March 3, 2014

I drifted in a thought that could pass as a movie trailer complete with a soothing sound track and highly cinematic scenes.

I came to Bali with two things in mind: 1. The hope that this brings me courage to take risks and do things outside my comfort zone. 2. Find inner peace and reconnect with my spiritual side.

As I lay in bed, getting ready for the next day, a roller coaster of excitement, curiosity, and fear rushed through 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 it did not hinder me from daydreaming. I drifted in a thought that could pass as a movie trailer complete with a soothing sound track and highly cinematic scenes.

But then the airplane landed and I found myself queueing in an almost 2-hour line at the immigration area. We arrived at 3 as expected but got stuck in the plane for a few 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 4PM. The shuttle that I was supposed to take to Ubud leaves at 4:30pm. To top it off, I was carrying an extra heavy bag that started to hurt my shoulders as I got halfway in the queue and this insensitive young Chinese couple behind me kept moving around like kids with ADHD, invading my personal space, and bumping my bag every time I move an inch forward. I am even sure that they did it on purpose. I swear if it weren’t for the breathing exercises that Yoga taught me, I would have exploded right there. In their face. And I would have looked like a complete brat.

When I finally finished the immigration, faking a smile, 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 would still be available and it only cost 50,000 IDR ($4.30), I decided to tell him no. When I arrived, I paid the taxi driver 80,000 IDR ($7) for the fee from airport to Legian. I was too late though; the last bus to Ubud had already left. So my only option was to get another cab.

My haggling skill was so awful. The driver told me Legian to Ubud costs 300,000 IDR ($26), I asked if 250k is okay and he says he can’t because it’s rush hour blah blah blah…and I just 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 a bit 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 giggle and then change the topic. I don’t blame him though.

I told him I was from the Philippines and he said he thought I was from Jakarta. I don’t know how in the world he concluded with that. It seems like every time I go to a country, people always mistake me for one of them. When we went to Hong Kong, people thought we were locals. In Singapore, it’s the same. But then when I get to Indonesia and they think I am Indonesian as well, 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 casted 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 from the west—Billabong, Accessorize, Starbucks, etc. This is not how I imagined it. I gave up and decided 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 like that. I walked around, bought a not-so-good 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 maybe it’s just my first day and I think in the morning it will look different. Hopefully it will.

Let’s see what happens tomorrow.

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