Sunday 19th March 2017
After two days spent surfing the polluted waves of Kuta Beach, I headed north to the town of Seminyak and checked into Capsule Hostel, which at the time was the highest rated backpacker accommodation on the whole of Bali. Entering my assigned dorm I could have been mistaken for sneaking backstage at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. In a fully-booked room of twelve beds I was the only penis present and, as I unpacked my dirty laundry, girls came in and out of the showers wrapped in nothing but towels. Girls pranced around in sexy lingerie whilst doing their make-up in the mirror. Girls stood around stark naked, unsure about what outfit to put on for that night. Girls. Girls. Girls.
The cause for the dorm to be turned into a dressing room was the Single Fin party that took place each Sunday at a beach club in Uluwatu. Sitting down at the long wooden bench in the hostel’s communal bar area and taking a sip of my first beer, an American collegiate rower called Nick told me that Capsule offered a two-hour party bus to the venue and back. He also informed me that he was without a bed for the night, the receptionist having apparently cancelled his extended booking, and that someone in his dorm the previous evening had pissed themselves. We raised a cheers and chinked our second beers.
I got onto the party bus carrying my third beer and found myself talking to a German dude called Soren and his older sister. I cracked a fourth beer whilst telling them about a friend of mine who once lost a large amount of money investing in Kazakh oil fields. Having held in a piss for so long that I was convinced I was going to give myself a urinary tract infection, we finally stopped for a toilet break. I pushed my way to the front of the bus, raced into the roadside shitter, and proceeded to let out a golden stream of glory with more pressure than a fire hose. I then replenished myself with a fifth beer before retaking my seat.
We got off the bus in Uluwatu and I went into the convenience store across the street where I purchased a sixth beer, proceeded to drink said beer in front of the cashier, and then bought a seventh. It hadn’t taken me long to realise that Single Fin was not going to be the type of party I’d enjoy. There were more pretentious fuck boys hanging around than in the smoking area of an upper-west-side New York nightclub. Therefore, whilst everyone else entered the establishment I ordered a pizza and got inadvertently involved in a drug deal. Some dude was looking to jack off some questionable weed to drunk westerners and a preppy wanker with swooping hair and wearing an elephant embroidered plaid shirt was being suckered in. After some deliberation and CSI forensic levels of investigation, however, it was concluded that he’d been suckered for some oregano instead of prime green. I laughed. “If you’re not going to smoke that can I have it to garnish my pizza with?” At this comment, the preppy wanker nearly swung for me so I departed and spent the next four hours trolling everyone in sight that I could find. When this got boring, I then bantered with Nick. He had met a lovely Canadian girl who had a spare bed in her room because her friend was off with one of the pre-described fuck boys for the evening. Everything resolved, I passed out on the bus back to Seminyak, woke up briefly for another snack when we stopped at McDonald’s, and then passed out in my hostel bed.
Monday 20th March 2017
Trying to stomach some food at the same wooden bench where I’d started drinking the previous day, I looked over to my left and enviously watched a tattoo-covered, beardy, guy demolishing a burger and fries in record time. Fraser was also from Glasgow, Scotland and we quickly made acquaintance with one another. We had such a good bond, in fact, that a week later we would go hunting for dragons together on the small Indonesian island of Komodo. After a full day of barely moving and talking utter shit, in a way that only Scottish people can do, we grabbed Nick and headed to a watering hole in Seminyak town called La Favela. It had, quite simply, the best atmosphere of any drinking establishment I’ve ever set foot it. And I’ve tested a lot off establishments in coming to that decision. Perhaps it was the chilled-out, foliage-covered, patio area; perhaps it was the selection of drinks on offer; perhaps it was the type of crowd that had been drawn in, or perhaps it was simply because it had polar-opposite vibes to Single Fin. Whatever it was, I was completely in my element.
The Canadian girl who had been kind enough to let Nick use the spare bed in her room, her dishevelled friend and a bunch of other people joined us in the utopia. One was a crazy Dutch guy who, after initially being rejected by a pair of lesbians, ended up necking off with a gorgeous Latina girl against the bar as we all danced around the heavenly air-conditioned dance floor. A laser light show played in perfect time with the tunes; the DJ playing club banger after club banger. I may not have been able to point a finger as to why I found La Favela so awesome, but I could certainly stomp a foot along to the beat of the music.
At stupid o’clock, Nick, Fraser, and I exited the club in search of a sensible bite to eat. The three of us had agreed to get a boat to the Gili party islands the following morning and were conscious about potential sea-sickness. The Dutch guy, however, wasn’t. “Kaasoufle,” he yelled, pointing across the street. “Bitterballen! Oh my God, frikandel!” I couldn’t believe my eyes. Directly opposite La Favela was a traditional Dutch hole-in-the-wall. I used to live in the Netherlands when studying, so for me what happened next wasn’t a real surprise, but the others looked on in absurdness as the Dutch guy marched quickly over; jammed some money in a slot between the bricks; opened a release door, and took out his fried treats from within. Fast food the traditional Dutch way. As he bit into his battered cheese sticks a look of glee spread across his face, and at that moment he must have been the happiest man on the island. It’s amazing what a bit of home comfort can do to a grown man when on a different continent 12,000km away.
