There’s a place in Bali that I’ve probably never mentioned before. Never dared to write about. Mostly because, other than one brief foray into the dark & dingy grottoesque Kuta, very shortly after I arrived in 2011, I’ve never had reason to go. Not until last week – in fact, it happened one day before I headed to Sidemen.
The very mention of that overcrowded, overtouristed, overdeveloped city makes me cringe. I hemmed and hawed, tried nearly every tactic known to woman in the upper reaches of this island (I’d wager) to avoid the ugly concrete jungle that has devoured the once-beautiful town and beaches of Kuta. No go. I had to go, and I had to go soon.
So I braced myself for the hour’s drive down south, and straight into the jaws of Bintang beer bellies, tattooed limbs and faces, bald-headed and near-naked Aussie yahoos, and more hawkers selling unnecessary and overpriced souvenirs than you can fling a Bali boomerang at.
Green fields and jungle have been everywhere replaced with concrete, poles, cables, hotels, shopping malls and shops or overweight tourists crammed shoulder to shoulder, scoffing on McDonald’s or alcohol at 10 in the morning. I didn’t dare head to the beach, lest I be pestered by one of the legendary Kuta Cowboys or stumble upon something worse…
I could count on one hand the number of locals I spotted wearing traditional costume; sarong, kebaya and sash. Hardly any vestiges of a Bali with soul, as if tradition and spirituality had been completely erased.
It was bad. Bali at its worst. A 3-hour visit to this labyrinthine, traffic-choked, fume-plumed city (by far, way more than Ubud) that I’d rather file away in the deepest and inaccessible recesses of my memory bank.
And yet, always seeking the light, a dint of nature or glimmer of beauty, it was right before I stepped back into the shuttle van heading back to Ubud a few hours later, that I saw the horse and buggy.
True, it might not have amounted to anything more than a touristy quirk, but even if for a moment, it put things aright again; a throwback to the older days, the slower days, the greener, cleaner and sweeter (no doubt) days of Bali as it once was – and still, blessedly is, in other parts of the island.