The Bali Blowout

Our last hurrah

It’s been just 3 days that Ailidh has had to survive alone in Bali before my arrival.

In that time, she has fallen down a hole, gotten sun burnt again and vomited underwater. Thank goodness I’m here.

We have had a week apart, and my arrival in the little town of Canggu, marks the beginning of our Bali reunion, and our last (joint) hurrah.

She shows me her leg wounds as we wander around looking for a place to get pedicures, pointing out all the holes in the pavement as we walk, and explaining how easy it is to fall down one on a rainy day.

She is preaching to the choir, I could fall down a hole at any time, whatever the weather.

After nearly 4 months of being proper travellers, our feet look like aged blocks of cheese, so both of us are seriously committed to getting help before we have to start calling them hooves.

We find a contender – a cute little spa with luxurious looking pedicure chairs, so we go in to peruse the menu, and ask some questions.

While we stand at the front desk doing just that, the lady at reception looks at me with concern, and says:

“We also have some hair treatments for your situation”.

The situation she is referring to is just my actual hair.

Ok, so it is ginger, dry as a husk and puffed out like a pom pom on account of the humidity, but still.

I start giggling (crying inside) and tell her it’ll just be the pedicure today and we head in for our toe-tal transformation. See what I did there. Does my wit know no bounds?

With toes-a-twinkling, we head out out later that night, to a place called Old Man’s. Thankfully not filled with its namesake.

As Ailidh breaks into a signature rap and we tear up the dance floor with our excellent moves, a man approaches.

“I really like you” he says to me.

“Thank you” I politely respond.

“No, I REALLY like you” he continues.

“I like your hair and your teeth”.

At worst, I’m picking up a distinct Jeepers Creepers – the sequel vibe, and at best, thinking that the specifics probably weren’t entirely necessary.

Yet I must confess I am pleased to have received a compliment about my ‘situation’ to balance out my spa shame.

He departs but lets me know exactly where he’ll be, you know, in case I want to go over.

I don’t.

We party til the lights come on, with Jeepers Creepers staring over all the while. Disappointingly, for us party animals, the lights come on at midnight, so it’s a taxi back with a couple of girls from our hostel.

Waking up to mercifully slight hangovers the next day, we adopt a lovely English girl called Aine, making plans to reunite with her in a couple of days time in Ubud.

Aine – pronounced “Ornya” seems like a fitting new member of our girl crew, because I only hang out with people whose names are impossible to pronounce and spell.

Ailidh and I say a temporary farewell to Aine, and head off to Ubud – a place where rice fields, rainforests and yoga studios exist in near total harmony.

Ubud is a place where vegans unite. A place where you wear crochet tops, do yoga, get mandala tattoos and leave your bra at home. If you’re coming in, grab your harem pants, stop washing your hair, grow dreadlocks, and remember that leg shaving is for heathens.

We realise we can’t stay long.

On the journey from Canggu to Ubud, I see a sign outside a spa advertising “vagina ozone therapy” and I decide that this can’t be anything good.

A lot of common sense, and a little bit of googling confirms that it is not.

For the bargain price of £8, you can have ozone gas pumped (yes, pumped, yes ozone gas) into your vagina to clear out all of that nasty vagina-y stuff that’s (meant to be) in there.

Having decided not to make the stop for that ‘treatment’, we arrive promptly at our home for the next two nights and I feel like we’ve walked onto the Love Island set.

I am horrified.

This so-called hostel, purported to have normal human guests looks like an Instagram influencer’s wet dream.

It’s the kind of place where there’s a pool, but no one actually gets in it – because that would mess up their hair, there are free 15 minute massages right next to said pool – in front of everyone 😬, and there are beanbags to chill out on, but they’re made of white leather.

Anything made of white leather is a travesty in my book. I challenge you to try to enjoy laying in your swimwear on a white leather beanbag in 35 degree heat and 90% humidity.

I can assure you it’s not pretty, and the squelches and sweat pool that ensue will ensure you will never attract your Love Island mate. And this is of course, what we all wish for.

I hate this hostel instantly, can you tell? My extreme hatred is driven partly by the aforementioned pose-y-ness of it, and the baffling number of girls in thong bikinis, but also because I am in the room furthest from the toilets.

Clearly my body hates me, because it uses these 2 nights where the toilet involves a lengthy commute, to bring me a hate campaign of at least two ‘middle of the night wees’ per night.

I’m not happy, my body usually behaves admirably in times of need.

Like that time I booked a 3 day trip down the Amazon river from a (totally made up) ‘catalogue’ in my hostel. The luxurious boat turned out to be 2 dugout canoes with a wooden platform on top. The ‘toilet’ was off the side of one of the canoes into the Amazon river, a piece of tarpaulin your privacy curtain.

I did not poo for 3 entire days thank the lord.

Moving on.

On a quest for piña coladas, Ailidh and I head out on the town, following our livers to a great ‘2 for a fiver’ deal.

