Photo: Aaron Toth
1. I tamed wild traffic every day.
In Bali, you either get on that scooter and snake your way through traffic, or you end up struggling to walk in a pile of snakes alongside traffic.
2. I learned how to fight with a monkey.
I found out that I should never, EVER bring fruit into any proximity of the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud. Silly me didn’t realize I was standing at the entrance and things got really ugly when a fuzzy beast tried to rip the banana from my hand. I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but after 30 seconds of slapping each other, he won.
3. I walked on the edge of the world.
Or as close to it as it gets at the Uluwatu Temple, where a thin wall was all that separated me from the vast ocean. I wondered if I had just fallen asleep at my desk and ended up in a surreal dream.
4. I started getting my bones cracked once a week.
Who run the world? Balinese women. They pounded my back, rolled out my spine, and performed a whole lot of acrobatic maneuvers as I laid face-down on the table, hoping to God I’d never piss one of them off.
5. I found it perfectly normal that my coffee came out of a monkey’s butt.
But apparently, I learned, I still had to buy it at a cafe and couldn’t just pick up a luwak from the side of the road and brew my own.
6. I started making counter offers at the grocery store.
If you settle for the asking price, you’re a fool, my friend. Think of the 10,000 rupiahs for that cold bottle of water you so desperately need in the 100-degree weather as a base, and bring it down to 5K. If you want to get good at arguing don’t go to law school — go shopping at a warung.
7. I only look for hotels that come with a grandma who makes coconut cake.
RIP generic hotel room. In Bali, I got so spoiled by the tons of attention my airBnB hosts paid to me, that I’ll probably never stay at a Marriott again. I wish I could have taken grandma Ketut with me when I left.
8. I realized I had never really seen a sunset.
Until I went to Echo Beach at 6 p.m. The sun slowly descended into the horizon in a shade of golden yellow, rosy pink and light blue. Even the local fisherman dropped everything to take in the view.
9. I swapped restaurant dinners for street food.
Because mom’s cooking tastes like love, and there was always someone’s mom cooking nasi goreng on the side of the road.
10. I started wearing long pants and shirts in the dead of heat.
Forget that tanning crap. If I really wanted to be comfortable in tropical Bali, I only had two options — transform into a Balinese person, or wear pants and a jacket in June to keep myself cool underneath.
11. I began to eat rice with every meal.
A meal without rice is like an eight-year-old’s birthday party without cake — heartbreaking and empty. I was always looking for my next plate of the yellow goodness.
12. I replaced my alarm with a rooster.
Wherever I went in Bali (even urban Seminyak), there was always that one bastard rooster who decided to ruin my precious slumber at 5 a.m. because he had nothing else to do.
13. I tried to do my makeup like a Balinese dancer.
And failed miserably, but the point is that those delicate women have some serious smokey eye game. Watching them dance and stare with those huge dark eyes was enthralling, if not in a slightly creepy way. Watching them defeat a dragon has beat every Netflix show I’ve ever seen.
14. I learned how to give thanks properly.
Throwing the good ol’ “thanks” around doesn’t cut it anymore. People are very respectful in Bali, so I’d always make sure to say “terima kasih” and put my palms together. Helping each other out is very common and much appreciated.
15. I started sporting a sarong.
…Even when I wasn’t frolicking through Garuda Wisnu Kencana. They come in at least a dozen rich, vivid colors, kept me cool and made me look taller. I still wear one all the time.
16. I learned how to splash around like a fish in waterfalls.
And if someone suggested we jump off a cliff, I was all: ‘Hey, let’s do it!’ Tegenungan waterfall made me feel like I was going back to a luscious piece of nature that I had belonged to all my life, I had just been held back by big city life.
17. I became a millionaire.
And it felt so good, even for just a few days. With the USD to IDR conversion being 1 to almost 13K, I lived it up big time, even as a broke backpacker with student loans. I’ll have some more spa, please.