Birthday in Bali – End of the journey

Random images from the end of the adventure

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I’ve always felt that the last day of a vacation should be spent relaxing, maybe doing nothing except wander around. No tours. Nothing planned. Go with the flow. That was how my last day in Bali went. But first, I had to spend more than two hours downloading photos and a blog post to this site, and downloading the same photos to my Facebook page. At 15,000 rupiah per hour, the total came to 35,000 rupiah, about $4.

The night before, I finally decided to walk to the bar district. I had not yet learned exactly

The lake, top right, is where I had lunch on tour. Denpasar is the capital of the island. Legian is where my hotel was.

where it was, and when I asked people where the local kampung bule was all I received were quizzical stares. I knew it was somewhere in the Kuta district and I figured out the route, so I just started walking. My hotel was in the Legian district, about a mile away. Along the way, I stopped for a dinner of chicken picatta at Posers, where I had eaten the two previous nights.

I found several bars but they were nothing like the low-key bars in Batam. These had large openings, with loud music blaring and lots of flashing lights. I was early (9 pm) and it was Monday night. The crowds on the streets had thinned quite a bit since Sunday. The bars looked mostly empty. I finally found one with the requisite hotly dressed women out front and a few pool tables in back. Ordered a drink and an older, not-so-attractive woman came over to play. A few games later, I was walking back to the hotel.

Once done with my Internet tasks on my last day, I started walking again, first to find some lunch and finish the shopping I thought was finished the day before. I stopped at one restaurant that had an interesting seafood/Indonesian menu but the prices were a little steep (it was close to the beach) and everything was ala carte. So I finished my beer and went looking for another place.

I had passed a little hole in the wall several times and decided to give it a try, as its menu of Indonesian and seafood sounded interesting. The view from my table was a six-foot concrete wall lined with parked motorbikes. I was the only customer until a very thin guy with a pet Java monkey sat at the table next to mine. He has lived in Bali for 33 years and owns a warung (small restaurant) and another business. We agreed that Bali was mostly “plastic,” as he called it. Overdone, overwrought, over-exposed, might be my descriptions.

The lunch turned out to be excellent – shrimp and vegetables in a butter sauce, with steamed rice and a small pepper/pineapple salad. Despite the location of the restaurant, the meal was only 27,000 rupiah, $3. The Bintang added another 15,0o00 rupiah.

Next, I decided to really depart from my usual conservative nature and splurge with a foot massage. Never had one and wasn’t sure what to expect. There were several parlors along the road that had young women out front trying to lure business in and I stopped at one.

The shop had four chairs for foot massages, pedicures and such, and four areas with curtains for full massages. Young women in sarongs flittered about, doing what they do. Next to my chair was a fish tank where you put your feet in the have the fish eat off your dead skin. Didn’t try that one but watched as two young girls, probably from Australia, giggled their way through the experience.

My masseuse was a pretty, young Balinese girl. The foot massage was great and she talked me into a pedicure, which I badly needed. The price for the half-hour massage was 35,000 rupiah ($4) and the pedicure up-sell was another 60,000 rupiah.

With my feet firmly on cloud 9 and the sun beginning to set, I decided to see one more sunset before I left. The beach was crowded and a large group of what looked like Muslim high school students had just arrived and were slowly making their way to the water. By the time I had reached a place where I could sit, see both ways, and take some photos with sunlight hitting the fronts of people instead of the silouettes I’ve been getting, I turned and noticed the group of kids had split in two, like an amoeba breaking into two amoebae. The girls had separated from the boys.

Of course, the boys decided to settle right in front of me, blocking my camera

Muslim boys

view from the light side. They were funny, though. They almost all wore black and sat real close together, and every so often, the ones on the edges would move off for a second before returning. It reminded me of the seagulls on the beach. Watch a flock sometime. They gather close together on the ground, with an occasional bird flittering away for a moment. Then, sections of the group will fly off. Then there are no birds left, but they have gathered again on a spot further up the beach.

The boys were doing the same stuff. I think they call that anthropology.

It was a nice sunset.

