Hello readers. How are you all? I’m good. Thanks for asking. I’m just finished my breakfast and I’m overlooking the sea in Goa. Not bad for a Monday morning hey? The last blog was a few weeks behind and was about my time in Singapore and Malaysia. This one too is just over a week behind and will be about my time in Indonesia. I hope you enjoy it.
Following an amazing time in Singpaore and Malaysia, where I seen UB40 twice, my next destination was Bali. I flew from Singapore airport to Denpasar in Bali. The airport is situated on the south coast of the island and took about 1 hour and 40 minutes to get there. I arrived in Bali in the evening and got a taxi to my hostel, which was about 15 minutes away and was down a narrow winding lane called Jalens Poppies 1. There was hardly any street lights down ‘Poppies 1’ and the place was pitch black other than a few signs for hostels and the occasional bar light.
I was shown up to my dorm, which was up a flight of stairs across the narrow lane from the reception and it had 6 beds in. There was no other people in the dorm, so the fella working there said I could have my pick of bed. I got my head down and woke the next morning to beautiful blue skies. The resort I was in was called Kuta. It is apparently a place where lots of Australians come for their holiday and has gained a reputation, particularly in season, as a bit of a party town. I was here for a few days relaxation on the beach. I had booked my hostel for 3 nights but eventually ended up staying an additional night. That has been the case in a few of places I’ve been to. You plan for a certain amount of time and end up extending.
I made my ways through Poppies 1, as it is known to the locals. Through the winding alleys, there was various shops, travel agents, restaurants and bars. I bought a towel as I’d left the other one I’d bought in Sihanoukville in Cambodia, which seems ages ago now. I have showered since (honestly), it’s just that some hostels have provided towels along the way. It was the one item I didn’t pack when I left the UK. Partly through forgetfulness but also, I think I had the thought that it would take too much space up in my backpack and it was an item I could easily purchase whilst away. Towel bought, I headed for the beach which was about a 5 minute walk away.
The beach was on a main road, but was separated by a wall which run the length of the road. The soft sand swept right round into the distance. The sea in Kuta was quite wavy and surfing seems to be one of the main pastimes here. There was no sunbeds on the beach, so I sat on a plastic chair under a tree, next to where someone was selling drinks and pushing the surfing idea on to anyone who would listen to him. Women, who must have been in their 70’s approached me offering massages on the beach, others tried to sell me towels, sarongs, bracelets and trinkets. One elderly lady sat down on the sand at my feet and said ‘Business no good,’ in an attempt to encourage me to buy a hat. I didn’t buy one. I brought a few hats away with me and have used them a handful of times. I sat and watched the waves curling in from the distance and disappear as they met the shore line. Here’s a picture of the beach at Kuta.
I stayed on the beach for the majority of the day, reading, listening to music and just being comfortable with chilling and doing nothing. Being away either feels like a holiday or travelling, depending on the destination. The cities and towns seem like travelling. There’s museums to get lost in, forts to gawp at and places of historical significance to embrace. That’s the bit that feels like travelling, or more like a massive school trip, without the hinderance of a nagging teacher, telling you to stay in line and not to touch things. I don’t want to stay in line and I want to touch things. I’m a maverick. The other places when travelling, like here in Kuta, feel like a holiday. Beach towns with not much to do, other than laze away the days on the sand and maybe partake in the occasional boat trip or water-based activity, whilst being hassled to buy things and get stopped for pictures.
I won’t go into each day in Kuta, because like I said it was just a time to chill at the beach. Whilst here I had a few Balinese massages which were really good and quite cheap. I also found a little barbers and got my beard trimmed and the tiniest amount taken off the top. It was on this day that I was stopped on a few occasions by groups of women from Jakarta and Hong Kong, who asked for pictures with me. Here’s me with a lady from Hong Kong and below me looking all pleased with myself having been freshened up by the barber. My Nanna Pauline said I look like David Beckham. I’m not convinced, but I’ll take it. It’s not the first time someone has made that suggestion either #meandmybarnet
The day these were taken, I was down to the beach to see the sunset. I’ve seen a few belting sunsets since I’ve been away and this one was up there with the best of them.
