Indonesia | Bali | Legian: August 31-September 29, 2008

August 31st, 2008

We arrived on the island of Bali this afternoon, and now were heading to Denpasar, the main city in Bali. As long the bus was in motion the open windows kept us cool. But then came traffic! We were hot, sticky, uncomfortable, and there was no room to move or stretch our legs. Penny was sitting beside a tiny, somewhat old woman. This woman decided to sprawl herself across both the seats and wouldn’t get off Penny’s seat. There was a man a couple rows in front of us who kept spitting on the floor. The bus smelt and felt dirty. It got dark and even the views were taken away from us! After 5 hours on this nasty bus, we finally got to the Denpasar bus station (located in the outskirts of Denpasar). As soon as we got off, we were surrounded by taxi drivers, who refused to use the meter and kept harassing us. We had had enough. So we walked over to a police officer and asked him to help us find a taxi that uses meter to drive us to Denpasar City. He took us to a taxi and told the driver to use the meter. The taxi driver annoyed for not being able to scam us, took us anyway!

Our plan was to stay in a hotel in Denpasar tonight, and head over to the apartment we had booked in the Legian area tomorrow, when our lease began. We asked the driver to take us to a really nice hotel in Denpasar. After checking out a few, he finally told us that there aren’t any ‘nice’ hotels in the city, and that the only place we’d find nice hotels is in Kuta. Kuta is the touristic area of Bali, and only 10 minutes from Legian. So we went to Kuta.

The Boutique hotel

We went to a nice hotel, affordable, and checked in. But when we actually started settling in, we noticed how dirty the bathtub was (upon closer look), and that the place was infested by ants. We went right back down to the lobby and told them to call us a taxi as we were not staying there. The taxi driver took us to a better hotel, but it was full. Then to another hotel which looked really nice, but was a little pricey. It being close to midnight now, we decided to stay there. We desperately needed to shower, and were overwhelmingly exhausted. So that’s what we did. Showered and ordered McDonald’s for dinner. After eating and feeling cleaner and better, we were about to go to sleep when we noticed the sheets. Dirty! What’s with hotels in this country! Why don’t they wash their sheets properly? As we called house keeping to change the sheets, the air conditioner started leaking, and the water was getting on our luggage. So, now, at 1:30 am, there was house keeping in our room, and an electrician. Around 2, they left. And we went to sleep!

September 1st, 2008

This morning we had our breakfast sent to our room. Having had to call room service twice as they missed and messed up on our order, we were no longer impressed by this hotel. Then, to make matters worse, we noticed the bread on Karthik’s plate was bad. One look at that fungus and there we went, calling them again. We told them not to replace it, and that we were quite “done” with breakfast. When checking out, we decided we should complain about the trouble this place gave us…besides it wasn’t a cheap hotel. The manager didn’t apologise, and refused to give us discount after all that we had experienced. Karthik talked to this ‘monkey’ for some time trying to explain how things work in North America, and given the ‘quality’ these guys were supposedly offering and mainly to Western tourists, a discount would be the least to expect from these fools.

This guy had no clue of what all this meant, so Karthik asked to speak to the senior manager, who in tow, was also completely stubborn and asking why we didn’t complain the ‘minute’ we experienced them (given how late it was and tired we were, this was outrageous!). None of these idiots had any idea of what customer service was. Penny was waiting outside in a taxi, ready to leave for our apartment in Legian. She decided to come in and join in the struggle. At this point, the senior manager decided it would be appropriate to laugh at us for even thinking of asking for a discount and an apology. We had to shut them up. Penny decided to raise her voice, as Karthik’s well mannered and rational approach was obviously not working. She walked up close to the senior manager, who was smaller and shorter than her, pointed at his grin and said “You think this is funny? Do you have any idea what customer service means? Something like this would never happen in North America, Europe, or Australia! You guys have absolutely no manners, know nothing about quality, or business. If we get sick from eating the rotten food you served us, would you take us to the hospital? So stop smiling! This is not funny at all!!” Karthik also decided to raise his voice and told them pointing at all their chic and fancy displays “What is the point of all this when you guys behave in such a manner? You guys are useless. This country is useless!”

They gave us some discount and we walked away pissed, and not caring about having made a scene. We cribbed about it all the way to the apartment. The Jayakarta Residences are part of the Jayakarta resort/residences complex, and share all the facilities of the resort. We got the keys to the apartment and were delighted to see it! It was clean, had two air conditioners, two TVs, a DVD player, a small balcony, and a clean bathroom! We are glad that we get to stay here for one whole month!

