Showering with friends
A friend of mine who’s a long-time Bali resident once told me that if I were to stay still long enough in the grounds of his villa, someone would appear with a chisel or a garland of marigolds. He was laughing, but he then pointed out that no stone surface in his garden was safe — all were perfectly carved by his groundsmen and the statues of Hindu gods dotted about wore strands of vivid orange blooms, replenished daily.
It’s this effortless artistry and intrinsic regard for nature in Bali that enhances every visit. At many villa compounds, even the door keys, whether stone or wood, are carved, and plunge pools and feet-washing bowls will be scattered with frangipani or roses. Lie facedown on a spa couch and your view from the padded insert will be of bowls of flowers and, in one recent case, a little lime-green frog that stared straight back at me, and not in a friendly way. A petal on your guestroom pillow or breakfast tray? Yes, you are welcome.
It’s in tropical destinations such as Bali where semioutdoor bathrooms at resorts or villas are such a treat, too, even in the rainy season. “You are getting wet anyway,” says my friend Putu, and he is right. At Kayumanis Nusa Dua (pictured), a quartet of little stone chaps guarded my alfresco shower, eyes modestly averted, but not so shy was the tree squirrel that scampered past nor the mouthy gecko perched on top of the wall. “O-oh!” it seemed to be chirping as I dropped the soap, but luckily not one of the dainty ceramic containers of cinnamon-scented shampoo and conditioner.
Many African camps and lodges offer outdoor showers where the audience can be even more disturbing. Macaque monkeys could swing past to say hello and bare their tombstone teeth or, as once happened at the blissfully rustic Chada Katavi camp in southwest Tanzania, an elephant trunk might appear over your ensuite’s reed fence. Luckily the jumbo was just after some leaves on an overhanging branch and, after it demolished its breakfast, padded off. It took me some time to venture out. At a jungle camp in a national park in India’s state of Madhya Pradesh, a mongoose joined me for alfresco ablutions in my canvas-walled shower. “Hello, Rikki-TikkiTavi!” I greeted him brightly. A mongoose, particularly in a Rudyard Kipling tale, will bite with purpose when alarmed, but he just fluffed up his tail like a bottle brush and ran clean away.