It’s pretty dead in hippyville, especially for the weekend, so when we hear Dire Straits not being completely butchered in a bar across the road, we decide to head over for a drink.

The band are actually pretty good and we enjoy a civilised gin and tonic while they play their final few songs.

At the end of their set, the miniature, dreadlocked lead singer comes over to sit with us (uninvited) and touches my hair because he likes it (uninvited). 2-1 in favour of my ‘situation’.

Several cocktails in at this point, allow me to share with you the exact way I described this visitor in my phone notes…

“Be-dreaded Balinese Nob Marley.“

Needless to say, he is not the one.

Aine joins us the next day and we book a driver for the day for the bargain price of £10 each, so that we can go and explore inland Bali.

Having procrastinated into the time available to get ready this morning, I am wolfing down a fruit salad in a manner not befitting of our Love Island surroundings. I leave the papaya and tell the girls I don’t like it because it tastes like a broken carrot. Ailidh tries some and likens it to a tasteless melon – so all in all, not a good day for papaya.

Our driving tour of Bali is a mixed bag, especially for me, having been to Bali twice before over the past 10 years, one of these times Ailidh would have still been at school 😐.

Our first stop is a coffee plantation, complete with a super cute little kid that for once doesn’t act as an instant contraceptive, and a little tour with 12 taster coffees – all for free. Though, some of them they probably should have paid us to try.

It is here that we sample a Balinese delicacy – coffee that has been shat out by a creature called a luwak. Seriously. Here is the creature that did the nasty:

A Balinese coffee machine

At 50k (£2.80) a cup, it’s pretty pricey by Balinese standards but I decide to buy us a cup to share because I’m generous like that and a really good friend.

As we sample the shit coffee (literally), I wonder whether this is just a great Balinese piss take – get a creature to eat some coffee beans and then go for a shit, call it a delicacy and sell it to tourists.

Well done Bali- we’re totally falling for it.

Note, it does also taste pretty shit.

Stop 2 is Tegungan waterfall and I’m sad to say that this is another site that has sold its soul to Insta-tourism. The waterfall is surrounded by lush forest and rocky cliffs, but the path down, and the surrounding banks are littered with plastic and rubbish and debris. Having paid a small entry fee to get in, we are disappointed that the money doesn’t seem to be going towards conservation and cleanliness.

Clean me

Instead, there are heart-shaped wicker photo perches, novelty giant birds nests and swings, where people can sit bikini-clad and create the perfect, pretend paradise Instagram shot.

A selection from Instagram

We stay here for a very short time, but manage to catch a glimpse of a girl in a long, red (entirely impractical) dress with a selfie stick, dangerously clambering over rocks and down a small river on her way back from having taken that ‘perfect’ picture.

This girl has a full face of makeup which is miraculously still on.

Me on the other hand – my eyelids are sweating, which I didn’t even know was possible, along with every other pore in my body. My fingers have swollen to look like little brown chipolatas, and my hair is like a blackish/ginger bag of cotton wool. You know those bags where it comes all together in a clump? Yeah, one of them.

I don’t think I’m going to make it as an influencer.

Stop 3 is Kintamani volcano – well that’s what we’re told it is….

Fog obscures the view completely so we can’t see a thing, but luckily, we can drive down to the base of the volcano and see Danau Batur instead – a beautiful lake that hugs the valley at the bottom.

I am excited to see it again, having visited about 5 years ago with my then boyfriend. I sit in the car remembering how heavenly it was (the view, definitely not the boyfriend).

It starts to rain, big time. That tropical kind of rain that falls in such big drops that they reverberate back up from the ground, turning roads swiftly into rivers.

When we arrive at the little path to the lake, we get out into a massive puddle and power walk down it expectantly, hoping for a view that makes the soaking worthwhile.

Before we even reach the end of the path, I can see the rubbish. The water and the banks are strewn with it. There’s an old overturned rowboat and a falling down shack and it makes me sad to see something so beautiful left to ruin.

A man in the shack wanted to charge us an entry fee

We wetfoot it back to the car, now absolutely drenched, our already scabby sandals immediately starting to reek. And I am sad, sad to see the change that’s come to Bali in such a short amount of time.

We make the drive back down south and cheer ourselves up with a delicious lunch before visiting Tegallalang rice terrace.

And this does not disappoint.

Rows and rows of green, sculpted tiers appear before us and we’re all totally awestruck.

A view to bring a tier to the eye

We make our away along the little dirt trails in between the rice plantations, taking more photos than we could ever need, happy to finally see the beautiful Bali I knew was out there somewhere.

Rice above it

Our reverie is interrupted by some whooping, and we look over to see a woman. On a swing. Wearing a long fluttering red dress. Having her photo taken.

The horror does not end there.

It turns out, you can, wait for it.

Hire a dress.

For the photo.

It physically hurt me to type that. I may need a minute. I understand if you need some time alone to process that.

With none of us fully recovered from that unwanted discovery, the revelations continue as we happen upon a couple in the high part of the terrace.

