Motorbikes, Markets And Meat On A Stick

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May 11th 2006
Published: May 13th 2006
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The sound of motorbikes never really stops in Depasar, but it does calm down. However I was woken at around 6 a.m. as the morning madness resumed. I went downstairs and ordered Nasi Goreng (fried rice), fruit and Balinese coffee which was a different, but fantastic way to start the day.

I walked down the the 3 storey Pasar Badung market. The ground floor was all meat, fish, fruit and veg and not a place for the squeamish. The first floor was all herbs and spices, and the top floor was mainly clothing and homewares. I was accosted by a self appointed guide the second I entered who took me around desperate to get my to buy anything, whether I wanted it or not. I soon learnt to express interest at nothing, although she did talk me into buying some very nice sarongs. I also got chased by a saffron seller. True, the saffron was being offered at maybe 1/150th the price in the UK, but there were lots of bugs crawling around in it. If i was using it the same day I'd be happy, but I'm not sure how 5 months of being in my bag would go down with the bugs!

The whole market would be no god for the claustrophobic or the irritable, and those with a kind heart would be easily ripped off and would throw money away to the hoards of small cute children who stroke your arm before holding out their palms for money.

Once I was tired of running away from stallholders I left the market, and got a horse drawn cart across town to the Tanam Budaya arts centre. Almost immediately people were trying to sell me flutes, masks, fans and anything else you never knew you wanted. "please mister, buy flute for memory of Bali, my family poor, have no money, $10". "But i dont want a flute". "ok then, $2". "ok, maybe I do want a flute". It dawned on me what it was about Denpasar that is strange. So many people sell things only suited to tourists, but there are none. Maybe this is Bali post bombing - touristy but no tourists?

I went and dumped my new purchases at the hotel, grabbed some Satay and rice for lunch and then started my journey out to the Tanah Lot temple. This involved three bus journeys with drivers intent on ripping me off. On the way out of the city it was nice to see a change of scenery - food stalls and petrol stalls gave way to home temple carvers, rice paddies and even patches of jungle. I ended up getting a motorbike the final stretch to the Tanah Lot temple, and I have to say it wasn't too bad. I wasn't comfortable enough to wave back at all the pretty girls that were waving at me (id liked to think its my good lucks, but perhaps it was a "bye bye, youre going to die strange gringo man") though.

Arriving in Tanah Lot I realised that actually Denpasar isn't touristy. The stalls here had english signs, and more tacky junk than a tacky junk shop. I strolled down to the temple which was perched on a rocky outcrop a few metres off the shore. As it was low tide it was possible to walk out on the flat rocky platform, but entering the temple itself was forbidden. The setting was like somethign from Dungeons and Dragons with the half man carved half sea carved island having an almost mystical quality. I decided to embrace the commercialisation of the temple by going up to the sunset terrace to watch the sunset with an overpriced drink. Rp 25,000 (about 1 pound 70) bought me a 1/2 pint of Gin and Tonic... extortionate!

I had to use private transport to get part of the way back as the Bemos were no longer running. I then had troubles with a bemo driver who was trying to charge me 4x the going rate, and he even threatened to take me back to the start of the journey. Thankfully he understand the phrase "well if you do that youll get no money" and in a wave of indonesian swear words he let me out and I made my way home.

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14th May 2006

screw em' drivers
the transport drivers in that part of asia are well versed in the art of 'butchering' tourists... the same thing happened to me while i was in bangkok, drove me to a dark alley, gathering his fellow-driver mates around, threatening me to pay him more than he deserved..while i refused profusely, and ran away to the main street and stood near a police car who is fortunately in sight.. but usually they don't dare to do anything more than a few swear words... streetsmartness n a pair of good running legs is essential have lots of fun mate! -Jeremiah. (melb)

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