I have a confession.
In the (nearly) two weeks I have been away so far, I have done really well to stick to Indonesian food, morning noon and night. But today I couldn’t help myself. I walked past a Starbucks in Ubud (if you think that’s bad, there is also an Accessorize, but don’t let that put you off this wonderful town). I resolved not to go in, then found myself retracing my steps. “Do you have real milk?” I asked. “Yes” was the reply. So I had a grande tea and I savoured every last delicious sip. (Remember I am not a coffee drinker, those of you thinking “Starbucks? Tea?”). Obviously I blame my parents. When I face timed them yesterday, they were both drinking cups of tea and it gave me a craving. In fact, the mugs of tea were pretty much all I could see, those and Mum’s thumb – in the same way I haven’t mastered the art of breathing under water, they haven’t quite figured out how to talk to the iPad camera with their faces in view.
Anyway, I have got ahead of myself. I came back to Bali yesterday after all, despite contemplating extending my stay on Gili. Largely because the internet was so bad it precluded me from making the necessary arrangements to stay out there. Before doing so, I completed my PADI open water certification (only 2 more panic attacks and a big telling off from Nico for surfacing without him).
I honestly thought I would never get there. But I did, and am a little bit in love with my instructor and buddy for getting me across the line. To those of you who work with me/know me well, it will come as no surprise that Nico’s analysis of my approach was as follows “Sharon, you are great at diving, but you overthink everything when it comes to zee skills”. Overthink things? Moi? No shit sherlock, that is the story of my life! Just ask me about the time I sat outside a boyfriend’s flat for 4 hours convinced he was dead on the sofa…..
We celebrated with drinks and dinner, and as I said goodbye to everyone and walked away later that night, one of the instructors (with no knowledge of my blog or the title) said to me “Don’t forget to look up at the sky”. It seemed such an appropriate way to end my Gili Meno trip, walking back along the beach to my room in the pitch black, looking up at the stars. Happy days indeed.
Looking up is a dangerous thing to do however back in Ubud (I am going to skip the description of the boat trip back to Bali as it brings back unhappy memories, and I have to do it again in a week’s time). I have never been somewhere where the pavements are so uneven – they resemble a mogul field, and are full of holes. Not little holes, we are talking big wide, break your ankle (if not your neck) holes that end in a deep pit of dirty water. So it is best to look down when navigating your way around the streets here, even if that does mean spotting the occasional rat, although the less said about that the better. You can’t go 2 metres without being ambushed by a man saying “taxi?” (I assume they are offering a taxi service, as opposed to adopting the English male (*adopt different tone*) TA-XI expression when faced with an unattractive woman – that would be quite demoralising). But despite the hawkers and the taxi drivers, it is a wonderful town, with a chilled out, friendly vibe and an intoxicating smell of incense mixed with frangipani. I am so happy I came back here and explored it properly before moving on.
I am staying in a homestay (a room in a compound much like I described in my first blog post, albeit slightly smarter), and for £15 a night (including breakfast) it is positively palatial. I have learnt that the best thing to do is rid myself of British reserve and ask whenever I need anything – directions, recommendations – my hosts here have been brilliant at suggesting where to visit/eat, and tonight I had one of the best meals of my trip so far on the strength of a recommendation from Luhde, a local girl I met on the boat crossing to Gili, and whose jewellery shop I subsequently visited today. And it only cost me £7.50, including pudding, beers and tip! That gave me almost as much pleasure as my dad gets from finding the cheapest box of red wine in France (“try this Sharon – only 2 euros!!” – the difference being my curry tasted fantastic).
I am approaching tomorrow with some trepidation as I have to rediscover my social skills and make new friends. I have really enjoyed the solitude of solo travel but tomorrow I start my first organised group trip (to Lombok) so will meet my new “family” tomorrow evening. I am not sure I am ready for it. On the plus side, the trip takes in another 2 nights on the Gili Islands, so every cloud….
(Incidentally, relaxing obviously makes me look younger. I sat next to an English girl in her early 20s on the bus back to Ubud from the port who said I looked “amazing for someone that old” when I told her my age. Sigh. At least it still has a 3 in front of it, for a few more months at least.) Cue the paradise selfie I promised…..
Am going to upload some more pics shortly…