Hakan Öge
Hakan Öge
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Indonesia

We are pursuing monkeys, wild boars and komodo dragons in a national park.

Then we swim over beautiful soft coral. I got into picking up shells and every deserted beach has its particular shell that hits my eye, so I crawl and gather and marvel at my new treasures when I check out my catch back on board Mardek.

We're short on vegetables because we were told we could buy some here but obviously we've chosen another place to anchor and there is not so much as a hut. Time to go and head for Bali. The wind is very soft, small boats do have their advantages ... we can still sail without the motor. Slowly but surely we make our way trough the many fishermen and their weird and extremely chaotic ways. With some luck and some good eyesight we manage to reach Lovina beach without hitting or getting stuck in any of their nets, buoys or floating huts. We land on a dark beach and while still carrying dinghy a lady is trying to sell me stuff. Pants, sarongs, jewelry. Ice-cream maybe. I tell her we just arrived and that first of all we must change money. ''After you promise you buy something?'' ''No'' I say '' I promise to look at what you sell'' she laughs. New hawkers come and harass us.

We go to a restaurant and it is beautiful, the food is great. Stir fried fish with vegetables. There is soft oriental music in the background, the kitchen is apparent and many precise hands are working on our meals. Water is running down an orchids covered rock. there is a little wooden bridge the separates the bar area from the restaurant, under it white, red and black fish swim in illuminated water over softly shaped stones. There are candles on the tables the walls are made of bamboo and here and there a lantern gives out indirect soft and romantic light. We drink cold beer and marvel at the Asiatic harmony of the place. We drink a second beer and when we go back everything is deserted.

Hakan is driving the rented jeep-like car. I'm stressed out in the passenger seat. There are motorbikes everywhere, smelly trucks and public minibuses pass us by from every direction at top speed. Not only are we driving on the wrong side of the road, but it seems the only rule here is to have your vehicle blessed by one of the Hindu priests on the road, give him 1000 rupees and trust in god. Hakan is doing very well and I try as hard as I can to contain my jerking body. Keep my hands from flying towards the dashboard, keep my right foot from pressing with full on strength on the inexistent passenger brake, I try to keep my voice down when 3 motorbikes are simultaneously taking over a truck we are about the cross on a single lane road. I can feel my neck and shoulders tensing up by the second. ''Turn right'' I say, trying unsuccessfully ones more to keep my backseat drivers voice shut ''get into the mountain, out of the main road, out of this buzzing ants world.''

Religion is omnipresent. There are Hindu shrines everywhere, and I mean everywhere. All intricate and overly confusing, cramping up the streets, houses, gardens, shops. Offerings of flowers and leaves and fruits are coloring every doorstep, incense and its smell is all over. Every shrine is wearing a cloth skirt and a belt, why? We visit a few deserted temples and don't understand anything about them. May we walk here? May we touch that? Finally we find a temple with devotees running about. A little man shows us where to park the car and tells us we need a sarong. Yes, we say proudly, because we are well prepared, and take out our Polynesian pareos out from the backseat. The man helps Hakan wrapping it around his waist. We are offered a yellow belt and Hakan is given a strangely wrapped handkerchief to wear on his head. Holly water is sprinkled on our head and rice is pressed on our forehead and our throat. We are now ready to enter the temple, and give light to our many questions... we end up with a lot of words of explanation but still, our questions mainly stay unanswered, the more we are being thought, the more confusing it appears. I love seeing Hakan in a long colorful skirt though, and I must laugh at his too small napkin folding on his head. At the end all I gathered was that the shrines and temples are being dressed and decorated to show how the worshipers should attire themselves, the temple being an example. But then again, don't take my word for it. And in my opinion, if one should take the temples as an example, how would it be possible to find peace when all things related to the religion is so intricate, complicate, oppressing. Maybe all this complexity helps them to handle the chaos of their towns. But what if you simplify your worshipping, will your towns not automatically follow you?

At the end of the day my head is spinning with all these sights, all these near collisions on the road. I rejoice in going to this pure calm restaurant of last night. Fish with home made yogurt sauce and veggies. I look at the surroundings and realize it is exactly the idea I have, inside my small ignorant head, of Asia. Trickling water, soft light, bamboo walls, little river, tiny round bridge, soft calming music. And I wonder, how could my European idea of the Far East be so precisely reproduced in a single restaurant? When the rest of the environment is so chaotic and confused... sure enough, the boss is German. He built the place on the image of Europeans ideal Asian paradise, and succeeded. It is low season now, moreover, Bali has become a little infamous with reoccurring terrorist bombings. There are many restaurants on the quiet street but this is the only busy one. The European Asiatic idea is from what I've seen, far away from Asia.

We found someone to guard Mardek the night and off we went inland, to Ubud, a handcraft village turned into tourist heaven. We drove up mountains into rice paddies, crossed little villages witnessed a funeral ceremony and ended up in tourist town. Narrow streets covered in pretty boutiques and hotels. We ate something wonderful and went hunting for a bed. We got a bamboo bungalow with a bathtub and a gigantic bed, a swimming pool and breakfast on our terrace. We lose ourselves in the comfort but it is just for one night. In this high standard rich tourist place no one tries to bother us, we can wander in and out the shops, touch, look, live without being harassed. A little further there is a monkey sanctuary, completed with a temple. They are long tailed macaques small and funny. They have a beautiful forest with waterfalls, rivers, hills. We humans are in their territory, and they obviously make the rules. This place is hundreds of years old and is beautifully kept. We walked around for a couple of hours, watching the funny creatures. I was carrying a bottle of water; a small monkey was eyeing it. Suddenly it leapt at me, climbing me as if I was a tree, and sat on my shoulder. It was warm and soft but I was not too at ease, what if it started pissing on me? What it wanted was not my love, it wanted my bottle! After a little fight he ran away with it and climbed a tree at an astonishing speed, my bottle in his tiny hand. He sat on a branch, opened the bottle and drank, we looked in amazement. But why? Aren't they our cousins? When my cousin comes to visit us driving her car am I amazed that she can do that?

We bought sarongs and kites, jewelry and pants. The sellers crying and tugging at our souls, ''please'' she wails ''for good luck, buy something for my luck.'' My heart sinks, if I can bring her luck for a little money, who am I to refuse this. So I buy, and I'm ripped of, of course. This one sweet old lady wanted to sell me something, but I liked nothing, she said she'd make me trousers in whatever fabric I wanted, I agreed finally, more to be able to get away than for any other reason. She touched all her merchandise with my money muttering strange things, ''for luck'' she adds. I feel that maybe I'm doing good after all. I pick up the trousers in the afternoon, I feel too hot to try them on. That night I have a dream about them. I wake up in a panic, crawl out of bed, put on the trousers and there it is, one narrow leg, one wide, I bought a clowns outfit, for her luck. If I did good to her, did she do good to me? Did she try to teach me I should not buy cheap stuff, did she show me I should not trust anyone. Did she help anyone else but herself? Am I the only fool for having a soft heart? This happens over and over, I think my only way is to stop traveling in such places. To stop bothering them bothering me.

11.11.2006

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