[top "Yobbo Heaven"

As usual, we were good little travellers and got to the airport the stipulated two hours before the plane was due to take off. As usual (we were to discover), Garuda were running late. There was a long queue for the seat allocation and Eddie Booth from Love Thy Neighbour was standing behind me. A little older, but it was definitely Eddie Booth. You could tell because he referred to "this Nig-Nog airline"1. There were a lot of Poms going Garuda to the UK - they know a bargain when they see one.

In the waiting lounge's duty free shop we bought some film and got a 5% off voucher for perfume. This voucher tracked around the Pacific Rim with us for the next 17 days, so we could use it coming back into Adelaide.

Eventually, we were off. When the meal came, we asked for red wine. The flight attendant gave us white wine. We said "No, red wine." He apologised and gave us lemonade. We gave up. Eddie Booth was sitting two seats behind us, complaining loudly about the fact that the in-flight meal wasn't pie-and-chips.

There were six in-flight movies listed in the airline's magazine. We had only seen one of them, Sense and Sensibility. Go on, Murphy - guess which one they played! It was also scheduled for the flight from Bali to Japan.

Apart from that, the flight to Bali was uneventful and we flew into Denpassar Airport, made our way through customs and collected our bags. A porter quickly came up and grabbed one of them. We adopted our usual bewildered, heads-in-all-directions approach to arriving in strange airports and followed him. He found the tour company representative who was there to meet us (and only us - what about the other two hundred passengers who got off with us?) and we marched off after him to a waiting van. The porter hung around - aha!, we had to give him a tip. We had no Indonesian money, so Jacqui gave him a $1 coin, which is about 2,000,000,000,000,000 Indonesian Rupiah.

Our luggage was put in the back of the van, we got in and set off for Sanur, where we were staying. Travelling along a main road, the motorcyclists around us were honking their hooters. The driver suddenly stopped in the middle of the road. We looked around to see that we had been herbing along with the back of the van wide open. Luckily, our luggage wasn't strewn all over the road between there and the airport! The driver closed the hatch and we set off again. Clearly, the latch didn't work, because we hadn't gone very far when it happened again. We suggested that it might be a reasonable idea to put the luggage inside the van next to us, so they did. While we were going along, the tour rep tried to sell us various tours of Bali. With such a short time in the place and limited options as to booking such a thing, we settled on a one day trip to the north for US$35 each, the next day.

On arrival at the hotel, we were told that some existing guests had extended their stay, that they were double-booked, and would we mind spending the first of our two nights at their sister hotel, Shanti Village2. Shanty village would have been a better name for it, as we discovered when we got there. The room was circa 1970, and the musty smell suggested that not many people had stayed there since. Still, it was set in lovely lush gardens and was on the beach, while the place we had booked into was about 10 minutes' walk away from it (...it said two in the brochure).

We went for an extended walk around Sanur, along the beach and the main street, which is lined with all sorts of restaurants and shops for about two kilometres. We soon found out that the place was infested with Bali's famous hawkers, who would approach us, walk alongside us, try to engage us in conversation and then attempt to sell us cheap watches, manicures, batik material, or basically any local junk they could get their hands on. As expected, this became a bit much after a while and I found myself uttering a firm and slightly rude "No" to them before they could get a few syllables out. Jacqui was less comfortable with this sort of impoliteness. She found that they would call out "Konichiwa" to her, in the belief that she was Japanese.

Photo: On the beach at Sanur

After our customary inspection of the menus of every restaurant in Sanur, we chose one on the main street. I had one of the best fish dishes I have ever tasted - a grilled tuna steak - and Jacqui had chilli crabs. The meal was very reasonably priced, too. We were quite aware that this was the start of our trip and not an auspicious time to come down with "Bali Belly", so we were careful with our eating places.

Back at the hotel, we came across the night porter, who was the sole occupant of the front office. He told us his name was "Mushroom" and gave us his life story for about 15 minutes, while Jacqui shifted feet and kicked me gently. With nothing else to do, we went for another walk along the beach front and came across the back end of another hotel, where there was a small bar area. A pretty girl was singing to nobody but the bartender, accompanied by a guy on the electric piano. As affectionados of both pretty girls and bad singing, we pulled up a table right in front of her and ordered apple pie and coffee. There was now a frankly surreal situation unfolding, because she was singing to nobody, except us. Not only that, but she was singing the sort of bubble-gum early '70s 5AD stuff that was right up Jacqui's street. The piece-de-resistance was "My Way", done in a "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree" type of arrangement. After a while, a big Balinese guy and two women came and sat down. He was very merry in both senses of the word. He took the microphone and sang also - sometimes by himself, sometimes in duets with the singer. It was a very carefree atmosphere. He told us that he was Balinese, but had lived in Melbourne for the last eight years and that he actually used to sing professionally in this hotel. Several times he offered us the microphone, but we declined. The guy on the electric piano could cover anything. It didn't finish until about 11.00.

