After a few near misses, I remember how hazardous the footpaths are. Trying to weave a path through streams of people, shop front awnings, scooters, Japanese lady’s umbrellas, morning Hindu offerings and the occasional unpredictable dog reminds me that a wrong step could put me on the road with a busted ankle, or waist deep in a storm water drain. As much as it is nice to be back, I can’t help but feel that every day spent here is a day of a bigger adventure wasted. I’m keen to leave for somewhere quieter, greener, with breathable air and less risk of an ankle injury. On my first night, I plough straight in and buy street food from a moped canteen. Dinner is chicken dumplings and tofu in a spicy vegetable broth. It’s searing hot, straight off the cooker, so Wayan gives me a second bowl to hold the first one. It also has a litbit of chili, he says. In the darkness I can’t see, but as I spoon it in the effect is immediate and nuclear. Half way through my bowl the lining of the roof of my mouth is hanging down in shreds like the hood lining in a cheap taxi. With the sweat pouring from glands I didn’t know I had, I doggedly continue. Wayan is rushing around for paper towels and water. Wayan’s friends are gathering to enjoy the show. It’s probably not every day a 2m tall Taiwanese businessman melts on the footpath at 10pm. But, then again, this is Bali. Perhaps it happens all the time. The next morning I’m sitting at a roadside warung eating my breakfast of mie goreng and black coffee. I watch the vulgar parade of ignorant, sweating, overweight Australians and wonder if I’m one of them. Suddenly, my view gets blocked when on open-topped truck carrying about fifteen dwarves stops on the kerb less than a metre in front of me. Grinning like half-pissed Tyrion Lannisters, the truckload regards me with my open mouth full of part-chewed noodles. I wonder which is the stranger sight. I barely have time to register how surreal this is before one of them reaches across the gap with a folded flier advertising midget boxing at some nefarious nightspot. As quickly as it came, the truck rattles off down the street followed by a cloud of diesel fumes, and the procession of over-sized Australians continues. I finish chewing my mouthful and decide that it’s time to leave Bali.
So, after a bone-shaking 45min ride in an airless high speed boat, I find myself on Nusa Lembongan. It’s proven to be an immediate change of pace. I’m booked in at a homestay with cold showers and two resident barking gekkos. I’ve also spent the afternoon organising my PADI open water course with an apparently reputable company – Benz diving. I feel I can trust a German sounding name. Apparently, they’re part owned by Plummett airways, and they managed to get me here in one piece. The instructor, Catur, assures me in surprisingly good English that he is a very competent dive-master and that I have almost no need to worry about drowning. I start tomorrow.