It’s Good to Be Back: Day 32

I sleep in until 9.50 am. It’s likely to be too late to get breakfast on the roof now, so I make a coffee and think about where to eat. Most bars have breakfast menus. Just down the street is a place which comes near the top of the lists of best places to eat in Canggu: Gypsy Kitchen. I figure I will give that a go.

The brekkie sandwich is good – scrambled egg and bacon on home made bread – and the long black goes perfectly with it. It’s pricey, at 100,000 IDR, bearing in mind that I would only pay 55,000 for the hotel’s buffet. I sit outside on their terrace while a couple of couples sit at the bar that runs along the large open windows. The other clientele are eating healthy fruit bowls but I don’t think I’m going to be joining them in that any time soon.

Today I’ve decided I will make the trip over to Tanah Lot, a cliffside Hindu temple a few kilometres up the coast. After that I’m thinking to head into Seminyak, which is where I stayed a couple of years ago when I last went to Bali. I need to find transport, however. The transport situation in Canggu isn’t the best. Although the area is close to Seminyak, it’s rare to see taxis so you have to find an ojek or negotiate a ride with a driver. There is an app called My Blue Bird, which operates like Uber does, but I don’t have a phone, so that’s out of the equation. I could get a bike, but I have no maps either, so I’d probably get lost.

First I call my phone company in Korea and ask whether my insurance covers the damage to my phone. It does, though maybe not 100%. I stop in at Kim’s house to let her know so that her driver can just take her phone to be repaired without waiting to hear anything from me, but she’s not there. A staff member tells me – in English – that she doesn’t speak English, so I write a note. I brought my notebook and a pen in case no one was in.

I head to the centre and hang around, keeping an eye out for a taxi. I see a couple of them heading down towards the beach, so I figure they will make their way back up as they return to the Seminyak area. I walk along the road, turning every few seconds to check, but nothing is coming. At one point I even stop into a motorbike rental place, wondering if I should just give it and go and see if they’ll rent me a scooter, but there appears to be no one working. Myself and a couple of Dutch guys who are waiting around give up and head back to the street.

Eventually a Blue Bird taxi comes along the street, so I flag it down and the driver agrees to take me to Tanah Lot. He’s not a chatty type, but he asks me where I’m going afterwards and I tell him I’m thinking of going to Seminyak. He says he’ll wait for me at Tanah Lot – he says I only need about 30 minutes there – and then he’ll take me to Seminyak. Okay, I say. It’s a bit weird, but given we’re going to a place where transport is scarce and he’s probably got to go back to Seminak without a fare I’m prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.

It costs me 65,000 to get from Canggu to Tanah Lot on the metre. I give the driver the money and he tells me he’ll wait for me where all the other drivers are sitting.

I make my way through the gate into the entrance. We pulled up in a big car park and I didn’t see the coast, so I kind of second guess that we are actually here. There is a sign on the toll gate for the cars, so I am reassured. After the gate I find myself inside a large marketplace wherein I can purchase T-shirts, trinkets, souvenirs or drinks should I so choose. The sky has gone overcast and a few spots of rain start to fall. I wander along and through – it’s quite a big market – and then I find the entrance to the temple.

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Of course, it’s crowded with tourists. People are posing at the entrance, large groups are standing on the rocks and and there are crowds of people all around. I’ve seen pictures of the temple online but from a different angle – from the sea – so it’s not quite what I had in mind. Nevertheless, I make my way down the steps and cross over the rocks. I’m struck at first by the sea – the waves are high and rough and they are crashing over the rocks.

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The temple itself is small. There’s a long line of people queuing to get sprinkled with holy water. I don’t bother to join the queue. I make my way over to the entrance to the steps that go up the side of the temple, but I am told by a man that to enter I must be doused with the holy water. I decide I don’t want to go up there badly enough to wait behind forty-odd people, so I keep going around the side to check the view from there.

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Here I must cross rocks that have a standing layer of sea water on them. Waves crash and water rushes up the channels. It’s fun to walk along and climb the rocks and watch the waves. I spend some time taking pictures of the water and a few of the temple. As I move on, I climb up a rock next to the temple and do the same. I think this is more fun that going up the side of the temple.

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It’s been about 20 minutes. I guess the taxi driver was right. As I make my way back towards the entrance I decide to walk up the hill and get a view of the temple from afar. It’s a pleasant uphill walk and the frangipani trees are really nice. I’m joined a few times by basket women selling plastic birds or cup noodles, but I politely decline. At the top of the hill there is a view over the other side of the headland. More high waves and crashing waters.

