After traveling for 21 hours (thanks Air Asia), we finally arrived into Denpasar airport at around midnight. Immigration was easy, and we eventually ended up outside surrounded by taxi drivers. This was my first dumb move.
I forgot everything I was told about using taxis in Bali. I’d been advised to only use metered taxis, and preferably the Bluebird ones, but instead I waltzed up to the first taxi driver I saw and asked him how much it would be to Legian.
“$120,000.” He announced.
I was stumped. I knew not to go for the first price, and I’d been told that it would probably be around $6 or $7 from the airport (60-70k).
At this point I hadn’t yet worked out the currency, and it was taking me awhile to convert Rupiah to Australian dollars. This guy was telling me it would be $12 Australian.
No problem. “$800,000” I countered.
The guy looked at another taxi driver (and probably rolled his eyes). “No, no that’s too much!”
I’d just offered him $80 instead of $8.
“$120,000” he repeated.
“$90,000” I countered.
“$100,000 he said.
So we followed this guy around to the parking lot and waited while he bought the car around. He jumped out and opened the door for us.
“So just to be clear, it’s $100,000 to the 101 in Legian right?”
At this point I wanted to punch him in the face.I knew we were getting ripped off but he didn’t need to be so blatant about it.
“But last time we were here it only cost like seven or eight dollars!” (I don’t know who I thought I was fooling by pretending I had been here before).
He just shook his head, so we turned and began walking away.
“$110,000” He yelled after us, and I paused, internally debating whether it was worth going through all this again with another taxi driver.
We hauled all our crap into the car, before being taken on the ride of our lives. It doesn’t seem like there are any road rules here, and the driver zipped madly in and out of traffic, overtaking scooters and speeding along streets before slamming his brakes at the last possible moment.
Stray dogs weaved in and out of crowds of people, and there was garbage all over the place. Dodgy-looking wurungs lined the street, and so far Bali definitely wasn’t what I was expecting.
We eventually ended up at our hotel in Legian, had a good nights sleep and went out the next morning to explore the Legian and Kuta area. As soon as we stepped out of the hotel we were bombarded by hawkers offering us everything from sunglasses, wallets and singlets to magic mushrooms, Viagra and weed.
Of course I entered a conversation with one of them (mistake number two), and he followed us across the road. It sounds rude, but after four days here I’ve learned to shake my head and keep walking, or simply ignore them. I wonder if the Balinese resent us for coming over here and flaunting our wealth and then ignoring them while they desperately try to make a living.
The poverty has been an eye opener for me. For some reason when I thought of Bali I didn’t think it was as poor because it is such a big tourist destination. Whole families squeeze onto scooters, with a baby tucked under one arm and a toddler sitting quietly and holding onto the front. I don’t like carrying around my camera as it’s worth more than many people here will make in a year, and I feel bad when I’m ignoring someone who has a family to feed.
The hawkers put on Australian accents, calling us “mate”, and who could blame them? Bali is full of Australians, and our first day here we went to dinner with a girl I met by the pool. It was one of the many that are Australian owned, and looking around, you wouldn’t know you were in a different country. Every single person dining there was Australian, and the only things stopping it from being any restaurant in Australia was the prices and the Balinese servers. There’s even a giant painting of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge on the wall.
Despite all of this I already love Bali. I know I haven’t yet seen the “real Bali”, but what I’ve seen so far is a place so alive, with so much to do and see that I’m never bored. Walking down the street is entertaining, and the island is completely geared towards tourism, so it’s easy to organize tours and activities.
On Thursday we went whitewater rafting, and tomorrow we’re heading to Nusa Lembongan which is a small island off the coast of Bali. We’ll be going scuba diving on Monday and then staying in Ubud from Tuesday. I’m looking forward to seeing more of this hot, frustrating, and fun island.