Tuesday 12th July
5am alarm so that I can take my first dose of travel sickness medications whereas we usually get up at more like 10am – urgh!!! LOL. We had finally packed our cases yesterday afternoon, using our trusted list of essentials as our guide and my Mum had arrived for dinner and house- dog-sitting orientation and then stayed the night so all was set and ready for us to go.
A holiday to Bali. One we honestly never thought we’d take because some of the stories we’d heard did not appeal at all. But eventually we began to wonder if all this was true and whether we’d love or hate the place – we’d been assured we would orient one way or the other; no in betweens. So off to the airport we went.
We’d decided to stay at Club Med because we had enjoyed our stay at their Whitsundays resort so much last November. It also meant that if we didn’t like the real Bali we could stay inside the resort gates and still have everything we wanted to keep us occupied – food, drink, entertainment, friendly and helpful people. All of those things were assured and reassuring amidst our uncertainty of what Bali would be like!
The airport and flight were as these things were; truly nothing to report except for the excitement of seeing where we live as we flew overhead. The only other time we’d done this was at night and completely unexpected so this time I was poised with my camera. We’d even booked seats on the right side of the plane specifically for this reason! It took 8 minutes from take-off to flying over our roof where it had taken 45 minutes by road.
After about 3 wonderfully short hours we landed. The warm air greeted us welcomingly as we stepped out of the plane doors and up the metal corridor to the terminal and there were several queues to get through for visas, customs and so forth. The booths seemed very understaffed and it took quite some time to get through but never mind, it had been a short flight and for once in our lives we’d had (most of) a night’s sleep before hand.
Finally we got through everything and headed to the baggage belts – the last people from our plane because we’d been sitting in the back row by choice. There were 3 staff there with our 2 cases matched, we guess, not only because we were last but because of the matching iridescent pink ribbons on the handles. Two fellows took a case each and a third relieved David of his cabin bag and began walking us towards the exit. ‘How kind’ we thought. ‘What a friendly airport’ we thought. Until we walked around a corner and the 3 fellows urged us towards a money changing counter with furtive faces. I see. They obviously get a ‘cut’ if we change money there but David told them we already had some and they moved a bit further along. At this point the 3 of them made a dive for the left-hand side of the corridor where they couldn’t be seen from the main airport hall and started demanding money!
Now I can’t pass anything with words on it without reading and I had seen a massive sign, I’m talking 6 feet high, near the baggage carousels saying “NO TIPPING!” so between that and the way they had waited until they were around the corner and even then dived for the wall, shielded by an obligingly tall pot plant… well, my hackles were up, and that’s never a pretty sight!
By this time, David was looking confused and had given a 100,000 rupiah note to one fellow who was now demanding that we give one each to his comrades as well. David was reaching for R20,000 notes but this man was pointing between the 20,000 and the 100.000 in David’s wallet and telling us that the 100,000 was worth LESS so we should give them those. This was like a red rag to a bull for my part and I held up one of each note, covering the 3 zeros with my thumb and saying “No it’s not!” And they insisted that it was not only less but they wanted one each, as if they were doing us some kind of a favour!
Not even out of the airport doors and we’re being lied to and cheated. I’d read that we should be polite to the natives (not that we wouldn’t have been!) but my head was way past that. Nobody lies and cheats me and gets away with it so I said “Right. If that 100,000 is worth less than this 20,000 then give it back!” The guy looked very unhappy and untrusting (isn’t that the joke of the century?) So after a bit of debate where he looked worried he’d be found out from those around him (airport staff who knew No Tipping meant him) he did give it back which totally stunned me, he’d looked really scared, and I took a 20,000 and gave one very grudgingly to each of the 3 of them.
During this interchange, the guy holding David’s cabin bag had twisted himself so that the bag on his back was out of sight and I swear he would have stolen it but now they were copping both barrels from Mrs Mouth (yes, that’s me). I made sure David took the backpack from the guy, and our suitcases were on the floor, and then turned on the 3 of them. I won’t say I shouted, but it sure wasn’t an indoor voice, as I said “Go away!”. They looked really confused and I said it about 3 or 4 times “Go away! Just go away!”. Every time I thought of it later in the day it made me laugh! David reassured me that it really wasn’t as much money as I was thinking. In the end we’d given them a total of about $2.50 each instead of the $12 each they’d demanded but no matter the value I was really upset that they would do this the moment we were off the plane and so vulnerable. Bartering prices for goods is one thing but lying, cheating and deliberate deception is quite another and there was a part of me that wanted to find the airport authorities and report this devious trio. I reluctantly decided it was better to behave.
Outside the airport doors we were instantly gassed by a thousand cigarette smokers as we tried to find our Club Med escort but eventually were helped aboard the little shuttle bus and were given a tub of fresh drinking water each with a straw and off we went.
Bikes, mopeds, scooters by the zillion. Helmets, no helmets, 3 or 4 people to a bike, 2 people plus a TV in a box to a bike, 1 person plus huge wooden panniers, women in business suits with handbags over their shoulders, parents with children standing on the centre-front running board. The bikes were everywhere, and every time the traffic stopped they came from nowhere and filled every free square centimetre of space between the cars. And then more seemed to filter in by sheer osmosis, fitting who knows where! As we travelled down a single-lane (each way) road we were passing bikes on our left and being passed by bikes on our right and the same was happening in the lane coming towards us. Occasionally there would even be a bike riding towards us on the left side of the road. Yet despite all of this seeming total bedlam there was not a sign anywhere of any anger, frustration or abuse. I guess in its way that was the most amazing thing about it – the sheer patience and acceptance by everyone!
