A tough day in Bali for a little Aussie Battler

Mez has a little laugh about her shinner
Mez has a little laugh about her shinner

While we were in Bali Amy and I caught up with my sister Merryn and her fiancée, Glenn. Early in the trip Merryn decided she needed a good story to take home. This is how she went about it…

The day started ok. We were in Bali for a long-deserved holiday. The sun was shining, the beer was cheap, the locals were friendly and there wasn’t a profit and loss statement to be seen. We decided to go down to Doublesix in Seminyak for some sand, surf and sun.

About an hour in I decided to sneak off and get a massage. “What could be more relaxing than a Bali massage?” I thought to myself.

I decided to only take 40,000R (about $5) with me. This would put me in the power position in the bargaining stakes and I wouldn’t be tempted into buying superfluous crap.

Arriving at the Jayakarta Hotel courtyard I picked out a masseuse. The negotiation went exactly to plan…

Masseuse: “Just five Rupi more.”
Me: “Sorry, forty is all I have.”
Masseuse: “Sit down.”

I sat down, closed my eyes and silently congratulated myself on my forethought and bartering ability. The healing hands of Masseuse began to work their magic and my cares began to fade.

Things were going smashingly until a simple tap on the shoulder shattered any pretence of relaxation.

Hawker: “You want saucepan?”
Me: “No, thanks.”
Hawker: “Stainless steel”
Me (internal monologue): [They are nice saucepans]
Me: “Sorry, I don’t have anymore money.”
Hawker: “No problem, you pay later.”
Me: “No, thanks.”
[Hawker walks away]

A different hawker, selling plates, quickly took up the fight. For the next half an hour, an endless stream of women hawking various wares surrounded me.

At some point I gave in and must have whimpered something like, “Ok, ok.” thinking that would make things better. How wrong I was…

Hawker from earlier: “You buy from her and not me! Do you hate me?”
Me: “Sorry. Of course I don’t hate you.”
Hawker: “You buy from me! Pay later.”
Me: “Ok. Ok.”

I stumbled out half an hour later in a daze. As I walked back to meet the others, I took stock. I had two bags full of kitchenware and other assorted junk; my nails were painted; my heels had been scrubbed; and I couldn’t remember my massage.

Written on a scrap of paper was the IOU. I took it out and read it:

Mary: 600,000R
Annie: 600,000R
Sally: 400,000R
Tanya: 250,000R
Lucy:  200,000R

I did the math. “Holy fuck! That’s like $250!” I yelled. This was bad; you can buy seventy-five pots at the Cally for that.

I got back to the others and walked over to Glenn.

“What’s in the bag?” he asked. I broke down.
“They were all around me. I couldn’t say no. I owe them $250.” I sobbed.

Glenn wasn’t as sympathetic to my plight as I had hoped. I went for a swim to clear my head.

I knew that behind all the bluff and bullshit Glenn was a big softie. It wasn’t long before I managed to talk policeman plod into sorting it out for me. He took the merchandise back, told them how disappointed he was and paid them a token amount.

I was so relieved. We went and got some lunch and I pondered how to best spend the remainder of the day. As I saw it, there was only one viable option available.

I set about getting myself horribly, slurringly, lazy-eyedly drunk.  I drank and told the story about how, when I was in Bali, some hawkers talked me into buying a whole bag full of shit. Told it to anybody who would listen.  Then, just in case they hadn’t realised what a great story it was, I told it to them again, and again.

It was about 2am when I finally got tired of drinking and telling my story. We were back at the villa and I had just a couple of things to do before bed.

First, I went to the bathroom and picked the flattest bit of floor I could find. I tripped over and cracked my head on the sink.

With that out of the way, I crawled over to the toilet and repeatedly deposited the contents of my stomach into the bowl.

I laid my head down on the cool tiles of the bathroom floor, closed my eyes and smiled. The next day, I would have a quality shiner and a hangover to go with my story.

Blissful in Bali

Sunset on the beach at Doublesix
Sunset on the beach at Doublesix

Despite accommodating Australian tourists in bulk, Bali is well worth a visit. It really is an amazing place. The locals are super friendly, the beer relatively cheap, the beaches are great and the restaurants and bars provide quality food, booze and fun. You also have the added excitement of risking life and limb the moment you set foot on the road (same as everywhere else in Asia).

In Bali you can spend your time enjoying the sun, sand and surf. Hire a surfboard and learn to surf at Doublesix, buy a watch from Honest 2 Bob, a bracelet from the beach hawkers and get a massage on the beach out front of the Jayakarta Hotel. Or take a ride down to the sparsely developed Bukit Peninsula, famous for its surf (which had no swell whatsoever when we visited).

You can wine and dine in Seminyak, taking your pick from a full selection of international cuisines with rice paddy views and distinct Balinese flavours.  Or venture out to Echo Beach, pull up a table, order a couple of Bintangs and watch the local boys tear up a quality five-foot lefthander. The real action begins once the sun sets and they wheel out the seafood barbeque. You can do a demolition job on their discount Snapper, Tuna steaks and Calamari.

The moment you get away from Denpasar and the beachside tourist development that stretches from Kuta up to Seminyak you see a completely different side to Bali. Even in the city it is still quite beautiful, functioning rice paddies still punctuate the low-rise development.

Head for the black sands of Lovina on the northwest coast. The drive across the island features a breath-taking climb through the terraced farms of Gunung Agung and past the Danau Buyan and Danau Tamblingan volcanic lakes.

Or you can opt for the inland charm of Ubud. Despite the fact that it is bursting at the seams it maintains a village feel. Hire a bike and explore its steep streets, be accosted by food seeking monkeys at the Monkey Forest Sanctuary, or get a taste of Indonesian Buddhism at Goa Gajah (the Elephant Cave).

You really can have a great time in Bali. We certainly did.

Happy times in Bali
Happy times in Bali

Glenn haggles with the street sellers
Glenn haggles with the street sellers

Seven simple steps to a successful Bali Christmas and New Year

The Christmas spread
The Christmas spread

1. Smuggle or bribe bulk contraband through customs

A US$40  bribe will get 5.5kg of prime cut Australian cryovac Scotch Fillet steak through Indonesian customs (reputable sources will later tell you that US$20 would have done). Supplement this with copious amounts of booze. Remember the one litre of duty free liquor allowance per person is just a rule of thumb.  Wine of dubious quality can be sourced locally, at exorbitant cost, from an unscrupulous English expat who for the past thirty years has been living a conscious free and highly lucrative existence in South East Asia.

2. Assemble a small pose

Ideally a collection of family, friends and haphazard acquaintances (who will soon become fast friends) aged from three through to sixty. If at all possible, source a Dutch couple (they tend to bring Bintang tallboys in bulk).

3. Rent a mac-daddy private villa at a ridiculously discounted rate

Compliment with a pool, driver and cook. I couldn’t recommend Villa Theresa more highly.

4. Set a spread that would put the last supper to shame.

Include a behemoth roast turkey, a magnificent honey ham and a proper pudding all prepared by a petty crim turned caterer from Ballarat. Add an entire ecosystem of crustaceans (lobster and prawns) prepared on the BBQ with Pak Putu’s green pepper marinate.

5. Schedule an hour-long splash fest in the pool with a three year old.

Instruct him on the dark art of the backyard bomb. Start with the classics: the cannonball , the horsie and the belly-wacker. Graduate to the honey-pot, the can-opener and the genie.

6. Eat, drink and be merry.

7. Repeat.

Baby Ray and I in Splashfest 2009
Baby Ray and I in Splashfest 2009