Bali is a delight to all the senses, the amazing views, beautiful people, and wonderful music, but I think it is the smells that let you know you are in Bali. Even after twenty years of living here, I am still amazed by all the different fragrances that I encounter on a daily basis. This morning, on my ten minute motorbike ride to work I was reminded of this:
As I dropped my daughter off at school, one of the staff members was walking past, carrying a tray of offerings to perform her daily prayers at the school temple. The intoxicating smell of the incense engulfed me as I passed, and created a fragrant bubble that stayed with me for a while after leaving the grounds. The smell of incense never fails to send me in to a state of reverie. It is a fragrance I had never encountered before coming here, and one that I never grow tired of.
From there, I drove up the street, passing a warung, where there were a group of men, enjoying a glass of coffee and a clove cigarette. The smell of cloves is one of my oldest memories of Bali. I remember being a backpacker, sitting in a small bus, surrounded by locals puffing away at these sweet smelling, but rather strong cigarettes. This morning I was not enclosed in a small space so the clove scented smoke just wafted past me, tickling my nostrils. Enough to create a memory, but not too much to induce nausea!
Next to this warung was an old man with his sate cart, fanning the sate sticks over smoldering coals, while his wife prepared the peanut sauce with her pestle and mortar. This smelt mouth wateringly good, and if I was not running late for work, I would have stopped to buy some.
As I turn on to the main road, I find myself driving behind a truck piled high with durian. This fruit is covered in spikes, and thankfully is not open, so I am not subjected to the smell. This one is not a pleasant fragrance, some people liken it to the odor of bad feet. I have never smelt feet like that, but it is a very pungent smell, and one I do not relish.
Coming the other way is another truck, this one filled with chickens, each in their own small cage, and off to I do not know where, but I do not think they are going to like it!
I move to the center of the road, and prepare to cross to my destination. I always feel I am taking my life in to my hands, as the Balinese are not very courteous drivers, and often even speed up when they see me crossing. I make it, heart in my throat, and turn down the small lane to my office, passing a couple of cows grazing on the grass by the side of the road. They are lovely, docile creatures, with beautiful brown skin, but the smell….hmm, let just say, I held my breath as I passed.
As you can see, Bali packs a great deal in to a very small area, even a ten minute ride to work has plenty to arouse the senses.