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I am an American living in Bali and I have a few pointers for you. A few things that seem like common sense, but you occasionally forget. Other things that will make you question my sanity...until you get here.


Raise Your Hand If You're Sure!

 

Okay, now put it down. We already know that you are sweating...your t-shirt is soaked. I don't need to see the pit puddle! This IS one of the few places on earth where it is okay to sweat. If you don't, you aren't healthy! Before it bothered me. Greatly! Life was much prissier in Atlanta surrounded by gorgeous gals who would occasionally "glisten," but heaven forbid never sweat! That is pure rubbish here.

Makeup and getting all fixed up in extreme "American" style is a thing of the past for me. I haven't done more than hair in a ponytail, mascara and lip gloss since arriving.
 
Bring the "make you feel girlie" items with you! The two supermarkets in Ubud have the oldest color selection of nail polish that I have ever seen and only one choice of mascara. Listen to me when I say one choice. I'm talking about one brand, one color. "Which one would you like?" said in a Henry Ford mentality. Shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, skin products, are available with no problem...as long as you can read Indonesian!
 
Which brings me to my choice of perfume here. Mine is a delightful lemongrass, clove spice that accompanies the all-natural bug repellent that I wear 24/7. In the South I was the lucky one with a natural immunity to mosquitoes. Here they look at me and think to themselves, "yummy, tender white meat!" Then take a big bite. OUCH!


Be Prepared, My (I've Dated a Few) Boy Scouts Motto


My Leatherman knife that I got 20 years ago. Still have it. Love it. Should probably be in a Leatherman commercial after a few McGyver-type maneuvers that I have completed with it. Funniest being using the scissor portion of it to adjust the hem length of a dress I bought at the market. Yes, I am a DIY-type girl! Bring yours with you! At some point on this trip, you will NEED it! Pack it in your checked baggage (not carry-on), but bring it with you.
 
You also need a flashlight. An item I didn't think about...since I like to believe I have eagle eyes. Unless you have superman powers, you are going to have a hard time walking anywhere in the dark here. The sidewalks are missing portions in places (meaning you plunge a couple of feet into the water and debris - extremely hazardous in flash floods...can cause an early demise...note to self: don't go out in a heavy rain...duh!), have huge gaps and change height often resulting in my losing the skin from the bottom of my big toe.
 
Which leads me to the good 'ole emergency kit. You will get a headache looking at the price of a bottle of Tylenol here. Band aids and alcohol will be needed at least once. A bottle of pepto will be a necessity after one of your meals. Whatever cures you self-ignited visit to the bottom of the bottle, bring it.

BTW: The best cure for a hangover...mangosteen.

Wine. Don't drink it here! You don't have a great choice and it is 4x the cost. I'm not a wine snob, I just know my wine. Drink beer. Don't worry about getting a gut, you will sweat it off (refer to the top of the page).


Go Speed Racer...NOT!


They don't have a speed limit here. Woooohooo! So you think you are going to get to speed don't cha?!? Honey, that is one thing that will not be happening here!
 

A few of my tips for driving:


1. Remember to stay on the left
2. Well maybe, but pass wherever and whenever you want.
3. Actually just crowd the entire street if you chose, the occasional stripes in the road just point out the suggested lane.
4. Watch out for that really big hole.
5. Don't run over the walkers.
6. "Zippy," on the scooter, is going to be swarming like gnats.
7. Grandma, on the scooter, is going to be taking her own sweet time.
8. Watch out for the pile of dirt that takes up half the road.
9. Don't freak out, stare, swerve and hit the family of five riding on the scooter. There are five of them with no helmets, three kids, groceries and they are all on that one scooter. THAT. IS. NORMAL. The kids are usually sleeping too.
10. HONK! Honk at every intersection, whenever you pass someone, whenever you are rounding the corner, when you know someone and want to get their attention. It's like waving (or shouting) hello.
11. The vehicle going uphill has the right-of-way.
12. Did I mention that the streets are the width of a typical American car. Oh yeah, here that is a two-way street.
10. Welcome to Bali, slow your ass down!

If you want to learn how to drive a scooter, I suggest going to the middle of Wyoming to practice. Don't come to Bali to learn. Americans unleashing their road rage on this peaceful little island would result in a riot. The villagers would win. The gods would melt the wheels to the road. I gave it a shot at 6am one morning, then got bold and decided to try driving through the rice field while dreaming of the Hollywood delights of every romcom that Julia Roberts has graced. I ended up soaked from head to toe in the rice field stream with a scooter in a vertical position, back wheel pointed toward the moon. My future boyfriend/potential husband needs to be in charge of the two-wheeled beast. I retired!
 
The dogs that bark at you as you drive by on the scooter (because you have decided to show me up, you two- wheeled whisperer) are mean. Plain 'ole junkyard mean. Disregard any flickering notion that they are your friend. If you have a treat in your hand, they will take the treat and your hand in one drooling, snarling swipe. The stray dogs that have received their rabies shot (the village street dog patrol gathers them up every 6 months and gives them a shot) will be wearing a red collar. Looks like a piece of rope tied around their neck. They really don't want to be friends. Trust me, I know. I was attacked from behind by one of their unruly beasts, had the rabies scare and luckily did not end up in the grave. Carry a stick!
 
P.S. They don't speak English.
 
Don't think that what you are walking past on the street is the pretty part of Bali. Some of it is, but most of it just IS. The pretty parts that you want to see are tucked away, or a big part of nature. The lady that just walked by with a scowl on her face will not enjoy her time here. She is looking at the rustic decay and different way of life. There is a rubbish problem here too. You'll get used to it.
 
Wander down the paths. I have become the tour guide for my friends who have come to visit. I have even directed tourist, helped translate for a guy who was trying to book an appointment, and directed Expats to new places. Even my Balinese friends don't know some of the tucked away treasures in Ubud. I never would have guessed that my favorite cottage is down a dead-end path, or that a 130 year-old teak house is at the end of an alleyway of garages. My favorite places to relax are tucked-away treasures.
 
You usually need to know someone here to know how to find them.
 
That is where I am going to help you out. My RECOMMENDATIONS of places I have experienced.  Bookmark these pages and use them as reference when you start to plan a vacation to Bali. Funny, but I've discovered more about Ubud in 6 weeks than most have in years.


Be curious, be adventurous and open your mind and eyes. Read between the lines. Don't touch the animals. Step over the trash.

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copyright 2011-2017 Loxley Browne

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