Tuesday 21st March 2017
I clung onto the railings for dear life as waves came crashing over the top of the speedboat. With no seats left indoors the three of us had been instructed by the lunatic captain to sit on the roof. Little did we realise upon tentatively agreeing to do so, however, that he would proceed to lead us directly into the eye of a thunderstorm. Not that we had much say in the matter. As reggae music blasted from a crackling speaker, we were simultaneously drenched to the bone whilst being fumigated from the five outboard motors working overtime to keep us upright. “Fancy a beer?” asked Fraser, unzipping his bag in a moment of steadiness to reveal three cans. “Do I ever,” said Nick, cracking open a cold one.
“Where are we staying tonight?” I asked him as we, somewhat remarkably, put our feet on the dry sands of Gili Trawangan without throwing up our Dutch dinner. “My mate’s place,” he responded, leading Fraser and me up onto the cobbled main street and past heaps of rubble. In January 2017, the local government had come along and bulldozed all the beach bars that had been built on the water side of the road, claiming that they had been constructed illegally and without proper permission. They had never bothered disposing of the resultant debris, however, and it spread out as a horrific eyesore for the tourists and incessant reminder for the locals of who’s really in charge. “Awesome,” said Fraser. “I didn’t realise that you had a friend on the island. I thought we were just booking into a hostel.” “That is the name of the hostel,” laughed Nick in response. “It’s called My Mate’s Place.”
“What’s your wifi password?” I asked the guy behind the desk after checking in. “Go fuck yourself,” he responded. “Sorry?” I frowned, taken aback. “‘Gofuckyourself’,” he repeated. “That’s the wifi password. No spaces between the words.” I chuckled. These were my type of people.
Wednesday 22nd March 2017
Nick and Fraser went on a booze cruise where, much to the displeasure of the steroid-induced fuck boys with their sleeve tattoos and two-figure-IQs, Nick showed a Godly feat of superhuman strength that sent palpitations around hearts of the women on board by pulling himself out of the ocean and back onto the boat one-handed. As they stared at this Hulk in awe, Fraser sat back, topped up his sunburn, and simply announced, ‘he came with me’.
Whilst they were sailing the seven seas, I went for a bike ride around the island with a posse who had assembled at the hostel. ‘You look familiar,’ I said to the expressive American bloke I found myself peddling alongside. ‘I get that a lot,’ laughed Eric, getting out his phone. ‘Recognise this photo?” Squinting my eyes to focus on the screen being hit by the glare of the powerful sun, I could just about make out the iconic photograph of Angelina Jolie posing in a slit-leg black dress on the red carpet of a Hollywood premiere. ‘Of course,’ I said, puzzled. ‘Well, zoom in and you might be surprised,’ he chuckled. Eric worked as a production coordinator on large annual events such as the Oscars Award Ceremony and the Super Bowl halftime show, where his daily job involved brushing shoulders with Hollywood’s elite from Oprah to Tom Hanks to Bruno Mars; the latter who he once had to fetch a very specific tuna & cheese melt sandwich for. Sure enough, standing suited and booted behind Angelina’s exposed right shoulder, was the guy cycling next to me, a Cheshire cat grin spread across his face. "You have seen me before," he laughed.
“What’s that cat over there doing?” asked a fucked-up Eric later that evening whilst Nick made-out with a Norwegian girl called, and I shit you not, Asshole. He’d consumed a bag of magic mushrooms right before we’d headed out to the bar street and was beginning to hallucinate. ‘That’s a bottle of juice,’ laughed Fraser, grimacing as Eric gave him an apologetic slap on his sunburnt back.
Thursday 23rd March 2017
Shaken awake by an earthquake registering 7.1 on the Richter scale, Fraser and I said goodbye to Nick (he was off to pursue a business venture in Brazil) and introduced ourselves to an English dude who was hanging around the hostel. Ben had come to Gili Trawangan on holiday; lost his passport; missed his flight home; learnt fluent Indonesian; married a Balinese girl; been adopted by a local family; set up the booze cruise which Fraser and Nick had been in attendance the previous day, and then got divorced. As we sat down to have a beer with him, a disheartened Ben told us that he was in the process of designing an app for visiting tourists in an attempt to save his marriage. He’d been on the island for three years. “Want to come to my house and smoke some blunts?” he asked, lonely and looking for company. “Sorry man,” I said. “That’s not really my thing.” He was a good bloke and I hoped for his sake that things would work out for him.
