Monday, April 09, 2007

So Long Australia, Hello Asia

I'm sitting in the international departures lounge at the Darwin airport. The sun has not yet broken the horizon and I'm not quite awake yet. My last day in Oz was spent sick in bed, my first bout with illness on the trip. At least I booked myself a swanky room with a television and air conditioning.

I am on my way to Bali. What awaits me in Asia is a mystery. Nevertheless, I'm excited about starting a new chapter in this adventure. I'll post again, and send along some new photos, when I've sussed out the situation. For now, thanks to everyone in Australia who made this visit memorable, and everyone at home who's been following along and lending support. You make it all worthwhile.

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A few hours later and I've arrived in Bali. The heat and humidity are more oppresive then in Darwin, a fact I find unbelievable but true. What's more, there's a sense that I have truly arrived in Asia.

The sedate streets of Darwin, where I could walk undisturbed with anonymity, have been replaced by the hectic narrow lanes of Kuta, the tourist mecca of Bali. The taxi driver from the airport took me to the wrong hotel, a sister operation owned by the same company as the place I'm staying. This snafu was fixed in short time, but was not a pleasant way to start the day.

My defenses raised, I checked in at the Green Garden Hotel and set out on the streets. In addition to the taxis and scooters, a thousand touts, though it seems like a million, are there to assault all tourists with offers of "transport" and discounts. A stroll down the main strip of backpacker hotels (out of curiosity) led to offers of "massage" from young women who would grab my arm or shoulder. The touts who managed to get close enough to whisper to me once I'd turned down the offer of transport were there with an offer of a "young lady."

I will not judge Bali, or Indonesia, by this morning's adventure in Kuta. I understand this is the worst of the worst, where a million tourists have come and gone. This is why it's the site of terrorist bombings in 2002 and 2005. What it does give me is a reminder that I'm an outsider in this country and there are customs and procedures that I need to pick up before I go wandering around this beautiful island.

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