The welcome at Denpasar Ngurah Rai International Airport was not what I envisioned. I had arranged for a transfer to my villa and the swarm of men that greeted me shouting taxi, taxi, was unexpected. ‘Swarm’ may be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the picture, too many persons approached me at the same time to persuade me to use their service. I was determined to find my transfer which in the end turned out to be a no-show.
In my frustration, I left the arrivals hall and decided to take a Grab service – operates like Uber. I did not know at the time that they were not allowed to operate on the airport premises. Fortunately for me as I was walking out and inquiring of two young women how to make the Grab connection, just outside the gates a Grab vehicle drove up and dropped off a passenger. I hailed him and ran to secure the ride. The Grab was a motorcyclist (they wear green helmets to be easily recognized). I gave him my address details, he handed me a helmet, I hopped onto the back of his scooter and away we went.
Through the dark streets of Bali we bobbed and weaved among traffic. It was a long ride on the motorcycle (I haven’t ridden on a motorbike in more years than I can recall), sometimes riding inches away from other vehicles, to close for comfort in my opinion. The ride was scary, but there I was holding on for dear life to a total stranger. It was more than I had bargained for, but desperate situations calls for desperate measures. The ride took more than 45 minutes to reach the villa.
As we journeyed into the night, I realized the favored form of transportation is the scooter. At every intersection, they were bundled in large packs ahead of the automobiles. Many instances I saw four or five persons on a scooter, defying safety regulations on all levels: no helmets except for the adults, infants carried in the laps or standing precariously perched between adults. This is their normal, though I think not legal. Since their transport system is not organized, motorbikes and motorized tricycles are the easiest means to get around. To make matters worse, there seems to be no road laws that I could understand. The only law seems to be, and I’m being facetious – you see a space, you decide you can fit into it, then you go. Somehow it works. I cannot begin to imagine the road rage frustration or accidents that happens on a daily basis. The number must be very high. Driving in Bali is stressful and maybe the number one reason why foreigners are encouraged to hire local private drivers.
Bali is by far the most affordable of all the destinations I have been to so far, but don’t be fooled. If you are not careful you will spend more than you budgeted. Prices offered to tourists are often inflated two or three times higher and haggling is the only option to bring it within reason. Also, tour operator packages are not all they claim to be, for example, I decided to go on a recommended tour to four locations: coffee plantation, museum, local souvenir market, and to see a cultural performance. The first disappointment was the coffee plantation. It did not have fields of coffee trees or the processing plant that I was expecting to see. The next was the museum. Though not a connoisseur of Balinese history, arts, culture and artifacts, it was not an interesting prospect. The saving grace for this tour were the souvenir market and the Kecak cultural performance.
In every location I have met wonderful people who were eager to show me their country and extend their hospitality. The Balinese were no different. I spent the day with a special Balinese family (Deisy, Robbie, Brev, Berry, Clarance and Clarience) who took me to Ubud – a popular tourist destination an hour’s drive from Denpasar. In Ubud, we visited the sacred Monkey Forest, a sanctuary to over 700+ Balinese longtail monkey species. The experience of a monkey sitting on my shoulder and then on my head was nerve racking but I endured it. Onlookers kept asking me if the monkey had a particular smell but surprisingly I did not catch a whiff of any offensive odors. Several times the mischievous animals tried to snatch my water bottle or cap. These creatures are smart and entertaining. Following, we went to the rice terraces of Tegallalang another popular tourist attraction. After taking many photos of the terraces we headed to Tegenungan Falls. We descended to the base of the waterfall where many vacationers enjoyed dipping in the cold pounding surf.
Here are my observations of Bali: besides the beautiful beaches (on par with my beautiful Barbados), the rugged countryside is even more beautiful. Balinese people like rice too. I ate mostly nasi goreng (fried rice) and lots of fruits which were abundant, but to my understanding are an expensive luxury for the average local. Again, salads are not a priority at mealtime even though more vegetables are readily available there. The most I’ve gotten in way of salad with dinner are a couple slices of cucumber and tomatoes. When making purchases, never accept the first price offered by street vendors, always be prepared to haggle or walk away. You will be called back to renegotiate a more agreeable price. Bahasa is the language spoken and the Balinese Rupiah is the currency. Their are lots of temples and shrines. Outside of every house, there is a small shrine where daily offerings (food, flowers, herbs, money, etc.) are made to their various god’s for blessings of wealth, success, happiness, safety, etc. Decorative penjors (bamboo structures) of different sizes overhanged the streets in celebration of their religious custom.
The time spent on this Indonesian island was a dream come true. In spite of the airport transfer fiasco (a communications breakdown on their end. Apologies offered and discount given) and baring other elements, the experience was relaxing and enjoyable. Especially, my villa which was like an oasis in the heart of a busy city, the privately enclosed gardens and comfortable room which I had all to myself was simply wonderful. The strength of the USD makes it affordable to stay at four and five star hotels here. Finally, I’ve made new friends who I hope to remain in contact with for a very long time.
Community Peeps, I will sign off here about my stay in Bali. I hope you are enjoying reading the accounts of my adventures in Southeast Asia. I am looking forward to heading home in a couple days. As the saying goes, “All good things must come to an end.” My next post which may come in two parts will be about my stay in the Philippines: Sagada and Manila respectively, and will be published from the comforts of my home.
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