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A Gili Air Share…

15 Apr

Thought I’d share a few piccies from today on Gili Air. The sky really was that blue!

I always love heading over to the second biggest Gili island as it’s so photogenic and definitely a lot more peaceful than Gili Trawangan. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Gii T, but it’s a bit noisy, and dare I say, a bit dirty in some parts, now.

Development is happening so quickly. There’s a spa here now, on the spot that used to be home to a flea-ridden cinema showing pirate movies. I watched movies (whilst scratching my bare legs) on that very spot only last September! There are foot-eating fish in tanks there now.

Anyway Gili Air is one of those rare places on planet earth that actually does look in reality, like it looks in everyone’s photos. In some places, it’s almost like an exterior designer has wandered round discussing with God where to place the palm trees and the corals.

Hard to imagine places like this are out there, glistening in shades of aqua-marine and sending rays of sunshine straight through to your soul… especially when you’re shivering through a dreary winter, swiveling in your office chair, dreading the walk home because it’s minus twelve outside. In the Gili’s the sun has always got his hat on and he’s always coming out to play.

I’m seriously thinking about doing a seven night/eight day diving trip in May from Gili Air to Komodo, to see the dragons! It’s just less than AU$1400 and includes all dives and all food on the liveaboard boat, with a company called Gili Air Divers, if anyone fancies coming along. The diving is supposed to be incredible. It’s not enough to just look at the ocean from the Gili’s you see. You’ve got to get in a little deeper.

Tsunami or not Tsunami, that is the question….

11 Apr

Just when you think you’re safe in your luxury villa with your swimming pool and your two wooden statues of cross-legged soldiers who don’t even look Indonesian, and your croaking geckos and your plans to go to the Gilis…

There has been another earthquake, which has shaken Sumatra and consequently lots of people I know.

This is not something to be taken lightly. As we all know, “Indonesia straddles a series of fault lines that makes the vast island nation prone to volcanic and seismic activity. A giant 9.1-magnitude quake off the country on Dec. 26, 2004, triggered a tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed 230,000 people in 13 Indian Ocean countries, including Thailand, Sri Lanka and India.” (The news)

We’re in Pemuteran, north of Bali, which is considerably less at risk than say, Kuta down south, which faces the Indian Ocean. Everything is normal here, like it was last October when the earth shook off the coast of Aceh; like it was  back in 2004 no doubt, before anyone saw it coming.

Just as you sigh that little sigh of relief that everything’s OK in your direct vicinity, you can’t help but swallow that sickening feeling that one day it’s gonna be you that’s swallowed whole in a ginormous wave that just appeared from nowhere. You’re probably going to be doing something like you’re doing now, when it strikes. Like, looking at a nice photo your mate has put on her blog of BEAUTIFUL, safe Bali, such as this. I took this three days ago on a hill in Munduk in the mountains, which would have been safer than where we are now, by the sea:

You might be laughing, or eating a sausage, or petting your dog or procrastinating about doing your laundry and scrubbing that sinful chocolate stain off your duvet which CLEARLY advertises the fact that you eat between the sheets, when it happens. You might be reading the live Twitter feed about tsunami warnings, thinking, fuck, I hope that never happens to me. Surely it won’t though, right? Things like that don’t happen to ME.

But you’ll be wrong, because you’ll already be slammed against the wall like a pancake tossed a little too hard by a child who has zero experience holding a frying pan, because sometimes things like that DO happen to you.

The Indonesian government has been known to play down the risk we’re at, here on the Island of the Gods. If they told us the truth, people might not come. We might not stay in all these lovely, posh villas. Scaremongering is pointless and no one wants to do that, but we are very much AT RISK from tsunamis and earthquakes in Bali… something I looked into for the upcoming Bali book. Not that I’m plugging it at a time like this, but it’s true. I did some research BECAUSE it’s a scary fact when you live here that you’re probably gonna have to deal with at least something like this, at some point. Anyway.

My friend who’s holidaying in Phuket has just been evacuated to a safe place on a hill. She says the airport is shut. My friend in Singapore felt her building shake. My ex is in Jakarta, where he felt nothing but the urgent desire to leave again, as soon as possible. It seems that no one can deny the wave of fear surging through them, even if the waters stay still.

