I forgot to mention the flight yesterday. I was seated right in front of the loo, which has this advantage - there is noone behind you to kick the seat just when you are nodding off. My neighbour was an impassive man who said and did nothing throughout the flight. I was getting somewhat alarmed about his condition (what if he had expired alongside me during the last bout of turbulence?) until a Mr Bean video was shown. I saw his stomach wobbling a bit during the funny
parts which indicated, I think, that he was laughing and, therefore, alive.
Across the aisle two gay guys were beginning their week of bacchanalian pleasure in a discreet kind of way until the man in front of them decided to engage them in conversation. In fairly loud tones he made all sorts of suggestions about how the three of them might get together. He had a driver waiting for him at Denpasar and they could all go to his place for dinner, he declared. The two gay guys avoided a commitment in the politest terms and the man in front then turned his attention to another traveller. They were too far away for me to learn whether his second approach brought success, but I suspect not as I saw him drive away alone on our arrival.
Qantas is obviously in serious competition with Garuda for Indonesian passengers. As well as Indonesian cabin crew, the travel map on the video screen expresses distances and times in Bahasa and English. The pre-landing video is also a much slicker affair than the Ansett counterpart. I can't make a comparision with Garuda because I tend to be a white-knuckle flyer when it comes to airlines that have a safety record as poor as Garuda's - I simply won't fly with them.
The movie was something to do with "Mambo" so I gave it only passing attention. This was just as well because an extremely hairy man two rows down kept insisting on standing up and stretching his arms in front of the screen. After 4 hours of this, all of us behind him got to know the state of his armpits fairly intimately. I was not the only one to smile with some satisfaction when he missed his airport pickup on arrival.
The disadvantage of having a seat in front of the toilet manifested itself just before we started our descent into Bali. A young mother and child emerged from the loo, releasing a foul stench the equivalent of which I have not experienced in 20 years of air travel. If this is the condition the child's bowels were in when it left Australia, God knows what it will be like after a week in Bali. I pray that I am not on the same aircraft when they go back.
All of this was yesterday. Today is the first Bali day. I woke early to a breakfast of orange juice, coffee, "egg any style", toast and jam. The "egg any style" is just precisely that, one solitary egg on a plate. You have a choice of fried, scrambled or omlette, but it is only one egg. I renewed my acquaintance with Balinese table napkins. To save money (I suspect) they cut the napkins into quarters so that you get this tiny triangle of paper which looks quite ridiculous on your lap.
While I was wiping the "egg any style" from my mouth with my napkinette, I overheard the young man at the next table giving the waitress a long lecture about the standard of the hotel and its food. She took this politely but impassively, exhibiting that implacable demeanour that only the Balinese can exhibit in the face of rude foreigners. She scudded back (Balinese women don't lift their feet when they walk - if you close your eyes and listen to footsteps you can always tell whether the person is Balinese or Western by the way they walk) to the kitchen where a quick exchange and a giggle revealed what she and her co-workers thought of complaining tourists. The young man left after a remark about the foulness of the coffee. I wonder if they have put him in my original "standard" room.
After breakfast, took a taxi to Platinum to do some serious buying of CDs. A charming and talkative taxi driver gave me his card. I Gusti Ngurah Jelantik was his name. I suspect that he comes from a family of some social standing, but I don't know enough about Balinese names to know for sure. He dropped me off with offers to take me touring anywhere I wanted to go. I gave him the customary "I'll think about it" reply.
Are there more taxis and fewer bemos? I seem to recall that it used to be quite difficult to get a cab and bemos were everywhere, pulling up alongside you and touting for business. Now there seem to be cabs everywhere. Doing a quick survey, I identified blue cabs, white cabs and green cabs. I don't know if there are any differences between them. The fare from Kuta to Denpasar was just over 12,000rp. Is it also my imagination, or are there fewer dogs and emaciated cats on the streets? I suspect there has been something of a cleanup to attract tourists back after the downturn of 12 months ago.
The CD prices at Platinum are still amazingly low and better, for example, than the stand outside Matahari. 35,000rp compared to 50,000rp at Matahari, pays for the cab fare. Platinum is run by a young Chinese-Indonesian who calls himself Diamond. Interesting to talk to him about the anti-Chinese sentiment in Indonesia, specially in Irian Jaya where his family lived. He is a brave young man. He told me how he deliberately stood outside his shop when the gangs burned shops and cars in the street during last year's troubles. They left him and his shop alone.
On my return to Kuta I was directed to the Supernova Supermarket in Jalan Raya Kuta for good maps of Bali (the little tourist things are hopeless). I bought a large wall map of Bali there for 11,440rp.
Decided to try a short cut down the laneways to Jalan Kartika. I found myself in a maze of little lanes where, from the looks on the faces of the locals, few tourists ever trod. Stopped at a warung for a drink and sampled some of the food. The stall owner spoke no English which made for an interesting experience. I had some corn cakes, a little like small hash browns, round spiced patties of tofu and the boiled and spiced eggs of a small bird, probably quail, all on a bed of fresh, steamed rice. Heaven!
Eventually found my hotel and dallied outside talking to the shopkeepers. Dini has a food shop opposite the hotel. She lives at the back of the shop with her family. Her older sister is Wayansu (she turned out to be the scourge of the street and a woman to be avoided at all cost). Her sister-in-law is Rika and she has a small clothing shop next door, also doing manicures on the beach to earn extra money. Rika is from Java, the rest are from Bali. Rika pays 2,000,000rp a year to the landlord to rent her clothing shop. She also pays a fee of 250,000rp a month to a "boss" who controls all the masseuses and manicurists on the beach. With these overheads, it is no wonder that they work from dawn to night 7 days a week to try and turn a profit from the tourists.
I had a quick lesson in Balinese marriage customs. After marriage, a woman is supposed to go and live with her husband at his family's house. When they have saved enough money for tanah (bricks) they build their own house.
Had dinner at Palm Cove, on Jalan Kartika. The food was passable, if somewhat expensive, spoilt by a persistent shopkeeper who kept wandering through the tables trying to entice the diners to her nearbly shop.
Finished the night with an obligatory visit to Matahari Supermarket for cigarettes and goodies. The cartons of cigarettes are cheaper at the supermarket than they are duty free. I also shopped for Revlon (armed with a list from my wife I managed to look suitably helpless until a kind assistant came and snatched the list away to fill the order).
Pretty buggered for what was a relatively unspectacular day. Tomorrow is Kintamani day and I wonder whether the hawkers will be as aggressive as they were when we first came here in '82.