We've traded a view of the Wallace line and across the sea to Lombok, twenty two miles of beautiful open sea, for a view of a wall.. a lovely wall, but still, a wall. It's a shock. Here in Seminyak, the price of land is sky high and every square inch is built on or being built on. We are residing in the neighborhood of the Oberai Hotel, a Beverly Hills-like location.
From a background sound of lapping ocean waves, we've gone to the sound of buzzing motorbikes, cars and endless chatter from behind our walls. Our villa is smack in the middle of the action and after nearly a week of serenity, it's huge change.
The garden designer for this villa squeezed many features into a space thirty-five by forty feet...a small pool, a covered bale, a pond and several fountains. The landscaping, behind a two foot high wall in a two foot deep strip, was well chosen - the big plants which you might think would overwhelm the space make it appear more spacious. The rest of the villa is unremarkable...the garden gets high marks. If it weren't for the noise.
Why are we here in the crowds and madness? Eating and shopping. Most of the better restaurants of Bali are here, as are the designers of furniture, home decor, jewelry, clothing. Although we don't intend to purchase anything, we do like to see the beauty on display. Inevitably, despite our best intentions, we haul something home which we have no room for and which will end up in the attic where our travel tsoshkes are squirreled away or should I say curated, the current word for a collection.
We can't stroll the streets here around here despite what the villa says in their advertising. Stepping out our front gate onto the road is daunting.There's barely a few inches of clearance between the villa wall and the speeding bikes, cars, vans and even buses. Wobbliness from my acoustic neuroma makes walking in a straight line for me impossible. I take three or four steps under control and whoops, I start an involuntary drift in the wrong direction. Too dangerous to navigate on foot. One ill-timed step and my next destination would be on a cremation pile having my picture taken by thousands of tourist cell phones and sent speeding around the world.
I'll admit I am prone to exaggeration, but cremations are, in fact, a tourist attraction here in Bali. It's been 14 years since we were in Ubud at a propitious time and got to attend one - a very famous business woman, owner of an iconic restaurant and a pillar of the community. There are volumes written about the ceremonies which Google will relate to you if interested. The Bali ceremony changed my attitude forever about death ceremonies because they are happy occasions - the deceased is only temporarily absent and will reincarnate or find final rest in Moksha.
At the ceremony we attended, half the town was present wearing t-shirts with the deceased's picture on the front. Everyone was laughing and celebrating. There was gamelan music. My sister and brother-in-law had just arrived for our wedding and were dazed by it all...the clogged streets, parades of people with offerings and the noise, followed by the huge cremation fire. For our western sensibilities it's quite a lot to process. From Wiki...
"On the day of the ceremony, the body of the deceased is placed inside a coffin. This coffin is placed inside a sarcophagus resembling a buffalo (Lembu) or in a temple structure (Wadah) made of papier-maché and wood. This sarcophagus is then borne to the cremation site in a procession, which is almost never walked in a straight line. This is done to confuse evil spirits and keep them away from the deceased."
Because I can't walk a straight line, am I keeping evil spirits away from us? At last . . . an advantage to being permanently off balance.
Last night we did manage to walk to our desired restaurant which seemed a lifetime away because of the near misses. When I dared look up from my feet and the uneven sidewalk ahead, I saw what???..wooden penises. They're displayed for sale on the street in bunches in large vases like bouquets of flowers. There must be a huge market for these tasteless objects, I presume with the Australians...they're blamed for everything untoward in Bali. I can understand a few of these things, but there are so many here! Later, on our shopping expedition, I found little packages of small decorated penises...packages of five. Who has five friends in need of flower bedecked pocket-sized wooden penises? Actually the number is just right for my writing group but no . . . they all enjoy a laugh, but I simply can't go that far. Book Club?? Perhaps. They know me well enough to boo me and or toss the offensive objects out without apology. I did take a photo of the little plastic wrapped ones after making sure there was nobody around but I can't post it. Too tacky.
Once in our restaurant we watched as the tiny graceful waitresses showed up for work, first bowing their heads in front of the building's shrine for blessings before beginning their shifts. They exude spirituality. You wonder what they make of the artless penii.
Sometimes, when I see what tourism has wrought, I want to go home and stay there.