I arrive at the Sea-Tac Airport shortly before midnight. My heart is pounding, but I catch myself smiling to no one in particular. It's obnoxious, but I can't stop. I don't look forward to the seventeen hours in transit, but I've been living and breathing this trip for so many months that only standing in line at the airport could make it feel real.
In Taipei, I catch a connecting flight to Singapore, where I spend a five-day extended layover. My hotel room is tiny, but located in the heart of Chinatown and easy to navigate from.
Singapore's modernity unmistakably defines it. Seas of sleek highrises and eclectic post-modern architecture give the impression of a Utopian novel. From the coasts, ships stretch on in every direction until they appear only as colorful specks in the distance. Banks and office buildings are adorned with balcony gardens, like an urban-tropical paradise spurting out of concrete.
I do a lot of walking and eating in Singapore.
On my first day in Bali, Kadek gives me a ride from the airport. I'll end up badgering him a lot during my stay there, but I don't know that yet. He takes me to a guesthouse in Changgu, situated on a property that resembles a temple.
I spend most of my time sitting on the beach in various cafes and staring at the ocean and feeling spoiled.
Three days later, I move north to Ubud, which is situated among rice paddies and rich tropical forests. My new home is a three-story wooden building overlooking The Monkey Forest, where I am warned not to leave towels or personal belongings in the outdoor bathroom unless I want monkey thieves. I kind of want monkey thieves, but err on the side of caution.
I do all of the touristy things from Ubud and spend the week exploring inland. From there, I head to a quiet part of Keramas and end the trip in Sanur, a fishing village with sandy beaches. On one of my last days, I get the opportunity to collaborate with Mila, a local model. She suggests the Takud Unda Dam as our location, which turns out to be even more impressive in person than I could have imagined.
A popular bathing spot for locals, it looks less like a dam and more like a waterfall gone wild. I wade through a river, camera over head, and Mila insists on jumping from the second tier of the dam.
I try to figure out whether this is the riskiest shoot I've ever done, and it probably is.
The way we squeak over the final image is worth it.
There are stories that these images don't tell, stories that would show the less idyllic side of the island, reminders of former colonialism and the subsequent effects of the tourism industry. But I don't want to focus on those stories, because selfishly, I just feel really happy to be here.
I spend my last morning before returning home wading through the ocean in Sanur at sunrise, stunned at how still the water looks and thankful for the opportunity to see landscapes like this.