“It’s the little differences. A lotta the same shit we got here, they got there, but there they’re a little different” Vincent Vega – Pulp Fiction
The ramp expels you into the vast empty space that is the new Ngurah Rai terminal and the first and immediate difference is staff. They are here, there and everywhere, always uniformed smartly but no one seems actively engaged in getting you and your bags out of the terminal. This applies particularly for surfers waiting for their surfboards, as one small trolley arrives from where appears to be out on the street, before waiting half an hour for the next trolley. Meanwhile the other staff are actively not involved in passenger or baggage assistance but in the ever popular pursuit of sweeping.
The Balinese seem not only to have a fascination with sweeping, they sweep the bare earth in garden beds, but they also have a particular style and grace about how they undertake this endless task. Hips bent at 60 degrees to the waist, with the one arm behind the back style being very popular.
The best environment to see staff in their natural habitat is the Matahari Store in Kuta Square, it’s like a penguin rookery!
During his visit to Bali in 1927, Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, was so enamoured to Bali he said “Wherever I go on the island, I see God”.
When you watch the Balinese walk, not just walk, but move or be still, they do so in a way which fits their God filled island. You see how differently they interact with the space around them, their walk is with is effortless and graceful, they can haunch down for a game of cards and kretek endlessly and the woman carry their market baskets atop their heads like on a Paris runway. The Balinese move or are still in their own different way within their morning of the world.
The Jalan By Pass Ngurah Rai only just by passes the airport but it does seem to endlessly encircle the southern end of Bali. The By Pass as it’s known is playground to some of the best drivers, driving and vehicle loading you’ll see.
While at first it seems there are no rules, there are in fact a different driver code and many courtesies which operate as a far more effective traffic management system than Police enforcement, who by the way, can be seen at most large intersections on haunches enjoying a kretek.
It is a seemingly impossibly polite regime of helping each other to the end journey, without road rage and only a very occasional unpleasant nasty utterance, usually reserved to the bule bodong, carelessly breaking the politeness. There is a Jedi like understanding between all the drivers within their space, knowing who will go into which lane and using all lanes for all purposes. Its common to use your horn, not in ire, but like morse code, “I’m passing” “You pass”, “thanks for letting me pass”.
And then there are the loads on motor scooters…..
In the autumn or fall the leaves fall gently to the ground, creating colour and a dappled canvas.
In Bali leaves a BIG, crash to the ground, being killed by falling leaves occurs and by coconuts routinely. Leaves BIG enough to let you shelter from rain, leaves BIG enough to make that beautiful alang roofing, BIG leaves to put your takeaway dinner in.
Go for a walk anywhere in Bali and see the difference, BIG leaves, which of course are dutifully swept up in the ever ongoing sweeping routine and repurposed, reused only to end up on the trash fire.
There are three sounds which instantly put me back in Bali, gamelan, roosters and motorbikes. Even in the little village of Kuta you will hear these sounds, they will entharll you, wake you and annoy in varying degrees depending on your tolerance.
Nothing will prepare you for how different the gamelan sounds live. If you walk to the narrow end of Gang Poppies 1, which is the middle of Kuta there’s a temple tucked away behind Mades Warung. If you’re lucky and go by when they’re practicing stop, listen and watch. It’s something that you will never ever forget. The sound of the gamelan, the smell of kretek and motorbikes in the gang.
Hello mister, selamat pagi
In 1950, Indian Prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru hailed Bali as the “Morning of the World” and one of the best things to do is to see the Balinese in the morning of their world. Get up early, just around sunrise and go for walk. You will meet so many people and almost without fail they will say “hello mister, pagi” It is simple, it is different to our world and it’s wonderful. Commit this to memory, selamat pagi, and I promise that this one little difference that will put the Balinese and Bali in your heart forever.
Like Vincent said “It’s the little differences. A lotta the same shit we got here, they got there, but there they’re a little different”