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.

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