get 53 of Mad Dog's travel columns
couple of months ago I saw a posting on an email list about some
cottages on Bali that were being offered cheap for long-term lease. Well,
cheap by San Francisco rates, where annual rents equal the gross national
product of, well, Bali. I answered on a whim. The next thing I know I'm taxiing down the runway at Ngurah Rai Airport in Denpassar,
Bali for a six-month stay in the rice paddies. Did I say six months?
in one wonderful book!
We're all Wayans on this tour bus
You can really tell a lot about
a country by how they greet you when you get off the airplane. In Hawaii
they smile, put a lei around your neck, and you know your stay will be
pleasant. In Taipei the first thing you see when you get off the plane is
a big sign that says: ďDrug trafficking is punishable by death in the
R.O.C.Ē Now thatís what I call a drug policy. On Bali you stand in
line with 3,298 Aussie tourists sweating. Get used to it. The sweating and
the Aussie tourists.
Welcome to the 'hood
Traffic here is incredible. And I had the hardest time
getting used to the money. But at least Iíve learned to raise my
eyebrows to say ďHiĒ instead of waving, which is how they do it here.
If I come back to the states walking in a crouch, smoking a cigar, and
raising my eyebrows at everyone on the street donít be alarmed, just try
to cast me in a remake of Duck Soup.
When in Bali, do as the monkeys do
you enter the Monkey Forest the first thing you see are big signs telling
you not to feed the monkeys. Sitting beneath them are women selling plastic
bags of small bananas so you can feed the monkeys. I saw monkeys playing,
monkeys eating, a monkey drinking out of a water bottle it probably stole
from someone, and a couple of them having sex. Yes, there was hot monkey
love going on in the temple.
This is only an alert. Right?
Thereís nothing like being in another country and getting an official
government email that says, ďThe
Department of State is extremely concerned about the possibility for violent
actions against United States citizens.Ē Sure some American sailors were
killed by terrorists in Yemen, but is that any reason to try to get my
sarong in a knot? I feel safe here. How could you not with so many
shrines everywhere? Besides, we have Sun Go Kong, The King of the
Living la vida local
adopted by a Balinese family. I was only here about ten days when my
landlord Kadek invited me to his villageís cremation ceremony because
his mother was one of those being cremated. Burning things is a popular
pastime here. They burn the rice fields, they burn the trash, they even
burn my laundry. I'm one of them now. Except I don't throw my trash
I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore
It's amazing how you can get used to being in a developing
Third World nation. Sort of. The electricity goes out pretty much every
day. The telephones are pretty reliable, though god help you if you want one installed.
And the Internet, well, letís just say it exists. But at least
plenty of things are "Export Quality."
Give us this day, our daily rice
It's Thanksgiving and there are no turkeys to be found. If I wanted to be
like the Balinese I'd eat nasi campur three times a day with my
hands. But I think I'll stick with Chee-tos chicken grill flavor. After all,
the package says: ďChester Cheetah makin kerin aja! Chee-tos Snack
yangÖ.KREESSH!Ē and that's good enough for me.
Is that your final answer?
The favorite game here is
Dua Puluh Pertanyaan or Twenty Questions. You can be anywhere, minding your own business, and someone youíve never seen in your life will walk up to you and ask, ďWhere are you going? Where have you been? Where do you live? Are you married? How old are you? Do you have any children? You want transport?Ē Itís not that the Balinese are nosy, theyíre just curious. Okay, theyíre nosy.
I'm dreaming of a white rice Christmas
Itís a couple of days before Christmas
and thereís little question itís going to be a non-event. What do you
expect on a Hindu island in a Muslim country? Of course we can always hope
that Santa will drop off some hot Balinese woman who doesnít want an
instant family or a green card, but the truth is Iíd have a better chance
of running into Richard Simmons, Jr. sarong shopping on Jalan Raya.
So many palm trees, so few dates
There are three caste systems on Bali: the
traditional one, the one for prices, and the strictest, most inflexible,
and inequitable one: the social dating castes. It's not easy being a male
tourist around here. I'm starting to think I'm a member of the outcast.
start the revolution without me
Iíve been here four and a half out of my six months
and Iím trying to figure out what to do next -- stay here for another
month or two, go to Chiang Mai, Thailand, head back to the U.S. or, well,
something else. But how can I leave now? I might get the chance to be
around when a government is overthrown!
Size may not matter, but sometimes longer is better
Iím extending my six-month stay. It
might be because the time has flown by and I havenít gotten around to
doing half the things I intended on doing. It could be that as bad as the
infrastructure is here the power still doesnít go out as often as it has
been in California. But I suspect itís actually because I have a nickname
Oops!....I did it again
Iím in Singapore General Hospital, laying on a gurney in
the observation area of the Emergency Room with an I.V. in my arm,
when La Vie En Rose comes over the PA system. Whatís wrong
with this picture?
Strangeness in a strange land
It's hard to say who's stranger, the Balinese, the
tourists, or the expats. One calls the traditional healer on the handphone
to see about having a black magic spell removed. Another pays to play
Whack-a-Mole with the dolphins. And the last, well, sometimes they decide
to start a cult. Or at least one did, anyway.
After 8Ĺ months I finally left. That was 2Ĺ
months longer than I intended, 6Ĺ months longer than Iíve stayed
anywhere else during the past four years, and if my math skills havenít
deteriorated from the heat, humidity, and mildew, eight months longer than
I thought Iíd make it during my first week there. There are definitely
things I'll miss. And things I won't.