Sanur Beach area, Denpasar, Bali, Oct. 29

For a day that was officially designated as “rest,” it sure got filled up with activity and discoveries. I was slow in getting going, having breakfast at 9:15 a.m….but then I realized from the number of other hotel guests also showing up at that time that, oh yeah, right, this is what people do when they are on vacation.

Since so much of my travel in the past ten years has been research related, I’m quite rusty in the skill of full-blown relaxation. I think it was the poet Gary Snyder who, in recounting a Zen teaching, said one of the hardest spiritual tasks is to “waste time conscientiously.” People were on their loungers by the pool at 9:15, had beers going by 11, and were still there at 4:00 when I took off for my second walk. Hope they have good dermatologists. I could go on at some length about the other guests and their physical dispositions (especially the scorched red German fellow with full upper body tattoo) but there are more interesting things to talk about.

My first walk of the day was in the late morning when I knew it’d be hot and sultry, but I wanted to try it out and see how well my “filters” were working.

(Digression: This is one conception of how we go through our lives and environments. It comes from Mr. Tokyo, who must navigate streets around the Shinjuku area on a regular basis and must therefore know what he’s talking about. He has teased me on past visits when I’m newly arrived and gawking
at this and that and he asks me, “Filters not in place, eh?” It’s easy to
create a long and interactive list of what these filters might be, ranging
from emotional states to general interpretive skills (based on education, 
background, gender, etc.), and all bound up with culture and any given
social moment shaped by historical forces & so on. The point is that we
all have them in operation much of the time, but knowing this is so makes
all the difference between awareness and default defense mechanisms.)

Before I even made it to the roundabout with the Ganesha statue in the middle marking the right turn to the beach, I stopped at a temple and tried to figure out what deities were involved and the directionality of the altars. Some faced east, others north, none west that I could tell, and it was all rather run down and in need of cleaning. I had already noticed the little offerings that businesses put out in front of their establishments–ranging from the smallest sandal shop to big resorts. (I’ll def. get more info. about these offerings in the coming days).

The beach itself was alternately glorious and squalid, expansive and claustrophobic. A long line of parasols with foreigners under each and every one was far back from the surf and in the shade of trees. Since it was around 11:30 a.m., hardly anyone except boys and fishermen were in the water, and there were signs out warning of jellyfish. I found a pavilion at the end of a little jetty and so could enjoy the relative calm of the mid-day lull.

Walked on past the Hyatt and wasn’t much impressed, then back to Sativa Sanur cottages for a siesta followed by a swim. The pool water was like a bathtub and, while refreshing simply because it’s not hot like the afternoon air, it was just too warm to stay in very long. But I felt rejuvenated afterwards and wanted to walk the other direction than what I did in the morning.

The path I thought I could take through the Hotel Mercur grounds turned out to be wrong on the map, so I continued until I found a road leading to beach access (one that went by a place called “Hidden Paradise”). And what a beach! It must have been some kind of school and work holiday because it was just full of local folks. I was the only foreigner in sight and so tried to sit in a shadow and not be conspicuous.

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If there were jellyfish in the water, everyone was sure toughing it out. Little kids w/ parents (all women and girls were covered, if only in a t-shirt and short pants…but there were no swimsuits that I could see.) Men and boys were in their skivvies and that seemed normal. There were food vendors carrying big trays on top their heads, couples on dates all dressed up looking cool and pretty, families on blankets, young toughs carousing and noshing each other in water fights, little boys climbing up the side of parked boats to jump off, and all lit up in a late afternoon sunlight.

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Adding to the scene was an abandoned trawler, listing slightly and waiting for the next typhoon to finally go down. In walking down the beach a bit, I heard an eerie hum that I at first thought was a recording but turned out to be an upright bamboo with vertical and triangular cuts in it. I wondered if it might be a talisman of some sort but the owner of the beachside restaurant said it was just for atmosphere. I wonder.  I loved the all-seeing boats lined up in a community of vision and order.  I hope they bring their owners plenty of fish (or tourists) and a sustainable income.

 

The walk back was a lesson in social stratification. Locals crammed into a small, heavily used, and poorly maintained beach area while just a few steps up the path (open to all) one enters the refined world of resort-land. There are gardens, lawns, restaurants in buildings rather than flimsy tin siding, security personnel, and of course the mostly caucasian clientele paying probably $150 a night and more.  Imagine a local person walking by a scene like this…

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