To say the past 5 months of my life have been crazy would be an understatement and one of the main reasons for that was my 2-week holiday in Bali this July. Everybody always says travelling for the first time without your parents is a shock to the system, scary but enlightening. I never really believed it would be that different until I actually tried it for myself. Over this 3-part series I am going to invite you on an absolute roller-coaster of ups and downs that my trip to Bali took me on. I foolishly thought that having planned my trip and itinerary to ensure I didn’t miss anything I really wanted to see (tips I share with you in my ‘Ticking Off the Bucket List’ article) that everything else was going to be plain-sailing. How wrong I was.
You know that adrenaline and excitement you get when you’re queuing for the ride? That was my friend Greta and I after we found stupidly cheap flight tickets and accommodation around Bali. Everybody gets excited when they book a holiday, and even more so when they actually arrive at the airport and the realness kicks in. Our transfer to the airport was hassle-free, and our flight was actually quite pleasant. Everyone loves it when you get out the airport on the other side, and that wall of heat hits you, and everything looks and feels tropical. But, being 2 young girls, as soon as we got to the airport in Denpasar we were bombarded by taxi drivers ‘asking’ to drive us. I say ‘asking’, but in reality it was hassling; they were brushing our arms, trying to help us with our bags and following us as we walked around. Usually, my Dad would take charge, pick someone and negotiate a good price all within a matter of minutes. Now, it was our turn. It got to the point where there were so many people following us, looking at us and shouting at us that I felt overwhelmed, and looked at Greta and said ‘I just want my Dad.’ This was my first shell-shocked experience. Anyway, after finding a driver and paying far too much money than we should have, we were taken to our hotel.
The taxi ride from the airport was a real eye-opener as to cultural differences. But I was prepared for this, so instead I let my eyes feast upon the scenery Bali had to offer. But don’t get excited, we are still going down on the rollercoaster. Arriving at our hotel, we were greeted by 3 sixteen-year-old boys that hardly spoke English. They were in charge of taking down our details and sorting out our room which I was very sceptical of. They then took us to our room where the second shock came. We hadn’t booked any expensive hotels as we’re students, but we had gone for the nicest possible rooms at the best price. This, however, looked nothing like the photos we’d been promised. Actually, I lie. It looked like the photos, however the photos must have been taken as soon as the hotel opened or been majorly photoshopped, and it seemed that since then the hotel or the room had never really been cleaned properly. We had cockroaches in our room, the bed sheets were stained quite badly and the ‘bathroom’ if you can even call it that, consisted of a crappy toilet, a dribbling shower just barely mounted on the wall and a dirty sink. Admittedly, I avoided the bathroom as much as I could during this time and tried to use beach showers whilst we were out as our one made me feel disgusting.
So, after various distressed messages were sent out to friends and family, after not unpacking (I didn’t want to put my clothes anywhere in the room) and after making sure all my valuables were completely locked up because the room didn’t feel secure, we headed out as soon as we possibly could to exchange some money and get dinner. Now, here’s a little up for you on the roller-coaster! We knew Bali was cheap, but we didn’t realise by how much! Our first dinner was nothing extra-ordinary, and not Balinese food (yet), but with a few drinks to help us take our mind off of the room, we were pleasantly surprised by the bill. We headed back to the room, went straight to sleep and woke up the next morning feeling like we had judged the room a bit too harshly. We figured that we wouldn’t actually be spending that much time there and that it would suffice for the short time we were there.
Back down the roller-coaster we go… So, we’d heard about an amazing beach club called ‘Potato Head’ from our friends and were told that we must go. Myself and Greta were feeling braver and had agreed the taxi price we’d be willing to accept beforehand. So, as soon as the first taxi agreed to that price, we hopped in and we were on our way. The taxi driver was really friendly and chatty, but of course everything was going too well! We arrived at the club and handed over the agreed price of 150,000 IDR ($11/£9) to him, he turned around and started arguing that we had to pay 250,000 IDR ($19/£15) because of the ‘traffic’. We argued back that there was no traffic, that it wasn’t fair as we had already agreed a price that we were all fine with and he ‘d been so nice and shouldn’t do this. We once again tried to hand him the money, but he threw it back at us and at this point he was getting frustrated and raising his voice. Luckily out of instinct, and partially because I was getting annoyed with him, I opened my car door just as he went to lock us in! I slid out, my friend threw the money and got out my side of the car, shut the door and we walked off as fast as we could. My heart was in my throat – I was so angry that he had suddenly turned back on the agreed price, and that he suddenly flipped and part of me was also scared to think what would have happened if we were stuck in the car with this angry man.
For now, we were safe. After security checks, we walked into the absolutely beautiful and amazing place which they call ‘Potato Head’, and instantly I was relaxed. They were playing chill music, there was an infinity pool with a pool-bar looking out onto the crashing waves of the ocean and people lounging around almost everywhere you looked just drinking vibrant coloured cocktails. We spent all day consuming over-priced cocktails out of shells and coconuts, cooling down in the turquoise waters and taking photos to make everyone back home jealous. Later on that evening, we met and had dinner with some of Greta’s friends who were travelling around Indonesia. We shared stories about our dramas so far, and they had their fair share too so we figured it was just the nature of travelling where we were. We went to bed on such a high and feeling super relaxed.
You guessed it. We’re going back down the roller-coaster super fast, and this time it’s bigger and scarier than any other time. Greta was bombarded with messages from friends and cousins of the people we had met up with the night before. Nobody had heard from them in over 12 hours, and people were starting to get worried. All sorts of scenarios popped up in my head- had they had an accident on the moped? Had they fallen in with the wrong crowd? Had they been drugged on a night out? Suffice to say, me and Greta were worried – we started brainstorming everything we could to try and possibly help. We headed down to the beach as there was nothing we could yet do until we got more information, but it was impossible to relax. A few hours later it was all resolved. The girls’ phones and credit cards had been stolen so they had no way of contacting anyone and didn’t have any money either. Thankfully a very kind lady had given them a hundred dollars to help them out, and they were both safe and fine.
This was another major shock for myself and Greta, and we realised just how careful we had to be. We were in a new country, alone, with money we couldn’t work out and with people who would do anything to try and rip us off. But, this was just the first 4 days of our Bali trip! There were many more ups and downs during the rest of the trip. Tune in next week for Part 2 of our ‘misadventure’.
Edited by Chermaine Sowa