Before we even left Wisconsin, I was pretty excited for our arrival to SE Asia. Particularly Indonesia, where would start our tour of this part of the World. We’ve never been to Indonesia, but it wasn’t the first time we have been to SE Asia. We know what to expect when it comes to the culture, chaos, shock and awe that you will find by making a visit to these countries.
So it was a bit of a surprise for us to run into some classic issues within the first 24 hours of stepping off the plane from Darwin, Australia. You know that part of the movie, Eat Pray Love, where the story changes from the peaceful calm of a cozy family dinner in Italy to the maddening chaos of the streets of India? Well, that is how arriving in Bali felt for us.
We had just spent the past 3 weeks in Australia living on a horse farm where we came to embrace a sense of normality. Our quick couple days in Darwin seemed like a dream and despite the fact that we knew what to expect in Asia, we weren’t really prepared mentally for the transition.
This state left us reeling like a cold slap upside the head. Our first 24 hours in Bali would turn out to be a whirlwind of mishaps and crazy occurrences. Looking back on it now, we just laugh, but at the time it was horrible. Thankfully some sleep and a drop in budget helped us to adjust quickly.
There is really nothing worse then getting off the plane in a foreign country with no local currency. We have relied heavily on our Charles Schwab debit card to grab quick cash from the ATM as we travel and so far we haven’t had any hiccups with this.
That was, until we arrived in Denpasar, Bali. We made our way to the ATM to withdraw cash, only to find that the ATM would not accept our card. Each time it would tell us we needed to contact our bank. Lovely, just lovely.
After several minutes of battling with the ATM machine and still not getting any cash, I rummaged through my wallet and scavenged the last of my US dollars, $50, and walked over to the exchange counter. Thankfully I had some of those handy American bills left over or we would have been stranded. The taxis only take cash.
After solving our debacle with the ATM we headed straight for our guesthouse. The driver seemed confused about the address we gave him but drove us towards Kuta anyways. Despite the fact that he didn’t know exactly where we needed to go, we made it there within a reasonable time.
We paid the man, grabbed our backpacks an entered the guesthouse we had made an advanced booking at. Relieved to finally be somewhere, we smiled at the lady behind the counter and handed her our passports. She smiled back, looked at our passports, checked her papers and promptly told us they were booked up.
This lead to a discombobulated conversation about our booking that led to the lady leaving the guesthouse and asking us to follow her. In the middle of the night amidst the hustle and bustle of crazy Kuta, we walked 4 blocks to a busy intersection and were given a room at a sister-property that had space. It ended up being a nice room and good location, so can’t complain too much on this one. It just is the worse when you show up somewhere new with a reservation only to be told they have no space.
Convenience Store Rip-off
The first outing we made the next morning was for beverage at the closest convenience store. We found ourselves rejoicing over the prices, a coke for 4000IDR, that’s like $0.50USD! We didn’t hold back and selected our favorite drinks.
At the checkout counter a very sweet younger girl checked out our order. She rang in each item, gave me a total and I handed her the money. She made the change, bagged the good and gave me a receipt. We left the store.
As we walked down the street it occurred to me that the change hadn’t looked right. I know we just arrived and we aren’t used to the currency yet, but I can still add. I pulled out the receipt and then counted the chance she had given me.
She had shorted us 50,000IDR. I was pretty shocked about it, so I turned around and carried all the items, receipt and change back into the store. She smiled at me while I waited for the customer in front of me to checkout. She didn’t act shy or leave the counter to her co-worker.
When it was my turn, I simply pointed out the receipt and said to her that she had short changed me. She looked at the receipt, looked at the change, then promptly pulled the 50,000IDR note OUT OF HER POCKET and handed it to me. To top it off, she smiled and then wai’d at me.
After a blistering hot day and our already many mishaps we wandered into a very busy restaurant on the main road in Kuta. The place was packed with westerners and seemed like a decent establishment to get a decent meal after a crazy day. So we felt it would be a great place to quell our sudden case of culture shock.
After being seated at our table, we ordered beverages, decided on our meals and placed our order. Due to the number of people in the place, the wait was slow. Not really a concern and something that is pretty normal to Asia.
While we sat at our table reminiscing about the day and already starting to laugh about it, I caught something moving across the floor out of the corner of my eye. The first time I picked up my head I didn’t see anything.
We continued talking and it happened again. This time I turned my head just in time to see a huge cockroach run under our table. I whipped my feet up so fast I don’t even thing David knew what was happening.
Now I can deal with bugs, roaches, whatever wandering through open air places, but running under my table, while I am having dinner, YUCK. I didn’t make a scene but found myself especially squeamish after our failed attempts to squash it.
Laughing It Off
At the time it was all happening it felt like a whirlwind of chaos, but I can easily say that by the time we woke up the next morning we were laughing about all that had happened over the past 24 hours. Culture shock happens to the best of us and we apparently got too comfortable in Australia over the past 2 months.
It was like our unofficial greeting to Asia and our opportunity to start being laid back from the very beginning. That’s the thing about Asia, you just have to go with the flow. Their culture is completely different. Where else in the World can you get blatantly ripped off, confront the person, only to be smiled at?
Hindsight, it was just what we needed to get us into a mode that would allow us to really enjoy our second time around in Asia. Good thing, because we are going to be here for a while.
Have you ever had something like this happen on your travels?