01 July 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.
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