Kings of the Wild World Tour: Bali

John Tyrrell is one half of nouveau breaksmiths Kings of the Wild Frontier. In November 1999 he set out on a world tour and this is his neo-Kerouac on the road diary, a kind of continuation of the Kings' "Trans Am" ep which journeyed across the U.S.A from East to West appropriating local musical styles as it went.

Below are the emissives he and travelling companion Jo have been beaming back to base.


Tuesday January 13th, 2000

Ey up. How's thee? We've done one from Thailand and taken up temporary residence at Igna2 guesthouse in the village of Ubud, central Bali. Nice spot. It's the rainy season so there's not too many tourist freaks all over the place - enough though. This place is lush lush lush. Our gaff is in a tiny little valley with palm trees, mad plants, lovely birds (the type with wings sadly), a view of the rice fields on the other side and a little stream gurgling at the bottom. Lurvely. The young fella who looks out for the place brings us coffee & pancakes when he hears us get up in the morning and tells us what the crack is round these parts. (John)

Bali is truly beautiful, it seems much more green than Thailand, although the food isn't quite so exotic. Tonight we went to see some traditional Balinese dancing. They're pretty big on fancy dances here and this particular one was amazing, called 'Kecak' or the 'Monkey Chant dance', crazy stuff, about 40 bare chested blokes with roses in their hair chanting ten to the dozen like chimps, providing the soundtrack for a mythical story about some beautiful princess getting kidnapped by a bad king who looked like Demis Roussos. Groovy spiky fingernail stuff from the dancers. Wish my fingernails could grow that long. (Jo)

I got Jo to take my pic with the two leading chicks - hot stuff baby. The blokes kept making this noise while they were chanting like Chevy Chase when he's on the putting green with Danny in Caddyshack - 'na na na na na - noo noo noo noo noo'. Good work.

Happy New Year by the way. We stayed on Lanta and let off a big rocket on the beach listening to Dogstar tunes. We also went to a belting Muay Thai (boxing) fight on Lanta before we left. One bloke was like Sugar Ray Leonard in his prime - cheeky and unstoppable. We headed back to Bangkok after Lanta and had an away-day in Ayutthaya - an ancient seat of power. Lots of piles of old bricks. Very nice though. Anna's still in Bangkok - we reckon she'll be OK - we found a killer old 50's hotel called the Atlanta with a pool, fine food and a good line in old jazz standards. Nice. (John)

John was obviously too embarrassed to mention that at midnight on New Year's Eve we were actually prancing around on the beach waving sparklers in the air and singing Robbie William's 'Millenium' at the tops of our voices, so I just thought I'd throw that one in for those of you who thought we were being too cool for school. It was quite sad leaving Thailand, lots of great memories; the good, the bad and the bizarre; runaway elephants, two legged dogs, entire families travelling on one tiny moped, women riding side saddle, legless beggars on skateboards, people sleeping everywhere, on pavements, in shops, in hammocks, on the floors of trains, food stuff on sticks and in banana leaves, kids playing football and kicking each other in Muay Thai style, but most of all our best memories are of the friendliness of the people here, especially Billy, our waiter on Koh Lanta who kindly informed John that he should not be asking for 'Naam Wau' in a restaurant (as he'd been previously advised) because that particular phrase meant something entirely different from 'plain water' and in actual fact referred to a rather more intimate fluid. Nuff said. (Jo)

Friday, January 29th, 2000

We left our intrepid heroes in the bosom of the Igna 2 bungalows, downtown Ubud, Bali. In the end we spent a full week with Wayan's breakfast in the little jungle valley. In that time we took in a cremation service of a member of the local nobility, which is a much jazzier affair than you might expect. The whole town turned out in all their finery and a huge procession wove randomly down the main street of the town to the cemetary. In the crowd were a Gamelan band banging out a few bouncy little numbers, loads of chicks with mountainous offerings on their heads, and tons of blokes, most of them employed to carry the two huge bamboo rafts on their shoulders, one of which carried a big black wooden bull, and the other a 20ft tower from which a priest hung on for dear life sloshing holy water over the crowds below. Everytime they hit a junction in the road they all surged around shouting like a crowd at a football match so the spirit of the dead woman gets confused and doesn't try to find its way home. When they hit the cemetary they stuffed the corpse inside the bull and set fire to everthing they could lay their hands on. Bit of a showstopper all told. (John)

