Eventually, it was time to leave the lovely people of Bukittinggi and head off to a different noisy town. Armed with a map drawn in to my book by a wandering German jewelry maker lady, I set off to tackle Kuta, Bali.
40,000 IDR got me into the front seat of the van to take me to the airport in Padang. This elicited an angry squak from the lady who had been there. She may have been irritated but didn't speak English so I didn't have to hear her grumble.
The ride there is suppose to be two hours but took three or four due to traffic.
As I've noted in earlier blogs, the person who starts as your driver may not end up being your driver for the bulk of the journey. It seems to be a senior person - or owners - job to drive around within town and collect up people to take on the journey. They then switch drivers. A junior person within the organization does the driving. This person usually has limited or no English speaking skills. Somehow, I'd managed to forget this and bribed the original driver to have no music for the journey. Fortunately, he passed on the instructions to his subordinate.
The rule of smoking in the van is this - if the driver feels like it, smoking will be done. If not, it won't be. If the air conditioning is on, there is no smoking. If it is smoking time, the windows will be rolled down and AC shut off.
During the journey, I saw a woman walk by with a dozen uncaged geese lying on her head. No clue how they were affixed there. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a picture of it.
This is a tiny airport. My gate number wasn't printed on the ticket. Not to worry, there is only one gate. Though the airport is small, they do a brisk local business. Not very many tourists.
Within the airport itself, they stopped all of the other announcements to play the call to prayer very loudly over the public address speakers. It seemed to go on for quite awhile.
Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to ask where my bags were bound. Only as far as Jakarta. Once there, I would have to claim them then give them over for the connecting flight.
As I always do, I'd arrived a couple hours early for my flight. I was sitting around at a table waiting. A lady with a kid and a husband in tow came up and did the 'mind if I sit here' gesture. Naturally, I indicated that would be great. They sat down and were joined by her two brothers as well. We fell to a bit of chatting. There was a bit of a language barrier but everyone seemed very friendly. They then pulled out the rolled up packages which contained a banana leaf wrapped around rice and various other things. If I got the word correctly, this is called 'rice padang' - or they were saying they got it here in this city. I am not sure. I told them I wanted to go buy some and asked if they could watch my 'travel bindle'. For new readers, this is my very ugly cheap bag which doesn't contain anything worth much aside from water, toilet paper and such. They told me to remain seated, they were happy to share in their bounty and fed me. They wouldn't accept any money for this. It was a full meal that (at the airport) cost 10,000 IDR. Lovely people.
Since I didn't have much to offer in return, I produced my cigarettes. I didn't offer one to the lady. I'm sure women here smoke but if they do it is always in secret. I gave one to each of the men. I should have offered one to the kid but I wasn't sure if the language barrier would prevent the joke from being as funny. Or if the kid would light up.
It seems that around 70% or more of the men I have met smoke. Those that do smoke tell me they smoke 2-3 packs per day. I feel like I barely smoke in this country though I'm sure I am smoking a little more than normal. Relax, health nuts - I am working on regulating it. I can feel your concern for my health through the computer and it warms my heart. But let us keep your concern secret. Better that way. Warm heart already - don't spoil it.
Naturally, my flight was delayed by a half hour. Since I had a five hour lay over in Jakarta, this didn't bother me at all.
Part of me feels it will be a bit of a disappointment to go to Kuta. I am sure that I will see Indonesians not on their best behavior as I am seeing in Bukittinggi. [Later note: Being right all of the time is a huge burden.] I am happy I got to experience some of the 'rama tama' (hospitality - and a fun word to say) before going there.
Once the time for your flight is closer, you can make your way through the second luggage check into the waiting room. For domestic flights, the security is a lot more lax. In my travel bindle, I've been lugging around a tennis racket shaped mosquito zapper I've not gotten to use yet. This delivers a powerful electric jolt to the bugs frying them. The jolt is also enough to make a human yelp. Waved through with no problems and a few cigarette lighters.