Before getting too comfy, we decided to unpack all our luggage, and head out to grocery shop! We got back, had dinner, and went to sleep. We don’t plan to do anything for the next week except rest, stay clean, and rest some more!

September 5th, 2008

The past few days have been a bit relaxing, as well as a little stressful. Our apartment is great. We have been cooking in the balcony as we’re not allowed to cook inside (crazy land-lady). So we bought an extension cord so that the little electric burner can be taken out to the balcony, where we set up shop and cook. What would normally take us half an hour, takes us about 2 hours to cook! But it’s kinda fun, and interesting. We also bought a pot to be able to cook larger quantities of food, so that we can simply reheat and eat!

Resort Pool with Indian Ocean in the back

The apartment has a stack full of pirated DVDs. So we started with a TV series collection: Las Vegas. We had heard of the show but never watched it. So we have been watching the show and chilling in the apartment and then heading out to the poolside area for WiFi and to chill outdoors. This hotel complex is really pretty. The hotel rooms are closer to the pool area, and the residence apartments are about a 5 minute walk to the pool area. So going there everyday is not all that bad. The Indian ocean is just a stone’s throw away from the pool area. We haven’t yet hung out at the beach, but have walked past it and it looks quite pretty.

The only thing that sucks is that when we’re near the pool checking our emails and finding projects, others are having fun! But we know that this month we’ll need to buckle down and get as much work done as possible, so we’re keeping focused. Besides, we’re still feeling tired from the travels to “do” anything just yet.

Other than that, we have been a little stressed about our visa. It expires on the 15th, and well, to get it renewed we have to leave the country (a fact we didn’t know before). We have been thinking of simply leaving Indonesia instead of having to renew the visa, but our apartment is booked and paid for until the end of September. Also leaving this early would suck as we wouldn’t get the chance to spend time in Ubud, as we had planned.

We had also headed over to the Immigration office in Bali the day before to confirm our options, where we were told that the only way would be to leave the country and come back. After that, when we were looking for cheap tickets ourselves, the cheapest fare was to Singapore, and it was $500 per person. With money being tight as it is for now these days, and not having any other way out, our stay hasn’t been all that relaxed! So yesterday we went out for a walk to look for a travel agency to find cheapest tickets out of here, when we stumbled upon a tour operator who suggested that we talk to his friend about renewing our visa. Apparently, his friend ‘helps’ out those looking to renew their visa for a price. So we waited for his friend to come to the shop to get more details of how this is done. It doesn’t hurt to to find out all the options we have.

Working… that’s what resort lobbies are for!

The guy came and told us that he knows someone who works at the airport and for a fee, renews your visa, as if you entered the country on the new date. This costs about $250 per person. And to do this, all you have to do is pay them, and let them have your passport for a few days. Not convinced that this was the best idea, we told them we’d think about it and let them know of our decision. We headed back to the pool area and continued our search for cheap flights. Karthik scored! He found return tickets from Bali to Singapore for $150 each! But the only thing was that their site wouldn’t work, and when we called them to make the reservation, we were told that we’d have to go to the airport here to actually pay for them. So today, bright and early, Karthik went and bought us our tickets! We were so relieved!

September 14th, 2008

The past few days have been busy with work. We’ve managed to relax more now since we have our tickets to Singapore and reservations at a clean hotel there. But man, booking a hotel was crazy… they’re all so expensive! To get a good and clean hotel in Singapore costs at the minimum $150 per night! All other hotels have bad reviews. So since we are only going to be there for 3 nights, and will be spending our anniversary there, we justified staying at a nice hotel for that time. Besides, we saved quite a bit of money scoring cheap flight tickets.

We haven’t done any sightseeing here in Bali, but have had the chance to walk around the Legian area only. We’re saving all that for when we come back from Singapore. We told our cleaner that we’re staying in the Kuta area (which is only 10 minutes from here) with friends for a few days, so that she doesn’t know that we’re going out of the country.

So we have everything packed – just our laptop bags, and the dinky suitcase we got from the parents with the groceries. The rest of our stuff is in a closet which we locked using our nylon rope and laptop locks. Our flight leaves tonight at midnight, and gets there at 3 am. So we’re excited, and off to the airport to fly over to Singapore!