Travel Day

My flight left at 9:50, which gave me ample time to pack in the morning and have a very light breakfast. Did I mention that the Bali coffee is very good? Caught a taxi within a minute in front of the hotel. There was no meter but the driver said 60,000, rupiah, which was 40,000 less than my ride in from the airport. Once again, taken. The lesson is if you think you are being taken, walk away. It’s amazing how fast the price goes down.

Check-in was fairly routine once I located the right counter. I had written “aisle” in Indonesian on my e-ticket and I think that is why I was assigned aisle seats coming in and, once again, going out. My seat on the first flight was in an exit row to boot. But check-in wasn’t all that routine after all.

When I handed my e-ticket over the counter, I placed my camera there in front of me. I was well into the terminal, having already paid the departure tax of 30,000 rupiah, before I realized I no longer had my camera. A quick rush back to the check-in counter and … wait for it … they had it waiting for me! My luck would continue.

The Bali to Jakarta trip is about two hours, and you pass by the same range of volcanoes that we passed going to Bali. In Jakarta, we were deposited in a brand new terminal, all shiny and sparkling. I flashed my ticket at someone asking where the departure gate was and then headed off in the direction they pointed.

After a pretty decent airport Indonesian meal of meatball soup with noodles and soy chicken (27,000 rupiah plus 17,000 rupiah for a Diet Coke), I went through security into what I thought was my departure terminal. Not quite. The numbers on the signs were not matching up with my ticket. So I asked someone.

Turns out I was light years from the right terminal. I was taken to a “transit” help desk, where they told me, somehow, to catch the airport bus at the end of the terminal and go to terminal 1. There are four terminals. Terminal 1 was a bit different from the previous terminal. Lots of locals. Very crowded. Disorienting.

Went through security again and was able to find my departure gate, which was jammed with people waiting on flights, so stood for about an hour. When my flight was finally called, I rushed on board first, only to find the smallest seat area on Earth. I had to noodle my legs under me just to fit in, and it was a window seat so I had no aisle to spread into. I could see this would not work. Cramps were inevitable.

When the boarding crowd settled in, I motioned to one of the flight attendants and waved at my situation. He understood immediately and found someone to exchange seats with me, giving me an aisle exit row seat. There is not a chance in Hell that any passenger in the U.S. would have exchanged seats, and I’m not sure the one in this case did so willingly. But I was a bule, after all.

The flight to Batam was unevetful but when we landed it was raining very hard, so they decided to bus us the 100 yards from the tarmac to the terminal. Except they only had one small tram that carried maybe 15-16 people at a time. So they had to load up, run to the terminal, unload and then return. In top of that, for some reason they decided to move the gangplank from the front of the plane to the back after they had made two trips. At that point I was next in line to get off, but the change in direction meant I was pretty much at the end of the line. It took about 45 minutes to deplane. I could have walked the distance in 2 minutes, in the rain, if I could just have gotten off the plane.

Despite this last problem, I have to give kudos to Lion Air. Their planes are new, their crews professional and we were mostly on time.

Sarijan was waiting for me at the terminal exit and I was back to Smiling Hill.

While my experience was probably not typical, I don’t think there was anything about Bali that I just have to experience again. With the right amount of time, and copious amounts of cash, I’m sure the experience can be much better. If I had known the lay of the land, also, I would have chosen a less-congested area than Legian or Kuta. Those are strictly wall-to-wall tourist areas, all shops, restaurants, hotels and hawkers.

I’m sure there are very beautiful, still relatively unspoiled areas that would have provided a more tranquil experience. With more time, I would have been able to see the nearby islands, maybe go snorkeling in the coral reefs that are so famous, or try some fishing or actually mingle with the local people. However, I could find all those experiences just a short ferry ride away at one of the resorts on Bintan or even on Batam.

But I can say I’ve been to Bali. And the sea breezes there are awesome! Bali hai!

About 2bagsandapack

Lifetime journalist, author, magazine editor and publisher, now semi-retired and traveling the world. My plan, after living in Costa Rica for 14 months, was to visit a new country in southern Europe every three months to experience the culture and the challenge of adapting to a new environment, while on a fixed income. That plan was sidetracked when I was offered a job in Indonesia, providing an opportunity to explore Asia. Indonesia lasted for a 4 wonderful years but I have now moved on to Hua Hin, Thailand.
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