As soon as you’re in the airport, Denpasar, your nose is treated to the delicate aroma of incense which permeates the air. The air smells warm, it feels warm as you inhale and there is the slight tinge of body sweat – that musty ‘I’m somewhere tropical’ smell. It isn’t bad, the sweat smell, It’s one of the smells of somewhere hot. I like it, I don’t mean, mmm…I like sweat, but it’s one of those familiar smells, a concoction of all things reminiscent of tropical and exotic places.
After grabbing my bag I head to the exit where a sea of people await the arrivals. I always feel so on show at arrivals, like a new specimen to be viewed or claimed. This time I especially felt like I was being claimed, as I had to search the unfamiliar faces staring and smiling holding up names on bits of paper, for my own. I located my name being held by a very skinny Indonesian guy who has the biggest smile. As I appear round the corner and step outside into the heat I was bombarded with a throng of very eager and pushy taxi touts. As I stand there for a moment, slightly alarmed at the barrage of people trying to ‘help’ me and all the noise and chaos, a hand reaches through the onslaught of men and grabs me…it’s my driver. With a beaming face and gently laughing he literally pulls me through the crowd and leads me out.
So traveling in jeans seemed like a good idea. It wasn’t. I had insta-sweat all over. I would like to add here that insta-sweat was a continual wet dripping face and head ordeal, which stays with you the whole time! Literally you have wet hair and sweat dripping off you ALL the time. And, don’t you feel like an ‘arrival’ in your regular clothes when you reach your destination but then a complete holiday maker when you return wearing shorts and flip flops and sporting a tan?
The cab was a grubby non air conditioned hot house which smelt of old cigarettes, I don’t care, I like it…I’m in Bali! With my head hanging out of the window like a dog, we set off for the hour or so drive. Brace yourself, first off the traffic is MENTAL. There are scooters and cars, everywhere! Second, be prepared for the same questions which will get asked by every single person you meet.
“Where you from?” I’m English but I live in America.
“Ahh English! Ooo America, that’s far away, why come to Bali?” This is said in a way that shows a slight bemusement as to why people choose their island to come to from so far away.
“How long you stay in Bali?” Three weeks
“Oh three weeks! Wow. But you alone?” Yep, I left my husband at home (said with a cheeky smile to show it’s OK)
“You have children?” No
“Why not??” Urrm…
“When will you have children?” To this I learnt to say ‘soon’, it was easier that way!
“What’s your name?”
“Where you stay in Bali?”
It took a little time to get accustomed to the Indonesian accent when they are speaking English, you kind of have to tune in. My Bahasa Indonesian is non existent so it was pretty handy that all the Indonesians I met were as keen as anything to practise their English – hence all the same questions being asked by everyone.
My driver was awesome, so sweet. He kept offering me cigarettes or if I needed to stop for water. He smiled constantly, which I found most of the Indonesians to do, and had a chilled out life is good laugh that was constant too. He even stopped off on the journey to introduce me to his wife who was at work (she worked in a bakery). She didn’t speak any English and probably thought who the hell is this? She was in the process of making an offering in the car park. Offerings are left by the women throughout the day to ‘the God’, they can be small or large. Mainly you see little bamboo trays or banana leaves with an arrangement of flowers and petals, rice, herbs, incense and food. They are left at temples, outside homes, shops, even your homestay bedroom.
Incense is a prominent feature in Bali, it fills the air and is on the people. It smells so good. There is nothing like a warm evening with the air being filled with the smell of incense, sweat, heat and food being cooked. Greasy lovely food. If you are near to the beach, you then get treated to wafts of beach, the Ocean and surf wax (FYI, surfers use a wax on their boards to create a texture for foot grip).
It was on my last morning when I felt totally open to absorbing my surroundings, knowing I had to tear myself away. I sat on the porch for a while, the sun had only just risen and know one was around. The sense of peacefulness and quiet, before the world started waking up, was pretty magical. The air was warm – as per usual but there was a morning smell, kind of like it may have just rained and of flowers. I slowly walked to a morning yoga class, the old guy was at the end of the road lighting incense at the Pengijeng – a small shrine dedicated to the spirit who is the guardian of the property. It was quiet, it smelt wonderful, I was alone, and it was great.
Bali smells so good.