I'll be sharing one or two stories a month. Unless I'm feeling lazy.
I came to Bali with two things in mind:
As I lay in bed, getting ready for the next day, a roller coaster of excitement, curiosity, and fear congregated in my mind. What have I gotten myself into? Am I doing the right thing here? Will I survive this trip? This was my first time being alone in a country I’d never been to.
Paranoia dominated my mood, but this didn’t stop me from daydreaming. I drifted in a thought that could pass as a movie trailer complete with a soothing soundtrack and cinematic scenes.
Then the airplane landed and I found myself queueing in a two-hour line at immigration. Our plane arrived on time at three but got stuck in the plane for several minutes because the bus that’s supposed to take us to the arrival hall went missing.
I glanced at my phone and realized it was almost 4:00 pm. The shuttle that I was supposed to take to Ubud leaves at 4:30 pm. To make things worse, I was carrying an extra heavy backpack that started to hurt my shoulders as I got halfway in the queue while an insensitive young Chinese couple behind me kept moving around like kids with ADHD, invading my personal space, and bumping my bag every time I moved an inch forward. I was convinced that they did it on purpose. I swear if it weren’t for breathing exercises, I would’ve exploded right there. In their face. And I would’ve looked like a complete moron.
When I finally finished the queue, I ended up at the taxi counter where I asked to be taken to the Perama office in Legian St. The taxi driver told me he would give me a discount if I let him take me to Ubud. He asked for 270,000 IDR ($23) but thinking the shuttle was still available, and only cost 50,000 IDR ($4.30), I declined his offer. When I arrived, I paid the taxi driver 80,000 IDR ($7) for the fare from the airport to Legian. I was too late though; the last bus to Ubud had left. So my only option was to get another cab.
My haggling skill was so awful. The driver told me Legian to Ubud cost 300,000 IDR ($26), I asked if 250k was okay, but he said no because it was rush hour blah blah blah…and I gave up and said okay. That was it. I really should learn to negotiate. I give up so easily.
The driver was pretty nice though. He said his name was ‘Boy’ and we talked about his religion, Hinduism (I asked plenty of dumb questions), and about his family and the town he grew up in. The conversation would always get cut off because Boy had a hard time speaking English. You’d know he didn’t understand your question because instead of an answer, he’d just chuckle then change the subject.
I told him I was from the Philippines which surprised him because he thought I was from Jakarta. It seems like every time I go to a country, people always mistake me for one of them. When I went to Hong Kong, people thought I was a local. In Singapore, the same story. But then when I get to Indonesia and they think I’m Indonesian, it makes me wonder about my identity. It’s kind of that feeling I get as a halfling (half Chinese, half Filipino) where the Chinese folks think of us as mostly Filipino, and the Filipino folks think of us as mostly Chinese. It’s like no one wants to lay a claim and we’re stuck in the middle.
Anyway, it was a pleasure talking to Boy as he helped me practice my communication skills. He wasn’t intimidating or judgemental. He asked good questions and I was surprised he did not ask why I came to Bali alone. Most of the articles I read online mentioned that women who traveled alone get asked by locals if they were cast out by their families. I was getting ready to fire my answers but it never came up.
When we got to Ubud, it became clear that I had imagined a totally different world. The place was swarming with tourists. Even the shops that lined the street were mostly western—Billabong, Accessorize, Starbucks, etc. This was not how I imagined it. I gave up and looked for somewhere to eat. A small warung stood near the inn I was staying. It was simple and quiet, so I ordered some Sate Babi (Pork Satay) for about 25,000 IDR ($2.15) and bottled water for about 5,000 IDR ($0.50). The pork tasted like sweet and sour pork but I particularly loved the vegetable side dish. I never thought I’d enjoy veggies. I walked around, bought a mediocre gelato ice cream from one of the shops nearby and realized, this is just like home. There were a few beggars on the streets, speeding motorcycles, western shops. I was a bit disappointed but it was after all just my first day. I think in the morning it will look different. Hopefully, it will.
Let’s see what happens tomorrow.