Balinese people, we decided after only a few hours, are among the happiest, friendliest, most open people anywhere.

We started the new day at a restaurant we had chosen for breakfast, on the main street. We had eggs, orange juice, coffee, toast and fruit - all for A$2.50. At 9.00, we met our guide from the day before, whose name was Made (pronounced "Muddy"). I'm not sure whether he was working officially for the company taking us around, or was moonlighting on the side. Although he only looked in his early 40s, he was in fact about 55 and a grandfather. He told us all about his family as we went along. Although he had told us that it was "our day" and that we could go and look at whatever we pleased, I think he had a fairly set schedule of places he was going to take us, come what may.

First, we had to drop our bags into our "booked in" hotel, Bumi Ayu Bungalows. After that, the first stop was an open air theatre where we watched a fairly incomprehensible dance routine starring two guys in a giant hairy tiger costume. How they didn't expire from the heat I don't know. There were a range of other dancers representing lords, demons, servants and so on. We were given English guide sheets as we went in, but most of the time I couldn't follow it too well. The place was packed with western tourists and was obviously on the regular trail. A traditional orchestra accompanied the action on one side, with blank looks on their faces. They had done this so many times before. Made later told us they were all farmers from the surrounding area, supplementing their fairly meagre incomes.

He then took us to a succession of shops in a succession of villages - one for silverware, one for wood carving, etc. The routine was the same. We would be taken to a particular factory/shop, then handed over to someone from the shop who would show us a little bit about how their stuff was made. This person would then take us into the shop and do an impersonation of an octopus, trying to sell us all manner of stuff, using subtle techniques to make us feel obliged to buy something from them. However, our barriers were up and we weren't about to buy anything at this stage of the trip. The highlight of the wood carving shop was one of two naked women climbing a one foot high erect penis.

Photo: At a bathing pool, Bali temple

In between stops, Made would give us a potted history of Balinese culture. Being in a moving vehicle, Jacqui naturally slept through all this. At one temple, he stopped to tell us a Readers Digest version of the Mahabharata and an equivalent Balinese epic tale, making detailed comparisons between the two, while Jacqui yawned and looked heavy eyed. At another temple, he spent 10 minutes telling the story behind a large house overlooking the area. A few minutes later, Jacqui says, "Who lives in that house on the hill?"

After visiting the latter temple, we were both busting for a pee. (Was it the temple? Was it Made's stories? Was it that after 17 years together our bladders are synchronised?) Made pointed us to a toilet block, but as we tried the doors, some women gatekeepers held out their hands for money to use them. We weren't going to stand for this, so we walked some distance to another toilet block we had seen. These were awful but we were committed to using them by the time we discovered this fact. There was no running water for washing afterwards. As we left, some guys asked me for money for using "their" toilet. I said "How much?" and a guy held up five fingers and said "five". I pulled out my wad of cash and he quickly took a R10,000 note, indicating that it was for both of us. I snatched it back and gave him a R1,000 note instead. The guy was astonished and grumbled incredulously, but I wasn't paying A$5 to use his shitty toilet (if indeed he did in fact have jurisdiction over the place, which was highly doubtful.) He got 50c. When we returned to Made, he was looking a bit agitated because he had lost us, and couldn't understand why we had bypassed the toilet he had directed us to in the first place. Jacqui bought a bunch of bananas from a woman and kept offering them to Made, but he never took one. Perhaps he knew something we didn't.

We went on to view a volcano and lake at a place called Psnelokan, where we had a buffet lunch in a restaurant overlooking the view for R15,000 each. Again, the staff were incredibly open and friendly. After lunch, I visited the men's' room. At the basins, I covered my hands with soapy goo from a dispenser, then went to turn on the tap. Nothing came out. I tried the hot tap. Nothing again. I tried all the taps in the place to no avail. There was no water in any of them. I wiped the soap off my hands as best I could. As I was leaving I encountered a waiter who, after trying all the taps himself, took me into the Ladies, where for some reason the taps worked.