Avoid the waiting room as long as possible. It is overcrowded with noisy TV's blasting horrible Indonesian programs. All of the seats are taken either by people or luggage. I went and found an unused wheel chair and took a seat. For fun, I wheeled myself around the waiting room a bit in it. Eventually, a member of the airport staff wanted it. "What kind of person takes someones wheel chair?" I demanded. Then, I asked for - and got - her seat behind the counter. Indonesian people took pictures of me lounging behind the counter.
Within my week in Indonesia, I've been invited to several meals, served a lot of free coffee, judged a poetry contest, appeared in the local newspaper and now at least appear to work for the airport. And tourists ask me if I am bored not doing tourist stuff. HA!
ON THE PLANE
Reading the card in the seat back on the plane. The stewardess comes over and tells me she would like me to read the 'your sitting next to the emergency exit card'. I flap it in her face and say "You realize you have just interrupted my reading of that very card." She continued to prattle on about it, on auto pilot. I resisted the temptation to roll it up and hit her with it because I knew it would delay the flight and probably get me kicked off the plane. I dislike people that are robots. I don't mind robots that are people, however.
The flight itself was so brief they made the announcement that drinks and such would not be served. The entire staff hid during the short flight. Whether it was to avoid doing any work or to avoid explaining to people they could not serve drinks I am uncertain.
When we landed in Jakarta, they had a 'connecting flight desk'. Since indeed I had a connecting flight, I went to check it out. Their English skills were abysmal. Through trial and error, I eventually decyphered that I should take a yellow bus over to terminal three with my bag. My new flight would leave from there. I thanked them and retrieved my bag.
Once outside, I was assailed by taxi drivers. I ignored them and went over to stand next to one who was smoking. If a local is smoking somewhere, chances are better of getting away with a smoke myself. While I was smoking with the amused taxi driver, another taxi driver came and asked one of the three questions they have been trained to ask in English. "Where you go?"
"Yellow bus." I said. He shoook his head sadly. "Yellow bus stop running at eleven." It was 11:30PM.
I grinned at him exhailing cigarette smoke. "I don't believe you. Not even a little bit." The taxi driver I was already smoking with started laughing and translated. The other guy stomped off angrily. This had apparently earned me street cred with the first taxi driver who then offered to take me there for 3000 IRD. Since the yellow bus was free and I wanted to avoid the "I know I said 3000 but meant 30,000" bullshit tricks, I politely refused. I then caught the yellow bus over to terminal three.
There is quite a bit of space between the terminals. You should definately catch the yellow bus. Walking is not practical, especially with your luggage. The terminals contain a lot of western crap - A&W, Starbucks and so on. Bangkok still has the coolest airport, however. They have a train that if you know about it can get you cheaply into town built into the airport itself and they have a 7-11 which sells for the same prices as all others. Their business is brisk enough they don't feel the need to gouge for being at an airport.
Within terminal three, most of the stuff was closed. Only the 24 hours 'Circle K' was still open.
Wandering around within the airport during my five hour layover turned up only one thing of interest - an ATM with a 2,500,000 limit. Since I get screwed out of a significant portion of money per transaction with my bank this was a little better than the normal 1,500,000 limit. The bills I got from the machines were 100,000's. I've not seen bigger bills than this and don't know how much trouble the 100,000's will be to spend outside of tourist areas.
Even though I was in an international airport in the capital city of Indonesia and not doing any bizarre behavior (thought I should specify that) I was still an object of fascination by the locals.
When it came time to pay my airport departure tax of 40,000 IDR, the man at the desk 'forgot' to give me 10,000 of my change. Sure, it was only a dollar but it is still irritating. It makes me wonder how much extra money he collects from gullible tourists.
