Making friends already!

Trip Start Sep 24, 2009
Trip End Apr 30, 2010

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Where I stayed
Mastapa Gardens

Flag of Indonesia  , Bali,
Monday, September 28, 2009

Life is great in Bali!

New friends

My two days spent in Kuta were pretty laid back - I mostly spent my time trying to walk around, but never getting very far due to every other person wanting to stop for a chat! Once they know I can speak a bit of Indonesian, the chats go on for even longer.  

 "Where are you from? Where are you going? Where are you staying? Are you married? Do you have children? Why not you have children?!"  

On a couple of occasions I have declared Josey, my niece, as my own - at least it stops the looks of sympathy!  But that also brings on a new set of questions:  

 "How many children you have? How old are they? What are their names? Do they go to school?"

I had stopped to check the map near the centre of Kuta, when I a 'transport' guy ("You want transport?" stopped to chat (refer to the questions above!).  He actually seemed genuinely interested in finding about me and my travel plans, and as I wasn't exactly in a hurry to be in a hurry to go anywhere, I was happy to chat for awhile. By the end of the conversation, Made (pronounced Mah-day) had offered to take me to a local 'night market' for some good Bali food for dinner that night, to a place where the locals go.   Now I was happy to take up the offer, but knowing that he was a driver but being more than happy to pay for the ride, I asked 'How much'? He said 'No charge - I take you as my friend'. Sounds cool to me! (Geesh, I'm so trusting!)

We agreed that he would pick me up from the hotel later that evening - but as this would be my first motorbike passenger ride, I asked that he bring me a helmet. "No worries - I give you 100% guarantee that you will be safe". Good - but I still want the helmet!

We parted company and I headed down Poppies Gang (a well-known backpackers street/alleyway in Kuta) and didn't make it more than 50m when I started talking to Wayan, a security guard standing outside Poppies Cottages. We went through the usual set of questions, and he invited me in to take a look around Poppies Cottages and to take some photos. Not sure why I particularly wanted to do this, but I obliged, mostly out of curiosity! We carried on chatting for awhile and in the end, he invited me to his younger brother's wedding - in two days time! Wow, I'm really on a roll - and speaking a bit of the bahasa (Indo language) goes a long way around here!  I graciously accepted even though it meant staying in Kuta a day longer than planned - but it wasn't like I had to be anywhere else!

Dinner with Made
That evening my new friend Made came to pick me up (with the helmet!). He told me rather than go to the Night Market that I might like to go further away to a beach called Kembongan which has a night sunset, etc.   I just assumed it was another local food market place.

I jumped on the bike, held on for dear life and off we went!  The number of times I thought I would lose a kneecap by other cars passing so closely- yikes!  As we near Kembongan, it dawns on me that this was not the kind of place I was expecting. There was a long row of up-market seafood restaurants along the beach - and we pull into one of them.  I am greeted by someone who gives me a frangipani flower to put into my hair, and escorts me to a table on the beach - one of hundreds of tables on the beach, each full of couples, families and groups. It was a lovely setting - but this was NOT what I had in mind, nor had been told to expect!  

The waitress brought the price list - where ALL meals were priced per kg, not per dish. If you have to ask, you can't afford it!!   I very politely explained to Made that I was disappointed that he brought me here as it was not the sort of place that we discussed, and I knew that the only reason we came was so he could collect his commission. Furthermore, as I had lost my wallet in Singapore (well, it was true!) I couldn't afford it. Made was fairly apologetic, admitted that yes, there was a voucher system - and I could just buy a drink so that he could get the voucher still - and then he would take me to the night market. Grrrrr!!

So one expensive fruit juice later we were off to the Night Market for a great mie goreng (stir fried noodles) and fresh mango juice - all for 15,000 rupiah (about $2.20!)   As we drove home, he suggested that maybe I would want to contribute towards petrol since we did all that extra travelling.  Now I was more than happy to do this - but I explained to him, that when I asked about cost at the time he first offered to take me, he shouldn't have told me 'he was taking me as his friend'!!  So - a good lesson for me early on in the trip that nothing is for free, and you can't take everything at face value! I did start to pay, but he told me to put my wallet away in the end!  Another lesson learned that keeping calm and polite goes a long way too!

In spite of the 'confusion' it was still a nice evening with a bit of difference! But it did make me wonder what to expect from Wayan and the wedding!

A Balinese Wedding with Wayan
Wayan said he would show up at 9.00, so knowing that the Balinese tend to show up early, I had planned to be at reception by 8.45.  But he showed up at 8.30, so of course I wasn't ready! Wayan was very nicely dressed in formal traditional dress and he was first taking me to his cousin's house first to borrow a sarong and sash to wear.

That was entertaining as they wear a stretchy and very tight corset-type waistband to hold up the sarong - and I had to do some serious sucking in of breath to get it around me! Finally we crossed the road to the bride's parent's house/compound where the ceremony was to be held. Or had been held, as it turns out!   You never really get the full picture here, but it turns out I was invited to the bit between the wedding ceremony and the main reception so there were lots of people sitting around. Of course, I was the only westerner there and this caused a fair bit of interest, much to my embarrassment - the last thing I want to do is to turn this into a circus about me! The bride and groom had a blessing by the minister, and some other type of blessing by the grandfather - then had a few photographs taken (some with me!)

And that was the end of that!   So it's wasn't quite the whole ceremony that I expected - but it was interesting all the same, and I was fortunate to have been invited.   Afterwards, Wayan took me back to his mother's house. He showed me through the house, including the kitchen, saying "Ini tidak bagus" (It isn't pretty) - and he was right about that!.  He also walked through the small temple area.  Every family compound is made of up several areas, including a couple of houses and a temple area.  Wayan wanted to introduce me to his mother - but we had to wait for her to finish working at the market in half an hour. So we just hung out, and I got to chat with various members of the family. I have yet to work out why most of them, including Wayan's mother, weren't at the ceremony.

All in all, it was an awesome experience, and what made it so nice was that he expected nothing in return. I will be heading back to Bali in another week or so when Alan arrives, and he invited us to his family home for a special ceremony the following day. Cool!
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