Bangkok -> Denpasar (Bali)
Total flight time ~10 hours
Cost ~$600 usd
1usd = ~13,000 idr (rupiah)
One day, while eating dinner with a couchsurfing friend in Tokyo, I asked him, “What are your next travel plans?” to which he replied, “Next month, I’m visiting Singapore and Indonesia”. I told him how luck he was, and how I had been having a recent urge to also go to Indonesia. He insisted I come, if I wanted, and failing to find a good reason why I shouldn’t, I did! I bought my ticket 2 weeks before departure date, we planned to meet in Bali, since I couldn’t take more time off for Singapore.
Upon exit, the taxi drivers bombarded me with ride offers. I ignored them and walked across the street to the motor cycle parking looking for a rental. Having read you need an international drivers license, not just a driver’s license, I was a bit apprehensive and afraid they wouldn’t lend me a bike, especially since I don’t have my California license with me. I couldn’t find a dealer, so I asked two foreigners where they got their bike.
“We rented it in Kuta, but we’re returning it right now. You should talk to the guy when he comes, maybe he’ll let you take it right now” they answered. I told them about my concern of the license.
“Oh yeah, you need an international drivers license. We got a ticket that was originally 1.2 million rupiah, but you don’t have to pay it. Do you speak any other languages?”
“Well, I speak a little Japanese” I replied.
“yeah that’s great! Just start speaking Japanese to them, and pretend you don’t speak English. Then show them you don’t have any money or your ID, and try to bargain with them.” they said. I looked at them like they were crazy, imagining myself trying to pull off that I am really Japanese and that I don’t speak English.
But it’s somewhat good advice. You can bargain with the police. Their legal system isn’t so just, you can get away with a lot by paying off the police.
They continued, “You only have to pay 50,000 rupiah. They’ll give you the ticket and you’re free to go. We were told this after, so we just paid the 200,000 rupiah ticket he gave us, because we didn’t know beforehand. So its not a big deal, less than $20. The policemen don’t really care, you know, they have to pay to have a job! Can you believe that!?” they explained. This information was confirmed after I asked local Indonesians. To get a job as a police man, you have to pay anyway from 1,000 USD or more, and have a good connection! If you think that is a lot of money, think about how much it is for an Indonesia when they can eat lunch for less than $2 a day!
I debated the ticket situation and thought it would outweigh the risk. I could have the freedom to explore bali by bike, creating my own schedule and get into the nooks and crannies and get a $20 ticket maximum, or have to rely on taxis everywhere that will probably rip us off anyway and get stuck in tons of traffic! Riding a motorbike sounded funner.
The motorbike guy came and the exchange was very easy. He didn’t ask me for my passport or license. We made small talk and he asked if I could drive, what my phone number was, and 60,000 rupiah per day, which is less than $5. I asked him which way Kuta was and I started my journey.
I drove off, trying to remember to ride on the left side of the street. The streets of Bali were small, unevenly paved, with small shops and garage looking buildings on the sides. Stay dogs and dark skinned people hung out outside in their sandals, the people selling various street foods. I was surprised how poor this beautiful island I’ve heard so much about really was outside of the tourist areas!
The heat, the streets full of law disobeying motorists , and exhaust fumes burning my throat reminded me of my adventures in Vietnam.
I asked two young guys sitting outside where I could buy gas, pointing to my bike. “I dont know! Im sorry!” one said after walking over to me. I followed the winding road, asking people who pointed me onward.
“Down there. See those absolute vodka bottles? Ask there, they sell petrol,” he advised. I pulled up to the garage like shop with a wooden shelf of beige and blue liquid filled Absolute Vodka bottles. I pointed to my bike and the young man asked, “one or two?”
I got two liters and paid the man 20,000 rupiah, less than $2.
I let the traffic lead me until my hunger caught up to me. I chose a warung, or local eatery, with several people inside. Everyone looked at me when I came in sweating
with my backpack. The workers looked back and forth at each other with their mouths hanging open, wondering what they should do with this strange foreigner who is not in Kuta and Seminyak with all the other foreigners. The mix of customers also looked at the employees, curious as to what they would do to serve me. I didn’t have the advantage of knowing even a few Balinese words, I couldn’t even decipher the drink menu. So I pointed at the first item on the menu that good. They talked with each other back and forth, until finally the chubby 20 year old woman said, “…20…ok? 20.” The price said 22,000 so I was a little confused but said okay anyway.
About 25 minutes later, I was tired of sitting on the little plastic chairs at a dirty white table and swatting the flies off me. I stood up to get some air on my sweaty body. An English speaker worker came out, thinking I was leaving.
“Your dish will take 20 minutes, do you want to order something else instead?” she said.
I was shocked ” another 20 minutes?!”I said, forgetting my attempt to seem very polite.
“yes, I’m sorry, it takes a long time to prepare, but these dishes are already prepared, dp you want to order one of these?” she asked, pointed to 5 more pictures at the bottom
. I asked for her recommendation and ended up ordering Nasi Campur Babi. Rice with pieces of suckling pig and sausages.
It wasn’t bad, but it was very fatty and greasy, which I didn’t think paired well with the heat, since it made me feel like a suckling pig myself.
I found myself in Seminyak within a short time. Kuta and Seminyak and areas in this region are built up for the tourists. There are stylish shops, up and coming cafes, trendy stores and nice salons you can visit. Don’t get me wrong, they are very nice, but they aren’t real. They aren’t authentic Bali. They are tourist destinations, full of tourists to the max. Bali is full of culture in regions outside of these atypical places.
I stopped by the market to buy some necessities I didn’t bring with me, like deodorant, soap, mosquito repellent since I had already gotten bitten, and some water and snacks. Inside the supermarket are also souvenirs you can buy like chocolate, soap, coffee, and little statues.
A sudden shower occuured and I decided to drink Bali coffee at the cafe next door, Cafe Seminyak. Their coffee was so good I ordered two. Also, for dessert, I ordered Pisang Goreng, Indonesian fried banana and vanilla ice cream. The bananas were naturally very sweet, so I enjoyed it although the ice cream melted quickly in the heat!
I looked around the stores and decided to go to Kimberley Spa. The massages were so cheap, I got a 2 hour course. 60 minutes full body massage, 30 body scrub, 30 minutes foot massage for about $20–cheaper than the cheapest 1 hour massage I can find in Tokyo, which is about $28! It was fantastic, especially the shower after the scrub I got to take! I felt amazing and ready to pick up my friend from the airport on my new motorbike.
I got lost twice. The mistakes took about 10 minutes each to make up, since there was a lack of U-turn options available.
We drove around looking for a restaurant but they were all closed around 11pm. We settled for the next outdoor looking stand we passed. The food in the little cart looked very strange and unfamiliar, so we ordered rice and what we knew was food–the chicken. They said one was sweet and one was spicy, so we ordered them both.
I was dying by the end of it. Both of the damn chickens were spicy! One was just incredibly flaming hot, and the other was just really spicy. I don’t know how the Indonesians eat such food everyday!