Sunday, December 18, 2011

INDO DIARIES 2010 - 27th July

Somehow, we opened our eyes after barely an hour of shut eye.

We had a plan to go to the hotel around the corner where we had inquired on Sunday.

We ran out of the hotel at 7.30 and I turned left instead to the villas where we were due the next day and I practically begged them to take us! Silly me!

Then the first hotel round the corner, Ari Puri, had one room available, right by the pool as well! All we had to do was move in! It took us two rushed trips and we were gone!

We were able to have breakfast there too, although we looked like we had just arrived from the jungle!

Catching up on sleep, grub and swims, we felt so much better.

The best discovery was the Swedish cafe up the road (which has become a pure favourite!). Life, with meatballs, is good once again!!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

INDO DIARIES 2010 - July 26th - Ubud

As we drove up the main street of Ubud, we saw a street filled with clothes markets ,music shops and even designer stores! Putuh dropped us off at the top of the hill after  a long silence. He had hated the fact that we had stopped him getting his commission. Anything we said after making him pull out of the batik factory, he didn't listen to. He didn't care that we had been to Java, that we understood the value of the Rupiah, that we knew his game. When he suggested going to a silver factory, he seemed less impressed to heat that we had been to a silver jewellery workshop in Malang.

We hopped out of the car saying we would be back in a couple of hours.

I saw some market stalls and compared a few prices, already noticing a mark up - Ubud is definitely a tourist hub.

We wandered down the left road at Monkey forest road. We found some cute instrument stores, souvenirs, dresses, all good for a browse.

It rained a little, which made us turn back and find shelter and a coffee. Had we braved a little further, we could have discovered so much more of the artistic hub that we had been looking for. We may have to revisit Bali to find out what the hype is all about.

We turned back, to find a cute eatery on the river. It was gorgeous, sadly the food didn't match but the fresh juices and the rain falling into the river made it worthwhile.

Next on the trek, was Monkey forest road, so named because of the monkey park at the end. We checked a few music stores and played a few instruments, but it wasn't until we turned left after the monkey forest that we found our nirvana.

We saw some macaques in the trees along the way and one by the banana sellers too getting all the grub he. That was enough for me. It was my second time to see macaques in the 'wild' in Indonesia and I certainly didn't feel the need to pay money to see them 'in their natural habitat' and support the tourism of Bali we were growing to hate more and more.

Then we found a store that to Ian was heaven. There was every instrument needed to make a full gamelan orchestra. We played around for quite a while, but left with nothing, thinking very hard about what would happen should we part with a few million (!). We had, after all, come this far for just this, true, traditional gamelan - authentic awesomeness. We needed coffee and time to think.

Just up the road, we found a lovely Japanese-run jewellery/coffee store. It was a beautiful, peaceful place amidst the madness of the day so far - the strees were busy, the sellers were pushy and our driver, well...

Over delicious coffee and the last brownie in the store, we realised it would be very foolish to not buy anything. Even the anklet I wanted fell under the carpe diem motto.So, we headed back to the shop bargaining as much as possible and getting rid of literally every single Rupiah.

The man in the store was so much friendlier the second time around. He was alone this time and had no counterpart to joke with at our expense. Admittedly, we had asked how much every single item was, so it would be amusing to anyone, if not annoying.

Add caption
We ended up buying 2 flutes and 2 different glockenspiels type instruments, one with four bars, one with more.

I had to to dart back to the jewellery store to ask the nice lady for help to call Putuh - it was 5pm!

He came to get us, but sneered at the gamelan. It wasn't genuine he said and he could have found us a 'better' deal. He asked straight away about the price, and he almost reprimanded us for paying tourist prices. We should have gone to the factory with him. He spent the rest of the journey not listening to us. To add to his anger was our refusal to go to the Cecak, fire dance. Why would we? We were pooped!

The ride home was uncomfortable and frustrating. He had made so many assumptions based on what little knowledge he had. He told us what a hard life he had, perhaps having a dig at the fact that he had lost commission today. I thought that he might also be gunning for his tip at the end. He explained to us that it wasn't his business, (despite the van de haute qualite and with a/c, and the business card) and, that, after the hotel, his boss and gas had deducted the money from the 500, 000IDR, he would get very little.

This guy makes the instruments with his uncle.
He even had the nerve to make us pay the receptionist at the hotel and have her hush us upstairs so that he could go back and get his money. I suddenly realised that the guy hurrying us to pay our airport driver toute de suite was him!

