My Top 10 Travel Memories of 2016: #9


Number 9: Singing ‘Jolene’ on the balcony of my Bali hotel room at 3am

At the end of June, my friend, Magda, and I headed off to Bali to escape the winter weather in Perth. Bali is a very popular holiday destination for Aussies but I hadn’t visited the Indonesian island since I was a teenager on school exchange, back in 2002. I was sure that I was in for a very different experience this time around.

As we are both proud Polish gals, we were keen to watch the soccer match between Poland and Switzerland that night. We discovered the match would be televised at Stadium Sports Bar, which, although not very far from our Kuta hotel, was a bit beyond our desired walking distance. After having spent the day drinking by the pool, we weren’t quite sure that we could trust our navigational skills!

The match started at 9pm, at which point we were on the street outside our hotel, trying to find a taxi. Traffic was busy so I suggested we take a motorbike instead. Magda was not keen on using this manner of transportation but ended up throwing caution to the wind. It will be much quicker this way, I assured her.

In theory, we should’ve zipped through the traffic and been at the sports bar by 9.05. Magda’s driver said he knew where the sports bar was and, lo and behold, she was there in five minutes. My driver said he knew where the sports bar was but, lo and behold, he did not. It will be much quicker this way, I thought to myself, as the driver stopped, time and time again, to ask locals for directions.

By the time I finally rocked up outside the sports bar, Magda was convinced I’d fallen off the bike and was bleeding in a gutter somewhere and I was convinced I’d missed the match entirely. In reality, much to Magda’s relief, I was alive and well and we’d only missed the first 20 minutes of the game. All’s well that ends well- although we stuck to taxis after that.

After having a bite to eat, we joined the crowd in front of the big screen to watch extra time descend into nail-biting penalties. The atmosphere inside the bar was electric by this point and we were stoked to find many people barracking for Poland with us. Each penalty kick was preceded with drum rolls on the table and followed up with ecstatic cheers, the loudest being when Poland officially won the penalty shoot-out, 5-4, to make it through to the quarter finals of the Euro Cup.

At this point, you’re probably thinking, how on earth does ‘Jolene’ come into all of this?

Well, we were in a mighty fine mood after seeing our boys win and we definitely wanted to go out and continue celebrating. The night was young- it was only midnight- so we decided to have a celebratory tipple back at the hotel.

The beats from the nearby clubs were still vibrating in the air as we sat down for a quick pre-drink before going out again. And by ‘quick pre-drink’, I actually mean we settled down on the balcony for many drinks, became very merry and basically created our own club.

Now, it is important to know there is a genre of music that we have a tendency to listen to in Poland when we are feeling merry and we call it Disco Polo. (It’s the go-to music probably because the chorus of any given Disco Polo song repeats so many times that you can still remember it after you’ve had a few alcoholic beverages.) There’s no doubt that many of the lyrics are cheesy as hell but in general, they’re light-hearted, fun songs.

Magda told me about a Disco Polo song featuring her name so, of course, we listened to it. I remarked that I know two songs featuring my name, one sung by Bobby Sherman and the other by Shaggy. At which point, Magda informed me there is a third song and proceeded to sing it: ‘Julie, Julie, Julie, JUUULIIIE’.

Cue blank face on this Julie’s face. No matter how many times she sang this line, I had no sudden epiphany. So, Magda decided to call her parents in Poland as she was sure her dad would be familiar with this elusive song.

Unfortunately, Magda’s dad was as familiar with the song as I was.

Fortunately, Magda’s mum recognised the tune, if not the words, that her dear daughter was drunkenly singing and with her suggestion that Julie may in fact be Jolene, our night moved on from Disco Polo to Dolly Parton.

Cue 3am rendition. ‘Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, JOOOLEEEENE!’

We listened to it again. And again. And again. (And not just on that particular night. It became the song of our trip.)

Eventually, it dawned on us that everything had gone quiet around us. At which point it dawned on us that dawn would soon be dawning. It was 5.15am by the time I finally rolled into bed, with a particular song stuck in my head. I’m sure you can guess what it was!

What I love about this memory is that it reminds me that sometimes the best nights are the nights where you don’t even leave the house. And now, every time the song ‘Jolene’ comes up, I’m instantly transported back to that balmy evening where I had so much fun laughing, crying, singing, dancing and talking about life with one of my best friends. Such is the power of music.