Bali has been declared safe for now, and I’m glad to say all my friends in other places seem to be safe too, if a little scared. But it’s not very nice to think about what could happen. BE SAFE YA’LL!

Did I tell you I’m a part time model now?

15 Mar

No? Well I am. I did a shoot for Vogue a while back but they decided to put Kate Hudson on the cover and instead, they sold the shots of me to Bali’s Spa & Wellness magazine for $0.99. They also didn’t tell me that this transaction had taken place… but this could be because it was all done in Indonesian.

I wasn’t wearing any make up and my dress was a bit creased so they chose the one where I was standing quite far away for the cover. I think it still looks alright. It’s quite fitting too, seeing as I absolutely love wellness. Spas are OK too.*

*Actually what happened is I went away to a resort and I bumped into a guy I knew who does photography for this mag. And there was no one else around to pose. I’m still available for shoots if anyone needs me. I’ve ironed my dress.

Boars, bread and the “real” Bali…

11 Mar

When you ask if a resort has brown bread and the waitress nods and smiles, you expect some brown bread to be delivered. What you don’t expect, is for a plate of cheap sugary white bread to show up that is indeed brown, because it has been toasted.

Still, bread issues aside, Jen and I are having a lovely time in our adventures in northwest Bali. We spent two nights at the Puri Lumpung in Munduk, which is the REAL Bali. I never really knew what people meant when they said “the REAL Bali” before, but now I do, and you can find it in Munduk. Munduk provides you views like this, which quite rightly should only exist in paintings on gallery walls, or in fantastical movies directed by Tim Burton.

In fact, I’ll admit, we dressed up specifically for the chance to take photos of each other looking nice in the REAL Bali. Because normally, we don’t look very nice in Bali. Well, Jen might. But I don’t.

Anyway, right now we’re in a place called Waka Shorea National Park, which is about as far northwest as you can get in Bali without hacking through a forest with a spear. To get here we had to ride a little boat from the West Bali National Park which saved us cruising the entire peninsular on the back of a motorbike – not ideal when you’re traveling with everything you own in the world like I am, including a Winnie the Pooh suitcase, a Bali patchwork hold all, a camera case and a guitar I can’t play and that doesn’t actually even belong to me (don’t ask).

The boat we rode over here was also carrying our supplies for the next three days, which the resort no doubt ordered just for us (because there’s hardly anyone else here). These were dominated by a crate of Bintang, some eggs and several watermelons.

When we arrived, giddy from our pilfered Bintangs and excited by the prospect of being amongst nature and hiking and possibly spotting some wild boars, we were immediately informed that the WIFI box had been eaten by a black monkey. The laughter stopped there. This was serious. Fuck nature. What do you mean there’s no WIFI?

“We are getting it fixed,” said Putu apologetically.

We breathed a sigh of relief. “OK, great. When?”

“We don’t know,” he shrugged.

It’s still not fixed. I’m sending this blog via the slowest Ethernet connection on planet Earth. I’m not complaining. If Bali’s most northwestern tip on the edge of the ocean has an Internet connection of any shape or form, I’m pretty sure that this bodes well for the future of the Universe. Well, as far as calling for help is concerned, when you’re being attacked by wild boars. Or black monkeys intent on taking your 3G as well as your WIFI.

I’m not sure my pork ribs last night were made from wild boars. Or monkeys. Jen and I have not been impressed by the food here so far. It’s more warung quality at ten times the price. But it’s a nice chance to not check our emails, embrace nature, write, read, not dive (because the current’s too strong) and send a prayer out on the gentle Bali breeze that maybe tomorrow, we’ll get some proper brown bread.

Russia, roots and reiki…

5 Mar

ImageFor the past two days I’ve been learning the art of reiki. Even though I sat through numerous hours of talks about the Grand Masters and tales of Japanese ladies in Hawaii (it’s all linked, surprisingly) I’m still not really sure if my certificate, complete with sparkling gold star, qualifies me to do anything more than touch people up in funny places.