Within my passport pouch, I keep a spare key. The metal detectors at Jakarta are really cranked up. In order to take off my pouch I have to remove my shirt. Since they are going to want to frisk me on the opposite side of the metal detector anyway, I just leave my shirt off and carry it through. The belly terrifies them into submission. Usually, their reactions range between confused or amused but one guy seemed irritated I had my shirt off. He, however, did not have any English skills. So I stood there repeatedly offering him my dirty shirt until my passport pouch had made it through the Xray machine. I then put back on the pouch and my shirt. He just stood there shaking his head. Lucky for him I don't have a groin pouch as I have no sense of decorum.
I think it is the airport's fault for not requiring the employees speak the international language at their 'international airport'. If you can't direct people to do what you want, it makes you a less effective security guard unless you jump to physical violence - and that can be an international incident. Hell, if they were to ask for tutors and supply a barraks for them to live free with free cheap food, they'd be flocked with English speakers.
I arrived in Kuta. Per the German ladys instructions, I told the driver to take me to the monument in Kuta. I'd bought a prepaid taxi ticket. Despite wikitravel saying this would cost 50,000 IDR, it was 60,000 IDR. Meh. Naturally, the driver wanted to know what hotel I was staying at so he could sadly inform me that it had burned down, had bed bugs or been taken over by terrorists. That way, he could take me to another place he knew of that was cheap and clean and he got commissions from. In some areas, I have used the taxi drivers advice but the street I was headed for has tons of guesthouses. I just kept repeating 'the memorial' then slunk into silence. He wasn't too pleased but dropped me off there.
The memorial itself is an easy landmark that everyone knows. From what I've heard, a bomb went off in a hotel a couple years ago and killed a bunch of people so they set up a memorial. I haven't bothered to read the details. From the memorial, it was an easy walk over to Poppies Lane II.
Here, I began the arduious process of trying to find a place that was within my price range and doesn't suck. The prices vary wildly. On top of that, I'd only had an hours sleep in the last couple days on the plane. Unfortunately, the pack got heavy enough that I took a room that was pretty sucky. After some desoltory wandering about, I slept for twelve hours straight.
Even with the disco they have in this area, no mosque means this city (on that night at least) is much quieter than the one I left. I haven't yet met a tourist who was a devout Muslim. I am sure they exist but not met one yet. For all of the other tourists out there, keep away from mosques. Period. They are noisy as hell. The romance of being immerced in a foreign culture will fade when you are woken up at five in the morning to hear all about how great Allah is in Arabic.
The tourist area itself is littered with all of the usual crap. Lots of bars, clothing shops, shops that sell nicknacks. There are a lot of 'dirty' things you can buy such as bumper stickers saying things like "I (heart) cock" and "Bob is gay". Wooden penises and such are also popular items. Since these sort of things aren't popular in the local culture, I can only presume that Australians like to buy them enough they have gone into mass production. There are also a lot of surfing shops.
The next day, I met up with a fifty year old English teacher born in South Africa named Christopher. He is also a perpetual traveler (and worker while traveling) who has been doing it for about thirty years. He told me that unless I was here to learn to surf (as he was) or lie around in the sun, I've probably come to the wrong spot. He took me on a walking tour of some of the more interesting things within the town, including the place he is staying. It is only 60,000 IDR per night. Two beers, in local slang. Much better than my three and a bit shithole and close to half the price of the nicer place I'd found. He also showed me some of the places off of the beaten track. He was an excellent guide for someone just now arriving in town.
Within the tourist area, it's like being assailed by carnies who have learned to never take 'no' for an answer. They offer everything - rides in buses, vehicle rental, women rental, massages, music, tours, sunglasses - a lot of shit I have no interest in. Outside of the tourist areas, you are left completely alone.
According to other tourists I've met so far, the reason this place is popular with Australians is simply due to location. It is a cheap, short flight here. Makes sense though I'm wondering if on beer alone they end up spending more money than they would be Cambodia.