The evenings were spent checking out more traditional Balinese dancing. Loads more fancy costumes, sexy chicks and scary monsters. Each dance told a story which usually involved some monkeying around (literally) some blokes dressed up in monkey costumes making those wierd martial arts grunts and squeals. Very amusing. John and I have now developed an obsession with the idea of getting hold of that old Tv programme 'Monkey' on video, we're dying to watch it again. Before we left Ubud we went on a day trip around the island. Saw our first real live volcano - Gunung Batur - which had the most magnificent lake lying in it's crater. It's dormant at the moment so there was no fiery lava or clouds of smoke pouring forth from it, but it still looked pretty impressive. Apparently it's exploded a few times with devastating consequences, but it's been quiet since 1994. Stopped at the Elephant Cave temple; no elephants in sight, just some piles of rubble inside purporting to be relics of stone phalluses and John had to wear a sarong so we could go inside. We were also taken to a holy spring which we weren't allowed to bathe in as we are not practising Hindus. Then we went round another volcanic mountain - Gunung Agung - the big one with a temple on it's slopes that has miraculously escaped being demolished by eruptions several times. More fine landscapes were viewed as we were driven round the island. Taken to a place which boasted 'very good views of rice terraces' but when we got there we were reliably informed by our driver that it was a 'very good view of peanut terraces' - they plant peanuts in between the rice crops. Still a pretty good view of the lovely green stepped slopes though. Lush place this Bali. (Jo)

While we were in Ubud Wayan tipped us off about a bit of a skirmish over in Lombok. Seems like a bunch of Muslim troublecausers kicked off at an 'anti-sectarian violence' rally and burned down every Christian church they could find. We'd been planning to head to Lombok and also the allegedly very beautiful Gilli Islands, but it looked like we'd have to search for a beach paradise elsewhere. Lovina up on the northern coast, our first stop after Ubud, wasn't the place to find it. It was desperately dead when we arrived and the hawkers on the 'black sand' beach (mucky looking more like) lined themselves up in our field of vision waving the usual tourist tat so we couldn't even peacefully gaze across the waves. But then we only really went to Lovina for one thing - the dolphins. At 6am we oozed out of bed and hopped into the hull of a spider-like trimaran to join about a dozen other little boats to search for our romantic friends. Just when we'd started to think it was all in vain someone in a boat a little way away stood up and pointed, then it was a frantic game of cat & mouse as the dolphins appeared, flowing gracefully through the waves, only to disappear then reappear somewhere else completely unexpected. Every time our boatman spotted them he cackled manically, put his foot down and hurtled after them, while we held on for dear life. Cliches aside, dolphins are very beautiful creatures, and they even treated us to some very spectacular leaps from the water. Well worth the punishing early start. (John)

Seeing as we were up so early we decided to take a chance on the local public transport systems and venture out to some nearby hot springs to chill out. Hailed a local bus to Banjar, the nearest town and then (feeling too tired to walk) we took our lives in our hands and jumped on the back of a couple of motorcycle taxis which speedily whisked us up the hill to the springs. This is the kind of relaxation therapy you read about in womens magazines. Pouring forth from the mouths of some magnificent stone sculptures and into three beautiful pools was the freshest, greenest mountain water I'd ever seen. Having had to get used to the cold showers offered by our accomodation I'd been dreaming of having a warm bath for ages so this hot, steamy spring water pummeling our poor, knackered bodies seemed like pure luxury. And to think that rich folk spend thousands of pounds on expensive health farms and spas and this hydrotherapy only cost us 10p. Bliss. (Jo)

