Archives for the month of: February, 2013

In between entertaining the locals with our pale skin and small talk about European football players, we managed to find time to do nothing at all. Once you’ve dodged the paparazzi and media scrum at Bira beach, it is quite possible to find a spot along the coast where you won’t see another soul for a whole day. This would be pretty good on a normal beach. On the most exquisitely perfect beach you could ever hope to see, it was freaking astonishing.

There really is no good reason that this place hasn’t been turned in to a holiday destination of international repute. The powdery white sand stretches in either direction as far as the eye can see, and the sea is the temperature of bath water. While I enjoyed paddling in the shallow end with starfish and pipefish, Lovisa went out and dived with turtles and stingrays. Then at the end of every day the sun set over the ocean and we ate unbelievably delicious Indonesian food from the kitchen of our brilliant guesthouse.

In two weeks there we didn’t spend more than $20 a day, including our accommodation. That shouldn’t be possible but it is so for God’s sake book yourself a flight to Indonesia now and take advantage of the incredibly lovely people of Bira who will give you the most perfect holiday of your life for less than the cost of staying at home with the heating on and chips for dinner.

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If you’d just spent 3 weeks in Bali, one of the most famously exotic and beautiful holiday destinations in the world, and then told me you needed to take two weeks to do nothing on a tropical paradise beach in order to recover, I would quite rightly tell you to piss off and get a grip.

Never being one to take my own advice, and more to the point, never being one to tell my girlfriend to piss off or get a grip, we went to a tropical paradise beach, immediately after spending 3 weeks in Bali.

In fairness, between the snorkelling, the mopeds, the dolphins, monkeys, tropical fish and coral reefs, poo flavour coffee, torrential rain storms and waterfall seeking hikes, Bali had been a bit knackering, and we felt like we’d earned ourselves a bit of a sit down.

After a little browsing around the Internet we booked ourselves on to the next plane to Sulawesi. Apparently it’s the world’s eleventh biggest island, but judging by the reception we got we were the first white people to have discovered it.

When we walked out of Arrivals it felt as though we’d stepped on stage at Glastonbury. While a slight murmur greeted the Indonesians who preceded us through the door, when we came out it was like every taxi driver in south east Asia was there to roar their approval. Our own driver and host for the fortnight Eriq, told us that this was quite normal, that we would be celebrities in his little seaside town and we should expect plenty of people taking photos for the next two weeks. Of course we laughed this off thinking Eriq was having a little fun at our self importance, so proud were we to have been the centre of attention at the airport. Not half an hour later, having enjoyed a very good lunch at a roadside cafe, we were surrounded by the whole wait staff, management and their families, posing for pictures for ten minutes.

Just as Eriq had predicted, the next two weeks were full of much the same.

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The girls in the last picture practically had seizures. They ran in to the sea with tears streaming down their faces, screaming, laughing, splashing each other with water, weeing, vomiting and evacuating their bowels with the sheer unadulterated joy of having had their pictures taken with a couple of crackers.

All the boys wanted to ask me about Manchester United, Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and David Beckham, while the girls just wanted to be photographed next to Lovisa and her lovely white skin. While initially great fun and quite hilarious, it’s all really incredibly tragic. These beautiful people, from the most wonderful place on earth, with their own unique culture, desperately want to be just like us; a bunch of overweight, wasteful, arrogant arseholes who have spent the last couple of hundred years trying to fuck up as much of the world as possible.

To regular readers, an apology; we have been without Internet for over two weeks now and I know you have all been waiting, terribly concerned about the fate of your favourite blogging holidayist and his girlfriend. Well here is some more of what we got up to in Bali, with very little sense of chronology and actually only a vague sense of what happened, given how long ago it was.

The tourism industry in Lovina is centred around the many little boats that line up along the beach and every morning offer rides to see the local dolphins. They even built a sort of charming but mostly really ugly and definitely very tacky statue in tribute to them.

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Yes, that is a dolphin wearing a crown.

After deciding against spending several hundred dollars to take a whale and dolphin spotting cruise in Kaikoura, New Zealand, we were chuffed to find that the ones here cost about $7 per person. And were incredible.

I only had modest hopes of seeing a dorsal fin or two swimming through the ocean and would have given myself a quiet pat on the back if I had managed to pick anything out at all in the twilight as I imagined the colour of the dolphins would be very much the same as the grey-blue sea at this time in the morning. Instead we were treated to the sort of acrobatic show normally reserved for those adverts about holidays in Florida except with no bint in a fluorescent wet suit goading a porpoise with a mackerel. This was just them out for their morning swim, the young ones jumping out of the water and doing tricks in the air for no one in particular’s entertainment. We took the liberty of being entertained anyway and cried tears of life-affirming joy because it was just so fucking beautiful.

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Since the dolphins were having such a good time, and also because the local dive centre salesmen were some of the most persistent people I have ever come across, we went snorkelling a few days later to see what else the Balinese sea could throw up. As it turns out, it was a hell of a lot. I was given a snorkel and mask that had a near enough perfect match for my prescription lenses in and soon enough found myself surrounded by the sort of coral and tropical fish that I literally never imagined I would see without first having paid my entrance fee to the Sea Life Centre in Brighton. Hundreds of different varieties, many of which looked like they had come out of the imagination of my six year old niece with only a packet of Stabilo Boss highlighter pens to colour them in, and plenty more that were almost as beautifully rendered.

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As well as looking at fish, Balinese people like to eat them. In order to learn more about how to cook tuna (and chicken and a very fine vegetable soup) we went to a cooking class at a local restaurant. We started with a trip to the market. This was quite the eye-opener for two people used to European standards and Environmental Health Officers being a constant threat in their previous workplaces. While a man butchered sweaty, unrefrigerated chickens on a wooden block with a dirty knife and a hacking cough, a woman sat with her buckets of prawns and tuna steaks laid out on the floor, wiping off as many ants as she could while depositing them in plastic bags for her customers. These things, plus the rather sick looking cats that were ever present in the kitchen while we cooked, plus the fact that we are both still here today having eaten everything prepared in such a dangerous way by any western standards, without any ill effects, only serves to confirm everything I thought I knew about the health and safety industry as a whole and how it is a contemptuous shit of a world, and anyone who works within it is a contemptuous shit of a person who ought to spend more time filling the voids in their own personalities rather than pointing out the minor flaws in others’ working practices.

As you can see from Lovisa and Wayan’s (our lovely Balinese chef and teacher) smiling faces the class was a success and if you should ever come round to dinner at our place there will almost certainly be chicken satay on the menu.

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