“Hello? Bali Airport?”, he said in English and was told to immediately identify the airplane if they did not want the Indonesian army to shoot them down.
“My name is Dollars”, said Allan. “One Hundred Thousand Dollars.”
Not a sound came from the tower…
“Right now the flight dispatcher and those around him are calculating how much it is per person”, explained Allan.
“I know”, said the captain.
A few seconds later the flight dispatcher said:
“Hello? Are you there, mister Dollars?”
“Yes, I am here”, said Allan.
“I am sorry, but what was your first name, mister Dollars?”
“One Hundred Thousand”, said Allan. “My name is One Hundred Thousand Dollars and I am asking permission to land at Bali airport”.
“I am sorry, mister Dollars. I cannot hear you very well. Would you be so kind to say your first name one more time, please?”
Allan explained to the captain that the flight dispatcher had started negotiating.
“I know”, said the captain.
“My first name is Two Hundred Thousand”, said Allan. “Do you we have your permission to land?”
“One second, mister Dollars”, said the flight dispatcher, got permission from those around him and continued, “You are very welcome to Bali, mister Dollars. It will be our pleasure to have you here.”
“You have obviously visited this part of the world before”, said the captain and smiled.
“Indonesia is the land of possibilities,” said Allan.
One of my favorite parts of the Swedish book “The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared” by Jonas Jonasson (the loose translation is mine). It is quite funny and I highly recommend it. It is certainly not only about Indonesia (I have to say that before some Indonesian official declares the poor author persona non grata).
My first two months in Indonesia started in Bali and ended in Bali. Flights to Bali are the cheapest.
Bali is certainly a magnet for tourists worldwide. It is quite beautiful indeed, although Flores was way more beautiful. Bali has interesting culture, although Papua is a lot more exotic. But Bali has a big international airport (itself impressive in terms of corruption more than anything else), there are cheap flights from virtually anywhere. Bali has all the services a western person might like (read shopping malls), unlike many other parts of Indonesia.
In Indonesia the government has its finger in everything – it is a way to make sure government officials get the better share of anything. Since Bali started becoming really overcrowded, they built an international airport on Lombok next door. Now they are building one in Labuanbajo for Flores and the Komodo national park. My prediction is that the next one will be in Sorong, West Papua, for Raja Ampat.
Despite Indonesia’s ridiculous visa policy (it’s all about bribes again), tourists flock to Bali. The Swedish book above actually describes in a very entertaining way how Bali became what it is but I am not going to spoil it for you now – just read the book (again, the book is not all about Indonesia).
So, after two months in Flores and Sumbawa, I went to Bali to catch a flight to Singapore to get a new Indonesian visa. It was not possible to get an extension in Indonesia. It is very tempting to whine about Indonesian visas but I will keep it for a separate post. After two days in Singapore I came back to Bali and while exploring a bit, I landed a project that would take a few weeks to complete and pay well and since I was planning to go to Melanesia, which is not known as the cheapest place on earth, I was really happy with the timing. During the next month I spent most of my time translating and going on short rides on my scooter, doing quite a bit of Geocaching too.
I didn’t see too much of Bali but I saw enough. And it’s a place I am bound to come back to. It can be quite annoying (very touristy), but at the same time there is absolutely a certain magic to it that makes you want to come back once you have left. Something like New York.
Renting a scooter is 4 USD per day. And it’s a lot of fun. Most people I know have had accidents while driving scooters in Southeast Asia. Besides a few scratches, I managed to get away with just a swollen ankle and that’s pretty good for over a month of scootering around Bali.
I was very lucky to be invited to a cremation ceremony in Karangasem, eastern Bali. The Balinese take their religion very seriously and, being Hindu, they have plenty of gods to pray to. “Do you pray every day?”, I asked a young lady. “Yes, except when I don’t feel like praying or when I am waving the red flag.” Fair enough!
I did see some other things in Bali, including a visit to some hot springs at night and a hike on the volcano Mt Batur.
There is so much to recommend to do and avoid in Bali that I don’t know where to start. I think I have updated some Bali-related articles on Wikitravel for accommodation and such.
The best piece of advice is – don’t let yourself be ripped off. In Kuta a guy on the beach asked 40,000 rupiah ($4) for a drinking coconut. The normal price of a coconut in Indonesia is 5,000 rp in the bush and 10,000 elsewhere. When I laughed in his face he became very angry. Meeting tourists who know their way must be tough – probably the most challenging part of his job.
Mt Batur is famous for another rip-off. You don’t need a guide really (unless you actually do), but the populace is really greedy for the tourist buck so they sit around the start of the trail and tell you a guide is compulsory. If you decide to go alone anyway, your scooter will be destroyed when you come back. One option is to walk all the way there (leave your transport in Kintamani) and politely ignore the wannabe guides. Another option is, as I did, take an alternative hike on the western side of the volcano. Here is a GPX trace. This is a trail that is not popular and there won’t be anyone else there.
This post also has quite useful information.