Bali…What is This Place?

The date on my watch says 8/14, but it said the same thing yesterday. I’ve been finding it impossible to set the date and time, and have it stay correct. Last night Phil asked of it was Tuesday. I said, “Yes. (and thankfully it was) and everyday let’s remind ourselves of the day otherwise we’ll lose it.” Then I thought about what an interesting concept that was…to not know the day…and live unaffected by it. Could it be just a label for people that like order and organization? At work, Phil says he only ever knows when it’s Friday because there is ice cream in the dining hall.
Now Tuesday is over. Today is Wednesday, the 15th, to be orderly. I left Philadelphia on Sunday and the adventure has finally begun. When you get off the plane and enter the airport in Denpasar, Bali, you know you are not in Kansas anymore. Personally, I recognized I was definitely not in Taipei anymore. There’s no Burberry in Bali; unless it’s fake. It’s a small, open air (I use that term lightly) airport. With the amount of tourism that Bali sees they could use an airport quadruple the size. It is (literally) packed with people. The air is quite thick. It’s not a bad smell, but your nostrils are bombarded with ylang-ylang, clove cigarettes, and body odor. It’s intoxicating. I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere that I was in such close proximity to so many people from everywhere. I’m no stranger to airports, but I didn’t really know what to do so I followed the crowd.
Immediately the Balinese require that you hand over money for a tourist visa. No problem. I was expecting that. Handing out money, while never a lot of money, is a habit one needs to get used to. In Bali, you are given the opportunity to pay for anything (and everything) if you are willing. In the airport the crowd flows from the tourist visa line to a blob of humans; all fussing around an orderly pile of luggage. I grabbed mine and shuffled into another blob that appeared to be moving toward an exit. I honestly wasn’t sure at that point if I was in the line going in, or out, of the airport. When I spotted a few people on my flight near me I hoped that meant I was in the right place. We were headed to a luggage screening machine that appeared to precede an exit route. I’ve never had my bag screened before leaving, but there is a first time for everything. Thankfully, the screening went smoothly and I rode the wave out the exit doors.
Once outside I needed to secure a ride to my hotel. There were many lines formed around the small exterior of the airport. Some of them appeared to lead to counters where you could purchase transportation. Naturally, I was prepared to wait in line for the “Taxi Service.” Before I managed the two feet distance to the end of this line I was (not warmly) greeted by a gentleman’s query, “Taxi?” When I looked up at him I must have appeared startled and scared. Honestly, I didn’t know what to do. You hear (and read) that one must be careful not to be taken advantage of in this scenario. Was he a real taxi driver? Would he rip me off? Would he rob or kidnap me? I had no idea, but the problem was I didn’t want to be rude. I tried to pretend I didn’t hear him. But again, “Taxi? Where you going?” While I didn’t really want to wait in the long line I was more comfortable with doing so; even if it meant I would waste more time only to potentially be overcharged anyway. I decided to summon the courage to do the brave-world-traveler-thing. I said, “How much?” He said, “Where. Are. You. Going?”
Oh right, sorry, to Sanur,” I said.
200,000 Rupees.”, he said as he grabbed my bag and made to walk towards his taxi. In my head I fumbled to do the math quickly. I thought to myself, “I’m pretty sure that’s $20 bucks. Not a little, but not a lot. Since he’s already got my bag let’s see where this goes.”
This may come as no surprise; the streets of Bali are insane. The traffic is incredibly dense and seems to have the same organization as the mobs in the airport. There are delivery trucks, buses, cars, taxis, and millions of mopeds (millions, seriously, with whole families riding on the same one) all cramming to get somewhere. I can’t believe that any person gets to any destination in a timely fashion. It took the cabby 50 minutes to get me 15 miles. It was worse than trying to get through the Holland Tunnel.
This taxi driver was probably the least friendly Balinesian one could ever hope to meet, but he wasn’t awful, and he didn’t rob or kidnap me. He did his job and got me to my hotel, sort-of. Actually he dropped me off at the wrong hotel and I didn’t notice until I waited at the counter and the receptionist told me he didn’t have my reservation. I showed him my confirmation print out and he pointed down the street and around the corner. The taxi driver was gone. Bummer. Did he do that on purpose? I thanked the receptionist and walked, with luggage in tow, to my hotel. This was, definitely, not the last time my luggage got drug along an uneven sidewalk, over rocks, or through dirt on this trip. I want to use this space to give DAKINE a huge thanks. The suitcase toughed it out and is still intact, even if it is a bit worn and torn.
In the taxi driver’s defense the hotel he dropped me at was The Bumas Hotel on Bumi Ayu Street and my actual hotel was Bumi Ayu Bungalows. In Bali lots of people, places, and things have the same name. If they don’t have the same name they have similar names. To make matters more confusing you can’t trust an address or street name. A street can potentially have an old name and/or a new name; and it isn’t required to have a street sign. Said street could also have a nickname based on a popular restaurant or something that recently happened there. The building/house number can also be an issue. The numbers don’t have to go in a sequential order. It seems the Balinese will give their spot on the street any number they want. They are big into lucky numbers. So if you and your neighbor have the same lucky number, guess what. You both have the same address even though you live one down (or up) from one another. Please, do not even get me started on numbers plus letters. Similar to my thoughts on being confused by what day it is; I find this nonchalance toward location (Is that the right word?) quite charming.
Am I in Bali, or Wonderland? Which side of The Looking Glass is this, anyway? If it is Wonderland; Phil is more like Alice. You might liken me to the White Rabbit; and I’m trying to keep my intensity to a minimum. That’s why I am awake, journaling, and Phil is still asleep. I just can’t sleep that much. This necessity to awaken is supported by the rooster that starts crowing at 4:45, his rooster friends that soon follow suit as they continue well past normal morning hours. There is also the constant droning of mopeds that may lessen during the middle of the night but is in full force after sunrise. It is a different energy that flows through life here in Bali. And I having recently been grounded in this, the other side of the world, am keenly aware of it. It feels exciting and I want to know how it all works.