One of the days I was in Kuta, I had a a nice chat with a fella selling ice creams. He too complained about the lack of business and sat down next to me. He said it was out of season and very quiet. I didn’t think it was quiet, there was still a good amount of people around. There was people milling about, so the town’s reputation as a party place, must mean that in season, it’s chocker. I bought a Feast off him and got talking. Is there any better ice cream than a Feast by the way? He was intrigued by what I was reading. It was the book I have mentioned a few times in my other posts entitled ‘Confessions of an Economic Hitman,’ by John Perkins. I explained to him what the book was about and how it discussed within it, a man called Sukarno, who was Indonesia’s first President. Sukarno had declared Indonesia’s independence from the Netherlands in August 1945. He seemed really interested in the book. We spoke about how the ideas in the book had affected countries including his own and he seemed to be surprised when I said I didn’t trust President Obama, as he is the latest in a long line of figures who are the frontmen for the system the book talks about. If anyone has not read the book, I strongly urge you to get hold of a copy and give it a try. If you’re interested in how US imperialism has spread since the Second World War and the devastating lengths that the country and its allies will go to to ensure their interests are met, then you’d do well to get a copy. If you’ve read the book, I’d be really interesting in discussing it with you or seeing what you thought about it. We stayed talking for about 40 minutes and then his friend came along. He was selling crossbows and arrows. Today, I didn’t need one, so had to decline his generous prices for such armoury.
It was on this day that In entrusted my iPad with the local DVD store. You could buy DVDs really cheap on disc, but cheaper again if they imported them onto your tablet. I had left my tablet with the store in the morning and returned later that evening. I got copies of; ‘Ride Along,’ ‘Ride Along 2,’ ‘Last Vegas,’ ‘Creed,’ ‘Straight Outta Comptom,’ ‘White House Down’ and ‘The Intern.’ I had tried to get another four but they didn’t work. There was three about Che Guevara and the other one was called ‘Special Relationship,’ about Tony Blair and Bill Clinton. Might be a Rom-Com. I’ll never know. Anyway, I was armed with films for my journeys in the future rather than the bow and arrow I was offered earlier in the day.
One thing you can’t help but notice in Indonesia, is the little colourful baskets which are placed outside the doors of shops, houses and other buildings. They contain little flowers, incense sticks and in some baskets; biscuits, which I seen dogs eat. I’m not sure if they’re there for the dogs specifically, or the dogs take their chances and see them as a meal/treat. I was told that the baskets are for good luck and are also to ward of unwanted spirits from the properties they are placed outside. I also seen a few in the front of vehicles. Here’s a picture of one of the baskets. This was in the van which took me to get the boat to Gili Air.
After 4 nights in Kuta, I headed to Gili Air. I had booked it a few nights previous with one of the tour operators who have stalls along the beach. I remember getting the ticket for a lot less than what was stated on the price board and the woman behind the counter saying not to mention the price I’d paid to anyone else on the boat. I didn’t know whether I’d got a good price or other people may have bartered her down even further and I’d paid over the odds or I’d managed to get a really good deal, as she insinuated and other people would be vexed if they knew. I suspect I had got it for a good price. The minibus was due to pick me up from my hostel between 6.30am and 7am. Now, if I was in Cambodia, naturally, this would have meant about ten to nine in the evening. However, here in Bali, the opposite happened. I had set my alarm for 6.15am, having packed what I needed to back into my bag the previous night. I assumed it’d have been closer to 7am and it wouldn’t take that long to get a quick wash and brush my teeth. However, at 6am, half an hour earlier than scheduled I heard a knock on the door of the dorm I was in. ‘Hello…..Boat Trip…..Gili,’ said a deep voice from the other side of the door. It woke me up. I jumped up thinking I’d overslept and missed my alarm, but when I checked my phone and seen the time, I answered the door and told the fella to wait in reception for me until I was ready. Here’s a Vlog I made in the van, when we went to pick someone else up after me. I had literally just woke up about 10 minutes earlier.