Friday 24th March 2017
Sat around the wooden benches in the common area of the hostel, Brendan, the owner of My Mate’s Place, introduced us to a drinking game called ‘mushroom cup’. It was a load of fun and as I tried to balance a beer bottle on the ass of a Canadian slut who would go on to bang an Afghan guy later that evening, Brendan proceeded to lose at his own game in spectacular fashion and became blind-drunk. A large Canadian dude in a Hawaiian shirt at the other end of the table, much displeased at the acts of his fellow countrywoman, said that he recognised us from Capsule Hostel and the Single Fin party; a miracle considering that I’d barely even set foot in the bar itself.
“I probably didn’t speak to you that night because I was in a bit of a bad mood,” he admitted. “The previous night I was asleep in my bed when I felt a warm sensation rubbing against my leg. Startled, I awoke to find a naked German girl squatting at the end of my bed and pissing on me. Her eyes were bloodshot red like she had been possessed by the devil and she was so off her face on mushrooms that when I tried to ask her what the hell she was doing she just stared through me like I was a poltergeist. I’ve had better night’s sleep.”
Saturday 25th March 2017
“I’ve got a text from Ben,” said Fraser as we lazed about on some beanbags. Both of us had decided that it was far too hot to be outside on this day, our last on Gili Trawangan before making the short trip to the more chilled out sister island of Gili Air. “He’s offered to take us on a private snorkelling trip and drop us off at our next stop so that we don’t have to worry about getting the public ferry boat.” I had reservations about this, Ben being the type of person who would probably struggle to organise a piss up in a brewery, so was relieved when a second message came through to say that his offer, unfortunately, had to be revoked because the engine on the boat he’d sourced had blown up on the way across the bay.
Fraser and I went back to Plan A, which saw us lugging our bags across Gili Air from the public ferry port on the south side of the island to Begadang Backpackers, the hippie commune style accommodation we’d booked for a few nights for the sole reason that it had a pineapple-shaped swimming pool. No complaints could, therefore, be made when we found out that our beds for the night were nothing but a couple of dirty mattresses on a raised bamboo plinth; an al fresco affair exposed entirely to the elements and with only torn mosquito nets for protection. As I dumped my bag and took a seat I spotted a familiar face lounging in one of the hammocks. “Eric,” I exclaimed as a naked Indonesian child suddenly sprinted across the clearing and dive bombed into the pool. “Fancy seeing you here. How are things?”
“Not too well, man,” he admitted, his voice shaky and weak. “I had my first ever diving lesson today and my body failed to adjust to the change in pressure correctly. Whilst underwater during training I started to bleed from my nose and ears into my mask. I looked like one of those Scream Masks that kids dress up in at Halloween. Safe to say that it will also be my last ever diving lesson.”
Sunday 26th March 2017
With Gili Air being very much a chill-out island compared to the rowdy and boisterous Trawangan, we hung around the pool all day and ate, lazily paying an extra charge for delivery even although the restaurant was literally just across the road. We also figured out that this is where the naked kid had appeared from the day before, his father clearly having turned his back on the little nipper for one second too long. Lauren, a cool New Yorker who had studied down in New Orleans, considered helping me put together a novel sports day by making the best use of the basketball hoop, volleyball court, and tightrope that were set up, but in the end, it seemed like too much effort in the sweltering heat.
Instead, I spent the day worrying about the gnarly purple mark that had appeared across my translucent white chest, morbidly guessing that I’d somehow either contracted meningitis or that it was varicose veins that had formed because I was pregnant. Fraser and Lauren told me that I was being over-dramatic and that my self-diagnosis may be slightly off.
Monday 27th March 2017
Convincing Lauren to come back to Seminyak with us with the promise of an epic night out in La Favela, the three of us got a return boat to Bali and Fraser ordered take away McDonald’s to the Capsule bar area (just because he could). In our room, we met Peter, a PE teacher and basketball star from Germany with his own Facebook fan page. He broke the sad news to us that, because it was Balinese New Year that day, La Favela was closed, but then quickly heightened our spirits by showing us a video of him doing a rhythmic gymnastics floor routine in front of his students; black leotard, pompoms, and all.
Following a rather uninspiring and extremely amateurish parade that made its way through the town centre with no real gusto, we returned to the hostel to find out that we would then be locked-in for over twenty-four hours. From 6 am the next morning until 6 am the following morning nobody on the island was allowed to go outside or use any form or artificial light as a form of respect to the Gods. As an atheist, I opposed to such restrictions, but then was reminded that the Balinese police may not see my logical protests in such a similar light; or with any light at all.
Prepared for the occasion, Peter got out a bottle of whisky that he had hidden in his rucksack and we headed to the rooftop for some star gazing. There, whilst trying to pick out the North Star and forgetting I was still in the southern hemisphere, I met a girl from my hometown who used to shag a mate of mine. Small world. As hostel management came and confiscated Peter’s whisky, we called it a night, called the next day void, and hit the hay. Two months later, Peter and I would rendezvous in Cambodia to play cowboys and Indians in a war museum with real firearms. Fraser and Lauren would reconvene in New Zealand to spend four weeks cruising around both islands on a hop-on-hop-off party bus. None of us would forget our time in Bali and the crazy people we met.