Bali & Lombok, Indonesia
Desperate Indonesians & Bad tourism
We started preparations to this trip already weeks before the actual d-day by visiting Indonesian embassy in Buenos Aires to get an appropriate visa. However, they advised us to kindly make a 15.000 km round trip to Helsinki for applying the visa there, and refused to serve us. Hmm. We decided not to do it even though there are heavy penalties for overstaying. If you stay more than 60 days too long in Indonesia, they will put you automatically to prison for five years. We were wondering what happens if you get very sick or kidnapped, are you imprisoned also in that case because you cannot leave the country in time?
When we arrived, we had to pay US 25$/person at the airport for one month visa which cannot be prolonged without bribes. Visas are, in our opinion, stupid rip-offs, and a perfect way of showing the red flag for anyone considering to enter the country. It is like milking the cow (ie. tourist), and at the same time cutting steaks from it. We got the message. Indonesian government was clearly signalling us that they do not want foreign tourists to their country. But we had another, way more important reason for our trip; to visit Santeri's old school friend Nana.
The Via Dolorosa to Indonesia
Our flights from Argentina took over 24 hours, and in addition to that, we had to wait for 6 hours to transfer at Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Kuala Lumpur airports. There has never been such a pain in the ass. When we finally got to Indonesia, standing felt like heaven. This time Malaysian Airlines served us in the first two legs a bit worse than before, but the last leg was again excellent service. The babies scattered around the air plane were crying most of the time annoying both passengers and the staff, and constant quarrels about this inconvenience made the staff even more upset causing failures in service quality. There were no menus given, all tempting choices of food ran totally out, and the shortage of light soft drinks made us quite thirsty.
At Denpasar airport Nana was welcoming us together with her Indonesian boyfriend and daughter Elena. First two nights we stayed in Ubud, and then we went on to Padangbai to wait for the ferry to take us to an island called Gili Air situated west of Lombok.
Our midway destinations: Ubud And Padangbai
Our first, rather expensive hotel was run by a Finnish woman together with her Indonesian husband. Everything went fine there, and we took our time to adjust to the heat, and humid climate. Days went by babysitting Elena while Nana was taking care of her businesses. Luckily Elena was happy with learning some image processing, so we could rest meanwhile. Elena is a very bright young girl for a 7-year-old. You can have a look at one picture she processed in our photo album.In Ubud we experienced the first touch of Indonesian culture which is a kind of mixture of Turkish and Indian cultures. Turkish part was price bargaining by default everywhere, and street vendors who harassed us trying to sell some handicrafts, newspapers or transportation. Santeri answered to handicraft sellers that Päivi does not want him to use any jewellery, to newspaper sellers that he cannot read, and to the rest simply no thanks. Anyway, the push we felt was not a surprise even though it always surprises in the beginning, especially after Argentina and Buenos Aires where it did not happen at all. The Indian part of the culture were numerous beggars everywhere, from small children to old people, pushing their dirty hands towards us. Some of them spoke very good English, and others just showed their stomach and gave us five with the hand upside down.
To Padangbai we arrived at night, when it was raining cats and dogs. Nana went to the reception of Padangbai Beach Bungalows to agree prices, and in we went. The bungalow was a nice surprise, because there was an air conditioner. It guaranteed that we slept like babies. In the morning we were asked to pay for this exclusive luxury more than two times the room price. The price of the room without air condition was 70.000 rupees, and the hotel wanted to charge 130.000 extra for the air condition.
Finally, after 1,5 hours of negotiation we ended up paying the fair price of 80.000 rupees. The negotiation process included lowering the price step by step, slowly and painfully. There were lots of explanations about tourists before us having easily agreed to pay the price the receptionist had asked (for example those tourists got cheated but did not complain about it), and that the receptionist's family worked in the hotel and everyone would be fired if we did not pay the doubled price. Also God was referred to many times to prove that he was not cheating. According to the receptionist the next day's Hindu ceremonies required that he would not cheat anyone… today.
