Sunday, August 05, 2007


Mandis and Eggs

Not too much has changed in 20 years: pictures of the Puri Saren--now known as the Puri Saren Agung--on Jalan Raya, Ubud, Bali.

To round out my "Bali Tetralogy" (Bali: A Love Affair; Bali Kopi; The Dogs; and my Java-based Mad Dogs and Englishmen: The Search for Wayang Beber), I sheepishly present you with Mandis and Eggs:



My rain shower sprinkle of a showerhead was dotting me with cooler and cooler water the other day. Uh, oh. Coming out of my tub, I immediately thought: hot water heater.

I tried the sink: same. The bidet: same. (And its flow is usually liquid steam.) Rushing to the kitchen, the sink yielded the same results. Returning to the bathroom, I tried the tub hot water faucet again. Tepid water. Oh, no.

Stay calm, I told myself. Give it a while. Then try again. Then—if need be—check the hot water heater outside, get a repair number, call someone. Anyone.

I knew for a fact the hot water heater hadn’t been touched since 2000 or so. One more thing in this house that has an about to expire five year warranty on it. I sighed.

Why fuss? I also asked myself. It’s hot outside. But, wait: it’s the principle of the thing. Or, rather, it’s an almost twenty-year-old memory.

Mandis. And eggs.

So what’s a mandi, you’re wondering. A mandi is the Indonesian equivalent of a tub. A square, tiled, sink-like structure with a spigot, and a bucket on its edge, the idea is to fill the bucket with water, and then sluice it over your body.

And that’s your bath, with—needless to say—cold water.

Other than squat toilets, this was the other terror that awaited me during my first trip to Southeast Asia.

In the late eighties, middle echelon touristy hotels in the southern part of the island of Bali tended to have rickety, European-style showerheads, but at least the water had a warmish tinge to it. I had plenty else to keep me busy complaining: open sewers; soaking rainstorms that left the air perfumed not only with frangipani, but with all that refuse; a ceaseless parade of ruined espadrilles; tepid food in general; and a never-ending supply of what I termed “weird” eggs served just that side of runny in otherwise normal egg cups.

Why weird? Because not only were the shells a darkish hue, but so were the so-called “whites.” I couldn’t stand to look at them, let alone scoop them out and consume them.

My husband didn’t mind. He cheerfully ran around, taking pictures (especially of food), and eating that tepid food, including those weird eggs.

He was doing a good job of putting up with my complaining, too. That is, until a Balinese mandi and eggs proved to be too much for a squawking tourist to bear.

We’d arrived in Ubud, the cultural center of Bali. This had been our primary goal during our initial seven-day stay on the island. Hans Snel was still running his cottages; Antonio Blanco still presided over his museum. Monkey Forest Road was still not overrun with businesses: the playing field where we witnessed an amazing tug-of-war and people flying kites was still intact.

Following our instructions, our travel agent had made reservations for us at a hotel that boasted “hot water.” The Puri Saren turned out to be the puri (palace) of the local prince. My husband was all but jumping up and down.

We were led to our bungalow, at a respectful distance (and decline) from the residence of the prince. We had a bird’s eye view of the central courtyard, where, under shelter, the masks and other paraphernalia used in religious performances were housed.

The man who kept assisting us appeared to have been assigned to us: a member of the prince’s retinue, no less.

Look! Look! My husband kept exclaiming, pointing in every direction. We even have a SERVANT…

I just sighed, and kept protesting. This bed all but takes up most of the room! It’s too hard! It’s too hot in here!


There it was, to the side. A Balinese bathroom, as it turned out, with shrubbery encasing what would have been one corner of a Western bathroom. It was very private, very beautiful… and very open.

It had a normal toilet. Thank heavens. And it had a tub. Uh, oh. Good, though, I sighed, thinking of the hand-held showerheads I’d just endured. I turned on the water.

Cold. Not just tepid, but cold water was coming out of both faucets.

I screamed. What’s wrong, Georgina?


My husband rushed to find our “servant.” Yes, the hotel was supposed to have hot water, but they were having trouble with their generator, the man gracefully acknowledged, with that slightly apologetic laugh to let us know he meant us no harm.

What came next was my own torrent. OK, I won’t take a bath.

Suit yourself. Whereupon my husband climbed in the tub, used the mandi bucket, and gave himself what he jokingly referred to as a Western mandi.

I snapped away, taking discreet pictures of him sluicing water over himself with that bucket.

Making our way around Ubud later that evening, I was becoming stickier and stickier. Returning to the Puri Saren, and that stifling room with its hard bed, only made things worse.

It was then that we discovered the true function of a Balinese bathroom: to let all the mosquitoes in.

Sweaty, sticky, I climbed in the tub, turned on the water. BRRR! Sweaty, sticky, exhausted, I tried to fall asleep on the hard bed. NO. With the door left open to the bathroom, all we succeeded in doing was in letting all the mosquitoes in. NO.

That long, hot night was surely one of the most miserable of my entire life. In the morning, I told my husband I’d had it. WE HAD TO FIND A DIFFERENT HOTEL.

WE? You mean, YOU, Georgina! YOU go find us a hotel. FINE!

I stormed off just as our cheerful “servant” was bringing us our next round of weird eggs, tepid fruit, and (admittedly) delicious Bali kopi. The man looked at me, not quite knowing how to react.

Going up and down Jalan Raya (the main street), I managed to find a place that, indeed, had hot water (I tested it). Very proud of myself, I returned to the Puri Saren.


He shamefacedly turned to our “servant,” offering his apologies.

Take our luggage, I told my husband. NO! YOU TAKE IT! It’s the price you have to pay, he said. We even had our own SERVANT, he plaintively continued.

So I trudged to the new hotel with our luggage, a little at a time. Where I found the strength (as we didn’t travel that lightly), I don’t know to this day.

We spent the last night on Bali that year at the Nusa Dua Beach Hotel. We ate from a sumptuous hotel buffet, mingled with upper-crust tourists, slept in air-conditioned splendor, and—yes—I took a long, hot shower. Maybe two.

However, walking along the hotel’s carefully manicured paths, I realized, even then, how artificial it all was.

I don’t fully remember, but I bet you the Nusa Dua egg whites were white. The coffee was watered down Bali kopi. And we sure as heck didn’t have our own servant.

Back to the present: miracle of miracles, within half an hour, I had my hot water back. Almost scalded myself with the bidet spigot.

Must have taken a very long shower, thinking about the Puri Saren.

Silly girl.

Copyright, 2005 by Georgina Marrero 1225 words All Rights Reserved

So now I have a pentalogy on my hands, don't I?

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