Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Write a Travelogue (11/06/14)
TITLE: Hope you like
By Ellen Carr
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John and I had just landed at Denpasar Airport, on the beautiful island of Bali. Our first big adventure. I, the self-appointed travel advisor, had pored over guide books and planned our itinerary, booked our accommodation. We had learned a few useful Indonesian phrases. We were as ready as we could have been.
“I take you good hotel,” called a man, pushing himself in front of us.
“I carry your bag,” offered another. We gripped our belongings fiercely, remembering stories we had heard of bags disappearing, of demands for money for carrying bags. We were determined not to be taken in. We turned down offers to take us to 'good hotel'. We waned to get our bearings and find our own way. From a plethora of dilapidated taxis we chose the least beaten-up one and John negotiated the price.
“You take us Rasa Losmen,” he asked the driver. John thought he needed to speak in broken English, and loudly. I cringed. After a drawn-out bargaining session John agreed on a price and we were soon spinning along a narrow, bitumen road sharing the road with pedestrians, bikes and dogs. Women carried loads on their heads, walking with elegant upright posture. Children in pristine, white blouses skipped along. Now and then a man stood with his back to the road, urinating into a ditch. Motor bikes zipped in and out of the traffic and pedestrians.
The taxi turned down an even narrower street, and stopped in front of a drab grey building. Deep, uncovered drains lined the street and there were people everywhere.
“This Rasa Losmen, sir.” He sprang from the car and lifted our luggage from the boot. As John paid him, he grinned broadly. “You have happy time here. Goodbye.”
The Rasa Losmen's uninviting front belied its pleasant interior. Our room was spacious with slatted windows and two ceiling fans. It opened onto a common courtyard, set up with tables and hung with ferns. As we dumped our bags and flopped onto the bed, there was a knock at the door. John dragged himself up to open the door. There stood the manager, with a tray of drinks.
“Kopyor for you. Hope you like.”
“Mmm! This is the life,” I said. “To our Balinese holiday.” We clinked glasses and drank the delicious coconut drinks.
What we really wanted was a long sleep, but, following the advice of my guide book, we decided to fit straight into local time. So, after a short rest, we ventured out to explore Kuta.
Our first challenge was navigating the street teeming with people and erratic traffic, while avoiding the open drains. Shopkeepers called to us. “You want carving. We have best,” and “Cheap souvenir. You come in.” Others held their wares in front of us. The air was thick and hot.
I had a map at the ready, so we wound our way through alley-like streets to the beach. Azure water, palm trees and a warm, gentle breeze. The scene whispered 'Holiday! Relax!' Children were running, tourists were lying around, locals were walking. As we sat down on the sand a woman spread some necklaces on the ground next to us.
“Very fine necklace, “ she said. “Sea shells necklace. You buy?”The hawkers missed no opportunity.
I pointed to a necklace and she said “Six hundred rupiah.” I wasn't going to be taken in, so I offered two hundred. She laughed.
She wrinkled her nose and began packing up the necklaces. “Not enough. You pay four hundred. Last offer.”
“OK. Four hundred,” I agreed. I was proud of my bartering, until we came across a man selling the same necklaces.
“Three hundred rupiahs,” he was calling.
John laughed. “Remember,” he said, “Four hundred rupiahs equals one dollar. The difference is twenty-five cents!”
Here we were, first-world tourists in a third-world country. We hoed into delicious food that was dirt cheap, bought artefacts that cost hardly anything and had a wonderful time. Yet we shared an unease that challenged us both. We were indeed rich.
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