07/01/2015, Bali, Indonesia
The Bird Park and Bali Zoo are the only good things about Bali.
We once watched a travelogue on Bali and that is when I decided there was nothing there of interest for me. I don't need a massage on the beach or to pay a lot of money to watch the new day sun rise up while sitting on the top of an old volcano. But sometimes it is good to see for oneself just how undesirable a place can be. Maybe like a quick trip to hell, just for the fun of it. Now I have a long list of reasons not to suggest Bali as a destination for anyone, except for someone I would like to send away to a bad place.
Bali is a tourist trap. To the Balinese, the purpose of a tourist is to disgorge money into their hands faster than an ATM. Everyone, even pleasant, successful business people, suddenly become a newest best friend offering any service imaginable. A local business owner in Serangan, in south east Bali, had a pitch to sponsor us into the country as a resident. We only needed to deposit $100K into an account...oh and that gets us 5% interest. But then more money is needed so he could build us a house, which really can't be owned because the land can only be leased. Or you could buy a timeshare in a building which does not exist....it is just a little snag in the permit but it will be started soon.
On the long white beaches in Bali, the hawkers are thicker and more bothersome than flies. They trail a strolling tourist and are difficult to shake. They persist in the hope of selling carvings, weavings, string bracelets, toy bow and arrows and things few tourists would want. I would prefer to deal with a horde of garbage flies as that problem is solved with a little DEET. Taxi drivers will try to charge $10 for a $2 ride. Don't deal with any taxi that does not have a meter.
In Bali and the rest of Indonesia, health and sanitation in the food service industry is not what would be found in westernized countries. In little restaurants along the sidewalks, stir fried rice, fried chicken and all other food is cooked then sits all day heaped on display plates at ambient tropical temperature or further affected by the sun blasting through the window glass. Sometimes the food is reheated before serving. We learned a new Indonesian word, "mencret" meaning, diarrhea. In the modern looking city of Bali, full of hotels and tall buildings, we thought it worth playing it safe and order a hamburger at Burger King. What I found under the bun was a speck of meat, sort of stuff, the size and look of a breakfast sausage patty. When I asked about the smudge hiding inside of the bun, it was verified as the Whopper sized burger. But the meat was more the texture and taste of ground tofu! To help ease things down, this became a Whopper of a ketchup sandwich. There is no finer sauce for correcting poorly imitated American cuisine. We had nearly the same disastrous experience at Pizza Hut; a wafer thin crust of "what is this transparent gooey stuff?" Although these fine dining experiences were very expensive relative to restaurants serving more traditional food, we were successful in not experiencing mencret.
We rented for several weeks, a motor scooter. We used it to get the 3 miles from the dinghy dock, through the village, out the causeway and to the main highway. At the highway, all day long, it was always rush hour traffic and too dangerous for us to fool around on a motor scooter. At the corner is where we parked the scooter then caught the city bus or taxi to get to our destination. But one day, after parking the scooter, it was only a mile walk along the highway to a machine shop where our custom made parts were ready for pickup. As we moved down the side walk, several feet from the rushing traffic, one new looking, white, SUV slid up along side us and the gentleman inside asked if we would like a lift. We thought this was a local businessman we had previously met so we hopped in. Rolling away, quickly we discovered this was not the person we thought it was and that we had just made a bad mistake. We explained where we were going and soon we would want out of the vehicle. But the man said something about a mall and zoomed into the inside, high speed lane. He soon ignored my instructions about moving over to the slow outside lane to let us out as our destination was approaching. With my voice and tone now aggressive, he still ignored my newest demand to stop and let us out. I was left with no choice but to grab the steering wheel and jerk the speeding vehicle across the highway toward the side of the road. So now the man could brake hard and let us out or we would soon be braked by the fast approaching trees, fences and who knows what. We nearly did hit other traffic in the maneuver. But the result is we did come to a stop half off the road. Rebecca made her escape from the back seat. As I slipped out the front door the man made demands for "You pay me money!" I paid him a hard round of profanity as I slammed the car door as hard as I could, hopefully breaking the latch or some other part. Fortunately the traffic was heavy enough so the man had to quickly accelerate and get back in the flow of vehicles.
When Rebecca related this story to a world traveled friend of hers, who knows Bali well, the friend was incredulous at our naiveté. Bali is known to be a high risk place to accept a ride from anyone you are not 100% certain of.
