A returning nightmare

Lunch on the last day consisted of pizzas made with eggplant, spinach and ricotta, and tasted like raw plant. Then it was back to Bali Botanica for a rather strange rub-down that involved twisting of joints, and more alarmingly combined with some sort of prayer on the masseur’s part. The weather was unkind that day, and with much sweat pouring off my back despite having thoroughly showered off earlier, my top was pretty much soaked through.

The “son” – which we later learnt was the nephew of the first driver – was already waiting for us in the parking area and spent the first part of the journey over-enthusiastically thanking us for our business, lauding the achievements of his own son, and how hard he needed to work to support the children’s education. I think I’ve never been more pleased to see that blue taxi, called by guides as the most reliable and trustworthy in Bali. For 190,000 IDR (the same price that we paid for going to Ubud), the fare was still marginally cheaper than what the hotel and all the various transport touts offered.

I counted the number of vehicles we had sat in for the past couple of days, and they came up to a whopping 9 of them in a short 3 days. Taxi touts clawed for your business everywhere, while some moonlighted as drivers when they could; the transportation system is chaotic, only exorbitantly reliable and based on the cut-throat law of natural selection.

“Bluebird taxi the best!” The driver exclaimed frantically while simultaneously attempting to accomplish the mean feat of overtaking multiple vehicles and avoiding a motorcade.

I kept a wary eye on the road, terrified of being driven onto the kerb at high speed as the taxi meandered its way out of Ubud slowly. We got to the airport early, thankful for the relatively fuss-free traffic, only to find out that the plane had been delayed. Screaming children dominated the entire journey back, which made it doubly arduous after the flight delay and the chaotic boarding process in Ngurah-Rai. The over-obliging flight attendant’s (misplaced) anxiety to please those who travelled in large groups, and the pilot’s insipid, excuse-filled address 45 minutes from landing needlessly contributed to the pervasive imbecilic atmosphere.

We dealt with it differently.

I think that was the time my mind became the most wonderfully inventive as it conjured up new ways of inflicting pain that all lead to death. Mentally applying them to the noisy things were satisfying…almost. TC threw a hissy fit worthy of Paris Hilton suffering chipped nail paint, made things difficult, proclaimed it the “worst flight I’d ever been on” and then departed unhappily to do – what I presume as – some soul-searching.

I returned from Bali without the eye-opening wonder that accompanies most Westerners, but not without some interesting insights into a place that is still so foreign from what I knew. Bali is after all, both all and not that the guides (I refer both to the books and the actual folk on the island) purport it to be.

Perhaps the rest of Southeast Asia can wait a little bit more.

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