BALI, May 15th-17th
So Bali. Before coming to Asia, I had always wanted to come to Bali. Since being here though, I heard so many stories about it that I thought it might be too touristy for me and I wouldn't like it. That's where meeting strangers on the internet comes in handy. Since leaving Korea, I haven't used much of CouchSurfing, the website for short-term cultural exchange, but I decided to give it another go in Bali. Lucky for me, a FABULOUS young Indonesian girl, Esti, agreed to let me stay with her and thanks to her, I saw the "real" Bali and not the tourist trap one!
I arrived about noon to Denpasar and was scheduled to meet Esti's friend, a cab driver, to take me to her town, Serangan. I waited near the appointed meeting spot, Baskin Robin's, but didn't see anyone that fit his description. By the time I bought some lunch (to use the wifi) and a phone chip to contact her, an hour passed and it turned out that she was the girl I had seen walking back and forth several times. Oops! We finally met up an hour later than planned and made our way back to Serangan.
From the second I met Esti, I knew I liked her. You know those people you just "click" with right away? Well, she's one of them! Over the next two days, she taught me so much about Indonesian culture, both Balinese and Javanese (she's from Java but lives in Bali now)---from the costs of local things, average salary (~$1.5 million Rupiah = $150), religious beliefs (Bali-Hindu, Java-Muslim), dating norms, etc. I'm also a bit embarrassed to know that I knew near nothing about Indonesia before coming here, like the simple fact that there are over 1,000 islands here, Bali being just one of them. Did you also know that Papa New Guinea is not actually "Papa" at all, rather PapUa and that part belongs to Indonesia and New Guinea is all its own. Yeah, I didn't know it either.
Esti's place is a small rented room in a house. She has a bedroom, bathroom with shower (cold water but no sink) and no kitchen (~$45 a month rent). There are 3 identical rooms next to hers, one rented by another single woman, one by a couple, and another by a family of 3. She slept on a yoga mat and I slept on a sleeping bag. Honestly, a bed would take up too much space and these worked out just perfectly! I really enjoyed staying there and seeing what it was like to live in an average place. She was beyond wonderful as a host and friend! (Wish I could say the same for her neighbors but the dogs, chickens, and motorbikes were all up at the crack of dawn (and the mosquitoes all night)! J)
My first day in town, she dropped me off at her place around 3pm but had to return to work. Since I wasn't sure where I was or how to make my way back and was tired anyway, I hung around, showered, and rested until she got home. Then, we went to dinner at her favorite street-car spot. She had mentioned that she didn't need a kitchen in Indonesia and it was cheaper to eat out than cook at home and I would soon see that she was telling the truth….we ate at her cart for…..$.30…that's right, dinner for 30 cents! We ate Nasi Goreng, a traditional fried rice with egg on top. We also splurged and had ice tea for an additional few cents. After dinner, we rode the public bus (35 cents) to Sanur, a beach area. We walked along the sand and talked about future dreams and plans (hers being to open her own tour company, at which I KNOW she will succeed)! If there's one thing that traveling continues to confirm is that no matter where you go in the world, we are all alike and have similar hopes and dreams.