MEMORIES OF BALI
Several years ago, my wife and I spent two weeks on Bali. We stayed in Ubud in a small bed and breakfast, which was actually just a room in somebody's house, but the breakfasts were some of the best that I've had in my life. Pancakes, fresh fruit, fresh mango juice. We decided that we wanted to explore the island, so we asked our host about renting a car. This was many years ago and there weren't any offical car rental agencies in town. Our host told us that a friend of his, a local shop owner, may be willing to rent his car to us. Later that day, we met his friend and negotiated a price for the car rental. We were amazed at how different this transaction was from what we would normally do at home. We didn't sign any papers, provide a security deposit, or even give a credit card number. In fact, he didn't even know our names! We could have very easily wrecked the car and left for another island.
Later that afternoon, we headed out to explore the island. Spotting a hand painted sign that said "Waterfall" and had an arrow showing the direction, we turned onto a bumpy road away from the ocean. We parked our car in a small parking lot and were immediately surrounded by several children. One of them, the oldest, asked us if we would like to go to the waterfall with him. He must have been about fourteen and his English was quite good. He seemed very friendly and sported a big Balinese smile. We followed him through down a path to the waterfall and cooled off under the cascading water.
Afterwards, our guide asked us if we wanted to visit his house. Thinking that this would be a great opportunity to see the home of a native Balinese person, we eagerly agreed to go with him. As soon as we entered his small village, we heard a lot of noise coming from down the street. A Balinese funeral was approaching us and a parade of people were carrying the corpse in a wicker casket. Everybody seemed quite joyous and children were scurrying around picking up coins that were thrown by the participants.
When we got to our guide's house, a small hut made of branches and leaves, we were greeted by his grandmother. We were quite shocked that she was topless and her breasts were, well, what you would expect breasts on an old woman who had never work a bra to look like. She offered us coffee and, not being a coffee drinker, I politely declined. My wife accepted a glass and told me that it was the worst cup of coffee that she had ever had in her life. She drank it to be polite, but didn't enjoy it at all.
I look forward to going back to Bali one day. From what I've heard, the island is much more developed and not as laid back as it used to be, but I still want to see it again.