Trying not to pay ridiculous prices for taxis and not hit scooters around Bali.
15.09.2011 - 18.09.2011 31 °C
Lombok to Bali, Indonesia
Travelling the few miles between Lombok and Bali proved much harder than one might imagine. We were advised, before we left our hotel, that the 20 minute flight was ‘rescheduled’ until later in the afternoon. On arriving at the airport later than originally planned our plane was then delayed further. By the time we eventually took off we had been delayed some five hours since our original departure time. Annoyingly a variety of other companies had managed to send their Denpasar bound flights off on time. However, given our experience this ‘simple’ flight of twenty minutes was easily the worst flight we have experienced during this nine month trip, both inbound and outbound. By the time it was over we felt as if we had just completed the red eye from Phoenix to New York.
Arriving at Denpasar we had the usual fight to secure a reasonably priced taxi. With the official taxis essentially operating a cartel that allowed them to demand twice the appropriate fare we eventually found an illegal taxi who knew where our hotel was. At least he said he did. Yet, as is often the case once we had agreed a fare, close to what we knew the rate should be, we were soon aware that our driver did not really know where our relatively new hotel was located. Naturally, this begs the question how he can agree a rate in the first place! Once he actually understood our destination we had the usual discussion about it being far away, not where we said, the price needing to go up etc. Needless to say it did not. Paying our driver what we had initially agreed, once we finally arrived at the hotel, he put up an excellent pretence of being unimpressed with the agreed fare that we had now paid. Feeling little sympathy for his cause we headed to check in after a surprisingly long day of travel.
For our stay on Bali we were accommodated at the extremely trendy W Hotel. Recently completed it is now considered the flagship of this ‘hip’ chain of hotels. With our delay we arrived at the hotel in the late evening. The long bamboo lined drive to the lobby tastefully lit and the rumbling, wooden bridge over the artfully lit lotus pond provided a visual feast for our arrival. Within the hotel strategically located multi-colored lights lit the communal areas to provide a feeling of modernity, chic and fashion. Given the designer outfits that passed through reception and the immaculate tailoring of the staff, two long term travelers were not necessarily the target customer of this hotel. However, we were soon checked into our suite overlooking the vast pool, beach and crashing ocean with an unfortunately strong undertow which discouraged swimming.
For our time on Bali we rented ourselves a small Toyota car. This allowed us to avoid the constant overcharging of taxis and of course the freedom to explore where we wanted, when we wanted. For much of our time this involved driving to the interior of the island to the now unfortunately extremely touristy Ubud. As a centre for arts Ubud is located passed verdant green rice fields and swaying palm trees. Yet, where I remember a relaxed town it is now clearly on every Bali visitors list of places to go. However, we will still able to wonder its curious streets, recovering from our frenzied drive away from the coast.
As in Lombok driving is not necessarily a non-contact sport. With few roads of any size on the island the unsettling sight of a scooter heading directly for one’s car, whilst trying desperately to overtake something on their side of the road, becomes almost normal. Merely the time and space between returning to the correct side of the road and one’s own car appears to diminish. Scooters swarm the roads like giant ants. With apparently little care or consideration for themselves or others they squeeze into almost invisible gaps, undertaking and weaving as necessary. It was one of these scooters unfamiliar with the meaning of a cars left hand indicator light that hit the rear passenger side of our car. Leaving a big scratch on the car but the scooter apparently undamaged the driver let out a stream of Indonesian expletives as he struggled to keep his scooter upright. Yet, with the traffic as it is and a general lack of driving skills our only surprise is that comings together such as this are not more frequent. Happily our car was already scratched in the area that was hit so on returning the rental no comments were made!
The rest of our time on Bali was spent wandering the beach around our hotel, which happily, locals were still able to access or relaxing by the pool.
Strangely, perhaps the fondest memory of an island that neither of us would particularly enthuse over was the small tea house outside of our hotel. For the first time since leaving the UK I found somewhere that could prepare and serve a proper cup of tea, in bone china. What a joy. It is fortunate that one can drink and drive after tea. I certainly drank my fill!