The bus picked a few more people up in Kuta and then we made the hour and a half journey to Padang where we were getting the speed boat to Gili Air. Gili Air is one of three Gili islands, each offering something different to the next. Gili Air is considered the quiet and chilled out island, Gili Trawangan (locally known simply as Gili T) has more of a party scene (think youngsters in neon gear) and Gili Meno is a place a lot of couples go. Getting on the boat, there were several people trying to sell things along the pier; sunglasses, bags of fruit, water, beer, bracelets, spinning tops and lots of other stuff that one would find difficult to justify a purchase of, at the moment of boarding a boat. The boat had rows of 5 seats either side of an aisle. It took about 2 hours to reach Gili Air, having stopped briefly to pick some other people up at Lombok. Here’s a picture of the island on the approach.
My hostel was a short walk from the pier. Everything really would be a short walk from the pier here. Apparently is takes about 45 minutes to walk the entire diameter of the island. There are no vehicles on Gili Air, there are bicycles; some with thin wheels and others with thicker wheels to negotiate one’s way through the sandy roads; and there is also horse and carriage, which is the islands’ main mode of transport. It was a very pretty place Gili Air; picturesque. The white beaches disappeared into the deep blue sea and across from the pier the rolling hills of Lombok stood proudly, the tops enveloped by the low clouds. It was a sight to behold. I put my bags in the hostel and headed for the pool down the road from the hostel. This was the view of the pool with the sea in the background. I didn’t swim in the pool, I just done a bit of reading and sunbathing before heading to the beach over the road.
The restaurant belonging to the hostel was over the narrow sandy road. It had these little raised wooden shacks where you could sit, eat and relax in.
I got something to eat and spent the day there reading and admiring the views, taking the occasional break in the water. Even though the scenery was beautiful, the water wasn’t as nice as some places I’d been to. I think Maya Bay in Thailand and Long Beach in Koh Rong, Cambodia keep top spots for the best waters I’ve swam in. But nevertheless, it was an amazing place. It dawned on me whilst I was in the water that this is the furthest away I’ve been on my travels and the Kaiser Chiefs songs came into my head ‘Oh My God I Can’t Believe It, I’ve Never Been This Far Away From Home.’ I then began to question the definition of ‘home’ in my head. Is it a place? A house? A feeling? An energy? Company? I didn’t quite come to a conclusion and even when I’m recalling this and writing it now, I’m thinking have I come any further along in deciding what exactly ‘home’ is?
If it is a house, what happens if/when you move? Do you get another home? If it is company, what happens if/when the company departs or isn’t there anymore and passes away? If it is an energy, can that be harvested and taken to whichever location you as a physical being travels to? Or am I thinking too much? Probably, but this is the thought pattern that can spiral in my head, when simply thinking ‘Crikey…..I’m miles away from Birkenhead.’
NB – when I think, I don’t think in terms of words such as ‘Crikey,’ but you get my gist and I’m trying to keep this blog swear free. My actual thought was……well you can imagine.
The next day was not so relaxed. A few weeks back in Cambodia, I had completed my online E-visa application for my visa to go to India. It had all gone through OK and the only thing I needed to do more, was to pay the $60 fee, four days before I travelled to the country. Today in Gili Air it was 5 days before I was due to arrive in India. So I thought ‘I’ll get it done today.’ I went to pay and it said that the payment had been rejected. I definitely had money in my account so was baffled as to why it had been rejected. Thinking it may be a technical fault I tried again, only to be met with the same response. Without payment you’re not permitted to enter the country. The easiest way I’ve heard to get a visa for India, is to send your passport to the embassy before you depart the UK. I had booked my trip and flew in a relatively short time frame so didn’t have this option really. To cut a long story short, I ended up having to call the Indian Visa Helpline. The word ‘Help,’ should be dropped from this service as they are no help at all. Four phone calls I made, one being on hold for 7 minutes and three more people just hanging up on me. I was really frustrated as you can imagine. My phone bills aren’t too cheery either. If the helpline wants to rectify their shoddy customer service practices, they could get in touch with my other chums over at EE and pay my bill for me. Honestly, you wouldn’t believe how much these calls set me back.