With our plans to travel to Lombok and Gilli lying broken on the rocks we scoured the Lonely Planet for some other hot beach destination to satisfy our craving. We decided to head for Nusa Lembongan, an island off the SE coast of Bali featuring "arcs of white sand". On the way we stopped at Sanur for a night where we narrowly avoided being properly ripped off by a money changer. They used devious sleight of hand to short change us by 100 grand (about a tenner), but my suspicions were aroused and a quick count up revealed their skill. I had a quiet chat with the chaps and the damage was reversed. Phew. A bumpy morning boat ride took us to Lembongan the next day, and as we approached the palm fringed coastline reminded us of Thailand for a moment. Feeling hopeful we 'docked' (sploshed through the shallows with our rucksacks) only to discover the whole place was a bit of a scruffy neglected dump that stank of seaweed. Boo. On top of this I'd contracted a wild dose of 'Bali Belly'. A day later Jo's guts followed suit. Nasty stuff. The saving grace of the island was the staff at Mainski Inn where we stayed. It was a favourite haunt of surfer dudes and the whole place was plastered with stickers and graffiti. The four Balinese lads who worked there, Tango, Waxy, Sylver & Bruce Lee (ha), meanwhile had taken to mimicking the Aussie accents and phrases with varying degrees of success, but it kept the cheap laffs flowing steadily. (John)

When John introduced himself they immediately started calling him 'Jon Bon Jovi', such was their love of rock music. Bruce Lee knew all the words to a string of Gun's N 'Roses songs. Tango picked up on my Northern accent when I asked for a cheese 'n tomato jaffle (basically a breville sandwich toastie) he heard me drop my 'T' in tomato and that was that. He kept calling me 'cheese n' tomato' after that. Actually that was about all we could eat the whole time we were there what with the dodgy tummy situation. Confined to barracks, we spent alot of time playing scrabble and watching TV. They like soap operas and Ska music over here, but my favourite stuff to watch was the adverts. (Jo)

After 3 nights nursing our bellies we gladly set out back to the mainland to seek out the dude capital of Bali, Kuta. Turns out not to be such a bad little spot. I've been enjoying myself being rude to all the hawkers who buzz around incessantly whenever you go near the beach, and we found some huge shops and supermarkets which are always good for a few hours window shopping. But despite the shopping Nirvana here in Kuta I still haven't been able to track down what I wanted - the political party in power here called PDI Perjuangan have this superb red & black bull head logo which is plastered all over the place, but I'll be damned if I can find one of the t-shirts I keep jealously spotting on the backs of the Balinese folk. (John)

There's a strong surfie scene here in Kuta so there's loads of tanned, toned blokes with bleached-blonde hair strutting around with their chests bared carrying boards and sporting Hawaiian shorts. Haven't actually seen much action in the sea, they just like posing in the local hangout the 'Warung 96' restaurant, where the food is cheap and the music is 'RAWK'. It's a pretty friendly place to chill out though and there's some wicked paintings on the ceiling. Much better than in the local 'Art Market' which isn't actually an art market at all, it's just full of crappy T shirt stalls. (Jo)

We did the ol' 'cheap accomodation - pay to use someone elses pool' trick again and we've spent a couple of lovely lazy days sploshing around going wrinkly in the sun. We even hired deck chairs on the beach one day for a bit of proper Scarborough style R&R. And the lure of the Kecak monkey-chant dance proved too much for us, so we went for second helpings at the cliff top temple of Ulu Watu at sun set. Very dramatic setting, and another quality dose of Bali high drama & that fantastic chanting. I even bought a CD of it, some of which might find its way onto my next hit single...

Now its all over and tonight we're off down the yellow brick road to Darwin to see what the mighty Oz has in store for us. (John)

Tramp back to Thailand or say g'day to Australia


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