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Before screaming monkeys fell from the sky to rob me and beat me and leave me for dead, before I sliced a three-iron into the crater of a volcano (and hit a perfect lava wedge out to save par), before a James Bond villain named Mr. Cedok served me up as a cocktail wiener for the water life of the Indian Ocean, I was told to idly bicycle around Bali.
Before I fluffed my hotel pillow and found a live lizard where the mint was supposed to be, before I set out to see this island in Indonesia with nothing but a German guidebook for company, I planned to pedal peacefully around Bali's 2,147 square miles of unreal estate.
That was the assignment: Ride a bike. Clear my head and fill my notebook, take in the sun and bang out the story. One of those life-in-the-slow-lane swimsuit-issue stories. The kind they would no doubt headline BALI HIGH! Or better yet...
GOLLY, IT'S BALI!
The island excursion was not what my editors had imagined it to be, though Bali was just as I had pictured it. Alas, my only picture of the island was the 1952 film Road to Bali, in which George (Bing Crosby) and Harold (Bob Hope) were stalked by the evil Mr. Arok, spurned by the lovely Princess Lalah and assaulted by Bogatan the Giant Squid.
These were precisely the sorts of things that would happen to me in my seven-day Balinese sojourn.
This was entirely my fault. My previous international travels had consisted of 45 minutes in Tijuana (I know what you're thinking, but I was 11 years old and it was a family vacation) and a tour of Canada's Smythe Division cities. So once off the North American continent, I went nuts, seeking out the exotic wherever I could.
Greenout greets all visitors to the Emerald Island. George and Harold arrived on Bali by boat, parting the lime Kool-Aid waters off the southern coast. I came by plane, flying in over the green rice terraces that descend from Bali's tree-studded central mountains, themselves more fertile than Jane Pauley.
The greens on the golf course at the Bali Handara Country Club in the mountain village of Pancasari, the first stop on my tour, were said to be the greenest swatches of the greenest mountains on the greenest island on God's green earth. Pancasari is a short van ride from the airport in Denpasar, a sprawling, noxious village of 200,000 that only 20 years ago was quaint and fairly untouched by tourism. Which raises an interesting question: