Savouring Bali (While There’s Still Time)

While lounging in a fantastically comfy bean bag on the beach in Sanur a few nights ago I decided I really must spend more time at the beach.

Sipping my beer, chatting with friends and watching our kids play in the sand, I felt calm, cool from the sea breeze and extremely happy.

Sanur in the late afternoon is much more a local time than for the tourists. The sunbathers have gone home for showers and naps to prepare themselves for dinner and the Balinese families head down to the water to splash and play and cool off after the heat of the day.

The soft sound of the waves rolling in was so soothing I asked my husband, Ongky, if he didn’t think we should move out of the jungle and closer to the beach.

To many tourists, surfers and Bali beach boys (and girls) the beach is the centre of the world, but for me and a lot of my friends, it has become a place pretty low on the list of places to spend days off.

Living here I generally avoid tourist areas like the plague. As much as I enjoy the beach and swimming in the sea, the pain of being constantly pestered by sellers, drivers and men looking for a Western lady-friend far outweighs the pleasure.

It’s rare to find fantastic places that haven’t been trashed by overdevelopment now; so disappointment is also a factor.

The last time I went to Dreamland Beach I vowed never to go back, even though it was one of my favourite places in Bali at one time. The busloads of tourists, hawkers and the brazen pushing of the “New Kuta” development made me sick to my stomach.

The risk of skin damage and even cancer is also a major concern that keeps me away from the beach. Living here I must be exposed to far more dangerous rays than I would be in the UK just being out doing chores and errands. So I rarely feel the need for a skin-frying trip to the beach.

A glowing tan from small daily doses of sun is one thing; ending up looking like a handbag after years of sunning oneself is another.

It’s not just the beach that I’ve neglected to visit lately. Every time I go somewhere wonderful like Bedugul, Kintamani or Tampak Siring I am reminded of all the places available to me.

I know how lucky I am to live in Bali, but it sometimes slips to the back of my mind and is overshadowed by my daily routine of work and motherhood.

My Balinese family seem to savour the times they can go out and be tourists for a day. They take a trip during their Galungan holidays and on other holy days. A couple of times a year they drive up to the mountains, or more often take the kids to the beach for a swim.

Kuta is a once- or twice-a-year affair (as it should be), but the rarity of the trip makes it especially exciting for the kids.

I suppose it’s all about choosing the right times to go places. Sanur on a Saturday evening: Yes. Kuta on a Sunday afternoon: No. With some local smarts, avoiding the hottest and busiest times of the day isn’t too hard.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter that I don’t take advantage of everything the island has to offer; maybe it’s the little daily things that make me feel so appreciative of Bali.

Many mornings when I’m driving to work, the sun is just beginning to heat up and the light colours everything a gorgeous shade of pinky-orange.

Sometimes the sun is a blazing orange ball in the sky and the ricefields are the greenest green possible. In those moments I have the feeling I’m the luckiest person in the whole world.

Still, I guess it might be time to reconnect with why I’m really here and become a bit more adventurous with the places I go in my free time – before it’s all concreted over and built into luxurious white boxes.

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My Compound Life

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