|Gao Gajah: water for purifying yourself before entering the temple|
Last week I returned to Bali for the first time in over thirty years. What I found was far more complex and baffling than the childish idyll I had carried around for so long. Bali is an island of contrasts: bikinis versus traditional batik, tourist tat versus Hindu shrines, Seminyak's breeze blocks versus paddy fields and temples deep in the jungle. It seems I can only get a handle on the place by seeing it through a series of juxtapositions.
|Ubud market: a warren of a place, built like a multistorey carpark|
As with any developing country, you are confronted with the hunger to make money, the naked desire to advance, as well as the nullity of feeling in those who get left behind.
Every day women trudge along Seminyak beach with plastic bags full of t-shirts balanced on their heads. They ply all sorts of trades - as well as retailing cheap clothing, they offer hair-braiding and foot massages to the westerners lounging on their beach chairs.
|A woman carries stone slabs up the mountainside for cutting|
Finally there was the taxi driver with his mobile phone on an open line so that the voices of his three-year old twins in Java filled his cab. He doesn't think they can remember him anymore. "They very nice boys, ya," he assured us.
On the last day we visited the Bali Hyatt in Sanur - the scene of my childhood visits. It was everything I remembered - a sandy beach, colourful fishing boats, exotic pools and tropical gardens filled with frangipani and bougainvillea. If you stayed here and never ventured out, your view of Bali would come straight from the holiday brochure.
|Tegenungan waterfall: for the more adventurous tourist|
Emma Clark Lam is the author of A Sister for Margot