31.01.2009 30 °C
This is our third visit to the tropical mecca of Bali in ten months, yet we are still totally confused about its identity and how to describe it.
Should we enthuse about the sun-drenched postcard-pristine beaches overhung with palm trees like this one ...
.....or should we complain about other beaches that are so polluted with garbage that even Fred, the idle Malaysian beach cleaner, would have difficulty turning a blind eye?
Should we tell you about the near-deserted hotels and empty restaurants, or about the ones that are packed with Dutch "Overwinteraars" escaping the January blues of Amsterdam.
Should we write about the extravagent villas, ritzy restaurants and luxury hotels patronised exclusively by affluent westerners, or describe the thatched bamboo shacks and concrete-block hovels of the locals.
Should we show you photos of Hindu shrines that we meet around every corner - like this one ....
..... together with a portrait of one of the hundreds of local women who make daily offerings of food, flowers and incense in the hope of appeasing the gods?
Or should we chronicle the terrible mess left by the offerings once they have been scavanged by rodents, birds and dogs?
And what about the winning smiles of the Balinese? Could they possibly be as friendly as the appear, especially as they know that we have so much more than they, or do they only smile at us in order to pick our pockets? Prices of most things here are ridiculously low so we have a certain sympathy for vendors who quote relatively astronomical prices in the hope that buyers may be too stupid to notice or too rich to care. We are neither, although Jim's bargaining skills still need honing.
Conclusion - Bali has as many faces as the Hindu gods that the Balinese so assiduously worship. But you can choose which of the faces you want to focus on. We see everything - the good, bad and downright ugly, and we love it because, above all, it is totally fascinating.