Trip Start Aug 01, 2006
Trip End Dec 29, 2006

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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Sunday, November 5, 2006

Kuta beach is packed and frantic with everything. Taxis, scooters, tourists, and carts tied to hot, bored donkeys. And this is low season. Every few yards someone will ask you a question or try to sell you something. The taxi drivers are a little more lazy, they just slow down and honk. It's consumerism based on annoyance and I haven't been this hassled since Turkey and the Grand Bazzare. I never thought it would happen but now I dread the words, " hello sir." Do they really think that you forgot to get a taxi and now by honking you will suddenly remember that you need a taxi? I went for my first surf in three months to return to our rented umbrella to find Collette surrounded by no less than three Balinese women. Two were braiding her hair and one was doing her nails. She looked like a very high maintenance Egyptian princess and now had the nails to prove it. In the end she looked like the alien in the movie Predator. This is a difficult sentence because there is also the movie called Alien and at one point another movie was made where the Alien and the Predator fought each other (Alien vs. Predator). I don't know who won.

Getting things done here has been difficult and the only analogue I could conjure up is to go into Circuit City and ask someone to help you with your calculus homework. In most European countries they know more English than they will reveal because they feel subconscious. In Bali they know less and will encourage you with head nods and words to keep explaining your plans until you realize the responses you are getting have nothing to do with your goal and that the conversation has wound its way to a place of nonsense. In the end both parties are confused but smiling politely.

Our hotel was comfortable, had a swimming pool, outside restaurant (all of them contain no walls) and a spacious room. The only complaint was the dull thump and stray chords of the electric piano heard from downstairs as they belted out Indonesian and Western songs including such favorites as Paradise City and Desperado. They even dabbled in Karaoke and anybody could have a go at the mike, and they did too. The hotel acted as a sanctuary from the constant buzz and attention of street vendors. It's a difficult dilemma because the Balinese are incredibly generous and open people but you have to be stern with the vendors. Knowing the difference is an art form. For example, the lady who painted Collette's nails did it without Christy's permission and then demanded money. The guy who rented us an umbrella and a beach lounge carried Collette to the beach showers and cleaned the sand off of her like a dutiful father.

We bought some of the Indonesian national dress, this is a "Bin Tang" t-shirts or tank tops. Bin Tang is huge and going five minutes without seeing its logo makes me feel like something is missing and thus fundamentally wrong. Like going into a church and not seeing a cross or a school with any pencils. Even as I write this I forgot how to spell Bin Tang. Luckily for me I was wearing the shirt and a quick glance down cleared up any spelling issues.

Buying anything in Indo is a long and uncomfortable process. Any vendor, taxi driver, and some stores spend a good portion of their day engaged in haggling. They start about twice the price and go from there. Usually about a third of the way through this mysterious haggling process it dawns on you that to haggle the necessary fifteen more minutes might save you 72 cents. I value my time more than anything below a dollar and I throw in the towel. The exchange rate was 9000 rupiah to one dollar which made everything incredibly cheap but difficult to calculate exchange rates. Quickly, if something cost 175600 how many dollars is this? (hint go to 10,000 per dollar) I spent 2 percent of my time in Indo counting the number of zeros on the bills.

I also bought my board after a long pondering sweaty walk down a couple dirty dusty streets. It is the JC 6'8" tuff light. Ironically it is the Peter Mel model, my good friend from Santa Cruz (he has seen me in his shop a couple of times). Of course our credit card did not work because we forgot to mention our one day stop over in Thailand.

Some people spend their entire vacation in Kuta beach. Being sober this is a mystery to us. The long expansive black beach was a postcard but the heat, constant attention, haggling, and busy streets left us depleted of physical and mental energy. It was like a video game were we started out each day with a specific number of energy points. Each hit would deplete our reserve. A taxi driver honking his horn, -3 pts, crossing the street through the random currents of scooters and cars, -25 pts, a random excuse me sir, -10pts, and hearing karaoke past ten o'clock, -150 pts. Kuta, I was glad we saw it but I was ready to move on.

Having said that we have since returned to Kuta a few times and each time stirs up a little nostalgia. Driving past we excitedly point at our old hotel and the vendors seem less intimidating and have been reduced to an annoying part of the landscape, like flies or sudden gusts of sand laden wind at the beach. Something to be tolerated but not feared. We are giving Kuta a mixed and diluted review but I still feel sorry for anybody who spends their entire vacation there.
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