I needed to speak to them to see what the issue was. I phoned the bank who reassured me that there was no problems that end and the funds were there ready to go. I then emailed the Indian embassy who said I needed to complete another application. Now, this is where the real problems start. If anyone has ever completed an Indian E-visa, you’ll know that the form is lengthy, it asks for very specific measurements of passport pictures on a different background to your usual ones and it is a task that would test the patience of the Dalai Lama. It ended up with me spending literally, without exaggerating, 6 hours trying to submit another application. As the clock ticked, I became more frustrated. I phoned several people who tried to help. In the end a combined effort by myself and a few people back in England, meant I had an approved visa and would be making the journey to India after all.
At one point, I’d phoned the travel agents to discuss options of flying a different route and avoiding India altogether. It’s not what I wanted to do but the more the time went on the less convinced I was that the Indian part would materialise. Thankfully it was sorted with the help of a few committed folk, who I thank very much. A little bright spot in this day was when I went for lunch and a little bike ride round the island and got talking to a couple of German girls who I later met up with in a psychedelic event further along the beach. It was a frustrating day on the whole but life is life hey?
The next morning I made my way to Coffee and Thyme, which is a nice little cafe/restaurant, for some breakfast and coffee and headed on to the boat for the 2 hour return trip to Bali. After we got back to Bali, I had another hour and a half drive to get to Ubud.
I was dropped of in Ubud centre and made my way down a very long road in search of my hostel. The hostel names aren’t easy to spot and there’s loads of little lanes off the main road with lots of hostels on each so it’s a bit like trying to find a pair of size 11 footwear in Vietnam. It’s nigh on impossible. I eventually found it near to a place called the Yoga Barn; a place where I would participate in numerous practices that literally blew my mind over the next couple of days.
The first full day I was in Ubud, I headed to the Monkey Forest. This is where monkeys roam around freely in their natural habitat. You can buy bananas to feed them (and risk losing a limb, as they snatch them from you), or you can admire them from a distance and be on your toes if they kick off. Here’s a few pictures from the Forest. It was amazing to be that close to them and see them just getting on with their lives, picking stuff out of each other and swinging around. There is a few videos on my YouTube channel if you are into more Monkey’ing Around.
Later that day, I headed to the Yoga Barn.
The Yoga Barn was busy most of the days with travellers and people who had set up base in Bali congregating, eating healthy foods, drinking healthy juices and doing yoga, meditation and other stuff which feeds the soul. I loved it here. You could buy a membership card and pay for however many classes you wanted to go to. I chose 5, as I was only here for 3 nights. The first one I went to was an introductory Yoga session. I’ve not done Yoga in a class before; I’ve dabbled with bits of it but never done anything consistent. It was a good session and I was pleased with flexibility. I am more supple than I thought. Anyone for the splits? The teacher called the class Yogis. ‘Good morning Yogi’s…..’ I don’t know if I can be a ‘Yogi’ yet. Is there a hierarchy of Yoga snobbery where you need to earn your stripes like in other practices. ‘He’s not a Yogi, he’s only been to one group session.’ Anyway, if the leader said I’m a ‘Yogi, I’m a fucking Yogi.’ The swear free blog ruined there. If only there was like a delete button. Oh well. Apologies Nan.
