Bali: it’s the southern Indonesian island known for endless partying. But that’s only one side to Bali. There’s another – greater and more disturbing – side too. To me, the level of greed among many of the Balinese people exceeds that in most other places I’ve visited around the world. Here are some recollections from my 2-month stop-over in this tropical paradise, where I bunked down in the city of Denpasar to plan several new world record projects and where I made progress on others.
Bintang supermarket labels some of their produce confusingly. I suspect this is deliberate. At the checkouts, several times I discovered I was being charged a higher price than what items were marked at. Tellers would tell me they’d run out of change, and could thus not give me the last of the change I was owed. When I eventually complained, the manager took it upon himself to follow me through the shop each time I went there, having identified me as a “trouble maker”.
Café Seminyak sold me water at over 50,000 times the price that the shop next door sells it. I only realized once I’d paid because I’d been deceived into believing I was buying pure pineapple juice, and then my temper erupted.
Other tourists and I would go to one of the many cafes to get onto their wifi. Some, like Dusty Café, would turn off the wifi to force customers to leave unless the customers bought over-priced meals they didn’t want to eat.
More than once, I had the most intimate sexual services offered to me by sleazy men in Ray-Bans, who were loitering on the streets, yelling out, “Cheap, too cheap to refuse!” Somehow, I think they’d completely overlooked my reason for pushing them aside and marching on, regardless.
I went to Sun Island Boutique Villas for a healthy juice and to use the internet. Staff told me they wanted me to “consume a lot more so we make more profit out of you. This is our policy, sir, so would you please increase your consumption of what we have for purchase”. Within 4 minutes, I’d walked out.
I had USD 130 stolen by sleight of hand in the early afternoon while exchanging money in one of Bali’s tourist trap streets, lined with shops, stalls and a dizzying array of services.
Stall owners would jump into the pavement as I walked past their displays. Some would grab me by the arm. I’m not one for being impressed by such sales tactics and would march on by. It wasn’t uncommon for me to hear the peddlers hurl foul language and insults at me as punishment for not opening my wallet and buying items I have no interest in whatsoever.
I’d enquire about fresh fruit prices before going to buy for myself. Some of the market stall holders would double their prices when they saw me coming – being Caucasian, they see this as a chance to make a killing in profit. I’d point this out and ask for the fruit at the same prices given to locals just a few minutes earlier. I had at least 2 fruiters grab back the filled bags, throw my cash at my chest and yell at me to vacate their territory.
I shared a room with a local who paid the rent. The land lord and land lady, both in their 50s, became sullen and sulked when I was around. The atmosphere became frigid and decidedly unpleasant. I heard via a third party they were morosely upset because I had not offered them USD 2 in additional rent per week.
And getting my visa extended – which is compulsory – entailed including a bribe every time to the value of 20% of the total cost. Failing to pay the bribe would mean I’d attract police and other officials and then have to pay bigger bribes to make the problem “go away”.
By contrast, Hotel Puri Wisata in Kuta (a suburb of Denpasar) was like discovering the Garden of Eden. Once I’d seen it, I forgot the other places and spent much of my time there. Their staff was genuine, friendly and there was absolutely no atmosphere of greed. I was left to relax but when I wanted to order from their cheap menu, I was served fast – and helpings were always generous. I recommend these folks. You can get them on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although I know generalisations are unfair, the widespread greed in Bali is what I’ll remember it most for. It was so overbearing, there’s no way I could conjure up memories of the island without thinking of the insatiable ever-present greed. However, if one puts aside this aspect to the place, Bali has a great deal to offer and I did indeed see some impressive things there. At least, by the time I left, I’d made a lot of progress on some world record plans which made my Bali stop-over well worthwhile for me.