Bali trip: part one
We walked down Legion Street, looking for things to see in Bali. On both sides of the street were shops, bars and restaurants. Australian and Chinese tourists were everywhere. The bars, even this early in the day, had old white men drinking. We turned right, towards the beach. Massage girls handed out fliers. Taxis asked if we wanted rides. Shop owners invited us inside. The poorest approached us, selling fans and bracelets and junk.
Across from the beach was a nice outdoor mall, with sidewalks that curved in and around the stores like a pretzel. Facing the ocean, we ate breakfast burritos. Trees and a wall blocked my view of the waves.
We checked out a basement supermarket. Like I saw in the little shops on the streets, the supermarket also had wooden penises. Dick imitations are an Australian obsession. At a ski resort in Hokkaido I once saw an Australian girl build a penis in the snow, shout “SNOW PENIS,” and jump on it ass first.
Zucchini looked at different hair treatments, taking her time, not able make a choice.
A short Indonesian guy, while Zucchini and I were in conversation, said “excuse me” in Japanese as he walked past. He wore a black Djarum cigarette shirt. That’s what he was here for, to buy a pack. I recognized the brand because my friends and I, when we were 18, thought they were cool because they were black.
He walked towards us again, after buying the cigarettes, stopped in front of me and said: “Your Japanese is good.”
His was better. He said his wife and mother were Japanese. He explained to Zucchini the differences in the hair treatments. I thought he’d leave after that but then he asked us what we were doing in Bali. When he heard I was looking forward to surfing, he said his buddy nearby, right on the beach, rented surfboards and gave lessons. We agreed to follow him and check it out, but said we didn’t plan to surf until tomorrow.
His name was Ryuki. He talked and laughed and smiled a lot. His energy was like a small dog’s. While he waited for us to pay at the register, he told us to be careful with our money since the rupiah has so many numbers. “Cross off the last two numbers and you roughly have the price in yen; four numbers and the price in dollars.” So 1,000,000 rupiah was 10,000 yen or 100 dollars.
At the beach we sat in chairs and he introduced two of his friends: one an Indonesian guy who rented the surfboards and had a belly that went over his trunks; the other a Japanese guy covered in tattoos who owned a kabikura.
All down the beach were surfboard rentals. They were spaced as close together as checkers on a checkerboard. Besides surfboards, to set up shop, it seemed you only needed chairs, parasols, an ice chest and beer. They told me I could rent a board for $30 a day. I’d read online that boards could be rented elsewhere for $5 or less.
As we sat there, Ryuki learned what things Zucchini wanted to see in Bali. His friend had a car and they could take us wherever we wanted. We asked him how much that would cost us and he said, while Zucchini was looking at her Bali travel magazine on her kindle, whatever was the normal going rate. Sounded fair enough, so we agreed.
The driver showed up a half hour later, stepped out of a black mini van and opened the sliding door for us. He had sandals, sunglasses, jean shorts, and sun-streaked long hair past his shoulders. He was a surf instructor. You could tell he got laid a lot. His name was Audi.
He didn’t say anything at first. I don’t know if it was true or not, but Ryuki said that in Indonesia it’s against the law to talk while driving. “What about singing? Can you do that?” I asked. “That’s probably okay,” he said.
Ryuki met his Japanese wife in Bali eight year ago when she was on vacation. They’d been married for two. She gave up pork to become a muslim too. He lived in Japan for a short time but didn’t like it. It was too cold there, he said, and he didn’t like the long work hours. Zucchini asked what his job was now. He said exports and imports. If he meant exporting and importing tourists to attractions on commission, he was right.
It took a long time to get out of the city. Traffic moved slow. Scooters dangerously cut in between cars. One caused Audi to slam on the brakes and say “fuck.”
I asked him if Indonesians ever experience road rage and chase down the other driver and smash their car with a baseball bat.
“No ….. We might get angry for two seconds . . . say something like fuck . . . then we’re fine.”
Ryuki said, “Audi speaks good English.”
I told Audi that Zucchini was studying English and asked him how he learned it.
“I learned on the beach. Just go beach. Talk to tourists. It’s easier to learn English from Europeans who speak it as a second language. They don’t talk as fast. If I don’t know a word, I might write it down and search it at home.”
It was the first time we were hearing him speak. As if good looks weren’t enough good fortune for one man, he had the ideal deep voice too. And unlike most Asians, it didn’t seem like Indonesians had a thick accent. At one point he pushed his sunglasses on his head and you could see his eyes in the rearview mirror.
Later, when Zucchini and I were having a dinner alone, she said when she first saw those eyes her heart jumped from her chest. I said that may be so but don’t you forget he’s not an American, and I shouted AMERICA, AMERICA, AMERICA—LAND OF THE BEST MEN IN THE WORLD.
He was a “Kuta Cowboy.” That’s what these Australian women who visit Bali to get banged out refer to them as. They make vaginas gush like squeezed grapefruits. It doesn’t matter if they’re old or young, the “Kuta Cowboys” will ride them for little prize money. Their motto is “A face like Italy, a body like Toyota.”
It was hot in the van. I started to sweat. The AC was off and the windows were up. I looked at Zucchini; sweat beaded on her forehead. I looked at Ryuki and Audi; they didn’t sweat at all.
