Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Down and Out in Bali

It's my third day in Indonesia and I'm happy to say day three has been much better than days one and two. I arrived in the country suffering from a mild flu, not bad enough to knock me off my feet but enough to make every waking hour uncomfortable. I had the easy life in Australia for two months and arriving in Kuta, Bali's tourist mecca, knocked the wind out of my sails.

I feel like a neophyte traveler all over again, unsure of myself at every turn. New sights, smells, tastes and sounds assaulted me during my first 24 hours. The sensory overload was so much that I hired a guide to show me some of the island yesterday. It was nice to get out of Kuta but the guide spoke only fractured English and was unable to answer my most basic questions (e.g., when was this temple built?). The saving grace was satellite television in my hotel room. A few solid hours of The Amazing Race, Seinfeld, MTV, ESPN and CNN did wonders for my state of mind.

I'm now in Ubud, a town in central Bali known as a center for the arts. The pace here is much less hectic than in Kuta, with only a fraction of the touts and tourists. I am staying on Monkey Forest Road (how could I resist?), about 50 meters from Monkey Forest. I've booked myself a bungalow overlooking some rice fields and hope that some of the aforementioned monkeys make an appearance in the morning. I think if I leave food out on my balcony they will sniff it out.

The bungalow is very cheap by American and Australian standards but a bit steep for Bali. I've never been much of a haggler, and while I was able to get the price down from the initial offer, I could have taken it even lower. Three days in country is not long enough to hone these essential traveler's skill, so I'm not going to kick myself too much. However, any suggestions on the art of bargaining would be appreciated.



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