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Published: October 25th 2009
(Day 565 on the road)
So here it is, my last blog entry about Southeast Asia after travelling across the entire region (plus a few other "nearby" countries) for the last 18 months or so. On the way back to Bali from Lombok I had met adventurous and ever-smiling Suzanne
from Holland, and the next two days we were to explore central Bali together on a rented motorbike.
My last stay in Kuta on Bali hadn't been the most wonderful experience for me, but I had heard good things about Ubud and its surrounding and was determined to give Bali a second try on my final two days in Indonesia. In the end, it was a mixed blessing. The landscape and scenery were truly stunning, with terraced rice paddies giving way to the mighty Batur volcano with its lake, all dotted with countless Hindu temples. The local touts however were much less stunning, with a few more nasty encounters. To be fair though, the hawkers in Ubud are much less aggressive and numerous than down in Kuta, so by Bali standards it was almost a walk in the park.
On my second to last day Suzanne and I simply drove
around north of Ubud, mainly in the area near Gunung Batur (which requires an entrance fee from international but not from Indonesian visitors, nice), an extinct volcano with its own pretty lake. At least, it looked pretty from afar, but as we got closer we realised just how littered with rubbish the lake front and the water itself were. Unfortunately this is a very common sight in Indonesia (and other countries in the region save Singapore), as people tend to simply drop their rubbish wherever they are, with no regard for the environment or the beauty of a place.
Somewhere along the way to the lake we got stopped by police in the hope of a quick bribe. The guy in the car in front of us set the scene by getting out of his vehicle, openly giving the policeman some money, and then driving off without exchanging a single word with the cop. Smoothly done I would say. But naturally we were in no mood to finance a corrupt police officer, so we stalled as much as possible whilst keeping friendly. We got some fruits out, started eating, offered him some, and talked about how we saw Julia
Roberts in the morning who was shooting a movie in Ubub's market (serious!). He for his part tried to unsuccessfully convince us that my driver's license was not valid in Bali (rubbish of course). After ten minutes or so he gave up and let us go. Sucker.
In the late afternoon we cruised around for quite a while trying to find the famous temple complex of Pura Besakih. We got lost a few times and reached the temple just before nightfall, which was a blessing actually as we were the only visitors by far to this truly impressive temple complex, save for countless menacing stray dogs and a few worshippers making offerings. By the time we headed back to Ubud it was pitch black, and we ended the day in one of Ubud's trendy restaurants enjoying an "organic" sandwich (whatever that means over here).
Sadly, the next day (my last one) started with a particularly unpleasant encounter, when just after checking out and paying the owner of my (until then lovely) guest house called me "stupid people". It came completely out of the blue without any warning, and I was pretty shocked and upset. He had asked me
for double the price we had agreed for, which I of course very politely declined. As it was a small place with all the rooms arranged an open courtyard I couldn't resist to make a big fuss so that everybody staying realised this guy's true feelings about his customers. Hopefully some people got the hint and moved out from this sneaky place. Unfortunately I don't remember the name of the place, else I had posted it here as a warning for anyone looking for a place to stay in Ubud.
The rest of the day Suzanne and I spent - and this is very untypical for me - shopping (of all things!). She had wanted to buy a few souvenirs for some friends, and I was beginning to like the idea of buying a Balinese mask for myself. Everything took much longer than anticipated however, and with my shuttle bus for the airport leaving at six o'clock in the evening, we were getting increasingly nervous. Finally, we had finished our shopping and I was the proud owner of a beautiful, one metre long mask.
Now all that remained was a quick stop at the post office to post
the things we bought home. Easy, right? Not in Bali it isn't! After weighing our parcels and working on his calculator for a suspiciously long time, the guy behind the counter proclaimed a ridiculous figure of 380.000 rupiah for medium-sized parcel to Germany by seamail. If you have ever been to Indonesia you will know just how incredible this figure is.
Naturally we asked him to show us the official price list. And, surprise surprise, the real price was less than half of what he had just quoted us, namely 180.000 rupiah. We kindly asked him to explain the figure he came up with, which, as we learned, included such inventive things as tax, packaging fee, handling fee, insurance and a few other charges he couldn't quite explain. With his second calculation however the price had mysteriously dropped to 290.000 rupiah already.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, too tired of all this rubbish we got our packaging done somewhere else for a fraction of the price and then went back to the post office simply refusing to pay any other additional charges save for the 1% tax, some insurance and some plastic wrapping which they absolutely
insisted upon but which was 100% unnecessary and yet another way to extract more money from us (none of the other parcels behind the counter were wrapped). But with my bus leaving in ten minutes we had no time at all to continue arguing with these sleazy, dishonest government employees. A minute later we were racing off on our motorbike to catch my shuttle bus to the airport and got there just as it was pulling out of the bus station, making my farewell with Suzanne extremely rushed. Not the best ending to my stay in Indonesia, but viewed in the light of my previous experiences in Bali not surprising at all unfortunately.
Not feeling in the mood at all to face crazy Kuta with its aggressive touts again, I went straight to the airport, even though I was way early for my flight. The wireless Internet wasn't working due to some "technical problems" (should I be surprised or am I being too negative?), so I simply hung around for the few hours until my flight was due, just after 2300h. A security guy who asked me for some money for letting me out of the airport after I
had checked in was the sad but telling ending to my third time in Indonesia. I had no energy left to argue with him (and went out anyway, of course without paying).
I hope I am not coming across too harsh in my judgment in this blog, but as I said in my previous entry I am feeling very powered out from all the constant hassle and unnecessary yet immensely tiring difficulties here in Bali. I guess in that state of mind things like the bribe-wanting security staff, which would normally just make me smile, are just a little too much. Yet I know for sure I will never come back to Bali; it is simply not worth all the hassle.
But to end on a happy note: All things considered, I have had many wonderful experiences in Indonesia. Not that many on Bali or Lombok to be sure, but all the more so in Sumatra and some across Java on my previous two visits. One day - the day when I have recharged my batteries enough to brave the expected difficulties of travelling across Flores and Timor - I will be back. For now, I am really looking forward to more personal space and well-earned peace, in a country where people will simply let me be.
Australia - here I come. Mate.
Next stop: Darwin (NT, Australia).
To view my photos, have a look at pictures.beiske.com
. And to read the full account of my journey, have a look at the complete book about my trip at Amazon
(and most other online book shops).
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