Letter from Bali XX – (That’s 20, the kissing comes later)
Nusa Lembongan is a cheery little dump, a micro-organism in the colon that is the Indonesian archipelago. It is one of the smallest of these 2000 islands, about 8KM square in size. To put that in perspective it is one fifth the size of Bowen Island, BC, or three times bigger than Iona in Scotland, or eight times Mount St. Michel in France. Not big at all then. Actually, quite small. But this island is different from her sisters, she stands apart in the crowd, for she is a tropical princess in these eastern seas; Lembongan is Balinese for Cinderella, the girl that got to go to the ball.
Lembongan was blessed by the quirk of geography, she’s the nearest inhabitable island to main town Bali, only a thirty minute boat ride from the biggest tourist pull in the 4th* largest country on earth (*population wise, number one in holy offerings, number three in plastic bags). She is a country girl that was discovered at the edge of the crowd, and like much in Indonesia, when you first see her she stuns. Your jaw is unhinged as you wade ashore from your boat, you splash through her corals and plant your feet in her sands. Palm trees run to the shoreline, where sits a tiny town square of lilliputian design. Gulliver is the aproned banyan tree that splits its solid dirt road, and dominates the be-flowered hindu temple which guards over the sheltered cove. You’re smitten when you lay eyes on her, you frolic in her surf, and the illusion lasts a good half hour before you’re reminded where you are.
It’s difficult to tell where it goes wrong: Bad service at the restaurants? Why, that’s just standard! The power cuts at night? How do you sleep without them, I ask? The garbage all around you? Ha! Plastic’s as fetching as coconuts fronds (and keeps you drier besides). Paying the boat’s boolay price of $150 when the locals pay only $30? At least you get a smile as they rob you; so friendly! The chemical bath in the swimming pool that melted the skin off my sons? No… I was on my way by that point, but no, not even that. The plumbing? Ah the plumbing! Yes, I think it was the plumbing, that there was the last straw. I was done in by the shower; a shower and nothing more.
What it is is a little thing, nothing, a little thing like that. Nothing is done right here, you see? No, I don’t think you do. I’m not trying to get all Bob Marley on you… it isn’t some karmic tantra. “Indonesia. We do nothing well!” Straight out of Madmen. Nothing is done well? Ambiguous. All service and construction standards are consistently sub par? Ah! Now it lacks in poetry but it is clearer. So let me re-iterate. NOTHING is done well here, not one thing at all. The idea is a tiny seed that plants in your mind where it grows. It is nurtured by experience and fertilized by proof, then it sprouts and when it does it bears fruit, and it’s fruit is a madness and it tastes very good. So to save a dollar on a drain for a shower they didn’t build a separate stall. And since no one had a proper wrench when they built it the valve is always open a bit and drip drips in my room. Drip drip drip all night long. The wasted water rolling past the toilet bowl (because there is no stall – who’d want a stall?) and it puddles at the door. You go to brush your teeth and feel your toes grow damp. You’re standing cheerfully in a stagnant pool of faecal matter while you floss. Rinse your mouth. Remember to wipe your feet dry on the sandy mat like hundreds have done before. It’s no problem so don’t worry about it, crawl back into bed now, close your eyes. Sweet dreams will surely come to you in your Indonesian paradise. “Please recommend to Tripadvisor!” says the boss man. Please fuck off.
The boat leaves in thirty six hours and I will be on it, my only link left to the other side.
We try to follow the news here, especially when there’s a wedding on. Isn’t she lovely! Isn’t he handsome! Think what you like of it, but I love it, and I don’t care who knows. I’m a big fan of ‘happy’ these days and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. Prince William Windsor (Saxe-Coburg and Gotha), Duke of Cambridge, marries that strange girl that stalked him and now looks likely to inherit the throne…. but will he be the King of Scotland when his coronation comes?
“Who cares?” you say… ah, a reasonable point. Though the prospect of a new country in Europe or an end to the Union Jack flag or no more Labour governments in England are surely good for trivia? You see there was a curious election result last week in the hairy arsed end of the British Isles, and because of that there is likely to be a referendum. The Scottish Nationalists will force a vote to break up the UK; a vote to end the union with England (yes yes, Wales and NI too).
I’m wary of patriotism, yet we all come from somewhere. My prediction is they vote YES to independence but only if they get a royal blessing. Is this an irony perhaps? To want out of the United Kingdom but keeping the part that defines it the most? Because what is the UK if not its monarchy? A kingdom needs a throne!
Scotland’s had a heap of kings throughout the years; they’re fond of James and Robert and David as names. But remember Macbeth and Duncan? A short run that pair had, but still manage to sell a few tickets today. I like the old names myself, King Dub and King Aed and King Giric are three. Names straight out of a crap fantasy novel, you just know Diana Gabaldon looked long and hard at them.
So what of King Willy Windsor (Saxe-Coburg and Gotha)? And who’ll be head of state in Scotland? And does it really matter? Does it matter! How can you ask that question?! Are you British or Canadian or Australian or a New Zealander? And don’t forget half the islands in the Caribbean. The crown is head of state. Don’t kid yourself otherwise. Until you have the guts to vote for a republic, it’s a Disney cartoon that’s in charge of your country. Me? I love a wedding, and processions, and those crazy hats and dresses… but I’d rather have a country that was simply run by people.