“Do you mind if we smoke?” Audi asked.
“No, I don’t mind.”
They rolled down the windows. The air that blew back in my face, even though it smelt like cigarettes, felt good. Every time they smoked, which was often, they offered me one.
We climbed in elevation, occasionally passing a street with cafes, shops, and tourists. The rice terrace that Zucchini wanted to see was ahead. Just before the road gave us a view of it, rain pounded the windshield.
We kept going up. Where to? I didn’t know, but we escaped the rain. We reached a summit, paid a military guard and parked in front of a restaurant.
Behind the restaurant was an observation deck and a not so spectacular view. There was a volcano and a lake, a complete waste of time if in you’re life you’ve already seen a volcano and a lake.
Ryuki asked if we were hungry but we weren’t. The restaurant was a buffet and probably expensive, and he probably got a commission. He looked down over the railing and sniffed for wild marijuana.
The mountain air felt good to Zucchini and I. It was the coolest temperature I’ve felt since leaving California in May. Ryuki was cold and hugging himself. Besides us, there were only two others on the platform, two women doing yoga on yoga mats. “How stupid,” Ryuki commented.
We returned the way we came. Zucchini hoped to catch a better view of the rice terrace this time. But just like the first time, as soon as we got close it rained buckets again. Audi slowed to a stop, backing up traffic, and Ryuki rolled down his window and snapped a picture for her.
We visited a coffee plantation. In the van on the way there, I overheard him and Zucchini saying something about wild cats, Thailand elephants, coffee and shit. It would all make sense soon enough.
We stepped out of the van and a Quasimodo-looking man greeted us. We followed him into the trees. Ryuki pointed out coffee plants. There was a cage. Inside it was an ugly, feral, rodent cat. It’s called a civet, a nocturnal animal that’s native to tropical Africa and Asia.
We entered a clearing. There were piles of gathered coffee beans. One of the piles looked like grey, lumpy clumps of peanut brittle. I picked one up and rubbed it between my fingers and thumb. “What are you doing!?” Zucchini said. “That’s dried cat poop. Weren’t you listening earlier?”
Everyone laughed at me. I wiped my hands on Zucchini’s shirt. I’d never heard of such a thing. Why, when you had perfectly good beans, would you pick through shit to roast undigested beans that came out of an ugly animal’s asshole?
Quasimodo pointed to where they collected the poop.
We sat at picnic tables. A woman set an assortment of coffees and teas in front of us, so many and in big enough cups that I thought we had to pay for them.
They were free samples. One was the cat shit brew; it didn’t taste extra special. I guess you have to be a coffee connoisseur to appreciate it. Apparently anywhere else it’s expensive. Apparently people have been harvesting coffee bean poop from elephants and these cats for years. Fermentation occurs in the digestive track. Then the animal’s enzymes seep into the beans. Then the beans pass through the intestines and out the ass. What I drank and fondled in my hands was called “kopi luwak.” From what I have read, at $700 per kilogram in America, $100 in Indonesia, $20 in the Philippines, it’s one of the most expensive coffees in the world.
The “chousen ninjen” tea (Korean tea or ginseng), Ryuki said, made you powerful in bed. I liked how he used the word “powerful” instead of “horny” or “increased libido” or “sexual potency” or “sexual stamina.” Two Japanese doctors had also used the word “powerful” when they taught me the effects of eating a soft-shelled snapping turtle in soup called suppon, a high-quality delicacy.
Zucchini had asked earlier if Ryuki had kids. He said no but he and his wife had been trying once a night. So that he may try twice tonight, I pushed the chousen ninjen tea in front of him.
There was a shop in the corner. Several of the teas and coffees were tasty so it was hard not to buy anything. Zucchini bought some packages for friends and herself. She got me the chousen ninjen. I’ve needed the power lately. They tried to convince me to buy the cat shit brew. I could give the beans to a friend, they said, and not tell them how it was made until they had roasted themselves a cup.
It was dark now. The temple Zucchini wanted to see was closed. Ryuki suggested a traditional, theatrical, dance performance instead. Tickets were $10 each. The seats and stage, I was excited to see, were like an Ancient Greek theater. More tourists entered; a group of large women and a Chinese family with two babies in strollers. I’ve been telling Zucchini, unless they’re family, I hate babies. In a lot of ways the Chinese are like babies; they yell, shit and spit everywhere.
I read the program. If I remember the gist of it right, it was about a devil who steals a king’s beautiful queen. He fights the devil and wins her back.
Shirtless boys took the stage first. They sat down in a group. A man came out. He sat down too. He’d howl like an African and the kids would raise their hands and repeat “Ahhhhh shukkaa shukkka shukka. Ahhhh shukka shukkka shukaaa” over and over again. Two girls came out and moved their arms up, to one side, to the other side, like a hula dance. I strained my eyes to see if they were pretty. They could have been underage but I couldn’t tell without glasses.
The king and devil fought in slow motion. It was incredibly boring to anyone who’s grown up on WWF. I would have rather watched snails fuck for an hour. I used the the better part of an hour to call forth as many memories as I could from junior high school.
Ryuki didn’t ask how the performance was. He probably knew it was shit.