We headed back in the direction of Sanur. At one point, we stopped to view a magnificent vista of terraced paddy fields, and decided to go for a bit of a walk through them. Almost immediately, Jacqui fell over crossing a ditch. We went on a little further and she slipped, sinking her foot (and new white Reeboks) into a muddy irrigation channel. We decided to abandon this particular walk. On the way into the paddy field, a guy in a hard hat had been standing over an irrigation channel, overseeing the distribution of some water. By the time we returned, he had armed himself with a couple of crappy wooden carvings from a nearby stall, to try to sell us.

We stopped at the mountain village of Ubud, known for its painting schools. We looked through one painting shop, but the only thing that really appealed was by some noted artist and cost a fortune. There was also a forest reserve there, crawling with monkeys. They were fairly aggressive at times in search of food, and there were a few anxious moments when one grabbed Jacqui's shirt. On the way back to the van, Jacqui saw a Europa patient!

We were dropped back to our new hotel about 7.00. It was accessed from the main street by about 300 metres of potholes. The lobby was expansive and fully open to the elements. As we were registering, I called Jacqui by name. For some reason, the reception clerk cracked up laughing. "Jacqui!", he giggled, "Hee! Hee!, Jacqui!" Perhaps "Jacqui" means "chook entrails" or something in Balinese. From then onwards, whenever we walked through the hotel lobby, he would call out "Jacqui! Jacqui! Hee! Hee!"

Our new room was slightly better than the previous night's, on a first floor overlooking the hotel's beautiful gardens. We went for a walk and had dinner at a fairly cheap place, but the food wasn't very good. When we had finished, they gave us some complimentary drink, which was some potent local spirit, served in whisky shots. We couldn't finish it, and left when nobody was watching, so as not to offend.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped for some water at a nearby shop (in Bali you never drink the tap water, and have to buy bottled water, which is sold all over the place for about $1 a litre). The lady running the shop didn't have change for our note, but said, "that's okay, I trust you, bring the money to me tomorrow". Amazing. She had never seen us before. Again, a local person in Bali astounded us with their openness and friendliness. Then there are those who try to rip you off for a trip to the toilet.

We started the next day with breakfast at a place called JJ's, overlooking the main street of Sanur. It was okay, but not as good as the previous day's breakfast. After one and a half days in Bali, we were "old hands" and chuckled as taxi drivers hassled other tourists for fares. It was an eye-opener at how fat many Westerners looked as they sweated around Bali in their shorts and T-shirts. Lucky I didn't look in the mirror. The local men all wear either sarongs or trousers, but Westerners "dress down" as much as possible, because of the heat.

We had arranged for our driver from the previous day's trip to pick us up and take us to Kuta. His name was Gnura (or something like that) and he was a very friendly and talkative guy. He was just a regular driver, who probably touts for business along with the rest of them when he hasn't got a fare like us. We had agreed on R20,000 for him to take us to Kuta, but had no idea whatsoever whether this was fair or outrageous.

Taxi drivers were always hanging around the front of the hotel compound near the lobby. Whenever we went out for a walk, they would call out to us, "Taxi? Taxi?" When we appeared outside the lobby at 9.00, Gnura was sitting and chatting with these other drivers. He jumped up and ushered us into his van. I felt sorry for all the other guys, who had been sitting there all that time, for nothing.

As he drove us into Kuta, Gnura pointed out items of interest (like mangrove swamps) and told us a bit about himself and his family. He dropped us near Kuta Beach, which has nice sand and big waves for surfing. Unlike Sanur on the other side of the island, there are no hotels on the beachfront and swimmers have to cross a main road to get to the beach. We looked around for a while and then headed for (where else?) the shops. The streets leading away from the beach were filled with small shops selling the usual fare - stuff made from batik, wood carvings, fake "designer label" clothes. The footpaths were crowded with hawkers selling cheap watches, silver bangles, taxi rides and so forth. They would hover towards you like asteroids in space, flipping open their cases of watches at the last minute, as if there was something really illicit inside. When you came across a real crowd of them, the experience could be a little surreal - like being attacked by a school of giant clams.

After a while, we came across a large shopping centre which was at least air conditioned. We went into a jeans shop, where Jacqui bought a pair of jeans and I got a shirt. Jacqui's jeans were taken up, free of charge, in about 15 minutes, while we waited. There was a couple from Magill also in the shop and we swapped stories a bit. On leaving this shop, we found a Polo Ralph Lauren shop, where I bought two shirts for about $35 - $40 each. In David Jones, they would have cost about $135 each. One I tried on, the other I bought on impulse, at the last minute. Although both had the same size tag, the latter was a bit small for me when I put it on (in Japan).