At one point I was told to spread my feet apart on the floor and imagine tree roots sprouting from my heels and toes to ground me. This I could visualise perfectly. In fact, I was a beautiful tree, a weeping willow leaking my tears into the damp forest floor, but growing stronger for my release. There were fairies fluttering around me… oh, and a fat fairy godmother in a lovely shimmering taffeta gown, complete with puffy sleeves.

And there was a talking TV set, too, like Evil Edna in that cartoon I used to watch when I was a kid, Willo the Wisp. The TV was evil at first but once it saw my commitment to being part of the forest and energy force-field it decided to be my friend and… oh shit…


“Yes, yes, I’m still here!”

“We’re visualizing a white light?”

“Yes, yes, white light. Got it (fuuuuuck)

My problem is that concentrating for too long on nothing… or as I said, being a tree can never just stop there. I’m not just going to grow roots from my feet and leave it at that, because that’s silly. No one has tree roots coming out of their toes without being part of a magical mystery fairytale land and having a higher purpose, like, for example a character in an X Box game who needs to break the curse in order to save the Prince, do they!!!?

Anyway… I tried to concentrate a bit harder. White light, white light…

It’s a wondrous thing, reiki. There were two Russian girls from Moscow learning alongside me, and one Australian from Melbourne. The Aussie and I were finally getting the hang of thinking about nothing except directing our unconditional love into the body parts of our new pals, when all of a sudden, one of the Russians started to cry.

She wailed and sobbed under the healing hands of the other Russian, making us all stop what we were doing and look at her, awkwardly. Our teacher had to take over, use her own reiki powers to solve the problem. When the sobbing stopped, both Russians started to explain their matching visuals.

“I voz in a prizon. A prizon of crystal bars. It voz very scary.”

“Zat is so funny. I too saw you in a prizon!”

“Did you? Becoz my prizon was so small and I voz very scared, but zen I started to fly like a bird. But I could not come back to my body. I voz very scared.”

“Zis is too… how you say… veird. I too saw you as a bird. But zen you were a plane…”

The Aussie and I looked at each other. I expected her to tell me she’d seen Willo the Wisp as she’d cupped my temples and focused on nothing, but she raised her eyebrows and shrugged a bit as if to apologise. I did the same. I think we both felt like failures, but we accepted our certificates anyway. We’ll fake it till we can make it.

Maybe perfecting the art of reiki just takes more practice.

Or a move to Russia.

Fashion Capital?

15 Feb

The Global Language Monitor has just ranked Bali 21st in its list of the top fashion capitals in the world, according to the Bali Advertiser. What wonderful news! This must mean I can at last stop torturing myself for leaving home in mud-splattered harem pants. 

The Island of the Gods even made it to the Top Movers chart with a staggering 11-place jump from last year, when it was rated number 32. Impressive, by anyone’s standards.

Allegedly, “the world is discovering the allure that has been a quiet secret for centuries,” writes a Texas-based company called GLM, who monitor the popularity of cities for a living. Their website explains: “the exclusive ranking is based upon GLM’s Narrative Tracker, which analyses the Internet, blogosphere, print and electronic media, as well as new social media sources like Twitter.”

Interesting how they think Twitter is new…

Anyway, London comes top, in case you’re wondering, replacing last year’s winner, New York; two cities I have also been lucky enough to live in, in the past. I have to say, in all seriousness I was far more fashionable when I lived in those places. I’m wondering whether these cyber-monitors actually know how to use this Narrative Tracker they’re bragging about, or whether they’re just scanning for the word “batik” and noting each mention as a positive. Again, they think Twitter is new…

As I’ve mentioned before, the concept of fashion eludes me here in Bali. I suppose I could make more of an effort but strangely, the thought of applying make up to my face every morning doesn’t even occur to me now. I used to feel naked without mascara. Not cloaking my features in a mask of foundation meant I left the house as exposed as a flasher without a raincoat.