Another session I done was Kirtan. This is Indian chanting whereby participants repeatedly sing mantras in a call and response fashion. There was someone singing and leading and then the group would respond. Other than my little impromptu version of ‘Yellow’ by Coldplay in Thailand (which you can still watch on YouTube on the link below), I hadn’t done any singing since I’d been away. Those who know me, know I love a warble, so it was good to be in a place where you can sing to your heart content with other people. It was very peaceful and quite liberating. No-one was trying to unplug me (this has happened to me early in my singing careers, it’ll be another blog one day maybe), steal my microphone (didn’t have one) or pull my neck to ask me to sing ‘That one by Ed Sheeran.’ (Replace Ed Sheeran with any other requests, it’s the pulling of the neck which annoys me…..and the lager-induced spit in the ear). Anyway, here’s me a few weeks back in case you missed it singing ‘that one by Coldplay.’
The next day, is the first session which blew my mind. It was a meditation class with an Indian man called Punnu Wasu Singh. Punnu had studied in the Oneness University in Chennai, India. Just ‘Google’ that place and have a look, if you’re interested. We were sat in a circle and I was to Punnu’s immediate left. He explained about the seven main Chakra’s in our bodies, all positioned in the centre at various points along the spine, from tail bone to the tops of our heads. He explained how these can affect our day-to-day lives, our emotions, our feelings and our spiritual, mental and physical health.
The meditation was about breathing through the nostrils only. We held hands. There was seven stages of breathing which were interspersed with a focus on each of the seven Chakras in turn. After the 4th cycle of breathing I think it was, I went somewhere. I don’t mean physically, I mean mentally and spiritually. I can’t really describe it, but it was like I left my physical being and wandered somewhere involuntarily. I was aware that my right hand, the one holding Punnu’s left hand was trembling. It was like an electricity current was passing through. A few people got a ‘dead arm’ through sitting for that amount of time, in the one position. This felt like a trembling which I couldn’t stop. Tears rolled…..I don’t know why. I wasn’t sad. I didn’t know a name for how I was feeling. I just was. It was breathtaking. Other people were also crying in the circle. This was done with eyes closed for the duration. Some people were laughing. After the meditation finished, Punnu offered each individual a Oneness blessing, by placing his hands on the top of each person’s head. It was an amazing experience. This was just the start though, as what was to happen the next day literally left me gobsmacked.
It was my last full day in Bali, so before going to the meditation class in the afternoon, I had arranged with one of the fellas who worked at the hostel I was staying at to take me on a tour of Ubud and the surrounding areas on his moped. I hopped on the back and off we went to see a waterfall, a temple, the rice fields and if there was time, we planned on going to the coffee plantation. As it transpired the heavens opened and torrential downpour meant that we skipped the coffee plantation in the end to get back in time for the meditation class. The coffee plantation apparently makes that coffee where they get cats to eat the coffee beans and then retrieve the beans from the cat’s poo (is that a second swear word? ‘Shit’ definitely would have been, but not sure about ‘poo’). It apparently heightens the taste if it’s passed through the cat’s anus (‘arse’ swear word number 3). Has anyone tried this coffee? Here’s a few pictures from the day at the waterfall, the temple and the rice fields.
Whilst at the waterfall, I was tempted to remove my swimming gear but refrained due to this sign.
Whilst at the rice fields a few kids were selling postcards. Their English was exceptional and their sales patter was second to none. I ended up buying a pack of 10 postcards from one girl aged 11. I haven’t bothered to write or send any because I’ll be collecting my pension before anyone would receive it probably. Having said that, my pink suit made it back in three weeks to the UK, so you never know. The postcards may have made it. I might just send them to myself each week, for 10 weeks saying ‘To Matt this time X amount of weeks ago you were here…..how’s Birkenhead?’ A proper intelligent way to get over any ‘holiday blues,’ that may worm their way to my being.
