So as per Part 1 you’ll recall that our first full day in Bali ended with me feeling like I was experiencing something very different to that which I had imagined in the months leading up to our trip. That’s not to say I wasn’t excited about the days to come; we had so much planned, as Bali is a wonderfully culture-rich island with so much to explore.
The first item on our to-do list for Day 3 was swap the little scooter for something a little more substantial. Personally, I wouldn’t have minded – as if I was going to go anywhere near the handlebars anyway (mainly because I just typed steering wheel and had to check myself) – but Noel was set on hiring a cafe racer, at least for a couple of days. So, we hopped in a taksi and headed to the Ccangu area, and to Malamadre Motorcycles. In all fairness, the bike we got was much more picture-friendly. Here I am pretending to know what all the buttons do:
Next up was the rice paddies of Ubud, and particularly Tegallalang, which is the famous one that looks like this:
We set off on the 90-minute journey, ourselves fully laden with all kinds of camera gear including Noel’s drone. When I say it was a painful journey… I shit you not, I think my bum is still moulded to the shape of that bike seat. As fancy as it looks, the cafe racer was about as comfortable as a wheelbarrow, and the blistering heat didn’t exactly help matters. But, we made it to Tegallalang, and began wandering around the beautiful rice paddies. I’d never seen anything like it in my life. Dozens of curved ridges meander along the side of the hill; especially from afar, it’s pretty magical. Check out Noel’s vlog for some bird’s eye views (around 6min30 in).
Let’s pause for a second. Do we see my legs peeking out of my dress in the image above? Yes. Do we see how not covered in insect bites they are? Yes. Well… That didn’t last long. Standing in the long grass of the rice paddies, waiting for Noel to drone his life away, SOMETHING attacked me. I was blissfully unaware at the time. But once we’d made the journey back to Villa Carlos, showered and sat down, I suddenly realised that I looked like I’d laid myself out with a sign saying ‘Mosquito Buffet’ sellotaped to my head. I am really not good in these situations – I think I’ve got bubonic plague if I sneeze more than once in a row – but, albeit traumatised, I went to bed hoping the bites would have calmed down in the morning.
This is what I looked like in the morning:
And that was just the front: Noel very kindly filmed the backs of my legs in slow-mo on the vlog (8min25 seconds ish). Needless to say I was on the verge of a mental breakdown. What the hell was eating me alive?! I say eating, because it seemed that every time I checked, more bites were appearing – all over my legs, arms, and the backs of my shoulders. I ran downstairs, hyperventilating, to find Carlos, who I sensed would have more of an idea than me: he thought I’d had an allergic reaction to whatever little critter bit me in the first place. He suggested I go to a local pharmacy to get some antihistamines, which I did: the lovely lady on the desk gave me two lots of tablets and some cream, which I was greatly satisfied by as this multitude of medication clearly meant it was something very serious that warranted much sympathy on behalf of Noel, my mother and my sister (who were getting hourly if not half-hourly updates). But, whilst I had calmed down a little at this point, I looked HORRIFIC – and I didn’t even see the backs of my legs until I watched some footage back later in the day. I genuinely think people on the streets were avoiding me, assuming I was some kind of leper. I don’t blame them. I’m actually sat here itching whilst writing this! The bites have all disappeared now but I am still glued to that tube of antihistamine cream, ready to apply at the smallest of twinges…
Despite The Incident At The Rice Paddies, I was falling a little bit more in love with Bali by the hour. The journey to and from Ubud – albeit outrageously uncomfortable – had allowed us to see Bali in a way quite unlike any other. We took winding lanes through local villages, stopping to fill up the tank and take in the scenery; as we made our way around the country I was in awe. It was immediately apparent that rural Balinese life is about as easy going as you could ever imagine. Children sit on porches all day, playing with kites or eating rice, and waving hello at passers-by, local or otherwise. Dogs, cows and chickens roam freely, and yet the place is not unclean. Life is simple but satisfying; people seem to want for little but give back a lot, as we had seen from our interactions with the locals to date.
Bali is predominantly Hindu, and this affects daily life on the island; beautiful offerings, or canang sari, are laid out all day long – small banana leaf baskets laden with rice, flowers, sweets, incense and other humble items. Until you see it, you wouldn’t think such small gestures could have such a profound effect on the ambiance of a place, but it really does. Physically, your surroundings are more colourful, and smell amazing! And more generally, it’s very humbling to see that these people dedicate great amounts of time each day just to give thanks, in particular for the longstanding peace on the island (we asked one of our taksi drivers, who informed us of this). Unbeknownst to me, the tranquility of this way of life started to settle in as the sun set on our third day in Indonesia. I would soon realise how much this was changing me for the better.