What happens in Bali: Ask for directions, Let the Magic Happen!

The series “What happens in Bail” is where I tell you about what happened to me and my friends during our stays and adventures on the island. This time, I’m going to tell you a story a friend recently sent me by email. Enjoy!

It was a long time ago around year 2001 or 2002. I was well away from my little peaceful village near Candidasa; lost in Denpasar to run an errand I couldn’t remember to save my life, wandering aimlessly in the busy streets and hoping from ankot to ankot (6 seaters mini busses), holding to my delusion that, yes, I might end up somewhere, somehow.

After yet another try to understand where I was, tired of the four hours trip from home (it was then, now is way faster), dusty and sweaty, I finally gave my ego a break and ask the first person I’d find for directions.

It happened to be a boy of maybe 16 years old on his way back from school.
”Oh brother” he said, “The place you’re looking for is in Batubulan, you could have gone there directly from the bus terminal”. Nice.

“But how do I go back there, from here?”, I asked. “Oh, I’ll come with you, I have nothing to do with my day. But first, please come visit me at home while I have a shower. It’s not far”.

I wouldn’t disagree. My bottom was craving for a seat which wouldn’t ram through my spine (at it happened every time the bus or ankot hit a pothole), and my poor skull was boiling under the seething afternoon sun.

When I arrived at the boy’s place, the whole family welcomed me. They spent the first ten minutes with a detailed though friendly interrogatory, in Indonesian, about my origin, purpose, language skills and curliness of my hair.

It was apparently a trick to keep me waiting until the boy, we’ll call him Wayan, came out of the kitchen with a tray of coffee and salty biscuits.” Hey, let’s have coffee first. And by the way, let me introduce you to my sister!”

Sister? Wait, wait. I was relatively new to Bali and I didn’t know whether the customs required me to spouse someone if I drank their coffee. I got slightly nervous, especially since Wayan’s sister was just as inquisitive and adorable as the rest of his family. Fortunately (or not), no wedding was planned that day.

The coffee though, was another story entirely. See, Balinese coffee (which is excellent) is traditionally prepared by pouring boiling water over the ground coffee powder put directly at the bottom of the glass. To add to the tongue scalding and tar-swallowing that ensued, the combination with salty biscuit was… how to put it? Exotic to my tongue. Now I know: Excellent Balinese coffee is drank slowly and, really, salt is optional.

I thought they had run out of surprises when Wayan’s mom disappeared into another room, only to show up again with a towel in her hand and tell me “It’s shower time, here, you can have this towel if you wanna shower here”.

Confident in the fact that I wouldn’t have to marry the bathroom, I just followed her recommendations, grateful for some cold cleanness in this otherwise dusty hot Denpasar day.

Once fresh, I joined the family in the living room, chatting some more until Wayan decided it was time to be my guide.

“But before leaving”…
After coffee, snacks, sister, chats and shower, I was starting to feel like I was abusing their hospitality and really wondered what they had in stock for me this time.
“… have these, they are juicy and I bet it’s a good refreshment for you”

Two ripe mangoes.

I didn’t know what to say. I just kept smiling, embarrassed at all the kindness they showed me, and let Wayan guide me back to Batubulan.

I still don’t remember what I was looking for that day, but I sure did find a friend and his adorable family, proof that Bali is a place where many awesome things can happen even if you just want to ask for directions. I remember that. And the mangoes, I remember them juicy, juicy mangoes.

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