My new friend Lele…

img_3490The beach area of Seminyak on the island Bali is everything that all of the travel magazines and guidebooks promise it to be. It delivers relatively cheap accommodations, fantastic restaurants, and first class nightlife for those westerners that want to visit another country without being bothered too much with local customs. It also resides on a seemingly endless beach, where the countless spots for sunset photo-ops is matched in number only by the infinite pieces of trash left on the beach by those travelers flocking here for something different. That being said, it’s still not hard for me to enjoy myself here, so much so that I spent the first 3 days checking out the scene and enjoying some western comforts, while listening to many stories from local expats about why they left their lives back home and “went bamboo” here in Bali. I was starting to sympathize with them…doing the math in my own head…asking out loud the question “how do I get my dog over here?”, all of this before even seeing the rest of the island as I had originally intended.

I met Lele outside of Rumors on Jalan Laksmana my first day here in Seminyak. Up to that point, I had seen two types of taxi drivers in Indonesia. The first is the joker who, once you’re seated in the back seat, asks you where you’re going and follows it up immediately with the question “how much you pay me?” The goal here, being that metered taxi rates are so incredibly cheap (about $2.50 for a 15 minute ride), is to catch the tourist into quoting a rate higher than the metered rate…a number usually closer to the amount they pay back home. The taxi driver then ends up making quadruple what they would normal get on a metered fare. The second category, which Lele falls into, is the taxista who immediately turns the meter on once you step into the cab. Although this isn’t a complete sign of honesty, it doesn’t hurt, so over the next few days in Seminyak, Lele was my go-to guy. As my days here passed, I was planning my excursion out to other parts of the island, and each day I would run the ideas by Lele to see what he thought about my plans. We also worked on a deal where he would be my personal driver, paying him roughly $15 a day plus filling his tank up for him at the end of each day. This proved to be a minimal amount here since petrol is hovering just around a dollar a gallon.

The original plan was to head out to the east coast town of Amed, touted by The Book as having great snorkeling and beautiful white sand beaches. Instead, Lele suggested checking out a town called Candi Dasa. I had originally avoided it based on The Book’s descriptions, but as we were planning on driving right through it on the way  to Amed, Lele insisted that I check out the beach, literally called White Sand Beach, fifteen minutes and a small 300 meter hike east of the town of Candi Dasa. Big shocker to most people that know me, but I am naturally…genetically if you will…a bit skeptical. My gut reaction usually is bourne out of innate paranoia towards my own safety and, even though Lele had been nothing but reliable up to that point, I couldn’t help but thinking that his efforts to divert my original plan were in someway geared towards some financial boon for him…that he was attempting to rip me off in some way. But this is the “rip-off” that I would have missed if I hadn’t listened to him:

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It was right then that I made the decision to stay in Candi Dasa for 2 nights…and what I had basically done at Lele’s own insistance was cut him out of two days of a driver’s wage. I set up at a small homestay right on the rocky beach at Candi Dasa, where, both afternoons, I paid $4 for a one hour massage just meters from the crashing waves while gazing in a tranced state at the sunset below:

img_3499I was also able to hire a captain of one of the small motorized outriggers to take me snorkelling the next morning and be my personal water taxi, shuttling me to and from White Sand Beach for jsut a few dollars a day. From the stillness of the morning currents me, the captain, and a guy from Hanover were able to witness the beauty of Bali’s coast while making out the isle of Lombok’s volcano as it shape on the horizon. After snorkeling with sea turtles, we made our way to White Sand Beach where, once again, I was reminded even moreso how I need to ignore my gut sometimes. I was looking forward to spending a few hours on the beach alone, but as I was walking to the place where I had enjoyed the scenery the previous day, Hanover struck up a conversation with me in very heavily accented English. My attempts to ditch him by jumping in the 80 degree water or simply closing my eyes on the lounge chair did not seem to dissuade him, so I gave in. We spent the next 3 hours chatting about life back home and trying to figure out the psyche of the Balinese people… I could tell he was really yearning for something different in his life… that a man with his soul and intelligence just doesn’t belong in a VW plant trying to decide when he’s supposed to say “yes” and when he’s supposed to say “no”. We talked about our families, our dogs, our passions while the ever-smiling Balinese grillman on the beach barbecued us up some fresh shrimp caught right off of Candi Dasa. When we came to the subject of the world’s ills, he said something that I hope to never forget. “This is why people in Bali are different. Back home, we listen to our tv’s, our ipods, our radios…but rarely listen to what each other is saying. People need to talk more.” In my head, I was kicking myself for having earlier wanted him to leave me alone to my ipod, my book, and to an afternoon that would have been comparatively boring.

We took the outrigger back to Candi Dasa. The currents had picked up quite a bit by that time, and my new German friend climbed up to the front of the outrigger so that he could take full advantage of the splash of the water crashing  off the bow; the child underneath the repressed VW worker coming out with each bounce. I couldn’t help but join in as  Hanover, our Balinese boat captain, and I made our way through paradise, all the while getting soaked to the bone by Bali’s warm seaspray.

The next day only gets better…

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~ by parlatorepazzo on March 20, 2009.

4 Responses to “My new friend Lele…”

  1. I will spare you the ‘I told you so..’ whoops too late. Glad you are discovering the island of the gods. I appreciate your stories the memories they evoke. Terima kasih and selamat jalan!

  2. Ryan, it sounds so awesome! Love the pics. Love the writing.

  3. Ryan, if you decide to stay, may I have Bella? Gma bj

  4. I love reading your stuff. Soak it up bro. Don’t come back if you don’t need to.

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