The full moon makes people do funny things. Some transform into werewolves and go around eating anyone too fat to run away, while others dance naked around bonfires and have sex with goats. The Balinese don’t do anything stupid like that, though – the full moon is simply a reason to eat fish from the gutter and beat each other with bamboo canes. Every time the moon is big and round the Balos celebrate with ceremonies, and with one going on in the hills of Candidasa, me, the Hamster, Al, Luke, Benny, Ando and our token female Mel jumped on our motorbikes and headed out there.
When we rocked up, thousands of locals were scurrying around like ants, dressed from head to toe in traditional sarongs and headdresses. The women had offerings balanced on their bonces, the children danced in the moonlight, and the men pretty much just lay around and did nothing. It’s the Balinese way. When we tried to walk into the street where the festival was being held, a beefy bloke with an eye patch and wicked body odour stopped us and explained that we couldn’t go any further unless we started dressing like the locals. We bought sarongs and funny little hats that made us look smart and sophisticated. Well, smart, sophisticated, and like the most half-arsed ladyboys of all time.
The festival was absolutely fascinating. There were dozens of roadside stalls selling fried chicken, satay skewers, chicken broth and other delicacies, and the smell of sizzling fish and chicken wafted through the night air. Small children handed over piles of money as part of a dodgy gambling game run by an even dodgier old man. At the end of the main street was a temple where everyone was making their offerings to whichever god it is they worship, with incense burning amongst piles of fruit and flowers. Around that stood dozens of strapping young men, bruised and bleeding after spending the evening beating each other with bamboo. I was devastated to miss that, but was told that I can compete in it next year, so the Hamster needs to bloody well watch out.
As we strutted around, it became obvious that the locals were appreciative for us wearing their traditional clothes and doing our best to blend in, but also that they were all laughing and pointing at Luke, who was the only one wearing a bright green sarong. A little bloke with an odd face tapped me on the shoulder and pointed at him, shouting, “Benchong! Benchong!” Apart from Bintang, the word benchong represents the extent of my knowledge of the Balinese language, and means homosexual. Apparently Luke, in his quest to find the most exotic and handsome sarong to wear, had unwittingly chosen to present himself as the only gay in the village.
It was a really brilliant night with fantastic people, and we all enjoyed this rare look into traditional Indonesian culture. We were the only westerners there, and enjoyed exploring the festival, eating the delicious food, and mingling with the locals. So, of course, I had to go and fuck it all up. I was swaggering around, slapping high fives and generally being cool, when I tripped over and bumped into a woman, sending the offering balanced carefully on her head crashing to the ground. The crowd fell silent and every eye in the place burned into me. The woman shouted at me, and then a few of the bamboo boys picked up their weapons and started strutting in my direction. It was time to get out of there!
We turned and ran in the direction of our bikes, the footsteps of the bamboo boys growing louder as we raced through the angry mob. Blinded by tears I tripped over a stray dog, crashing to the ground next to an old man wearing a dirty nappy. The boys surrounded me and lifted their weapons, ready to sacrifice me to the moon gods. And then my hero saved me. Al really enjoys his satay skewers, and was still clutching a dozen pointy sticks decorated with squares of smoked fish. He took a deep breath and gobbled them down, then used the slimy sticks as deadly missiles, firing them at the violent thugs. They howled as the tiny spears pierced their skin, then dropped their bamboo sticks and scuttled off into the darkness like bugs. Al picked me up and carried me in his arms back to the bikes, and we made our escape. All in all, a good night was had by all.