I felt sorry for the bloke riding around on his two-wheeler with his brains pickled by the sun. I bought a small painting that depicted topless women cultivating cabbage and onions at the foot of the Batur volcano. Looking closely at the miniature painting it gradually dawned on me that the Balinese do not have any pretensions or hang-ups when sexuality is discussed or shown. There is an underlying innocence and acceptance that is truly enlightening for one who has arrived from the land of the Kamasutra. I wish I could take Wayan to Khajuraho in India to view the large erotic cave sculptures for inspiration; Playboy centre spreads pale in comparison to them.

Oh well, another day in paradise, another experience to share with you. Did I tell you about my trip to Amed where I spent two glorious nights under the full moon? The unplanned sojourn was over a weekend. I stayed at Wawawewe (in Balinese it means – like this like that). The balding Rastafarian Made, who is the proprietor of the hotel, had a perpetual grin on his face. Initially I mistook it for dementia but then realised he was in a perpetual state of exhilaration. Saturday night at Wawawewe 1 café was made up of a live band, gyrating local and expat hipsters with lots of Arak thrown in. The “throbbing musical evening” commenced with the band playing songs in slow motion! But as the evening wore on everyone was on the dance floor swinging to “welcome to my paradise”. Even the pet dogs were on the dance floor. The next morning saw the fishing boats returning with their catch and landing on the beach where the hotel is situated. Buying eight fresh mackerel for ten thousand Rupiah made me wonder as to how these fisher folk existed on such meagre earnings. Their catches were quite small but the dignity with which their held themselves was truly inspiring. Putu, the head cook and bottle washer, served us breakfast of fried fish and rice with a large dose of potent sambal.

Some weeks ago in Ubud, I came across a small warung that Warwick Purser had told me about. From Campuhan Bridge it’s a short walk up the steep road that leads to Penestan. Mendez, who has given the warung his name, is an unassuming chap. He cooked up some duck, chicken, ox tail stew and lots of other goodies. The rates are very low and so is the lighting that gives it a rustic feel. Thank you Warwick for the tip and whenever you are in Ubud please be my guest at Warung Mendez!

When in Kuta visit Nyoman’s food stall that is opposite McDonald on the beach. She offers succulent green thinly sliced mango liberally sprinkled with rock salt and a good helping of chilli paste. It costs just five thousand Rupiah and while you’re eating it Kadek will give you a pedicure for a small fee. I term the chilli paste an after burner because the after effects are only felt the following morning.

Psst…Did you know that there are Kuta Cowgirls lurking around? Watch this space next issue…will introduce you to Karlina, an ace surfer.

Enough about food and cowgirls let’s change the topic from eating birds or whatever to watching them with Victor Mason. This English gentleman is the epitome of all that is good about the English. He walks bare foot around Ubud with the air of a distinguished local. He is one of the few remaining expats of the ‘70s who has survived the onslaught of rampant tourism and maintained a healthy respect for local customs. The Bird Walk that he took me on was quite eventful what with us bumping into two startled snakes and a large spider. The birds spotted were few; Egrets, Swallows and Munias. Victor did mention that even the birds had their off day. On our return from the walk we had lunch at Murni’s. I tucked into the Indian Pork Vindaloo smothered in chillies while Victor sipped his beer and listened to Acker Bilk’s Stranger on the Shore. By the way he was keen to know how the picture of him dressed in drag, holding a chain and standing outside Nuri’s got into the July issue of Hello Bali. He explained his dress code saying that it was probably on Valentine’s Day this year when the Hash House Harriers organised a run for the men who dressed up as women for a lark. Doesn’t this give a whole new meaning to cross-dressing?

On a lighter note have you visited Fly Café in Ubud? The logo is of a fly, the T-shirts, menu etc. has fly this fly that. It’s not a bad idea naming a restaurant after a flying insect. Wonder how this café will fare if it opened in India? Hummm… I suggest that someone open a restaurant opposite the Fly Café and call it Swatter. Thankfully the food served at Fly is excellent with no flies in it.

Another day east of Eden, tomorrow is yet to come.

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