Leaving Bali – Without place
a short story by resident story teller Colin Decosta
Leaving day, the last day in Bali always makes me feel like I’m going through a slow transformation; as the attributes of Bali are progressively stripped off me by the leaving process.
12 noon. I am now without room. Suddenly and cruelly evicted by a predetermined arbitrary date and time on a calendar.
My bags are packed up, taken to reception for safe keeping and my companion is now a day bag overstuffed with travel clothes which follows me for the next 12 hours, a constant reminder by my side that I am leaving.
I leave my villa, room or bungalow, my temporary Balinese home and begin my slow journey home. I spend leaving day as persona non gratis in the hotel, not a guest but someone in a poolside transit lounge. At first the move to the pool is like every other swim I’ve had this week however I soon realise that I will have to sit on this wet towel; all day.
It’s hot, there’s no delightful air con fed daybed to sprawl on, the sun makes it hard to see my phone screen and my Instagram, normally a small annoyance is magnified.
Everything is the last; the dinner, sunset and the familiar face of our trusty driver who arrives hours later. Before I know it the edifices of Bali start to fade as I take that familiar drive to Ngurah Rai. The roadside warungs get less, the temples disappear and then I pass through the enormous candi gates that mark the airport entry. Suddenly I’m marking time at the gate, looking at the large and beautiful art works that adorn the new airport walls. Aircon and boarding calls “perhatian perhatian Garuda tujuh, satu, empat” fill the air where just hours earlier it was geckos, motorbikes and kretek. I take my least favourite walk down the airport ramp and they close the plane door, the engines accelerate.
I look at the lights of Jimbaran or Kuta fade into darkness and each time I leave I wonder “is that it, will I ever return?” Sometimes I think I should go see something or somewhere else, but what would be better to a humid night and nasi campur by the harsh light of a warung? What else feels like the way Balinese swells move across a reef and the warmth of a burning setting sun on my skin. Certainly nothing compares to the simple act of watching the Balinese making a morning offering, oblivious of me and what I might be thinking or doing.
The Balinese are endlessly fascinating and despite the traffic and ongoing development they have a grounding and belonging of place and space that most people don’t. The cosmic turtle takes them along on their ride and they maintain it and themselves in the most unique of ways.
That’s why I’m going back, Bali is my place but leaving day is always the worst day.