We Australians could be said to belong to one of two groups of people: Those who’ve been to Bali, and the (six or seven) others who haven’t.
For 50 years, I was a proud member of the second group.
The ones that secretly considered ourselves superior to the yobbos and bogans in Group 1, who lacked the imagination to holiday in more interesting and exotic locations. I mean really… all those wild Australians cavorting on Kuta beaches with all the sex and the drugs and the drinking-themselves-to-oblivion? No way.
All my preconceived ideas changed in one instant the morning I woke up in the middle of a rainforest, next to a fast flowing river, on the side of a hill in Ubud, Bali.
Everything is different when a chameleon lizard watches you eat breakfast from an overhanging branch, and you can’t decide if you’re more entranced by the experience or more worried it’s going to fall into your omelette.
Or when you walk along paths winding around beautiful lotus ponds guarded by weird little lichen-covered statues and you narrowly miss stepping on a little snake at your doorstep.
And most of all when you get back to your room and find fresh flowers on your pillow, every time.
Bali was surprising. I only saw a fraction of it, and what I saw entranced me. Ubiquitous little offerings of beauty left everywhere, narrow streets lined with tall swaying decorations, water temples floating on peaceful lakes, bizarre giant sculptures, volcanic mountains, thousand year old temple ruins, breathtaking waterfalls, smiling gentle people who use flowers in ways I hadn’t previously imagined, (very free range) chickens and men with flowers in their hair.
In the west we have preciousness about our creative expression. We see ourselves as ‘creative’ or ‘not having a creative bone in our bodies’. We go to classes to learn how to make art, and then we allow our inner critic to run rampant, telling us our art isn’t good enough. We’re either the privileged few who buy art, or we’re not; the sort that visit art galleries or don’t. We can go through our whole lives and never really sit with beautiful, handmade things, because we’re just not that sort of people.
In Bali this would be impossible.
There is almost a casual disregard for the extreme evidences of creative expression everywhere. And I mean everywhere. From the delicately arranged offerings left on the ground for people to walk around (or step on, nobody seemed to mind) to the intricate stone statues at every corner. Gardens that made my mouth water. People sitting in shopfronts hand-carving the most ridiculously exquisite furniture.
And then there were the rice fields. Now, I was born in Penang, so rice fields hold no quaint, novelty value for me! But the terraced rice fields of Bali were something. True landscape art, so breathtaking it made my head spin.
My daughter, Mary, said at one point, “I feel like telling them all ‘just chill’! It’s almost too much, too much beauty!”
All this in only 3 days.
Never saw a bogan even once.
Yup, Bali was surprising.