March 29 - April 4, 2001

--[Ex Post Facto Disclaimer]
--Initial Impressions
--Bali Retraction and Update
--Notable Sights
Technical Issues


--[Ex Post Facto Disclaimer]

[as i have had a few weeks to reflect on my earlier assessments, i'd like to add a further disclaimer to my earlier reports on bali. inflated by friends glowing assessments, and not having traveled to third world countries morefrequented by western tourists, made me unprepared for much of the hassle involved when traveling to such destinations (especially coming from new york city). now, after bali and vietnam, i am starting to get used to the hassle of over-eager hawkers and mendicants. and i realize, as i should have then, that in many places, knowing where to go and when can be everything. overlooking the hassles involved, bali was extremely beautiful and culturally rich, although not as mournfully aesthetic as i found vietnam. i will have to go back to get a better sense of things, as one might watch a movie a second or third time to really get it. also, these travel updates started as notes to friends at home, so they start out pretty informal.]

-- Initial Impressions (3/31/01)

i am now in bali and it is really beautiful here and so green at the end of the rainy season. tropical paradise and everyone is always smiling. as i always say, ignorance is bliss.

the people are so poor here, mostly from the low currency, that their goods are not worth much here in foreign currency. or is it the other way around. i guess the world does not want indonesian goods, services, and investments as much as the world wants those same things from other countries. so the currency is not worth that much.

it is really hot. maybe its the humidity, but i am generating sweat like you wouldn't believe! and i don't think it's that much above 90 really. arrived thursday night and friday drove around the island the whole day with a driver. i was exhausted! so today i am taking a break -- walked up the beach from my hotel and found this internet shop. wednesday i go back to hong kong and then on to beijing.

bali is beautiful.

-- Bali Retraction and Update (4/3/01)

first, i need to retract my earlier assessment of bali. it is beautiful, but only in more remote areas where there are no tourists and less people in general (e.g. rice fields in jatiluweh). otherwise, one has to deal with (1) street hawkers, taxi drivers, and the poor who are literally ubiquitous and constantly trying to start up a conversation to sell you goods, drag you to their shops/stands, sell you a ride, or just plain ask you for money; and (2) really bad exhaust pollution which is everywhere from all the antiquated motorcycles/mopeds and cars and trucks (often the exhaust is billowing deep black and can totally obscure your vision if there is no breeze!). it might not seem that bad, but i am telling you, after a few days of everyone trying to pull on you and talk to you, one just wants to be left alone. Really, to be left alone is its own luxury. [which, as i have always said, is a big attraction to the anonymity of new york.]

you start to build up a resistance and a routine of telling people whatever it will take to shut them up. e.g. i already have a driver; i bought that already; or i have no money on me. but every entreaty is wearing on one's mental well being. and the twentieth time you have to tell a driver that you just want to go back to your hotel and not the art market, or t-shirt shop, or whatever, makes you just want to leave the island, despite any other redeeming qualities.

i guess once you know your way around and have seen everything to see, and if you had your own car and could avoid tourist areas (which is very difficult to do, as they/we are everywhere, and as police routinely stop tourists in their own vehicles and even taxis to extract money), the island could offer its own unadulterated beauty and quiet. but this island is way too adulterated already. e.g. you would still have the pollution. as another example, after getting McDonalds take out, i was looking for a place to throw my garbage, and the driver just took my garbage and threw it out the window as if that were an appropriate place to throw garbage! that attitude seems prevalent and i have experienced many similar instances like that in the few days i've been here to my film wrappers, soda cans, etc. even in less populated areas there is garbage everywhere.

if i were ever to come to bali again, i think i would want to go to an obscure place, lay out by the pool/beach, and not leave the compound at all. which begs the question, as you could do that anywhere in the world, why come to bali at all? a few responses could be that things are relatively cheap here for what you are getting, that there really is beauty here (albeit hard to find by itself), and that there are some unique cultural aspects here that you might not find elsewhere. also, i could see how one could spend some time here on a honeymoon where you would want to spend all your time in your room -- the amandari or four seasons in ubud would be perfect for that.

so although i have seen very interesting and beautiful things here, my time here hasn't been the most relaxing or mentally rewarding as it has taken me a little while to adjust to these concerns. unfortunately, i am realizing that most of asia is probably going to be very similar. [although i was more mentally prepared for that elsewhere and not as prepared for that here in bali.]

part of this mental stress has been my own fault, as i have spent virtually all my time shooting and seeing the island instead of laying out by the pool. can you believe that i haven't been in a pool or in the water since i arrived. basically i have not spent any pool or beach time at all. too busy seeing the island and cultural stuff. i just felt since i was here i couldn't miss out not seeing the island and its people. i was supposed to just relax and hit the beach, but the beach where i am is eroded and not that nice anyway, and i haven't spent the time to figure out where the nice beaches are. probably far from where i am unfortunately.

we'll see after some time (like the end of my four months) to see whether i will still hold this general opinion, or whether there will be some ameliorating issues or states of mind that could effect a more positive outlook.

-- Notable Sights

rice terraces in Jatiluweh, the view from Kintamani, the water temple Ulun Danu in Bedugul, the militarily ordered and efficient layout of Singaraja, three Balinese funeral processions, the Amandari & Four Seasons hotels in Ubud, drag performance at the Hulu Cafe.


on the photo front, i was exhausted after two weeks in oaxaca [i did a workshop with mary ellen mark last year], and i can hardly imagine how tired i will be after four months of asia! although maybe, i will be able to settle in to a good shooting routine and things will flow more naturally and require less energy as time goes on. e.g. color in the morning and late afternoon and in the rural areas; b&w in the middle of the day and in the city areas; 35mm first and medium format when i really know what i'm shooting. i am taking a lot of pictures. let's see... 25-30 rolls of 35mm and 20-25 rolls of medium format so far. alot for 5 days, hopefully something will come out good.

anyway, this internet place was supposed to close 30 minutes ago, so i better leave. i will be glad to be on the plane tomorrow, regroup in hong kong, and ready myself for beijing and shanghai.

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