Sunday, June 1, 2008

7 Days in Bali (Day 3)

Day 3 in Bali

On the outskirts of JatiluwihTo have the "egg any style" fried or omeletted? That is the immediate question of my fourth day in Bali. I chose fried, but found it hard to distinguish the delivered object from the omeletted variety. I had forgotten that, unless you stipulate otherwise, some hotel cooks will break the yolk of a fried egg and spread it all over the white so that it takes on the appearance of an omelette. As I examine the egg and my runny strawberry jam (why is it that the strawberry jam in Bali is runny and not firm?) I realise that I am now in full holiday mode because the most trivial topics occupy my thoughts.

My attention is turned to the adjacent table where a large contingent from Australia has just arrived. They straggle into the dining room one at a time, nursing hangovers from their first night in Bali. They look like the Goondiwindi Darts Club, or some such. As each man arrives, he gives his compatriots what a friend of mine once called the "Darwin salute", which is difficult to describe without standing up and demonstrating it, but consists of two men facing each other, hitching their thumbs into their belts and then wiggling their trousers from side to side. All this is done without eye contact, but with muttered greetings like "Didja git into it last noit?" and "So ya made it 'ome orite mate?"

A Dutch couple at another table observe the goings on with mouths slightly open. After the greetings are concluded, one of the Goondiwindi blokes stands on a chair and addresses the throng loudly about this morning's program. Thankfully it does not include Celuk, where I am heading.

On the way to the main street I stop at Sajojo tailor where I promised the owner last night that I would let him make me a pair of trousers. We haggle a bit about the price and finally agree that he will make me a pair of cotton trousers "Chee Sty" for 100,000rp. If I liked them, I agreed to take a second pair for 150,000. It took me a moment to make the necessary linguistic adjustments and realise that "Chee Sty" was not some kind of Chinese cut but a "jeans style" garment. The tailor's shop is owned by two young men, Tommy and Forrest, in partnership. Both used to work in large shops but have decided to strike out on their own. Forrest is from Surabaya, Java. Like many Javanese he has moved to Bali to make a better living from the tourist trade.

I negotiate with a number of drivers on the main street, and finally pick one. The decision is based on a combination of factors: a vehicle that looks comfortable and air-conditioned, a driver who is not too pushy and has reasonable English, and affordable price. I think I often pay more than other tourists for drivers because I would rather have a comfortable, enjoyable ride than a cheap but unpleasant one. Made and I settle on a price of 100,000rp for a return trip to Celuk.

Cutting PVC pipe for gamelan instrumentOn the way I buy today's Jakarta Post at the traffic lights. My eye is drawn to a large advertisement from a Swiss family who have been searching since December 1998 for their son Marc, who disappeared while trekking through Indonesia. It reminds me how dangerous travelling can be in parts of South East Asia. I figure that the boy must have been about my daughter's age. How devastated the family must be, not knowing what has happened to their child.

Made and I have a little tussle when we get to Celuk. He wants to take me to a shop he knows on the main street, I want to follow Tana's advice and shop off the main street where the prices are lower. We compromise. If I can't get what I want in the laneways, we will return to the main street to the shop he knows (and where he undoubtedly gets a good commission).

I ask him to pull into a shop named Rake where I produced the designs I printed off an internet site. A small "confession" is in order here. A certain Denpasar jewelry store has been advertising on Bali Forum and my wife and I both examined its internet site before I left. She picked out a number of designs that she liked and we printed off the photographs to guide my shopping. I have now brought the printout to another shop to see whether I can get the same, or similar, objects at a better price. Before you condemn my duplicity, good reader, let me hasten to tell you that I tried to telephone the original shop, without success, and even asked a taxi driver to find it, again without success. So I did try.

Anyway, the strategy worked a treat and I was able to get the articles my wife desired at half the price indicated on the net. Save for a garnet necklace, that is. So, faithful to my arrangement with Made we returned to his shop - Dewi Sri - on the main street. Not only did they have the very necklace there, but I secured it for a third of the internet price. I did not dare enquire about the prices of the objects I had just purchased in the back streets. The discovery, in Made's presence, that they were cheaper on the main street would have been too great a humiliation to bear.

The trip back to Kuta was largely uneventful. Under instructions, I made a half-hearted attempt to buy a bedspread but my poor Bahasa did not enable me to convince the shopkeepers that I wanted something reasonably plain, not batik and sans moon and stars designs. I was somewhat relieved that I couldn't find what my wife wanted as I had no idea how I would go lugging it back to Australia.

Cockfight at PenglipuranThat afternoon I lazed around the pool at the hotel. I chatted to the in-house masseuse, a talkative soul, in her late 50s, who offered the information that she only made 10,000rp (about $2 AUD) out of each massage, the rest going to the hotel management. She had started off working on the beach, but then through the circumstances of consanguinity and affinity she found herself offered a job in a Kuta hotel. The sequence went something like this. Her mother's sister's grand-daughter married the man who ran the Kuta hotel. As part of the marriage arrangement, it was agreed that the bride's grandmother's sister's daughter, the masseuse, would be relieved of beach duty in deference to her advancing years. So she began work, happily, at the Kuta establishment. Everything went swimmingly for a couple of years until the wife died and the hotel manager took another wife. The new wife immediately fell out with the masseuse. To honour the marriage arrangement, however, the masseuse was not dispatched back to the beach, but was sent to a lesser establishment, the place where I was now a guest. There was more to it, including a disagreement with the management here, but at this stage my attention had wandered and I missed the detail.

Dinner at a little restaurant on Jalan Kartika (forgotten the name already) was followed by an early night. Why is it that doing nothing on holiday is so exhausting?

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