THE TEN K
After I'd gotten my original crappy place, I dropped the bag off and went looking for a better place. I knew I'd have to spend the night there. Getting back your money once handed over is just not something that will happen. But, I wanted to set myself up with a better place to stay. I found a place that has wifi in the restaurant area and a much nicer (and more secure) room for the same price. If I wanted a hot shower, +10,000 IDR. I've missed hot showers so I gave the proprieter 10,000 IDR as a deposit.
Later, I got shown the 60,000 IDR per night rooms. This is nearly half the price of the 'nice place'. After securing a room, I went to inform the proprieter I would not be staying with him.
"The ten K is yours." I said. "I won't be staying here tonight, but I wanted to come let you know so you wouldn't be holding the room."
The proprieter kept trying to explain to me that the ten K was gone, even should I come stay with him later. I told him I realized that but wanted to let him know so he wouldn't hold on to the room needlessly.
He seemed impressed with this behavior and thankful I didn't want my dollar back.
The new room I am staying at isn't as nice as Christopher's room. It is pretty dingy. If I want to take a dump, I have to wedge myself in. This may result in the destruction of the toilet seat. Won't be the first one that has fallen to my ass. The sheets here are brownish from either being old or washed in cold water. The fan makes a bad noise to punish you for using electrictity. There is no wifi on the premices. But for $7 per night (60,000 IRD) in Bali, I can't really bitch. Hell, they even promise some sort of breakfast. Not sure if I will want to eat it or not but I'll give it a try tomorrow.
The security isn't great here. There are wooden bars on the windows but the lock looks pretty easy to jimmy. When I leave, I use my pacsafe to keep things secure. The sink isn't in the bathroom so the U-bend is now used to lash my stuff to. Yes, they can jimmy the lock, destroy the u-bend and steal the pack but it is the best security I can devise. The pac safe does at least give me the illusion of security which I like.
Since this place is so cheap, if it doesn't suck (I'll know after a night of sleep) I will make it my base of operations for exploring. Bali is pretty small so it may even be possible to take day trips to other places should I grow bored of this town. We'll see. I am going to need a lot of time to do a lot more research before moving to a new location. If I can control my costs (read as 'beer intake') I will be able to sit here for quite awhile. There is a big difference between getting to go out and have a couple of beers with cool tourists you meet and sitting quietly in your room sucking down a bottle of water both in cost and 'quality of life'.
BLIND IN INDONESIA
No, it wasn't from mastrubating. Here's how it happened:
I decided to take a day trip to recon Ubud with Christopher. It is only two or three hours away so I figured 'why not'. Since he was moving to Ubud, I immediately pounced on his slightly better room. This moderately annoyed the hotel staff. They wanted to play the 'just leave your gear in your room and we'll get it cleaned so you can move in later, oh gosh sorry we already rented the room. We only had to clean one room instead of two.' I got around this by letting them know my gear was already moved into Christopher's old room, please make sure it is cleaned. It was cleaned just a little but since my gear was literally chained to the bed, they didn't have anywhere else to go.
Enroute, we met a couple tourists from Slovenia who were headed in the same direction and joined forces. Christopher knew about a brand new bus that would take us part of thhe way there to a place called Batubulan. Since the bus was new, it was free. Why this is baffles. Perhaps it is to try to drum up business. The bus itself has huge windows and a powerful AC. We even got tickets that said 'gratis' on them.
Sitting in the bus and making notes in my log, there was a pop and the frame of my glasses holding in the lense broke and the lense tumbled out. I have no idea why this happened but Marius, the male Slovinian tourist thought it may have been the radical temperature shift of the air conditioner.
This is possibly a repairable break but given the generally shoddy craftsmanship within Asia I've encountered, I'd expect it to break as soon as I left the store.
So now, I am fucked.
