Travelogue: Lombok & Bali, March 2002

1 Apr 2002

Here I am, again in an airport, always moving, projected to exploration. Now writing from Changi airport in Singapore, ready to fly to Shanghai.

My time in Singapore has (at least for now) come to an end and I can confirm my observations on its multifaceted contrasts. To be appreciated and loathed at the same time. Its order and cleanliness whose other side is fakeness.
Its elitarism whose other side is foodcourt fundaments.
Its multiculturalism that turns into noculturalism.
Its lost past drifting away, its fast approaching future, seeked and incoming.

I've also explored more of Indonesia, the neighbouring islands of Bali and Lombok. With respect to my first peek (when I had gone to Bintan), I discovered the true face of Indonesia, and at the same time and even faker one.

Lombok has the worst touristic area (Senggigi) and the best white beach I've ever been (Kuta).
In the former: extermely luxurious hotels surrounded by local (quite poor) people trying to sell you everything and never leaving you alone. They speak every touristic language and never cease to offer you. In Lombok (and Bali) you are forced to bargain for everything, nothing has a fixed price. Price starts when they look at you and decide how high to try. Then price slides increasingly down in relation with your bargaining skill and your patience. They always hold an angry face whatever price ends up in the end. And it gets so tiring. It also gets depressing, when small kids do it. When a small Lombok child comes to you with wide open eyes and the first thing he says is "one thousand".
In the latter: a virgin white beach with nobody at all, some rocks in the sea inhabited by beautiful multicoloured tropical fishes and a white grainy sand composed of perfectly equal perfectly spherical grains in shades between white and nut-colour. The sea bed a constellation of shells and coral fragments.


Bali appears immediately strikingly different. Much richer and flourishing.
Every house is made in such a peculiar way to resemble a temple, and the food/flower offerings to the hinduist gods lying everywhere contribute to
this feeling.
In Ubud we could feel a real temple without tourists (in that moment) and with just people sculpting, playing traditional instruments and teaching kids how to dance.
But when we reached Besakih, the "mother temple" (biggest complex of temples) we were about to be sick because of its commercialization. We were very well conscious that it's forbidden to enter the temple unless you are there to pray and accepted it. We just wanted to observe the temple from where it is allowed: peeking from its gates. But some so called "temple workers" start pestering from instant zero, brainwashing with a kind of mantra that recites: "you know, you cannot enter the temple" - "we know" - "you cannot enter. only locals can enter. I can make you enter if you want" - "we do not want" - "You cannot enter. I can make you enter. Ten thousands".
Play it again jack, rewind and play it back, again and again, in mesmerizing fashion. Until head expldes and nerves jump, expecially when they become extremely rude when the concept that you are not going to pay them finally hammers in and they tell you almost evilly "ok, go away now!". How could they ruin the atmosphere of such a magical place? How could we ruin these people like this? Why didn't we stay in our cities without bringing them "progress" and organized tours?

"You can take a photo now"

Joseph A.L. Insana

Last modified: Thu Apr 25 14:58:37 BST 2002 First appearance: Thu Apr 25 14:58:36 BST 2002