Culture Shock

Stepping into the arrival lounge at Bali Airport I was unprepared for what was to come. A sea of faces stared back waving pieces of paper with every name but mine displayed. The taxi drivers were jostling for a fare, all talking over each other, people were pushing past with large suitcases, brought to be filled with Balinese market merchandise, while I stood amazed at the chaos, about to face my biggest challenge yet, attempting to make sense of the unusual currency.

Stepping out of the airport into the Balinese evening air, the humidity was almost unbearable. Lights lit up stone-carved monuments and the air was filled with the sounds of car and motorbike horns; the traditional means of communicating while overtaking. As the taxi began to pick up speed, weaving in and out of the most impossible traffic gaps, my hands gripped the seat as I stared out the window, mesmerised.

Heading into the built up tourist scene of Kuta, flashing past the window, were sights of culture I hadnít experienced anywhere else in the world. Familyís of four all cramped onto a single scooter, scents of spicy Asian cuisine being cooked up from street stalls, as I witnessed an astonishing combination of traditional and commercial lifestyles coming together through shops, restaurants and hotels.

Bali receives an almost overwhelming amount of tourists every year from all over the world. Yet it has held onto its tradition remarkable well. Arriving at my hotel, down a narrow gang, I stepped past some of the daily offerings of flowers and food that are blessed to their gods, across the road stood a temple surrounded by modern architecture and finally walked into my sanctuary to get some well needed sleep.

I had officially been in Bali for 2 hours, and I was hooked. I did not come prepared for the experiences I was about to have over the next two weeks, coming face to face with retired logging elephants, getting ambushed in the monkey forest, watching strong bodies tackle the pounding surf and having my first experience of playfully haggling at the markets.

It was a breath taking moment, experiencing the incredible uniqueness of Balinese culture hurdling at me.

Holly Emery

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