Here though, well, there are far more important things to worry about, like making it to my bioenergetic healing class on time…

She’s Electric. She’s got a family full of eccentrics…

17 Jan

I just met a lady called Asmawati, who has electricity coming out of her hands. Can I say that again? OK… I just met a lady called Asmawati, who has electricity coming out of her hands. It still sounds unbelievable, right? I wouldn’t believe it myself, if I hadn’t just experienced it first hand; if I hadn’t just lay on a table, in her house and felt her electric hands literally shock my heart chakra into shape. At least, I think that’s what she’s done. I swear to God, Asmawati, this beautiful, flowing-haired Balian just “healed” me with an electric massage that involved no devices whatsoever and absolutely no connections to any plug socket. She was the plug socket. And her husband, who stood dutifully next to her with his hand on her shoulder the whole time, appeared to be the grounding device for her electrical flow.

I was more than a tad nervous before she got started, as you would be. It was a bit like lying in the middle of a mini power station, waiting for my skin to start sizzling and my hair to go up in flames. On the contrary all I felt was calm as she began and even now, I’m riding a mellow vibe that I can only describe as being similar to the feeling you get when you take just a few hits of a joint. Sort of floaty light.

So what was the “electric massage” like on a physical level? Well, I felt a light heat when she touched me, almost like Asmawati was holding the flame of a candle over certain places on my body. When I opened my eyes I saw that it was just her small, womanly hands hovering over my skin, and occasionally massaging me gently. A lot of the time she had her eyes closed, like she was feeling the way, easing her way through the chaos of my clogged up chakras and smoothing them out like you would the creases in a fresh bed-sheet on a mattress.

The lady who first told me about Asmawati swore she saw lightning coming out of her fingers while she was at work. I’ve got to admit I never saw anything as exciting as that, although perhaps this lady had more physical issues to be addressed than me. I’m not sure what I would have done if I’d seen a giant lightning bolt leave a pair of human hands and enter my body anyway… I’m actually quite relieved I never got to find out, although the more I try to put what happened in that little house, in a little village into words, the more I’m lost for them. Lightning bolts or not, something just happened that any sane person would tell you shouldn’t be possible.

Just so you know, I’m not supposed to let on who this lady is, or how to find her. She has made it very clear, in an extremely lovely and polite way of course, that her powers are not to be abused. If too many people know what she can do, she’ll be forced to overwork out of the kindness of her own heart and her healing powers will deteriorate. Already, some tourists have located her out of intrigue instead of out of any real need for healing, and Asmawati is afraid her ever-flowing battery may somehow start to drain as a result of using her powers on the wrong people.

When I heard this, I felt guilty. I’ll admit, a blocked heart chakra isn’t really something I felt like I had in the first place (not that I know the symptoms) and even if I did, it wasn’t something I felt was hindering me on a daily basis. It wasn’t exactly living with eczema or psoriasis – just a couple of the conditions Asmawati has helped to cure. It’s just something that a friend suggested I might have had when I told her I couldn’t “let myself go” at the Ashram.

“Can’t feel a damn thing? Spiritually numb? You must have a blocked heart chakra!”

In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have even tried to unblock myself by requesting the electrical powers of a Balian. I was just fascinated when I heard about Asmawati from an expat Californian at writer’s group and went out of my way to track her down. I might add that the Californian was quite reluctant to pass these details on when I asked for them. It seems that most people are respecting Asmawati’s wishes to remain as anonymous as possible and I have since sworn not to let on who or where she is to anyone else, unless the person asking is in serious need of her help.

Anyone I try and tell outside of Bali will roll their eyes and try and put this electrical output from a human being down to some sort of trickery. But here, on the island of magic and mystery it’s acceptable to label it amazing and one hundred per cent a miracle, just like those few, insane moments at the Ashram with Ratu Bagus, when the divine Energy decided to make itself known inside me.

Anyway, whether it was right or wrong to satiate my intrigue and opt to have my chakras fixed with an electric massage, I definitely felt different in Asmawati’s hands. And honestly, lying on that table feeling the magic at work, I knew deep down that this humble, quiet, yet unquestionably charged woman and her attentive, rubber-shoe wearing husband are another two waking wonders here in Bali, proving that magic is real.

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