Tonight is my last night in Bali; tomorrow we fly to Chennai, then on Wednesday we’ll head to Sri Ramanasramam in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu for a week before finding an apartment and settling in for a few months.
The last few days have been pretty trying. I spent most of the week trying to hunker down on work, since I’ll be on retreat next week, and was looking forward to seeing some more of Bali over the weekend, possibly taking a few nights overnight up north and seeing a non-touristy part of the island.
Saturday I woke up feeling really cruddy with some kind of stomach bug again (my mistake for assuming a classy Belgian restaurant would know how to handle their tuna). Not as gruesome as the last time, but I felt like gravity had quadrupled on me, and spent the day sleeping it off and sipping electrolytes.
Sunday was better. We stayed local, and first went to the Campuhan Ridge Walk, a pleasant wander along a ridge between two creeks. It’s a beautiful walk, but it was very hot by the time we got there, and I was still feeling a bit weak, so we just stayed for a little while before returning to soak in the hotel pool.
Then we went for a longer scooter ride to a waterfall off to the northwest, which I had found mostly by just scrolling around Google Maps and clicking on things. It turned out to be a beautiful spot with not a single other tourist there, just families visiting on the Kuningan holiday, mostly women, snapping photos of each other in front of the falls, posing and laughing.
There was also a cave across the street. A guide was there to lead us into it. It was a dark, narrow tunnel lit by lanterns on the walls, and we got about 40 metres into it before it turned into a slippery downward slope without much light, and neither Matthew nor I was too keen on proceeding any further. It was cool to have seen that such things exist, though. Apparently it was used for defense, back in the day.
We scooted back to Ubud, and I went to a lovely little spa I’d found a few days before and very much enjoyed. Massages in Ubud are typically $8-15 for an hour – it’s practically cheaper to get a massage than to eat. But some of the street spas leave you feeling like a slab of meat, the girls gabbing with each other, their touch distant and automatic. At this place, you got the sense the women were treated well, and genuinely pleased to work with you.
I decided to treat myself to a two-hour session. It started with an hour of massage, then a luxurious body scrub – some sort of floral-scented paste which she let set on my skin for a while, pleasantly tingly. That was followed by a body wash, then yoghurt, then after washing that off, I soaked in a tub filled with fragrant frangipani blossoms, sipping ginger tea and eating papaya.
You haven’t had a bath until you’ve had one filled with frangipani blossoms.
However, I’m not necessarily advocating this for everyone, as Monday morning, I woke up with a rash spreading across my face, neck, chest, and wrist. It seems most likely that I reacted to something from my spa treatment, though it could also have been a food allergy or a heat rash, or some combination thereof. I felt fine otherwise, but spent most of today being anxious about the rash and getting opinions about what it could be, and being reassured that it wasn’t serious. Tonight, my stomach has been feeling queasy again, which may be as much emotional as it is physical at this point, and I’m just hoping it settles down for the trip to Chennai.
I’ve mostly had a wonderful time in Bali, so I’m sorry to be leaving on a slightly stressed note. I do wish I’d gotten to see more of the island – Ubud is a good central location with lots to offer, but it’s also very touristy and Westernized and a bit heavy on the yoga cult vibe for my liking. If it hadn’t been for the community and facilities at Hubud, the coworking space, I probably would have ventured elsewhere. I had expected to make more weekend trips around the island, but my stomach took over two of my four weekends here.
Sometimes, in the tropics, you just want to take some time off and return to the West for a few days to get your bearings and stabilize again. And you don’t get to do that; you can only make the best of the circumstances you’ve got, try to eat right, stay cool and hydrated, and get through whatever it is. I knew when I set out on this trip that I was going to run into things that would potentially mess up my physical body. It’s easy to say that you’re aware of it in advance, harder to actually deal with it in real-time, especially when you have the kind of imagination that helpfully runs amok with all sorts of dramatic and colourful tropical ailments you might have contracted and how upset your mother would be if you got them. I remember having a stage like this in India, after a stomach bug and a cold, and bemoaning why I’d ever left Canada and how could this possibly be worth it. And somehow I’m going back, because there was enough that I could feel was worth it, something about feeling alive in a different way. (Matthew got amoebic dysentery on his first trip to India, and this’ll be his fourth time back since then.) Those feelings will be there again at some point, once this rough wave has passed – and when they are, I’ll be here telling you about them, and why it IS worth it.
But tonight – pass the calamine lotion and Pepto-Bismol!