Suddenly there was a big bump under the bus which made us all jump and David said “Was that a bike?” and we all laughed. But the journey continued so either it wasn’t, or it’s not illegal to run one over LOL
The view out of the bus windows, once we’d managed to drag our eyes away from the bikes, was so different to anything we’d seen before. Hundreds of small ‘shops’, which were more like permanent market stalls, lined the roads. Very few had customers and, for the most part, the stall-holders were sitting around in groups talking, relaxing or reading newspapers. In many cases there were long rows of rubble between the stalls and the roads, and there was quite a bit of rubbish amongst the rubble too. However, someone had said to us before we left Perth that Bali was, after all, a third world country, and yet the reality was not so povertous (I know, no such word) as that would suggest.
In the centre of some of the road intersections were amazing monuments and statues and fairly regularly along the roadsides were the most ornately decorated temples. Beautiful structures with architectural twirls and adornments on every possible surface and corner, many of which looked to be hundreds of years old. I had my camera out but could only snap things hastily that appeared at my side window as there were heads and seat backs preventing me seeing what was coming ahead of time and we soon reached the resort. We had to pass through 2 security check points – one as we entered Nusa Dua, where guards used mirrors on sticks plus on-road cameras looking up at the chassis which displayed on some TV screens, and another as we got to the gates of Club Med.
We were helped from the bus and told that our luggage would be sent to our rooms and were then escorted up a pathway between layered ponds with concrete statues adorning them through the open-sided reception to a greeting area. Each person was given a small wooden tray with a glass of water, a glass of iced tea and a refresher towel on while we had a quick introduction from a few staff and had our wrist ribbons tied on to prove that we were paying guests and entitle us to help ourselves at the buffet, bar and other facilities.
We were then taken along a covered, but open-sided walkway, down some steps, another walkway and more steps to our lovely little ground floor room. Although the building was 4 floors high in the middle, the edges had a single storey room on each end followed by a 2 storey then a 3 storey room before hitting its full height in the middle. Our only neighbours were attached by the right-hand wall of the room. No complaints!!!
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The room was spacious and painted white except for a bright orangey-red feature wall behind the bed head. We had 2 wardrobes, a desk and chair, a fridge, separate bathroom with the loo, basin and shower and then the biggest bed I’ve ever seen. I swear you could have put 5 people in it!
But, still reeling from the airport porter fiasco and wondering what on earth more was in store for us, I secretly wanted nothing more than to go back home to Perth. Perhaps I was just over-tired.
However, I kept my qualms to myself and we got settled in as quickly as possible and then went out for a walk around. We found the snacking restaurant because it was now about 2pm and we’d only had a paltry breakfast on the plane during our 9 waking hours. There were some lovely buffet items but a very friendly waiter had also given us a menu with some beautiful choices on it and we both chose a fish dish – different to one another – and David had a glass of wine. We also chose a dessert each from the buffet afterwards. The waiter had spoken to us first in French and several of the staff did this during our stay. I guess we looked French to them. Quite a lot of my high school lessons came back to me during our stay so that wasn’t a bad thing.
Next, it was definitely time for a nap for this little grandma. The travel sickness medications always make me really tired even if it had not been for the early morning so David obligingly sat out on our nice little private verandah and read his book for a while.
At 5pm we had to be in the theatre, yet another open-sided building, for a guided tour around the resort. There were only a few of us there and we were greeted by an assorted group of G.O.s – the term that the staff go by, which means Gracious Organisers. The assortment was to make sure that all guests would have a staff member that spoke their language but as it happens we were all English speaking so it was just one G.O., Zaidul, who showed us around. I instantly fell in love with Zaidul because he was so full of joy and bounce and had a cheeky face. He showed us the direction of the main restaurant, the huge main swimming pool which nobody could miss and main bar, beach, complete with a huge assortment of chairs and a small bar, water sports hut, putt putt, spa, quiet pool, squash courts, tennis, golf, archery. Certainly no shortage of things to do! As we walked alongside the beach he waved seawards and said that on a clear day you could see Mt Agung, the volcano, and then stopped in his tracks because we could actually see it!!!
This was only the 4th time he’d seen it in the several months that he’d worked at the resort so we were deeply honoured and I took it as a sign that we were to have a happy stay after all. It’s the blue shape in the centre of this photo, it is not a cloud, I promise!
The resort was also decorated with many small statues on pillar tops etc such as this one and most roof peaks, including the straw beach umbrellas, were topped by a carved crown shape.
We decided on a well-earned drink to fill in the time until dinner and I tried one of the set cocktails which didn’t do a whole lot for me. I couldn’t taste the alcohol for a start and considering I only drink alcohol twice a year when we are on holidays you’d think I’d be pretty sensitive to it.
Dinner was a Chinese banquet and we were absolutely stunned by the size of the buffet hall. There were people milling in all directions and you needed some fast footwork at times to keep out of the way. But the buffets were split up into various parts, mostly according to cuisine. So very roughly speaking there were separate areas, each with a dozen or more foods, dedicated to each of Western, Chinese, Korean, several other Asian cultures, Italian, breads, ice creams, tea/coffee and juices. Oh, and 2 adjacent sections for the desserts!
Everyone was greeted at the restaurant door by professional and really friendly greeters who escorted you to a table set with cutlery and glasses and then you help yourself to plates at the buffet and take whatever food you want. There were plenty of wait-staff around who removed used plates. Most of these appeared to be Balinese with very little English other than ‘Finished?’ and ‘You’re welcome’ but they were friendly and that’s all that matters to us.
The nightly show which started at 9.15 was themed Harry Potter and was very good indeed. There was a lot of miming, which was fair enough, but some really great dancing by the multi-talented G.O.s. Once the show was over we clapped out and went to bed despite it only being 10.15. It had been a veeeery long day!
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