We obediently went upstairs with our instruments but I quickly remembered the laundry so stepped back into the lobby to see Putuh, no doubt returning to get his money. I had given the receptionist his cash, but I had given his tip in his hand (feeling guilty from his tales of woe). Ugh, I felt sick and cheated.

It was a short while before his van drove off after which point we went out for some food. We felt trapped again; we needed out. We couldn't even wait until the nice booking we had.  We had to whisper for fear of the neighbours, we could't watch the crappy TV for the same reasons...

Yeeuk - Under the bed!
We plotted until 6am, with no sleep and figured that, at 7am, when everyone was having breakfast, we would sneak out and leave the manager to his fake hospitality.

We were up at 7am, by some force of a miracle.

Monday, December 12, 2011

INDO DIARIES 2010 - 26th July - The road to Ubud

We had asked for a taxi to Ubud for today. 150 000IDR was the quote - an unbelievable difference to the big ugly hotel - shocking!

But, we changed the taxi to a driver, quite excited that we were going to the 'culture capital' in search of instruments. We were going to get our GAMELAN game ON and needed a ride there and back to make the day plain sailing.

At breakfast, we knew better than order the ''continental'' although we were bemused as to why the couple next to us had a big omelette and the family behind them were offered some sort of menu that had juice on it.

My food came and was tasty enough probably because there was enough dried ginger in the rice to hide the old food taste.

Another table caught my attention. I could hear an American girl ask for more toast. They seemed in good spirits and I wondered what their room was like, how was their holiday?

- Can we get some more toast please?
- No

That was the customer service and the end of the conversation. I was more shocked than she was, she was able to laugh it off. When the manager came to check on everyone (I could see right through his fake 'hospitality') she ordered more toast and jam and it was charged to her room.

It gets worse. If we think about the taxi booking, it was a simple ride to Ubud and back and we ordered it after lunch the day before. By dinner time, we decided we wanted a driver, so we spoke with the night time staff about it. I remember his English was limited, but I figured it wouldn't be a problem...(note to self, this is the time when it IS a problem!)

By the time we went to bed, we were worried they had double booked two separate people. turns out, we were fine. It was the same guy.

Putuh rocked up. He was a stocky, if not plump, very tanned guy.

We should have known from his bold approach that he wasn't a regular local showing us the area. We should have sensed from his confident handshake that he had done this before and won - for, yes, it was a battle. We should have been able to see it in his smile as he greeted us foreigners, that this would not be a regular ride to Ubud.

Had we known the route, we would have known that, instead of driving straight inland, he had driven a little to the left. I remember the night before when I was trying to get him to be our driver, he was talking about seeing a dance, seeing batik factories but all we wanted was a ride to Ubud. I had also mentioned that Ian wanted gamelan - we knew something was up when Putuh kept asking about money and how much we wanted to spend.
Funny toilet sign at the Batik dance place

Then, as we edged toward a large, full but grotty car park, something was definitely amiss. Ian typed me a message on his phone - " same as India. he takes you places; he gets commission."

And suddenly, Putuh said "Barong dance, here you go." And sure enough, at the counter, we had to pay IDR 80 000 each for a dance we didn't really want to see. Sure, there was gamelan, but now was not the time nor the place.

Annoyingly enough, we would have enjoyed the performance any other time (I have even read the story of good vs evil, and it sounds great!)

We stayed for one act and after much gesticulation (Ian was recording the gamelan), we left.

When we found Putuh, or rather, the guy from the kiosk found him (he was well known amongst the crowd of drivers), his first words were "Why didn't you stay until the end?" His tone was aggressive; he was clearly put out by the fact that we had shortened his break.

We stated that we just wanted to get to Ubud so let's go. No more Batik, no more dances. No more anything.

He nodded his head in a way that we were to learn later as meaning that he was not listening to us.

And, as he pulled into what was signposted as the 'Batik factory', Ian's jaw dropped in disbelief. He was thoroughly pissed off.
"We have seen lots of Batik already; maybe we can do the factory later?"  Thankfully, this time Putuh heard me and we turned around. Interestingly enough, a young couple who were sitting in front of us at the dance, were pulling up at the factory - clearly it was a routine done by all drivers.

Incidentally, the Batik factory, or at least the small area we would have paid to see, was an area the size of a garage.

We drove on. We were on the road a good 2 hours by the time we reached Ubud. The roads we had taken hadn't been the best at all. The greenery I was so happy to see was interrupted by the odd  rubbish tip where the paddies had been used as a dumping ground.

And the roads were rough, as with a lot of Indonesia, but this was Bali, it should be much better. As a tourist resort, you would that the money extorted from the visitors to the island would be put to good use, but no.