My vision is 20/400. That means that something a normal visioned person can perceive at four hundred feet, I must be standing a mere twenty feet away from. That's pretty close to blind. When I was a kid, my parents couldn't understand why I was always sitting just a couple feet from the TV set and never thought to have my vision checked until a school eventually did.
I'm sitting on a bus, headed to a completely unfamiliar town without my gear, blind.
We dismounted the free luxury bus at 'terminal Batubulan'. There, we needed to catch what the locals call a 'bemo'. I call it a rusted out shitbox converted for passengers ready to fall apart van. According to Lonely Planet (AKA "Liar Planet") the bemo fare from 'terminal Batubulan' to Ubud should be 5000. Nobody thought to tell the drivers. We got quoted crazy amounts in the 20,000 to 50,000 range by the greedy bastards. Christopher believes in the principle of things and was upset to be horribly gouged. Eventually, we talked Christopher up to accepting a 10,000 IDR fare. It was double the going rate locals paid but only fifty or sixty cents US more. Since I was blind and everyone else was lugging their bags, he agreed.
To say Ubud went by in a blur for me would be a literal truth. The other two tourists went on their way, I got fed and Christopher and I sought an optrician ("optik"). We found one that was happy to do the repair for 35,000 IDR - but the glasses wouldn't be ready until the next day. They were intractable in the amount of time it would take.
With some sadness, we left and returned to a guest house we had passed on the way. It is completely off of the beaten path. The only noise that place will probably get is from roosters. Christopher was originally looking for extremely cheap accomodation - 50,000 to 60,000 IDR. My research into Ubud said that wasn't happening. This was proven by his research while I was eating. From what he told me, 100,000 IDR seemed to be the average price. Christopher had managed to find a greasy matress on the floor - but they wanted 75,000 IDR for it.
There is little rhyme and reason in the pricing here.
The garden of the place told me the cost would be beyond Christopher's alloted budget so I hung out downstairs smoking while he looked at the room. To my surprise, he returned and announced he would be staying. He invited me up to come and see the room. Enroute, he told me the initial asking price was 150,000 IDR but he'd gotten it down to 100,000.
The room suite with it's huge balcony, kitchen, refrigerator and white marble was nicer than the room I'd stayed at in the palace in India. I started shouting he had a fridge and he hushed me. I immediately went to talk to the owner to lock in the same deal Christopher had just gotten. The owner showed me a couple rooms but they were not as nifty as the one Christopher got. I told the owner I'd be around to stay in a room but as soon as Christopher left his, I'd be moving in. Immediately. He said that was fine. That room could easily be a $50 to $200 room, depending on where you are. Fuck yes I'm going to stay there. When I get a video of it, I'll post it up.
The only thing the hotel doesn't have is wifi. That one fact keeps it from being perfect.
Yes, it includes free breakfast. How about that shit. It's got to be better than the 'what the fuck is this' breakfast served to me today at the crappy cheap place.
Since I was still blind, Christopher kindly helped me get onto the right bemo. Spotting them had become quite a challenge.
Once back in Kuta, I got a ride to an optrician on the back of a scooter from a friendly security guard. Some really nice people here once you get the hell out of the tourist areas. The optrician told me they couldn't repair the glasses but could get me new frames for a very reasonable 75,000 IDR. They were cheap because they felt they were an old fashion, no longer in demand. Naturally, the lenses wouldn't fit so they have to attempt to grind them down and hopefully not break them and they should be ready tomorrow. In the prices below, I've listed out glasses and frames as given here. I'm thinking I can get them cheaper for sure in Cambodia and probably in the Philippines.
I staggered blindly back to my hotel and got on my scratched up, partially broken secondary set of glases.
Always have a secondary place to stay just in case things go bad where you are staying.
Disregard any 'free breakfast' when making plans on where you want to stay. Usually, the breakfasts are completely shit and the price of a better one is minimal.
Keep your secondary set of glasses in a hard case. The glasses should be wrapped in soft cloth, then sealed in a plastic bag. Wrap the glasses case itself in another bag and seal it. Since these don't see much action (hopefully) you'd be amazed at what can happen to them.
