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Knowing it would be one of my few chances to travel while in Singapore, I booked a ticket to Bali for the next day, Oct 29th. Somehow, all three websites I attempted to book through failed so I had to book over the phone [ and Air Asia charged me for a flight that was never confirmed :( ].

JI left my hotel in Harbour Front early in the morning, dropped a bag at the office, and made it to my hotel on the Kuta Beach strip by late morning. Kuta Beach, a Northern suburb of Densabar, is a little touristy for my taste. After settling in, I walked up and down the beach and watched some locals surf 1-2ft swells. Next, I headed inland, eventually getting lost in the web of streets behind the strip. I was able to re-orient myself at the memorial for the 2002 hotel blast which killed a lot of locals and (most Australian) tourists. I picked up some ice cream and crashed pretty early, having achieved consciousness at 4:30am that morning.

JDay 2 was mostly a work day. After an American breakfast in a nearby cafe, I headed back to my hotel room and worked for about 5 hours. In the early evening I hired a driver named Danny (drivers use Western names sometimes to simplify interactions with tourists) and we headed South toward the Uluwatu Temple on the southern tip of the island. Hiring a driver for a day is about 40USD. I explored the temple and attended the Kekack Fire Dance. Danny then brought me to a seafood restaurant with table on the beach when I had a western-priced seafood dinner with pineapple juice. It was quite good food, but Balinese don't eat crab, shrimp, or lobster - it is purely for the taste of tourists.

JThis trip was my first adventure traveling truly by myself (as in not knowing anyone else in the country), which brought along some stresses. Mostly though, I realized that traveling alone is about 50% as fun as traveling with friends. Sometimes though, you just need to get out there and explore even if no one is available to tag along.

JDay 3, Friday, was mine to explore the island. I hired another driver and we headed North to see another costumed dance, rice patties, the Holy Spring Temple, another non-touristy temple, and the Bat Cave temple. I brought lunch and ate it overlooking the volcano in Bali's national park. Finally, I felt like I was seeing the real Bali. Driving through the craft villages I realized that Bali nurtures a certain intellectual and artisen sub-current. The woodworkers, furniture makers, and glassblowers of the island churn out phenomonal pieces of art that anyone would be so lucky to have as a centerpiece of their living room.

JThe island is deeply Hindu. Every family has its own household temple and all households contribute equally to their village temple. The most famous temples have amazingly intricate sculptures, but simpler pre-made sculptures of the Gods can be purchased by families at street-side shops. The physical creatures only become spiritual manifestations after a special ceremony. Another difference between private and village temples is that while the home worships all the gods, the village will often have separate temples for the four major Hindu deities with min-temples inside those for the hundreds of gods that fill in the holy hierarchy.

JSmoldering gifts to the gods dot sidewalks and farmhouse stoops alike. Some temples have special purposes, for instance the Bat Cave Temple is the starting point of many funeral proceedings. Villages have some form of religious ceremony ever six months, but the most important of all the proceedings happen every 10 years. The streets are decorated with very tall Palms and the locals wear special clothes. For wedings, the entrance way of the family's home is decorated with shorter palms and flower for at least two weeks spanning the wedding date.

JMy driver's name for Day 3 was Puta. I know that was his real name since in Balinese culture the first four children all receive surnames corresponding to the order in which they were born. Have five children? You simply restart the naming again with Puta, the first born.

JThe locals appeared friendly at first but it quickly wore off with the realization that every interaction had a subtext of them trying to extract USD. The one piece of conversation that each Balinese I met expressed genuine interest in was where each tourist was from. They would recognize city names from imported pop culture and live vitriolically through the conversation by placing you in their simplified understanding of your city of origin; most Balinese are unable to travel outside of Indonesia due to the cost, though some work seasonally in the US as hotel housekeepers through work placement programs.

JThe gap between haves and have-nots continued throughout the trip with shopkeepers and street vendors harassing passersby at the tourist hotspots and officials casually overcharging for required admission fees. Even the airport, which is welcoming upon arrival with its modern wave-shaped roof, glass pillars, and partial open-air design is a maze of duty-free and luxury shops devoid of water fountains (I asked) for those embarking the island.