If You Can't Stand The Heat....
02 October 2019
The Island of Bali is the tourist hub of Indonesia. It's the place the islands we've visited envy. All desperately want to emulate Bali's success in building a profitable tourism industry. The Bali we saw in our brief three days there (even Japanese tourists take longer to go round it) has dance, hot springs, the monkey jungle, more temples than you can throw an incense stick at, beaches and discos all set to entertain tourists while emptying their wallets and credit card accounts. Not that it's expensive here. On the contrary, it's still possible to get that proverbial meal for two with a drink for just a few quid. However, as we've not paid for grub for most of the trip, our generous island hosts knocking lumps out their budgets and our calorie allowance, paying for a Nasi Goring still hurts, although mostly just hurts those from Yorkshire and Aberdeen. (Nasi Goring - Indonesia's traditional dish of fried rice and assorted stuff topped with a fried egg, (although I always thought Nasi Goring was in charge of the Luftwaffe). Anyway, most days the temperature is well into the thirties and so, what do we do? Get out the kitchen? Oh no. We sign up for a traditional Balinese cooking class.
Frying in oil seems to be quite the thing, blackened woks clanging and bubbling as assorted variants of Tofu, whatever that is, get fried to a crisp along with veggies and of course, chilli, just to make sure you don't get a wee cold while having the cook and tasting session. If only I'd had a Mars Bar.
I'd expected Indonesia to be hot. But not chilli hot! Walking up the beach from the dinghy is like a routine from Riverdance, hopping from foot to foot like a cat on a hot tin roof. Fortunately it's but a hop, skip and a third degree burn to the bar in Lovina's Sea Breeze Hotel
We landed at Lovina Beach on Bali's north end, in time for Festival week. Bali is pretty well known world wide as a party town, where nightclubs keep the place jumping twenty hours a day and hotels line the "strip". Tanned yoof surfer dudes, mainly from Australia, pour their hard earned cash into the coffers of the local boozers always looking for ones that show Australian Rules Football. Scantily clad girls look into the windows of Chanel and Hermes. Mystified and confused Chinese visitors look into their mobile phones.
Geographically we were about as far away from that scene as we could get, up in the north side of the island. The place where the Yoof and scantily clad girls go when they've traded their surf boards for a Volvo, bikinis for something loose fitting that apparently is more "comfortable to wear", six packs for the effects of six packs, a job, mortgage and two point four kids. (That'll learn 'em).
Lovina isn't exclusively reserved for the old and crumbly. There's a smattering of back packers and the occasional Chinese. Looking into his phone. Our visit was timed to coincide with the Lovina Beach Festival, an event I suspect the town council developed to extract tourists and their cash from downtown Bali.
Lovina doesn't quite have the infrastructure yet, just a few modest hotels and backpacker lodges but enough tat shops to satisfy the hardest tat collector. What it does have though is the equivalent of Trader Joe's or Waitrose, albeit at Harrods prices. And it's air conditioned. When we weren't in there pretending to shop but actually just cooling off, we were either touring or at the festival which was also attended by a smattering of tourists and several thousand locals all gathered on the beach in front of the sound stage to watch traditional dance, modern dance, gamelan gong playing, this xylophone type instrument played with metal hammers, each sporting a flat and a pointy end making me think the players graduated with joint degrees in music and geology. There was amazing Hindu dance, all jerky movements, extreme make-up and wild eyes, some scary Hindu monsters and, to my acute embarrassment an old white bloke, dragged on stage and waggling his head, bum and fingers in an utterly pathetic attempt to copy the primo dancer. Where's Martina when you need her? Or indeed, coordination.