Our Encounter with the Local Constabulary

Trip Start Jan 31, 1996
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed

Flag of Indonesia  , Bali,
Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Elenka met Renate from Germany on beautiful Kuta Beach 24 years ago. They have been friends ever since and Renate flew to Indonesia to meet up with us. She and Elenka wanted to see how Indonesia and its wonderful inhabitants might have changed after almost a quarter of a century. Back then, leaving Kuta for the country-side was a 10 minute car ride. Now, it takes one-and-a-half hours to do the same. They were somewhat disappointed by the people too.

The rate of currency exchange in Indonesia is approximately 10,000 rupiah to the dollar. For $300 you should get roughly 59 blue, 50,000 Indonesian rupiah bills in return. Counting bank notes rather than multiples of zero is far less confusing. We began our quest for rupiah confident in this seemingly simple task.

Exchange offices in Kuta are mostly all in the rear area of reputable stores. An hour after we began, 7 different exchange offices had used 7 slightly different ways to try and rip us off. One heartless bastard tried to clip us for 50% in the exchange. They all gladly welcomed our business, but when they realized that we knew what we were doing they'd make an excuse for not being able to complete the deal – most often saying that they didn't have enough rupiah on hand. After the 7 attempts and increasingly nasty verbal exchanges, Renate, for whatever reason, felt she might have success with the thieves if she tried exchanging Euros. I knew it wasn't to be, but she felt she should have a go anyway. I shook my head and stayed back. The exchange went smooth and fast. And when it was complete the money-changer not only thanked Renate for her business, but turned to an idol on the wall and thanked the God of Theft. Back in our room Renate recounted her rupiah and found that she was short an equivalent of 60 Euros. I did not say "told ya so."

The following day she decided to complain to our hotel security about the unscrupulous money-man. Our security guard said that he would help. Late that afternoon Renate, Elenka and I met the security guard, along with 6 dressed-in-black, community police officers, who looked far more Mafioso than guardians of law-and-order. After a short discussion about what had happened we proceeded to the exchange office. We had to stand in front of the place waiting for the man who had stolen Renate's money to be summoned. As we waited, I watched tourists watch the men-in-black. Had a murder occurred, they must have wondered? Or was one about to? When the money-man appeared, and after a short Indonesian language exchange, with absolutely no argument, he simply produced the balance of the money that he had stolen from Renate.

On the way back to our hotel, my faith renewed in the sense that good-and-right always prevailed, I asked our security guard what would happen to the money-changer. He told me that he would be forbidden to conduct further business in Kuta. When I probed further he gave me an ever-so-dangerous smile and said that the community police would also teach him a lesson about stealing from tourists. When we went by the following day the sign was gone and so was the money changer.
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dpbaril on

Another great story Jack! Also the quality of the photos is outstanding. What camera are you using?

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