South East Asia on a Hamstring – January 14

Denpasar, Bali – January 14, 2000

The International Date Line is confusing. On January 12, I got on the plane in the winter of New York City. Now I am off the plane after an extraordinary 14 hours of darkness and four hours of light,it is January 14, and it is hot and humid outside. I am in the International Airport in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia, trying to figure out how to transport myself from Denpasar to the group joining point in Ubud, which is an hour away. I wish I were alert enough to negotiate taxi fares properly but Cathay Pacific Airlines should be renamed Screeching Baby Air. Sleep was elusive, to say the least.

Ubud, Bali

My first action in Ubud, Bali, was to be totally rude to the hotel host. The taxi dropped me off in front of Artini Cottages II, the first joining point for my “Intrepid” group tour through Southeast Asia. A local man approached me and asked, “do you want to stay here? Let me help you. Give me your bag.”

Suspicious by nature, I assumed the fellow was a tout out to make a percentage of my hotel fee. I glared at him and told him that I could handle my own bag. I stalked off into the hotel’s garden. He followed. I told him I had a prepaid voucher, thinking that would surely discourage him from following. But of course he followed, because he was the desk clerk who was going to accept my voucher and check me in.

The hotel staff was not very nice to me after that.

I dropped off my bag in my room and headed out quickly. It was late afternoon in Bali and I had to stay awake until at least 9pm so that I could start my adjustment to the local time zone. I went for a walk through Ubud.

Ubud is really cute. It’s a tourist town, without a doubt. There are at least three roads filled with nothing but handicraft shops selling wooden cats and windchimes and batik and sarongs. All prices are negotiable and all of the shopkeepers speak English – and German, Japanese, Balinese, and Indonesian. The quality of life in Ubud is quite high compared to the rest of Indonesia, making it a good starting point for a dazed tourist.

The roads are well-paved and the potholes are present but not overwhelmingly so. The locals all zip around on scooters – little Hondas and Vespas. A lot of them wear helmets, the teenager’s helmets adorned with “Blur” and “Oasis” stickers. Traffic drives down the left-hand side of the road, which will no doubt almost get me hit by traffic a number of times.

Indonesia is officially Islamic, but on Bali the religion is a combination of Indian Hindi, Balinese, and Buddhist – which is a good thing because it is very hot and sticky here and I don’t want to cover my arms and legs.

Greenery and insects are everywhere in Ubud, bursting from the cracks between low-lying cottages and temples. Everything is very westernized, but

corruption and con artists, while present, are not ubiqitous.

Navigating by my Lonely Planet map, I found a posh restaurant and settled in to an excellent meal. For once, I am hoping to return home at the same weight that I left at, instead of starving for a decent meal.

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