The rain in Indonesia is like nothing I’ve seen before. The fella on the moped described it as ‘Big Rain.’ Each time throughout the morning when it would start to rain, he would wait and see how big the droplets were before deciding if we should stop to cover up or continue without our groovy plastic overalls. When we arrived back at the hostel, I headed to the Yoga Barn for the second meditation session. It was the same environment as yesterday, but this time I was sat to Punnu’s immediate right. The circle’s hands were joined again and the meditation was again centred on breathing through the nostrils and not through the mouth, with the eyes closed for the duration. The guiding tape played in the background. Again, just past midway through the meditation, I think it was, I began to cry, uncontrollably after having initially giggled slightly. I wasn’t the only one. Apparently crying is a common response to meditation and suggests healing. Punnu said during the meditation ‘Whatever comes, let it come, don’t fight anything.’ I wanted to get the most out of these sessions, so was happy to put my pride to one side and allow the tears to roll. I was sobbing like a big baby (with a dodgy hair do). Through the latter part of the meditation, I began to see bright lights; yellow, purple, and white in colour. Then the most vivid images flashed in front of me.
If you will, picture those old camera reels, with the lines through that make the noise when they’re playing. The ones with the sound of the reel playing the images and clicking. That was the image I had and was on a long country lane, lined with trees and a path up the middle. The camera was filming this and along I came running towards the camera. It wasn’t me in my 6″2 physique with a dodgy barnet. It was me as a child, perhaps aged 5 or 6. I had a cardigan on and shorts and socks with sandals. My hair was as it was as a child, naturally curly and I ran to the camera smiling. I stopped, looked into it, turned and ran off down the path. The next image I seen was of my Nanna Mo, who passed away a few years back. She was lying in a bed and looked peaceful. I then seen a very vivid image of Jesus Christ on the crucifix, with the Crown of Thorns on top of his head, head tilted to one side. He wasn’t a white Jesus. It was at this point that the lights became brighter. I know this may sound a bit wacky but this is what happened. It blew my mind. At the point of Jesus Christ appearing, Punnu touched my head. It was more forceful than yesterday’s touch and the image of Christ disappeared and transformed into an image of Haile Salassie I. From there I seen some further images of myself and other people who are in and out of my life which I won’t go into detail about on this blog, as it took it to another level. The meditation ended and I felt light, relieved and confused. I was not frightened and allowed what was happening to happen. I can’t really understand it, I don’t know if I need to or indeed want to. It would be a psychologists’ dream I imagine. And I have a mate who may help me unpick it when I’m home. But it literally knocked my socks off (or would have if I had any on). Truly awesome.
I went for a coffee and piece of chocolate cake and sat there for an hour or so simply reflecting. Not questioning intensely why what had happened had happened, just simply reflecting in a calm and serene state. It was fantastic. If anyone goes to Ubud, give this place a whirl. If you never go, source out some meditation classes if it interests you and see where you go. The amazing thing was; this was natural. I hadn’t put any chemicals in my body to get to this state, I was simply breathing. That’s it. And was open to whatever wanted to unearth from within. Amazing stuff.
That night, I headed back to the Yoga Barn for the final time for a screening of a film called ‘Life.’ The film interviewed men and women from different cultures about what their perceptions of love is and what they thought life was about. The Yoga Barn show a film every other Sunday I think and it’s always a film based on spirituality or socio-economic issues (which I suppose could encapsulate everything). We all got a yoga mat and a cushion and sat around in the tree-hut like yoga studio. Perfect.
The following day I got my things together, had breakfast and made my way on the back of a moped to the airport which was about 1 hour 40 minutes away. I was relieved to get off. My bum (I’ll stop the swearing now) was numb and the bottom of my back had began to hurt because of the bumps in the road and me having to balance a heavy backpack also. Bali airport was very impressive. It’s the ideal place to be if nature calls, as their toilets are like something out of a 5 star hotel. They smell great. I don’t think I’ve ever said that about toilets. Nature called and I indulged. I grabbed some food (obviously after the toilet) and watched the football highlights in the bar and waited for my flight to Kuala Lumpur. From there I was changing and heading to New Delhi in India.
I end this blog, sat on a beach in Goa in India. It has been eventful and will be the next blog I write. For now, I shall thank your good selves for taking the time out to read this. I appreciate your continued interest. Just been editing this one final time and I am now in Cochin, not Goa. I could have deleted the Goa part and you’d never have known but I’m about transparency here. Basically, I’m saying I’ve been lazy, but here it is…..the blog.