Ages ago, I remember getting all inspired reading Tom Lennon’s ‘Top 20 Albums of the Decade‘ but I decided that my top 20 would have to be a list of destinations, and maybe it would be a top 30 since I’m still not done. And maybe it should be 31 in honour of Nicky Boy.
Anyway, in no particular order, and occasionally with some diary entries from back in the day, here are My Top 31 Destinations In Time, starting with…
1. Bali, Indonesia
They say you never forget your first time in Asia – and Bali in the summer of 1994 was mine. This was where I landed after a tearful goodbye to my partner at the airport, a 16-hour flight when I was petrified of flying, inhalers on the plane because I was allergic to my malaria tablets and facing two months of backpacking all on my lonesome. It was like walking onto the movie set of a Seventies disaster island complete with conical volcano, lava flows and earthquake tremors to remind you of how epic this little island is. We were on tidal wave alert several times – which basically involved sleeping in our clothes with our trainers by the bedside, ready to run for the hills. I’d never seen anywhere like it, except maybe in a Bob Hope/Bing Crosby Road movie. The lush tropical green hurt my eyes and there was aesthetic beauty in everything.
25th May 1994, Kuta, Bali, Day 1
Too many things are different to write them all. A hundred hawkers shoving things at you, opening suitcases of watches in front of you, grabbing your hair, your arm, your bum… Can’t find the roads because they look like back alleys and nearly as narrow. Being called bimbo, la-la, plenty hair girl, red hair girl and other terms not for public consumption. Being asked if I want hash, marijuana, a man! My hair braided, skirt swapped for sarong, sitting watching a pinky blue sunset over the Indian Ocean. The Indian Ocean!!! A drink seller, Jos, comes to practice his English on me, where am I from, how long here, am I married? It’s rude to say No, so I say Not yet. Covered head to foot so I don’t get bitten by a mosquito; everyone else is in tiny beach gear. I stand out like a sore thumb. Maniac mopeds buzzing up and down tiny alleys. Gagging on disgusting gado-gado. Real true MUTTS, sleeping, strolling, licking themselves, scratching, mangy, hairless, wary. It’s 8.30pm in Bali, I’ve been up 29 hours, I feel very very alone.