September 18th, 2008

We got back to Bali early this morning. Before catching some shut-eye, we went over to Bintang supermarket and bought the necessary groceries for the next 10 days in this apartment. We picked up Coconut oil for cooking. Apparently its healthier than Olive oil. So after our current Olive oil bottle’s done, we’ll try this out. So we got back to the apartment, unpacked, and went right to bed.

We woke up later in the afternoon, and went to the pool side for internet access. Came back, and decided to do absolutely nothing this evening and perhaps even tomorrow all day. We were glad that we had pasta sauce all ready to go (frozen from before we left for Singapore), and had tonnes of Indian ready to eat foods. No cooking. No sightseeing. No work. That’s our plan for tomorrow as well.

September 21st, 2008

We haven’t done much since being back here (except for work). We talked about it last night, and realized that we were feeling “stuck” again in these travels. After a long discussion, we realized the reason why. Our time in Singapore was excellent. Everyday we were out and about, seeing new places, checking out the city, doing something or another. Here, in the Legian region of Bali, we just don’t feel motivated to do anything. It finally came to us – it’s the culture here that is not jiving with us. This and the Kuta region is mostly for surfing, hangin’ by the beach, and shopping (touristy shopping, not authentic). The market area is full of bars, restaurants and shops. None that we’re interested in, especially since they all sell the same type of beach-y stuff, and offer food that we’re not into. We’re not big drinkers either, and are not here to party… so we’re just not motivated to go out and experience the scene. Besides, all the “tours” offered here are for Ubud, the cultural and artistic area of Bali. We will check those things out when we stay there for two weeks starting October.

Initially we felt a little bad about it…but then came to realize that it is ok to not be into this and to stay in and hang out only once in a while. This is “normal” life for us. This is what we would have been doing back home. And this is the reason we wanted to stay in one place for a month at a time. To have some “normalcy” without the urgency to sight-see and be on the ‘go’ everyday. So with less stress about “doing”, we’re glad we’re happy with just “being”. So for the next 10 days, while still in this apartment, we’re going to take it easy, hang out a bit, and get some work done. The sightseeing will wait till Ubud.

September 26th, 2008

It was Penny’s 30th Birthday today, and we woke up to cheerful phone calls! We planned to watch lots of TV today, and do nothing – especially not to worry about work, or making plans for our next destination. Especially, we weren’t going to worry about cooking! So we had McDonald’s! Karthik also placed an order for a chocolate fudge cake at Jesslyn Kakes, and it turned out to be quite good (much to our surprise). Later in the evening, it started raining…hard! Reminded Penny of the story she recalls every year on her birthday of how the day she was born, it was raining so hard in Chandigarh, that there were some floods. Pa drove his motorbike through the rain and floods with sweets, and joyous cheers, to the nursing home. So tonight, the monsoon type rain felt good and made us both feel peaceful!

September 30th, 2008

We got into an argument with the land lady of this apartment (via email) about the fact that she wanted us to leave one day earlier so that her next tenants can check-in on the 30th instead of the 1st. We had booked this apartment for 1 month, so we were under the impression that since we checked in on the 1st, we’d check out on the 1st as well. So having to check out on the 30th meant that we’d have to stay one night in a hotel, before checking in to the villa we had booked from the 1st in Ubud. We asked her to reimburse us for that one night, and she refused. And the thing is, it’s not that she is not willing to pay, it’s the way she communicates. She’s definitely not in the customer service business.

First she made a huge stink about internet access – suggesting we pay $150 for the month to have the access in the apartment (while her website listed internet as being a feature here), then she made a huge stink about us cooking – saying that we’re not allowed to cook in the apartment (going on about how the food is so good and cheap here that she doesn’t understand why we’d want to cook), then she made a stink about how the electricity prices have gone up but we should be grateful that she hasn’t raised our rent, then she went on about not accepting any US$ bills that were even slightly creased, then she went on about how its the rules of the apartment complex here that we must vacate on the 30th of the month and that she’s lived in Australia for 8 years, and been married for 1 to a German fella so she knows how the world works! Talk about sounding like Palin and McCain!!

Needless to say, we are so ready to get out of this place, and are glad that the owner of the villa in Ubud has offered to put us  up in a hotel next door for tonight at no extra charge! We’re on our way to check out the cultural and artistic center of Bali – Ubud!

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