When we continued calmly, and insisted politely in paying the fair amount of 80.000 rupees, the receptionist lost his temper and told us that his friends would not be happy at all, and that something bad could happen to us next night. To illustrate this, he told that once before two European tourists had not paid what he had asked for, and they were beaten to death. According to Nana, this had never happened to her before, so we jumped to the conclusion that recent terrorist attacks had triggered local people to despair and hopelessness that was already waiting there like a sleeping volcano. That day the volcano erupted on us.
In the end the receptionist agreed to the amount we were ready to pay, and we were friends again. In general, we have discovered that the majority of tourists is giving up too easily when trying to avoid conflicts not to spoil their vacation. Unfortunately, this will only teach people working with tourists to be more greedy and shameless, and making this way the life of next tourist even less tolerable. The same happens, if one cannot say no thanks. When receiving unacceptable service or waiting food in a restaurant for hours one should simply say no thanks, cancel the order and change the place. This way the owners would finally get the message and start serving people properly. We did that in Padangbai: cancelled our food order in a restaurant and got immediately better service. Also some other people started to do the same, and eventually nobody had to wait for their food for too long.
Our final and actually only real destination was Gili Air, a Jericoacoara-like tourist rip-off at its early stage. Nana lives there with her daughter, and meeting her was the only reason to visit the island. Gili Air is a peaceful and tiny little island (5 km around), but from tourist viewpoint like a lightened graveyard - there was hardly any other tourists. We counted that there was an average of 15 people at one time, and as many as 17 restaurants, so everybody could have had their own one. Sad enough, most of the restaurants were empty. This seemed to bother other tourists who left almost immediately. We spent our days in total idleness, and enjoyed swimming and the possibility to talk Finnish with Nana and Elena.
To summarize our experiences, we cannot unfortunately recommend Indonesia to anyone who is planning a holiday Trip. Nor Gili Air to anyone already going or staying in Indonesia. The reasons are in general similar to Bra$il, but most of all because: 1) Indonesian government is unwelcoming tourists with visas, and 2) the volcano of despair is likely to erupt on more and more tourists as the country´s problems get worse. Gili Air's particular problem is the mafia controlling both transportation to island as well as the businesses, making it a rip-off and hassling heaven. Even we got our share of the bushshit.
Why there are bombings in Bali?
We talked quite a bit with locals about bombings and reasons. It seems to us that the root cause of bombings is money and envy. Bali is a Hindu island while most of the other parts of the country are Muslim. Hindus have managed to make quite a success in Bali while Muslim areas are hostile to tourists who represent wrong religion. So all the money flows to Bali, and the infrastructure of the island is far better than in other parts of the country.
The bombs where placed by Muslims to the major tourist areas of Hindus'. As a result, some tourists have preferred Muslim areas instead, but most have preferred not to go to Indonesia at all. Of course there are always some tourists, however, who seem to be thrilled and excited about the danger. But in general, when fewer and fewer tourists are now entering the country, local people have lost perception, and rely even more on short sighted tourism business schemes like take- the-money-and-run. This causes most of the bad things in Indonesia. In our opinion, things will only get worse unless Hindus turn into Muslims or visa versa.
For visiting a good, old friend there is no country on earth too bad, except maybe the USA while George Walker Bush is ruling. Many thanks to Nana. Also thanks to Pedro, for inviting us earlier to Brazil, no matter how stupid some other people are in that country. Currently we are in Sydney, Australia, and will continue to New Zealand to visit our friends there. Whenever we settle down again, you are warmly welcome to visit us! Indonesia over and out.
An Anecdote of The Month: How do Indonesians differentiate right hand from left hand? With left hand food tastes like shit. See the picture of Indonesian toilet to understand. There is no toilet paper. Just guess how they wipe their asses?
Keywords: Bali, Lombok, Indonesia, Nana, Gili Air, Denpasar, Ubud, Padangbai, Padangbai Beach Bungalows, Hindu, Muslim, terrorist attacks, bombings, visa, despair, the-money-and-run.