In my previous post winter in summer-land, I wrote about my experiences in Malaysia, from where, I was to fly to Bali. First question is perhaps: why Bali? To be honest, I didn’t know too much about Bali when I decided to go there. There was a good deal to be had flying in and out of Bali and I knew that it was famous enough to be on my consciousness by being bombed and by being the setting of an awful but expensively made hollywood movie. So I had decided, more or less on a whim, to stay in Bali for a week. This post will describe my initial impressions on landing in the island.
My flight from Kuala Lumpur to Bali was pretty empty. So empty, in fact, that the flight
attendant offered me a choice to switch seats so that I’d have an entire row all to myself. Hence, I got good rest on the plane and was not too tired when I arrived in Bali at sometime post mid night. First things first, I spent some of the Indonesian rupaih I had bought in Malaysia with the ringgits I had left to pay for the visa on arrival1. The first thing I noticed standing in the queue waiting for the immigration officer to stamp me a visa on arrival was how many Aussies there were. More than 80% of the people in the queues, in my estimate, were Aussies. Being the denizens of the most distant “western” country with significant per-capita income puts Australians in a bit of a quandary when it comes to picking holiday destination, I guess.
Kleptocrat immigration officers
The clerk in on duty was mechanically stamping out visas for everyone in front of me. When it came to my turn, however, he suddenly turned inquisitive. “What is the purpose of your travel, uhhh… Rah-jish?”, “It’s tourism”, “Really? What are you here to see?”, ” I don’t know” … silence… I knew he couldn’t deny me visa, I had paid for it already and even if he had to deport me he had to pay for the air ticket, and all for what? Because I don’t know what I want to see in Bali? I didn’t think so. So I was confident and unflinching. After a moment’s hesitation, the clerk stamped my passport and handed it back to me, unsmiling. The price of an unfavorable passport and brown colored skin, I thought. I wouldn’t have expected this from fellow brown-skins. Besides, why would I run away from India into Indonesia? I was more amused than annoyed2 by the whole thing.
When I got out of the airport terminal, there was a lot of hustle bustle. Traditional Balinese music was being played out. There were touts everywhere trying to get visitors into Taxis. There were a few vendors trying to sell bottled water and such to the white people, even though it was late at night. Then it stuck me, this was exactly like India! At this thought, I became confident as to what I had to do. I went to the official taxi stand and hired a prepaid taxi to my destination3. I was to couch surf here as well and my host was OK with me arriving late at night. She had given me her address well in advance and so that is where I was headed.
Surfing in Bali
There are lots of surfers in Bali, apparently the surf is very good. But I’m not talking about that surfing, but couch surfing. My taxi driver was talkative throughout the drive althought he barely spoke English and I knew not a word of Bahasa. He was however a very inept taxi driver, he lost his way several times. I didn’t have a cell phone that worked. However, I did my host’s number. I gave him her number to get directions. He repeatedly called her and got new directions and kept getting lost. Eventually, though, he did make it to my host’s place. I suspect he wandered half the island looking for the place. Anyway, when I got out, my host was there to greet me. The driver wanted more cash. By his logic, he had driven more than I had paid for and I owed him more cash. My host and the driver had some heated words exchanged. Then my host turned to me and said give “him five thousand if you’ve got it, no more!”. The driver made a sign of disgust as if I were offering him loose pocket change and walked off without accepting it or uttering another word.
Thosands of rupiah
This brings me to another interesting thing about Indonesia. Long term hyperinflation has left the the country’s currency in such a state that the lowest coin in circulation worth anything is a thousand rupiah! My taxi to my host’s home had cost me eighty five thousand rupaih, 85,000! In fact, that was one of the first things I said to my host when I got off the taxi, “I just spent eighty five thousand rupees on a taxi!”. I felt like I was Vijay Mallya – spending thousands of rupees on a limousine ride. Of course, my host looked at me like one would look at a child proudly spouting something inane . For she knew the truth of the matter. It is much more in line with the realities of my wallet. Ten thousand rupiah is about 50 India rupees. So the five thousand extra I was offering for the driver was like a 25 rupee tip for a 500 rupee taxi ride – not a bad tip, but not luxurious either.4
And so I had arrived in Bali. I was to spend seven very fun days there. As the title may have indicated, “picture abhi baki hai” and I’ll write about Bali times in more posts to come. Stay tuned!
- The visa on arrival is cheaper if you pay in Rupiah. It costs US $25, otherwise. They perhaps accept AU $ and Euros, but I wouldn’t try. They have absolutely no regard for Indian rupees or any other currency. To the Indonesian immigration, it’s worse than toilet paper. [↩]
- Unlike in Chicago, where the redneck immigration agent had really put me in a bad mood by the time I had finished my “interview” [↩]
- It was one of the very few times in the whole trip that I used a Taxi. Essentially, I didn’t have a choice because the island lacks any kind of public transport. [↩]
- If you prefer USD, ten thousand rupiah is about 1 US dollar, so five thousand tip I was offering was like a 50 cent tip on a 10$ taxi ride. [↩]