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I make my way back down and go out of the entrance I came in from and make my way back through the market. For shits and giggles I buy a Bintang T-shirt. Although it is tourist tat, I remember buying a bunch them on my first trip to Bali in 2006, even though they didn’t fit. Feeling nostalgic, I negotiate the price down from 100,000 to 50,000. He was a tough negotiator, and it takes me walking away before he agrees to the price I offered. I walk back to the car park. At the end of the row of stalls a shop is selling the same shirts but he has fixed prices and is asking 40,000 for the shirt. Oh well.

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I go back into the car park. There is a large pagoda in the middle and there are twenty or thirty drivers lounging around. I look around for my taxi driver. I think I see him sitting in the left hand corner at the back, so I head over there, looking at the driver. He looks back at me and then goes back to his conversation. Not my driver, then. I circle the pagoda again, looking at each driver. No one acknowledges me. I thread through the parked cars, looking out for a Blue Bird taxi or a driver waving for me. Nothing. No one. I circle the car park twice. I head back to the pagoda and approach the driver I thought was mine. He looks at me again but does not say anything.

So it looks my driver legged it. The other taxis are the ones I know that don’t use metres and make you negotiate a price. I start to head out of the car park. A couple of guys lounging under trees offer me transport but my inclination is to decline. Out of the car park I find myself walking along the road that leads down to the temple and through a rice field. As I turn to my left it looks like the exit to the car park is on the other side of the field and I see a couple of blue taxis coming along the road, so I wait at the corner to see if I can flag one down when they come to me.

A man approaches me offering me transport. Initially I’m wary of him. He points out the darkening sky and the possibility of rain. I know, I say, but there are taxis coming. I keep looking in their direction. He offers me a ride to Seminyak for 100,000. Since I paid 65,000 to get here from Canggu and Seminyak is on the other side of Canggu this seems quite reasonable to me, so I accept.

He’s a nice driver, and very chatty. We talk about Tanah Lot and Bali and my previous trips and where I have been on this trip. He tells me his wife works for a villa and the owner is making a killing. He points out that a few years ago most of the land we’re driving through was just rice fields, which I know, and that people these days are making a lot of money from selling their fields and building villas and renting them out to tourists. I say maybe that’s what I should do, if I had any savings. He gives me his wife’s business card and says next time I’m here I should email her and stay at her villa.

We talk about renting scooters. I tell him about missing Google Maps to navigate my way around and he says a cheap secondhand phone could be bought for about 200,000. That’s about $20. It puts an idea in my head. After the horrible trip on the fast boat from Gili Air I know I’m going to miss my music on the red eye flight back to Korea, especially as I purposely booked a flight with a long stopover in Kuala Lumpur so that I could get out of the airport and get another stamp in my new passport. If I could get a cheap phone then that would solve the problem. On further questioning, however, it turns out he’s talking about the cost of a one-off SIM card and not the device itself. Oh well.

We head through the back roads to Seminyak. Since we cut out the main roads we get there pretty quickly. Some of these roads are one way in this direction, so it’s harder to do it on the way back. When we get to the Sunset Road the traffic is chock-a-block, so I get out near the road the that goes down to Seminyak Square, where I stayed last time I was here. At first I’m not sure if I’m heading in the right direction – I don’t recognise the street I am on. An older Australian couple stops me and asks for directions but I say I have no idea, having no phone or map. I ask if they know where the Square is and they tell me they just came from there and to keep going in the direction I’m heading in.

I go round a corner and ask a security guard sitting outside a cafe. I don’t recognise this bit of the road either, but he tells me to keep going. A few shops down the road I suddenly get where I am. I am close to La Favela and a coffee shop I used to sit in when I stayed here. It all starts to come back me. Now I know where I am going.

I head down the street. I pass La Favela, Char Char, Soho, The Library and Ginger Moon – all places I frequented last time. It’s about 2.15 at this point and I haven’t eaten, but I already knew I’ll be eating at Ginger Moon. When I get there I head inside – the patio is full – and I order the suckling pig steamed buns. The waitress tells me to enjoy them when they arrive. “Oh, I will,” I say. They are small, but they are so good. I still have a lot of my ginger ale left, so I decide I’m going to get the spring rolls too. They are just as good as I remember.

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As I’m finishing up a manager comes over to ask how everything was. I tell him I’d been here before many times and that today I was coming back for nostalgic reasons. He says he’s happy to hear that, but I don’t get the impression he cares that much. Nonetheless, I pay up and keep going down to the road towards Seminyak Square.

The traffic is at a standstill and I the paths are narrow and crowded. I thread in and out of the traffic to avoid dawdling pedestrians. Balinese men step out of alleyways to offer me marijuana. It’s all coming back to me.

