To prepare for my short, three-day stay in Tokyo, Japan last spring, I read two tour books, freshened up on my language skills by memorizing Hiragana and Katakana characters, and thought seriously before choosing Hakone over Nikko as time would not permit me to visit both towns. As for my trip to Bali in 2007, I packed tank tops, shorts, a pair of flip-flops, and an article from an old in-flight magazine. My prediction was that my Bali experience would be similar to previous visits to touristy islands such as Maui and Okinawa.
But Bali greatly exceeded my expectations in that it is not only filled with beaches, but also with lush jungles, verdant plantations, sumptuous resorts, and lovely tea houses and eateries, a potpourri of primitiveness and luxury. Adriana, an Indonesian friend, organized a memorable five-day tour of an island deeply influenced by religions, native myths, and foreign cultures. My travel companions–there were four of us–were polite to fulfill my request to occupy the front passenger seat in the rental car, next to the driver who spoke little English. The endless views of sublime rice terraces along country roads not always well-paved and elaborately sculpted, religious statues in the front yards of private residences were fascinating, even sometimes inscrutable. While passing through the mountainous region around Kintamani, the driver told us, via Adriana’s translation, about a town where per the local customs, the dead were wrapped in sheets and disposed of by the roadside; my request to visit that township was, of course, denied as the driver warned that such a tour would be too dangerous for tourists.
While we pondered that strange burial process, the driver stopped at BAS (Buana Amertha Sari), a coffee company. We had a pleasant walk in BAS’s garden, laden with exotic plants whose fruits we closely examined. The man roasting coffee beans nonchalantly allowed visitors to take pictures of himself and the over-used apparatus. An immense, splendid view of dense greeneries, seemingly a grand, evergreen sunken garden, was presented to us the moment we entered BAS’s outdoor coffee and tea tasting area situated on high ground. We drank samples of Bali coffee and ginseng coffee. I tried to detect the flavor of lemon grass as in the Thai cuisine’s tom yam soup in the sample of lemon grass tea, but failed. My favorite was the ginger tea, which was naturally sweetened, unlike the instant ginger tea I prepare at home in the states. The crowd at BAS’s gift shop confirmed BAS’s status as a popular tourist spot and successful business, but the first sight of BAS’s surroundings gave me the wondrous impression that I was one of the frontier people who discovered and settled in Bali.
After returning to the states, I ordered a book entitled “The Bali in Me”, and I still own a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love”, whose Book Three is all about Indonesia. However, I find almost no incentive to read these books as my Bali trip was unique and quite personal. Yes, I thoroughly experienced and enjoyed “the Bali in me”!