Surfers do come to Bali because they have heard big wave stories, but the waves are not always there and I have seen better surf in Fiji.
The only good tourist things we found in Bali were the Bird Park and the Bali Zoo. At each, we spent at least 5 hours wandering the well cared for grounds and viewing all the amazing species which would be difficult to spy in the wild. The employees and caretakers were well chosen by the management. They spoke good English, were knowledgeable and attended well to the tourists.
I can't imagine why any Australian would want to travel to Bali when the north east of Queensland has so much more to offer or Fiji is just as easy to get to. And why would an American tourist fly half way around the world when Orlando, the Florida Keys, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic or so many other preferable places take only a day flight to get to. Bali is the pits, mencret.
The next blog will be a little about Lombok, the island to the east of Bali and the continued corruption, not of the government employees, but the "yacht agents" who prey on cruisers.
05/23/2015, Bali, Indonesia
The pirates of Serangan Yacht Service will hold you on shore till you pay their arbitrary and changing ransom. Ruth, the local yacht agent lead us into this deal. But how nice, because of all the money she cost us, she gave us 10% off of our mooring bill. Ruth owns no moorings but rents out moorings owned by Serangon Yacht Service and boots up the price.
We have made some mistakes operating Brick House over the past 8 years. But there is a number one, top of the list, biggest mistake which supersedes all others. And what a terrible experience it has been. This mistake was the decision to haul Brick House out of the water in Serangan, Bali. We had some damage to the skeg and keel. We could have carried on another thousand miles northward to Malaysia where we knew there was a proper yard with a travel lift and prices for haulouts were very economical, but we thought it prudent to make the repairs as quickly as possible. We didn't need help- we simply needed to haul the boat out of the water for two weeks so we could make the repairs ourselves. This is not the time to go into details but I feel a civic responsibility to post basic information to warn other cruisers so they have the information to avoid the terrible situation we experienced in Bali. We have since heard that some cruisers were warned when they arrived in Serangan, Bali, by other cruisers, who have their own negative stories about dealing with the local yacht facilities and yacht services. But those cruisers tend to speak in hushed voices while they remain in Indonesia. We somehow missed getting the word but it did not matter as we were working with a trusted agent to help us arrange everything. But we were lead astray by this local Bali based , well known professional yacht "agent" who arranged everything for us. It was all in emails, the prices, what was included, like electricity, pressure washing etc.. Once hauled out of the water, we became captive to changing and arbitrary costs. Through this professional agent, we originally had agreed to pay an exorbitant $1,580 USD to be hauled out and put back in the water 15 days later. In the end, we were forced to pay an incredible and arbitrary $2,484.00 USD (after much stressful negotiating) for the same thing. We did all the work and we supplied all of our own materials...we are talking ONLY about a haul out/in, 14 days on the hard. Even the pressure washing which was supposed to be done was a joke. The pressure washer was an electric toy producing less pressure than a normal garden hose. Plus, when hauling then launching, these people were not careful and deeply gouged through the forward section of fiberglass of the keel to expose the lead ballast. They would not take responsibility for their damage and would charge me another $400 to lift the boat off the keel into a position for me to repair the damage. This we did not do so now we have to haul out someplace else to repair the damage these people caused. The people who operate the haul out facility are the biggest and most unpredictable thieves. Contracts, hand shake agreements, honesty, are things that are not understood here. Cruisers are seen as floating ATMS that have no daily limits for withdrawals, and who only come to Bali to provide financial security, even if it involved no service or product in exchange.
This situation is reminiscent of what has been posted about a haul out facility in Port Villa, Vanuatu. Now there are two places in the world cruisers need to stay away from.
In Bali, we made a few new friends who we would like to see again. However, far too often, because of this place being a tourist trap and a stopover for cruising yachts with perceived pockets overstuffed with cash, many new smiling friends have dollar signs for retinas. In Bali, you can trust no one, even those who have been touted as honest on previous postings. Lombok island, to the east of Bali, is far more tourist friendly and interesting. But more on this later.
If you are sailing with an organized rally, do yourself a favor and skip south east Bali and go to Lombok. But beware the smiling, helpful, "agent" in Lombok! The one primary yacht "agent" there is no better than the other thieves....more on that situation soon.