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At Seminyak Square I decide to talk a stroll to the villa I stayed in last time I was here. I have to walk down the ramp that is the entrance the the underground car park for Seminyak Village, a small mall. When I was here last it was under construction and wasn’t finished. Now it’s a gleaming mini mall. I go round the back and walk to the villa. I’m just looking at it when a staff member comes out and asks if he can help me. I tell him I stayed here two years ago and I just came back to look. It was fully booked for this week when I looked online. He asks my name and when I stayed and he says, “Oh yeah, I remember.” Yeah right, I’m thinking. You weren’t working here then. But he’s nice and friendly and I go with it. We chat for about ten minutes and then I leave. As I’m heading back up the street and he passes by on his scooter and offers me a ride on the back of it to the main road. That’s okay, I tell him.

I walk along the road that goes to Ku De Ta and decide to stop in there for a drink. I had a nice breakfast here a couple of years ago with my brother and sister-in-law and my old Aussie housemates from when I lived in Suffolk in the UK in 2009. However, I don’t enjoy my time at Ku De Ta. They are preparing for a party tomorrow night and the lawn and patio is covered in scaffolding, they’re playing loud music and it’s rammed full of people. I have a coffee at the bar while seated next to three old Australian women who are necking wine and gossiping, and then I leave.

I’m pretty much done here, I think. It’s about 4 pm now. I walk back up the main street and up to the Sunset Road. The traffic is still crawling and the pavements are rammed. The Sunset Road is chocka, and I begin to wonder if I’ll even get a taxi. I turn down a road that I am sure used to be quite rural two years ago. A lot of things have changed in this area. I come to another road and there is a taxi sitting in the traffic. I open the door and ask if he’ll take me to Canggu. He agrees and we set off.

Another nice, chatty driver. He knows some shortcuts, so we go through some back roads. We come along Batu Berewa, which is the third of the parallel roads and one that I haven’t been to yet. I make a note to come here one day as we pass through an area with lots of nice-looking restaurants and cafes.

As we get further up the street I see a phone shop. I look in as we pass and I see phones on sale for 600,000. I think, but I’m not sure, that it might even be an iPhone 5C. Hmmm. That’s about $60. A cheap iPhone would do me, since I have everything on iCoud. I tell him I had a thought earlier about buying a cheap phone and ask where we are. He tells me, so I think about coming back here tomorrow. We head to the main road that runs across the top of the three parallel roads and I see a couple of other phone shops there. We turn onto Batu Bolong and I’m still thinking about the phones.

He drops me off in the centre. The metre is at 85,000, but I give him 100,000 and let him keep the change. Now I see a place that rents bikes. It is about 5 pm now so the sun will start setting soon. I rent a push bike for 30,000 for 24 hours. I ask about scooters but he says I have to have an international driving permit. Oh well, I’m only going a couple of kilometres up the road.

I set off. The bike is small, but it has gears and I can ride it fine. The road is mostly flat, save for a dip near the top of the road. I’m there in about 10 minutes. As I get to the junction I cross over as I’ll need to turn right but the traffic is stopped. I am not prepared for what I see as I round the corner. Not only are there tonnes of cars but there are scooters three-wide coming along the pavement. It’s madness. I’m seriously wondering if I’ll ever get to cross. I want to get a picture but it’s a hassle getting the camera out of my bag.

I find a break and I cross the road. The first phone shop only sells new models of Chinese phones and they’re all over a million IDR. Since I only want a phone for a few days this is too much. A few doors down there is a sign for an iPhone specialist, so I drop in. They have a range of secondhand iPhones. The oldest is a 16gb iPhone 5, and she’s asking 1.7 million for it. Again, that’s too much if I only want it for a few days. It’s also more than half of what I have left in the bank. I do contemplate it, but I don’t think I can justify it. I decide to move on towards the shop I saw on Batu Berewa.

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The traffic is not moving and scooters are squeezing through the gap between the cars and the pavement. I join the flow – they’re not going fast enough that I can’t outpace them on the bike – and I pull over to the pavement whenever I can to let them pass. The road goes up and down but the hills are not steep or high.

I get to the junction. There’s a traffic light there, which is why the traffic is stopping. I cross over and walk the bike along the path and then when I get past the turn I cross over to get to the right side of the road to set off. In doing so, my pedal knocks the bumper of a car. I worry the driver will say something or jump out, but nothing happens so I set off. There’s barely any traffic here, so it’s an easy ride, though it’s getting dark. After a couple of minutes I get to the phone shop.

Sadly, the 600,000 phone is some Chinese make, not an iPhone 5C. I think about it – financially it makes sense – but then on the box it says the operating system is Vandroid, which does not sound legitimate to me. That kills it, so I think screw it, I’ll get the iPhone 5. Since everything is on iCloud I will be able to do pretty much everything I need to do and download some of my playlists easily. It’s pretty much dark now and the traffic on the way back is just as intense. I thread through the stopped cars and pull over to let scooters pass, and I get back to the iPhone shop.