At the airport, the big bag weighed in at 18.4 KG. Another very experienced traveler recommended I get the weight down to 15 KG. For many flights when booking on the internet, there is a pull down menu that allows you to choose 15 KG rather than the normal 20 KG. This gives you a cheaper ticket cost. I'm not sure by how much. I'd like to get the weight down just to have less crap to carry. Side note, Christopher checked it out and having less bag weight doesn't decrease the cost of the ticket much - but god help you if you go over the limit - they charge a bunch.
I may eventually dump my Kindle. I am loath to do so but can honestly say I haven't used it enough in the last year to justify lugging it around. I know a lot of people would scream 'sell it' but actually finding a place to sell it is problematic at best. I doubt I would see much of the $400 originally paid for it. Should my entertainment stocks ebb, it would be nice to have the option to read books - and I can't read for long on the laptop before eye strain claims me.
I am also needing to get new glasses made. The strange green 'anti-glare' stuff on one of them has been permanently scuffed somehow despite my efforts to be very careful with them. When I find a place that makes perscription glasses made, I'll note the price.
Before leaving the USA, I'd gotten a pair of glasses made and carefully put them into a very tough case. The tough case didn't work and the glasses - which I hadn't looked at until now - are pretty much destroyed. They can be worn but need to be replaced.
Some people may be curious as to how I research where to go next, so I thought I'd make a quick post about it. Since my current goal is to save money rather than 'see stuff', it would be nice to get to a place I can stay at for a month or two. Unfortunately, my tendencies work against me in that regard, but I do try.
Anyway, step one - go to wikitravel and find the areas in the direction I am headed. Look to see if they have any budget accommodation for about $10 or less per night. Local food is always fairly cheap. If they jack the price on that, they lose the local business. Places to stay can be jacked up high because it's only tourists - and they are walking ATM's. If a place has a few places at $10 or less, it goes on the possible list. If not, I plan for other places. After finding all of the places on the list, I research to see if any of them are actually of interest to me.
It's a bit in the reverse of how normal tourists do it. This is probably not the best way, but I'm still refining my technique.
Until I get to a more 'civilized' place, I won't have access to wifi in my room for the extremely long time it takes to upload videos and pictures with any regularity.
I checked on the medicines I usually take. Although these are not uncommon medicines, the ones they had in stock seemed to be about double the cost of India. I decided to hold off buying them until my supplies have dwindled.
Cup of instant noodles, 12,000 IDR
Can of cold Nescafe, 15,000 IDR
Bali Dwipa Guest House, 100,000 IDR, 110,000 IDR with hot water. Free breakfast from 8AM-11AM, internet available in the breakfast area.
Bali Manik, 100,000 IDR - complete shithole. No bugs. Due to exhaustion I did sleep surprisingly well there, however.
Hamburger (decent), 50,000 IDR
Beer (Bitenburg), 22,000-30,000 IDR (Note, spelling on name might be wrong - beer isn't that great but it is cold, wet and alcoholic)
Pineapple drink (blend pineapples up), 6000 IDR (off tourist roads)
Shoe repair, 50,000 IDR. Note, I told them hell no since the shoes new cost about that. I'll wait till I get somewhere more reasonable should I choose to fix them.
Local food in tourist area, 10,000-22,000 IDR.
Foreign food in tourist area, about 60,000 IDR.
Frames - current style: 75,000 to 247,000 IDR
Lenses - basic thickness: 500,000 IDR
Lenses - thiner: 800,000 IDR
Lenses - uber thin: 1,800,000 IDR
Turn around time, a bit over 24 hours.
3 gig, 3 month modem card in the tourist area, 650,000 IDR. I've been informed it is around 240,000 IDR in 'the market'. Still a pretty high expense for wifi that is free in most coffee shops.