I thought I’d continue the trend of non-Bolivian tales but on the other end of the time spectrum: our holiday to Bali, just a couple of months ago. Apparently some years back, Bolivia was voted Number 2 most corrupt country in the world. They paid good money to have it bumped down from #1. They shouldn’t have bothered. Bali beats them hands down. If corruption was cage fighting, Bali would be Brock Lesnar and Bolivia would be Beatrice the broken-legged diabetic baby deer. They say the cops there are the worst in the world. I’d agree with them. Bali is a tiny island that’s part of Indonesia. Australians love going there because it’s cheap. There’s a reason: we arrived in Bali after spending a week in glorious Singapore, which was hot, clean, affluent, and smelled nice. Bali is none of those things. Except for the hot bit. I was sweating so much all my clothes turned off-yellow. Even the dark green ones. I smelled like a Nebraskan girls’ basketball locker room. We did have a lovely Villa to stay in though, with our own pool, living area and separate bedroom villas, complete with aircon and open air showers. ‘Bali Belly’ is also a big part of the Bali experience and many tourists try it. You should give it a go if you get the chance. Bowel control is so overrated. Take a plastic bag with you for fun on the run. They can also come in handy to ward off potential muggers or life mates. Once you get out of the airport you realise one thing Bali has going for it is the transport. Taxi’s are cheap and the traffic flows through the city like a swarm of drunk ants. At about the same pace. There are occasional stop signs, and if you want to get into the traffic flow, you just nose your way in. It’s extremely safe, provided you stay in your Hotel the whole time. My favourite part were the scooters. Thousands of little death machines, everywhere, in flocks weaving around the cars and trucks. You can rent a scooter in Bali for $4 a day. Plus a full tank of fuel from an Absolut Vodka bottle for an extra dollar. No paperwork or deposit, and a helmet from the middle ages that feels like you’re wearing a bucket on your head. Mine had no strap either, which was comforting. The nice guy hiring the scooters even offered us magic mushrooms for an additional fee, once we’d signed for the use of his already dangerous motorised vehicles. While the scooters were probably the best part of Bali, they were also the worst. There’s no signage anywhere, so we got lost every single time and drove around aimlessly for hours. My thighs got burnt to a crisp and later peeled like wallpaper. I could have cut that stuff up and made my own booklet of postage stamps. Also, the cops in Bali are the worst in the world. The first time we got pulled over it was for not having ‘international’ licenses. This was a complete lie. It was actually for stopping at an intersection, when we should have gone straight through. That was a lie too. The cop took us down a side street and tried to explain in broken English that the infraction would cost us $40 a pop, which was slightly exorbitant given the daily cost of the scooters. My brother-in-law Chris, who has been nicknamed ‘large’ for quite some time because he’s 6’8″, nearly punched the cop out but we were able to persuade him that perhaps paying $40 was better than the alternative: languishing in a Bali jail cell for 8 years, begging the guards for toilet paper since 1) we’d need our hands for eating and 2) nail clippers were scarce. We eventually talked him down to $20 each and even got a handy receipt; should we break the law again. We did. The second time we got pulled over, that same afternoon, Baden had had enough of Bali, traffic, humidity, scooters and bent cops, and shoving the receipt in my palm, left Chris and I to fend for ourselves. For whatever reason, our little blue ‘day pass’ as we called it, worked, and we got off scott-free. The moral of the story is, if you’re on a scooter in Bali: don’t be white. At least the Bolivian cops had good excuses, like needing to paint the office, or school books for their kids. That way you almost enjoyed getting royally stung.
One of the highlights of the Bali trip was a bike ride from one of the peaks in the middle of the island, near a dormant volcano. It was downhill for about 3 hours, which is my kind of bike ride. We had breakfast before we set out, and were offered Civet Coffee, which is some of the most expensive in the world. This is because (really) they feed these little creatures called Civets the coffee beans, and their digestive system strips them of any remaining goodness, and coats them in poo. The beans come out in little turd shapes, which are then roasted. Westerners pay a lot for it for some reason, up to $80 a cup. Go the Balinese I say. Whoever figured out how to make people eat something a small mammal crapped out is a marketing genius.
Like Bolivia, Bali has huge markets full of stuff you don’t need but want to buy as proof you’ve been outside your home town. Chris and I took an afternoon to visit Denpasar Badung, Bali’s biggest outdoor market. On the way, our taxi driver took us past what he described as Bali’s best accommodation, where you could stay for free and have food provided for years. Denpasar prison: providing lodging for a great many Aussies who thought taking drugs to Bali was a bright idea. Once we arrived at the market a lovely lady crossing the street guided us through the throng, up some darkened stairs, along many winding, narrow corridors before arriving at a tiny shop where her partner in crime proceeded to rip us off like Band-Aids off a scabby knee.
She wanted $95 for a woven tablecloth. Maybe her husband was a cop. I could have bought my own scooter in Bali for $95. I could have bought Bali for $95. I talked her down to $20 which was still extremely generous, and fled to get creamed elsewhere. The friend even wanted a cut for taking us there.
I’m off to eat some coffee berries in an attempt to make some money. My online coffee store isn’t quite ready yet, but in the meantime, I’ve put a small gallery of Bali Photos online, using Apple’s new iPhoto app for the iPad. Not bad…