There was a department store in the vicinity, called Matahari3. There was not much of interest, but on the top floor was a food hall selling a wide range of Balinese and Indonesian dishes. We decided that the purpose of our trip was (1) sightseeing, and (2) eating, and that, as of now, we had officially seen all there was to see in Bali. We sat down to gorge ourselves for the next two hours. We started on a platter of exotic fruit, then moved on to a main course (three serves between us). I went on to coffee and cake. At the last minute, Jacqui thought that she mustn't leave Bali without having a grilled fish, so at about 1.40 she ordered one, even though we were meant to meet up with Gnura at 2.00, back at the beach. The fish didn't come until 2.00 and she rushed it down, then we bolted to the beach, scattering the street hawkers, still flashing their watches and rings4 at us. Gnura was waiting there quite patiently.

We were returned to the hotel. Jacqui gave Gnura a big tip5 and thanked him. We went to the main street to get a film processed. On the way, we met up with a Danish woman who had just arrived in Bali and was a bit disoriented. Being "old Bali hands" (we had been there for less than 48 hours), we took her with us and showed her where the shops were. We wanted to go to the beach to get a photo there. While there, we got involved with some women, touting for business for their market stalls, which were situated off the beach. They were nice people, but they wanted only one thing. They told us we were the only customers they had had all day. Jacqui bought a sarong from one and a tablecloth from the other. We didn't really want either!

We collected our photos, which were washed out. We didn't know whether there was something wrong with our camera, or the processing was substandard6. We returned to the hotel and I went for a swim in the pool. By the pool was a bar. At the bar were two Australians who had been drinking raucously on our plane. They looked like they had dropped their bags on arrival at the hotel and headed straight for this bar, where they had been ever since. Jacqui went back to the room for a sleep, while I lay by the pool, reading and snoozing. I was surrounded by Germans. For some reason, there are hoards of Germans in Bali. I can understand the place being popular with Australians, but surely the Germans can find a more convenient tropical paradise.

We had to be out of our room by 6.00, so at 5.30 I returned to our room. We had showers, packed our bags, then sat around in the lobby for an hour. All the staff - reception people, waitresses, shop staff, cleaners - were standing around, engrossed in a dubbed episode of "Beverley Hills 90210" on the lobby TV.

Eventually, we got picked up by Made again and taken to the airport. We had a two hour wait for the plane. There was a waiting area, which had quite a few shops to while away the time in, but mostly it was boring and hot. By Garuda tradition, the plane was 20 minutes late, but we eventually got under way. We decided that we had seen enough of Bali to last a lifetime. There were only about 20 Westerners on the plane, the rest were Japanese tourist and Indonesians who mostly got off in Jakarta. We had another hour or more in the transit lounge in Jakarta Airport. There were shops here too, mostly still open even though it was about midnight. On the flight from Jakarta to Tokyo, the movies were - you guessed it - "Sense and Sensibility", plus another one we had never heard of, called "Kissing Miranda". Remember this movie. It is integral to the plot later in the story. Anyway, a 747 full of Japanese at 2.00 in the morning naturally found both these movies riveting (note subtle sarcasm). Why weren't they showing a Japanese movie? Were they expecting a Jane Austen convention on the flight? Jacqui decided she was going to watch the movies, so I stole her newly-purchased-never-before-tried head supporting inflatable traveller's pillow. It worked, and miraculously I actually slept for a couple of hours. I was woken by the flight attendants serving breakfast at 5.00 in the morning, despite the fact that we didn't arrive in Tokyo until 8.00. Why is it that they can serve you a meal on a one hour flight from Adelaide to Melbourne, but on overnight flights they serve breakfast three hours before the plane lands??

Jacqui was most peeved by the fact that I had slept because it was her pillow and she had decided to try to sleep after all. She didn't.

1 No, not really, but he was whingeing about the late take off in a very loud Manchester accent.

2 This seems to be a standard ploy, in all countries including Australia, when dealing with people who arrive at "package" prices.

3 Indonesian for "French nightclub singer who spies for Germans"

4 I mean, the ones you put on your fingers. They weren't giving us brown-eyes.

5 "Don't necessarily marry your daughter off to the guy with the most pigs"

6 Subsequently discovered there was nothing wrong with the camera.