Greetings from Indonesia. Bali to be exact. I have recently embarked upon the selfish 10-day journey solely focusing on myself. As my dad would say, ALL (all about Laurel). Truth. A last-hurrah before having to sell my soul to my PhD program starting in August. (Now, to my friends and family from home: Bali is a big island within the country of Indonesia, which made up of thousands of islands.)
First stop, Sanur. A supposedly snoozy little beach town one the South East side of Bali. Sounds like a great place to start off the trip. I planned on avoiding Kuta at all costs, as I heard it was super touristy, and super-packed. Didn’t really seem like my pace. I took what seemed like a never ending journey of three separate flights from Bangkok, to Singapore, to Denpasar. After nearly my missing my flight out of Thailand, pouting over the fact that I had to transfer from the Budget Terminal to the shiny Changi Airport terminal in Singapore (at least, I finally got to see the real airport!), and arriving in Denpasar at the ripe old hour of 12:00AM, I was a bit dazed and confused upon landing. It also seemed to be the time that EVERY OTHER international flight landed in Bali, as it took me over a freaking hour to buy a visa on arrival and get through immigration. I can see how people are tempted to meander off with the sketch airport security mumbling “ekspress, ekspress?” (whatever that entails is beyond me) to people waiting in line.
I was all set to go to the alleged Blue Bird taxi counter outside the airport as described in my Lonely Planet to hail a reliable taxi to my hotel. As per the LP, “avoid all the ‘touts’ along the way”. Well, let me put it frankly. There is no Blue Bird taxi counter. Or at least not at 1AM. And there are only “touts”–all wearing blue shirts..I guess to imitate the Blue Bird company. Or maybe some of them are actually Blue Bird taxi drivers, who knows. Anyways, the point is, I was wandering around like an idiot bound and determined to find that taxi counter and by golly, I never found it. After fending off hundreds of Balinese men in blue shirts, and hopelessly looking for another struggling white person such as myself, I finally asked a foreign couple where this stupid taxi counter was. And, just my luck, the nice guy spoke Indonesian, and after a solid 8 minutes of bargaining, gave me the okay to go with one of the hounding drivers. After thanking the man and telling him I owed him my life, I was off to Sanur. We managed to get the price down to 75,000 rupiah (about $7.50)…cheaper than what the stupid Lonely Planet quoted anyways.
By this time, it was almost 2 in the morning. Of course my driver said he knew where he was going, but when it came to actually finding my hotel, it took a solid 30 minutes of driving up and down a road until he realized he made a wrong turn. I was to the point of accepting the fact that we weren’t going to find the hotel and I was just going to have to wander into another one…when low-and-behold, tucked between a teeny-tiny alley, there sat Jambu Inn. Now, going on 2:30AM. I walk into the little entrance (BTW, almost all hotels in Bali are like little villas or bungalows, not one big building), and don’t see a single soul. Now assuming I was going to be sleeping outside, I hollered for a good 5 minutes looking for a sign of life, when finally some dude walks out. This is my first experience with Balinese attitude and approach to life:
Hotel due: “What you need?”
Me: “Umm…hi. I booked a room here on Agoda.”
Hotel dude: “Uhm. You book already?”
Me: “Yes, I booked already.”
Hotel dude: “Uhm. You have paper?”
Me: “Umm…no. But my name is Laurel and I have the booking ID#.”
Hotel dude: “Uhm. L0h-woh? Oki here is room key. Breakfast 8AM.”
And back to bed he goes. No checking of my name (as he clearly had no idea what I said), no copying my passport, just good ol’-fashioned “I’ll take your word for it”. By the time I entered the room, I think I was already asleep.
Bright and early, I was greeted by the Balinese sunshine I was hoping for, and found that my little bungalow was quite charming (although the WIFI was “no working”, AKA there is no WIFI).
I woke up early to try to get some beach time in. The high hopes of a peaceful, solitary walk along the beach were immensely crushed by the madhouse that was going on between 7-9AM. It seems to be THE place to leave for other islands around Bali by boat. There were a million tourists going a million different directions trying to figure out which tour speedboat was theirs. Aside from the surfboards and luggage being thrown everywhere, the morning was still pleasant. However, I am going to go ahead and say that it was not the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. I don’t know what I was expecting. Bali sounds like blinding white sands and glittering blue water. It’s not. At least in Sanur it’s not–I am not sure how the rest of Bali is, but my suggestion is to save the beach time for other parts of SE Asia. I think a much more enriching experience is found elsewhere one the island. The thing I did like was the beachfront walk. Every now and then there were pier extensions out into the ocean that made for a nice reflective escape from the shore crowds.
Stopped in Museum Le Mayeur, which is basically the only real tourist attraction in the city besides the beach. It was a cute little art museum of Le Mayeur’s artwork set up inside his house. I was mostly amused by the house. I’ll blog more about Balinese houses later. They are quite fascinating.
I was planning on staying in Sanur the entire day, but was anxious to move on to Ubud (the culture hub of the island) by lunchtime. The main way to get around the island is either by hiring a driver or the alleged “bemo” system that I have yet to crack into. My first experience with driver hiring involves a quick story worth sharing. There are a million and one dudes on the sidewalks offering to take you anywhere. “Transport?” anyone? So after a friendly bargaining session with one man, we were all set to go. I told him my hotel and gave him my name and phone number and told him to pick me up at 12:30pm. Well, around 12:20pm, the hotel staff tell me that my transport is here and the driver comes and helps me with my luggage, greets me “Hello, Lauraa”, etc. However, as we are driving away, it suddenly dawned on me that this was not the same driver that I bargained with. As we drive away, we also drive by the nice man I bargained with as he was about to load up his car to come pick me up. He comes chasing angrily after the car while my driver acts like nothing happened. So basically, another driver eavesdropped on my convo with the driver on the street and learned my name, hotel, price, and time to pick me up. Except the other driver comes a few minutes earlier and steals the customer right from under the original driver. People are harsh!