The three women in the shop are very nice. Well, one is mostly silent and looks pissed off, but the other two are really nice. The main girl I deal with is smiley and friendly and laughs like a drain. I tell her I only need the phone a few days and we laugh over the story of my phone breaking. I decide I’m going to try to negotiate. Before I got the bike I had stopped at the ATM and 1.5 m was the most I could withdraw in one transaction. Would she sell me the phone for 1.5 million? She calls someone and he says yes and so I go for it. I ask if they would buy the phone back and she calls again and says they’d pay 1.3 million, but I realise that I want it for the plane and that doesn’t make sense. Anyway.

We go through the process of setting up the phone. I test the headphone socket, the speakers, the camera and all the hardware. Everything seems fine. While I’m logging into iCloud and everything is setting itself up I ask about SIM cards. She gives me one that has 5gb of data, which should be plenty for a few iMessages, emails and Google Map searches – I only use about 2gb a month in Korea. She doesn’t even ask for me to pay for it (the price is 70,000 IDR). She says that since I have been a nice customer and I spoke clearly and in a friendly way she will give it to me for free. She tells me that she doesn’t like dealing with Australians as they speak too quickly. “When Australian comes,” she says, “It’s better I’m sleeping.”

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I set off on the bike, waving the women goodbye. I laughingly promise that if the phone turns out to be a dud I will be back. I’m surprisingly happy to have a phone again. It’s a nice feeling to know I can do emails and use the map and send messages again easily. More importantly, I’ll have my music back for the flight. I’m feeling good as I ride down the street.

I was going to drop the bike off but I decide that as I have it until tea time tomorrow I’ll just keep it at the hotel. As I park it I learn that the hotel has several large and modern bikes for rent in the car park. Oh well.

I head upstairs and I get on the phone to let people who need to know that I have a phone again. It’s weird to be on such a small phone after using an iPhone 7 Plus, but it’s fine. It’s cute and dinky, and I get used to it pretty quickly. One thing I notice, however, is that the battery drains quickly. Good job I brought a small battery bank that I got as a freebie when I bought my camera on this trip.

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I head out for dinner. I eat martabak tonight. It’s Friday so the town is busy, but I get a street side table at the martabak restaurant. I’m enjoying having my phone back, and I install a couple more apps while I wait for the food, but man, the battery dies easily. I was on 75% as I left the hotel and after an hour or so I’m down to 32%.

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I head back down towards Monggo’s since I don’t feel like a busy bar tonight. When I get there happy hour is over and there are a couple of people at the bar. I don’t want to be one of those people who stares at a phone so I try to leave it charging with the bank inside my bag. The guy a few stools over has set up camp in the corner and is charging an even older iPhone 4 from the bar’s wall socket. I look at the plugs, thinking I could have brought my own charger from the hotel, and he looks up at the same time as me and we do that awkward thing of looking at each other in the eye before looking away.

A couple of minutes later he moves over and asks me if I speak English. He wants to know how to spell drown. His name is Sylvan and he is from France. We chat for a while. He tells me he spent a year in Korea in 1996 so we talk about how things have changed. He has spent the last eleven years living in Hong Kong as a product designer, but his company tanked during the financial crisis and he had an acrimonious break up with the mother of his child and has left. I tell him about my doubts over whether to continue teaching or try and do something else and he says he was feeling the same way about Hong Kong and that is why he’s having a break in Bali.

He tells me he’s leaving to meet a friend called Tom in Old Man’s. Turns out it’s the same Tom from the other night. He invites me along, but I’m not quite in the mood. I stay for another beer and then Kim appears. I show her my dinky new phone. Well, she says. How ironic. Somewhere along the 200-metre walk from Monggo’s to Grass Terrace and back home last night she somehow lost her phone – the one she was going to have repaired. She’s done Find My iPhone on her Mac but it’s off so someone must have it. She’s more annoyed about losing the battery case than the phone, she says.

I don’t stay for long. I have another drink, but I’m kind of tired and I want to get some of the phone set up. I head back to the hotel and get some apps I want downloading and select playlists I want. I’m thinking to restore my iPhone 7 to the 5 but then I realise a 128gb phone isn’t going to fit onto a 16gb one, so I can only download a few select playlists. Emily has messaged me back. Tomorrow she’s going to a wine festival in Seminyak; do I want to come? I message back and tell her I’m in. I get my Bluetooth speaker out and enjoy some music in the room.

It’s nice to be back on the grid.

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