Nepal | January 22, 2020

Bali calling

Skanda Gautam/ THT

THT photog Skanda Gautam heads to Bali for a family wedding; he enjoys not only chilled beer and poop coffee, but also togetherness and crazy times with his nearest and dearest

A lighting strike is pictured from an aircraft at an area in Singapore. Photo: Skanda Gautam/THT

So, my brother, who lives in the US, was getting married. Arrange a visa, head to the States to attend the wedding — that’s a lot of work. I thought I’d just wish him from here. A few days later, a Viber group was created including me and other children from my maternal family, and all of my mother’s sisters — eight in total. Now the wedding would take place in Bali, Indonesia. Wow a ‘Destination Wedding’!

More excited than ever, I agreed that I was going. So I started saving, and yes the time finally came.

I took leave from office for 10 days, booked the tickets for my mother and me, and started packing. When I left my house and reached the airport, it didn’t feel like I was actually going to Bali, but when I sat on the plane, I realised that my journey had begun. The flight, which was pretty chilled with a couple of beers, was of around four hours to Singapore, our transit point.

Then through tough Singapore security, helped by Starbucks coffee and a coconut drink, we were finally on our way to Bali.

So Bali. What can I say? The first thing that crossed my mind is ‘hot and sweaty’. As we got the hang of the weather, we found our guide, and an hour’s drive to the villa.

The sight along the way was awesome — statues of Hindu deities were around every street and corner. And you could see beautiful hand-carved statues of Ganesha and other deities in the shops, a breathtaking scene, their faith in religion, how they worship the gods.

I later found out that they are so religious that all of Bali was closed for two days for New Year’s prayers a day before we arrived. They meditate and pray at temples and their homes.

The villa was like a dream house with a swimming pool. The first thing I did was leave my baggage and go to a local pub for some chilled beers. The most popular and loved beer was Bintang, which cost 25,000 rupiah a bottle — shocking at first, but I later realised it’s around Rs 200.

People from all over the world, especially Australians come here to surf.

The weather is humid, so you sweat like crazy. It is constant summer with no winter, and even the metrology can’t predict rainfall. So it’s mandatory to spend your day in the pool with yes, chilled beer.

The local food was amazing, and hospitality commendable. The beautiful sunset by the ocean added to our first few days making everything surreal.

We also went for Luwak coffee tasting where they give you different drinks of flavoured tea and coffee, which was all free until you wished to drink the world’s most expensive coffee — Luwak animal poop coffee. The process to extract the poop was amazing using traditional hand method of collection to packing. A small cup cost us around 350,000 million Indonesian rupiah, and to buy a small pack I spent nearly 750,000 million rupiah, a gift for my dad that equals around $80. Crazy right? And it was really strong too.

The monkey temple was cool, more like a jungle with amazing sculptures of deities and filled with monkeys, better looking than the ones from Nepal. More mature looking I must say.

Then we visited the Saroswati Temple famous for its lotus blooms. Most people come for wedding photo shoots.

I also pampered myself to a fish spa for my feet. So ticklish!

Then the big day arrived — everything had to be Nepali style, the groom in a car to the wedding temple to the attire to the wedding dance janti. People were amazed, a few even made attempts to film the wedding.

About 50 guests attended the wedding.

The temple where the wedding was held was a massive one dedicated to Lord Shiva. The rituals were in Sanskrit language and I couldn’t understand any of it! The ritual was short as compared to Nepal, the ceremony concluded in just around two hours.

My brother had hired an amazing wedding planner. The ceremony was for two days — mehendi night at our new villa by the beach with black sand, a Jacuzzi and a swimming pool and breathtaking view of the surfers. The whole night was a blast with no sleep where my phone dived into the pool and died. Sad story but …

The next day was the wedding — early morning ceremony by the ocean and janti in 1940s classic vehicle headed towards the temple where the ceremony took place. The reception took place in the evening where a Balinese fire dancer showcased all kinds of acts and fire tricks. The decoration was beautiful with all the lights reflected by the pool of our villa.

We had heard of the popular Bali swing, so the last day we spent seeing that and other sites and shopping places.

Though we had a few mishaps  — a few had their luggage arriving a day late, one bashed his head swimming at 3:00 am, one broke his leg, my aunt lost $1,200, and I dropped my phone in the pool, it was one heck of a week.

As I write this story, I still feel the wind, the ocean, my family’s laughter and the closeness we felt coming together from different parts of the world for a week, leaving our hectic lives behind to enjoy and be together in a beautiful new place and for such an auspicious occasion. It was an experience of a life time.

A version of this article appears in print on March 28, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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