Return to Bali (2012 )
Updated: Jan 4
What immediately grabs your attention is the heat and humidity- it smacks you like a wet towel across the face as you exit the jet. Walking past customs I am greeted by a throng wiling to take care of my every whim. Fortunately for me, my buddy Dave is waiting and after we trudge my roller across the parking lot we jump into his sweet little Honda Jaz, a popular ride in Asia. I caught of whiff of the clove cigarettes popular among the locals and it quickly brought back memories of days gone.
Out into the fray, a crowded road filled with motorcycles and cars, but not unexpected, as Bali has experienced a tourist boom in the past ten years. The Kuta beach area was famous as the last stop on the old hippy trail, a place to party, surf and dance, and the word soon spread like other places the freaks conquered in the sixties and seventies. Ubud on the other hand became renowned as the cultural centre of Bali, perfectly encapsulated in Canadian writer Colin McPhee’s wonderful tome, A House in Bali.
Tourism business has exploded, especially with young Aussies who come here much like North Americans fly to Mexico, Florida or Texas for breaks. Bali has also become a favoured stop for travellers from all over the world who enjoy a very inexpensive vacation, and upmarket tourists who decamp in ultra- luxurious resorts. The number of foreigners building villas, townhouses, condos and expat shelters has skyrocketed.
Traffic is a concern, but I took notice motorbikes and cars do not spew huge clouds of noxious diesel fumes as was the case 25 years ago (it brought to mind the time when we stood at an intersection in Medan, Sumatra and could not believe the cloud of diesel being generated by traffic- it was riveting and very disturbing). Everything seemed a whole lot cleaner to me somehow, despite the spread of commercial and tourist enterprises.
Jet lag is funny business- I had been moving for over 40 hours, lost a half a day due to the time change, and was delirious and excited at the prospect of being back in Bali. I love the tropics, the swaying palms, the heat and humidity, the friendly faces, the cultural shifts halfway around the world.
We eventually arrived at Dave’s place after what seemed like an interminent drive. Suffice it to say I, was impressed with his digs. We decided to head out for some food, and we met his wife Rani at a cool little Warung in Ubud, the staple being Javanese food, from whence she hails. Java girls.
The food was spectacular but I was totally bagged. I did my best to stay awake but eventually surrendered to the jet lag. Back at the ranch I was done like dinner, managed to sleep fairly well (conventional wisdom is that the jet lag will much worse on the return leg to North America - so much to look forward to!).
It has been raining - a lot - in torrents that season. Local farmers were very concerned their crops will be ruined- the amount of rain is unprecedented, further complications created by climate change. Rivers overflowing their banks, and while Bali has one the most amazing system for channeling water, the system has become overburdened. And it is pouring out at the moment…
The point of the exercise in coming to Bali is to explore the possibility of setting up a winter home here. Dave has been living in Ubud over 23 years and has seen the changes. We met in the Okanagan in ’91 when he came back for a time from Asia. Dave was known in that locale as a mask carver and graphic artist.
In those days I was a desktop publishing pioneer, the Apple Mac tribe being quite small, and Dave had just purchased his first laptop. Along with the Vignola brothers, Robert and Richard, we spent a lot do time together, mostly because we were Mac guys in a world of IBM users, but also because we enjoyed tribal art, music, good food and other pleasures afforded by an Okanagan lifestyle. I’ve never met anyone who can design graphics using Adobe Illustrator the way Dave does; his catalogue of hand-drawn vector graphics is phenomenal.
Dave eventually moved to Bali for good, married Rani several years ago, built a reputation as an artist with his magnificent designs and carvings, kept up his graphic chops with his Mac, worked for years for John Hardy who ran a multi-million dollar jewellery empire, and is the epitome of the expat artist living in Bali.
We stayed in touch over the years, met up in Vernon BC a couple years ago, when I made a vow to travel to Bali to explore both business and lifestyle possibilities. In 2010, we worked on a book together, The Monster That Ate Ubud. It took time, but here I am at last.
artist David Trevelyan
I have been here for three days, my brain finally landed today- having conquered the jet lag. Ubud has grown leaps and bounds, numerous hotels, restaurants, shops, boutiques, even a giant Starbucks on main street. I didn’t expect it to be the same, and really can’t remember all that much about what it was like, except it was a small village at that time that has matured into a hip place for travellers seeking mind and body experiences.
Mind and Body Experience- WTF?