It was 1973. I’d been in Australia since September of 1971 and was ready to travel again. You’ve heard part of the story—the hard and adventurous part through Timor— but I was now in Bali, which was an undiscovered paradise at that time. I spent over a month there, sipping “magic ice juice” and trying to avoid durian. We were living well on $1 a day. 25 cents for bed and breakfast, a quarter for lunch and 50 cents for a lobster dinner at night. Pot and magic mushrooms were available by the grocery bag full and were not yet a hanging offense. Everyone was high all the time!
We stayed in a house with a man who had 4 wives, but was the loneliest man in Bali, afraid to spend time with his beautiful new wife lest his oldest wife find out and demand equal attention. If he bought one wife a gift, it was the law (of both his religion and his house) that he buy an equal gift for all of the others, and feeling financially challenged, the result was that he stayed away from home and his “crony wives” as much as possible. He took us to the rice paddies to see where the village bathed and was disappointed, I think, when we didn’t remove our clothes and join them.
We toured temples where signs said, “It is forbidden to enter women during menstruation” and visited elephant caves, the homes of famous artists, had massages and avoided bare-breasted old women who kept trying to raise our blouses to see what our breasts looked like. Certainly there must be something wrong with them that we kept them covered all the time. One of our fellow-travelers, a very large-breasted woman who was a practical nurse from New Zealand, posed nude for a Balinese batik artist, but we never saw the fruits of his labor.
On certain evenings, the entire town of Kuta turned into one huge gamelan orchestra with the floors of entire small buildings covered with kneeling players, mallets in hand. Processions would wind through the street toward temples, the women with high stacks of baskets and floral offerings, the priests making animal sacrifices of small chickens—everyone in the trance of the music and the occasion, some of us still under the trance of the magic mushrooms we’d consumed in an omelet 3 days before.
You couldn’t eat the salad, but the fruit, the music, the rice paddies, the temples, the sacred monkey forest, the art, the people and the price—you couldn’t beat.
The Prompt: Salad Days—Is there a period in your own personal life that you think of as the good old days? Tell us a story about those innocent and/or exciting times (or lack thereof).