For the second week of our Asian voyage we decided to explore the continent a little more and visit one of the nearby countries, but none was the size of Singapore, tiny and manageable for a week (except Brunei but I didn’t know of its existence yet), so we decided to focus on one island and nothing more and we chose Bali. My criteria were the size, proximity to Singapore, and the balance between culture and tropical paradise. Fergus’ criteria was, I think, the possibility of answer all my questions saying “Bali” instead of “Vale” (Translator’s Note 1: ‘Vale’ is Spanish for ‘ok’. Translator’s Note 2: I stand by my excellent decision making). I’ll say no more other than his criteria almost made me reconsider mine and search for an island with no possibility of easy jokes. But in the end we went ahead with the idea, and we landed there on the 16th of June.
Our plane (Scoot) arrived to Bali more than an hour late and we got an idea of what the country would be like when the pilot said, “We’ve arrived practically at the expected hour.” On leaving the plane and passing through customs, immigrations and the rest (diligently placed in the row for ‘foreigners’) we had our second knock of reality: despite having read and re-read and fastidiously learnt which were the official taxis, we’d scarcely arrived when we were swindled by a taxi company recommended by the Airport Information Service (very beautiful airport, by the way), that gouged us for 17 whole euros for a fifteen minute journey. More than six times the normal price, as we learnt on arrival to the hotel… By the way, before entering the hotel we received our third knock: our accomodation was just behind the airport (that’s where the name Grandma’s Airport Hotel came from) but it’s impossible to get there on foot because the design of the roads and because the infrastructure for the surrounding traffic seemed to be the work of none less than satan himself. The concepts of lanes, rules, signals or zebra crossings seems to be totally unknown to the locals, and the simple action of walking around the city considered attempted suicide. Alien suicide, as we were the only creatures on two feet. It seems that in Bali the residents who do not own a car have developed scooters in their posterior limbs .
We return now to the story, and to the taxi, and to the taxi driver, that suddenly stopped in the middle of a bloody ring road with cars going past in both directions (hard shoulder? What’s that?), got down from the car and went with his hand extended like Moses opening the waters of the red sea and CROSSED the bypass avoiding the cars with one hand and gesturing to us to follow him with the other. And obviously, we followed him, firstly because we were too intimidated to produce our own thoughts; and secondly because there was no alternative: the hotel was on the other side, and in front of it, the taxi driver with our bags. I’d like to say that our experiences with the traffic improved with time but I have to say I didn’t like the city of Kuta at all and I think it had a lot to do with the traffic taken straight out of Carmageddon.
We decided to have a calm little evening, so after eating a delicious pad thai and a succulent i-don’t-remember, washed down with exotic fruit juices (note the use of ‘exotic’ as euphemism for another “i-don’t-remember”) we enjoyed a little evening of four handed massages, swimming and relaxing walks. Or all the relaxing that could be walking on side of the bypass, because it was clear that we weren’t going to cross it a second time that day. Besides, the little hotel was very cute, with hanging plants, a swimming pool in a garden with little birds (this paragraph contains a joke using the way that Ned Flanders speaks in the Spanish version of the Simpsons, where he uses the diminutive suffix ‘ito’ very often, which sadly doesn’t translate to English where he just says ‘diddly’).
After being in nightmarish hostels, staying in a hotel so posh creates moral dilemmas in my head, who doesn’t know how to be happy and always need to find some crazy problem for entertainment. On the one hand, I know that Bali lives off tourism and that the money that we left there is appreciated, but on the other I find it very difficult to be treated with deference as if I’m worth more because I have more money (like I treated the posh people during my shifts at the Glasshouse). In Indonesia the posh people were us, although it’s hard to tell when you’re paying less than two euros for a cocktail or ten for a two person massage…
But eh, one soon gets used to all the good treatment (if I have to, I’ll do it), so for dinner we ate there again (nasi goreng and chicken satay), after a failed attempt to find a restaurant in the surrounding area that was open in the evening and didn’t demand human sacrifices (i.e., on this side of the bypass). Still, the walk wasn’t completely fruitless as we found a cash machine (on foot) and a load of funny little creatures (little birds, geckos, etc) and some other less funny creatures (moths, cockroaches…). The classification based on the level of funninesss uses the sophisticated criterion of ‘because I say so’.
Obviously we didn’t see a single other lost, reckless pedestrian like ourselves. In fact, all of the taxis that passed beside us slowed down to ask if we needed them to take us somewhere: the idea of seeing people out walking must be for them something like when I see people running marathons: But is there really nobody chasing them? They’re doing it because they want to? Because they want to feel pain upto the driving license and have blisters the size of puffer-fish? Or does that not happen to other human beings? If the Three Wise Men had brought me the body of a model as I requested I would definitely not be running for fun… (Translator’s Note: They deliver Spanish Christmas presents, not Santa Claus).
Oops, I’ve been diverted round the mountains yet again with my anti-marathon diatribe (it’s all just envy really), when I only wanted to tell you that on our walk we found a supermarket called Circle K where they had crisps made of things that weren’t potato (I bought something called Cassava) but that are just as addictive and fattening…
I’ll leave it here because tomorrow morning is my birthday (in the chronology of this travel story, in real life we’re almost closer to the next one…) and I have to tell you the adventure.. Gilliera? Gillian? Gilliese? I’d better stop writing the prefix Gili – because today I have a considerable desire to insult and/or break things (if you’re looking for reasons, I’m writing this on 3/12/18 and the results of the Andalusian elections have just been published…) and gili is the prefix for gilipollas, the Spanish word for asshole…
See you in Gili for the next entry!