He is topless for some unknown reason, and clearly every day is arm and fake tan day.

She, well. Where to begin. Deep breath.

She, is wearing a white, string vest onesy over a white bikini top and thong. The word ‘over’ is used loosely and generously here because, see above, the onesy is made of STRING.

Why? Seriously why?

I should give her credit really, for being so creative, because she clearly must have made this outfit herself from a ball of yarn and the trampled hopes and dreams of womankind. Because I pray that there’s no way you could buy that in a shop.

Understandably confused passer by

Her shirtless boy toy gets out his drone (not a euphemism), and begins to record footage of what I can only assume is a fetish porno about Ken and Barbie harvesting rice. Pre-order here.

If you tried to click on that made up link, go immediately and seek therapy.

After a final day in Ubud that sees Ailidh buy the same playsuit in about 8 colours, and us resisting about a hundred invitations to buy a sarong, we head to Seminyak to party.

Sarong anyone?

We are staying in a party hostel, and my friends, party hostels are not pretty.

As we check in at reception we read a notice listing the ‘hostel rules’.

Sex in the dorms is not allowed.

If caught, the perpetrator will be charged 150k IDR (£7.50) PER GUEST. Bed sheets and towels returned with ‘stains’ on them will be charged to the guest.

Clearly they’ve been stung before

We ring around to cancel the orgy we had planned and dump our things in our mangy little dorm room and start getting ready.

Meanwhile, Aine has to go and report that her bed sheets already have stains on them (not hers). Like I said, not pretty.

To combat the supercharged afro that humidity brings me, I resort to industrial hair restraints in the form of rapper-esque cornrows. Luckily I’m very cool indeed so I can pull this off.

While I’m mid-plait, a small, unnaturally tanned Croydon lad asks me if we’re going to Shishi tonight.

I’m wondering if he just propositioned or swore at me, or if that’s a new youth word for something I don’t understand.

It turns out it is none of the above – it is in fact a bar/club that has free drinks from 9-11pm every night. YES, FREE.

We decide that obviously we are going there, and Ailidh and I try and play it cool and pretend we’re not alcoholics until 9pm.

Arriving at the door at Shishi, Ailidh is ID’d, and obviously I insist that they check mine.

Our temperatures are taken at the door with one of those little space age gun things and we all swan in corona virus free. Yay.

The free drinks menu is amazing – espresso martinis and other cocktails, spirits and mixers. There are two bars, 2 floors and a multitude of staff to ensure you’re never waiting longer than 30 seconds.

In the space of that 30 seconds, Ailidh attracts an admirer who pulls out his best line with which to woo her:

“You are a good looking bitch”.

Wow.

We evacuate to the upstairs bar for safety. The next two hours (and the same two hours the following night), are spent double-parked, drinking for free and wondering how on earth this business model can work.

Like I said, playing it cool.

We join the mass exodus at 11:02 and head to La Favela – a beautiful bar/ club down the road where the drinks prices bring a tear to my eye (and not a tear of joy).

We dance like banshees for the entire night, adopting the odd waif and stray solo traveller to join our girl gang.

Morning comes, and it’s time to say goodbye for now to my sister from another mister and travel buddy extraordinaire.

Today marks the end of 109 days with this absolutely awesome being.

As a naturally antisocial, irritable and probably (ok definitely) irritating person, I didn’t know how I would feel about this much time with someone. Would I get cabin fever? Would we fall out? Would it ruin our friendship?

I can honestly say, that togetherness has made the heart grow fonder. We defy coronavirus etiquette and have a goodbye hug. It is quick, awkward and entirely unemotional, because this is the British way.

Now that we are apart, and I don’t have to look her in the eye, I can tell you that Ailidh McGregor is the bestest friend a girl could hope for, and the most wonderful travel buddy there ever was.

She is excellent at swimming and maths and navigation. She laughs hysterically at my jokes and her own.

She has enviable beach hair, though admittedly the skin needs some work. She frequently embarrasses herself but always laughs about it, and she has the hiking prowess of a mountain goat. Ailidh, feel free to use this as your Tinder profile. You’re welcome.

To lower the emotional cringe back to a manageable level, here are a few of Ailidh’s most embarrassing moments, according to me:

⁃ Walks into fly screen door in Torquay. Face first.

⁃ Injures herself dancing with everything she’s got to the Gaston song from Beauty and the Beast. Now has a scar.

⁃ Tells Tony the Enterprise car hire man that he “was perfect” after he gives us discount.

⁃ 9 mosquito bites, to the face.

Having made the decision to return home early amidst all the corona virus craziness, I have 2 more weeks sunning myself in Thailand without my partner in crime. And that’s fine by me because it’s not the same without her anyway.

As I pull myself together and return to my emotional husk ways, just a final note to say:

Well done to Elaine and Robert for making such an excellent human.

I haven’t met your other creations yet, but I’m sure they’re great too.

Travel sisters

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