Here I am in Bali, taking a few days off from work in the region. I wanted to go to some paradise island like the Togean island or Belitung, unfortunately time constraints (one boat per week going to Togean, hard to leave the island) OBLIGED me to go to Bali. Yeah Yeah I know what you think, how could I even dare complain? While some are freezing their buts under the rainy Scandinavian autumn, I am lying on a beach in Bali drinking mango juice and having my toes massaged by an old woman burping each time she feels “wind” in my body (this is called “masuk angin” or “enter wind” as some might say).
So why would I rather go to the Togean Islands? Well Bali can feel as a strange place for those who know the rest of Indonesia. The food they serve in restaurants has no spices so that it accomodates fragile Western stomachs. Ask for a nasi goreng or sate ayam and you will be served a tasteless meal, however “clean” from contaminated water from the gutter. Also while in the rest of Indonesia people only bathe with a t-shirt and shorts, here in Bali women and men (mostly foreigners) wear the tinniest bikinis, even while walking in the street. Once I had to explain to a Balinese man that in Europe we don’t usually og shopping and to the bank in our bikini, it is just because those guys are on holidays. “Aaahhh” he said, “I thought is was some kind of national costume”.
So the tourism industry has learnt from what we like, and things have been changing a lot…attracting even more tourists.
The big change this time is the difference of crowd. The Last time I was here I was traveling all around the country. I had been to Kuta, and Sanur and Ubud and at that time, only 6 years ago, Ubud was a village invaded by French wanna-be yogi masters, and other Westerners sticking around to avoid going back to their European (or Australian or Kiwi) lives. Ennoying but exotic monkeys, cheap alcohol, yoga classes at every corner of the street and bad massage served to you by untrained cute balinese women. One actually hit me so hard on the shoulder that it hurt for a week.
But now, thanks to Julia Roberts and the book/movie “Eat, Pray, Love” written by some chick (don’ t remember her name) who made a fortune out of it, suddenly it seems like half of America’s single women have decided to come to Ubud (and Bali in general) to find love. As most of them probably don’t have enough money and holidays to eat in Italy and pray in India like in the book, they just do the whole thing here in Bali (yes I have also read that book, didn’t finish it though). The problem you see is that all these single, slightly over-aged, very demanding women are looking for the same man: not too old (but not too young), tall, handsome, tanned, rich, gentleman, jealous but not too much, faithful, successful but who has time to take care of the woman he loves, always there but not too clingy, who can guess what a woman thinks and wants etc etc. This looks like a poster I had in my room as a teenager with a photo of a sexy man and next to it a list of “I don’t ask much in a man, I just want him to be…” which ended by “and brings me breakfast in bed every morning for the rest of my life, and loves me forever even when I am old fat and with a bad breath”. Basically this man does not exist and even if he does (I mean who knows, some men are short, ugly and idiots so there might be some men who took all the rest) the numbers are unbalanced: too many desperate single women for one or two guys around. But no problem, they can do yoga, complain all at once about men, life, unfairness of life that makes them 49 years old already with 2 and a half days left to make a baby. They can enter a yoga centre and try to find inner peace anyway.
I know, this is mean, I might end up just like that in 20 years, which I doubt. Because if I felt alone and miserable I would certainly not meet other women feeling just like me and tracking down the same man while sipping a Cosmopolitan or a Gin and Tonic with less tonic but more gin. Yes, the good thing about Bali is that once the praying and loving part hasn’t worked out, you can still drown your sorrow in cheap alcohol, big parties and white sand beaches. Basically a win win situation for all the Balinese living from the tourism industry, and the single ladies going home over tanned, with nice photos and unknown Indonesian lads on their party photos. They can make all their other miserable single friends back home jealous, those who didn’t make it to Bali to walk in Julia Robert’s steps.
I am escaping the drink, pray, love circle for now, going to a volcano this afternoon in a hidden hotel to read and walk in the forest. Another kind of holiday I guess.