Welcome to Bali: Enjoy Your Stay and the Traffic

Arriving into Bali was something else altogether for me. I flew from Perth, Australia on Air Asia [the plane was comfortable, the crew spoke in Indonesian and English, the flight was pretty short– about 3.5 hours]. When we landed, we disembarked on the runway itself. We then all loaded onto a bus shuttle, crammed in like sardines [but part of the fun!] and the bus drove us about 2-3 minutes to the entry way of customs/border patrol. They drove us right through what looked like doors of a temple. How cool. How different. This, my first experience in Asia, I was extremely excited to see the different architecture and design.

Anyway, on to the airport. When you arrive in the airport there are a handful of people there holding signs. If you have a person waiting for you, you wave and that person sprints to one of the lines for visa payment to make sure that you are first. I did not have such a person waiting for me, so I made my way groggily over to the lines and hopped into one– only about 2 people back! Turns out, waiting to be one of the last people off the plane has its advantages! The visa fee is $25US or the equivalent in Indonesian Rupiah [IDR]. You pay your money, show your passport, and receive a receipt. Then you move on to the customs lines. When you get called up, they look at your passport, look at you, then attach the visa to your passport [a sticker!] and sign it and let you go on your way. Next you grab your bag[s] if you checked them, place them on an x-ray belt where they are simply scanned through [I’m not sure if anyone was actually watching the scan screens to be honest]. Finally, you either walk to the “red line” where you go if you declared anything on your card or the “green line” if you didn’t declare. You hand your card to the guy standing there, or in my experience, you watch people walk by and drop their cards on the table while the guy speaks to one of his buddies and just like that, Welcome to Indonesia!

When I walked out the front doors of the airport,I noticed several things: 1) about 150 people crowded around the doors with signs with different names of people on them [hotel drivers and hired drivers] as well as a handful of people waiting for others to arrive; 2) a bunch of guys walking around offering taxis or private drivers; 3) warm and damp air; and 4) a giant billboard reading, “Welcome to Indonesia, Enjoy Your Stay.” I was actually expecting more of a push for Indonesian language, but alas, everyone in the airport spoke English and it seemed, so did the advertisements in Bali!

I found Andrew sitting under said billboard on the grass. We had actually told our hotel ahead of time our flight information, so the driver came to pick us up. Finding him was a bit complicated as there were so many people crammed around the door, but after a short search, we found him and headed off towards the car [he had parked about a 5-10 minute walk away].

This is where I’ll pause for a moment. I had heard and read about drivers in Indonesia. My understanding was that they were fast, didn’t follow traffic signs, and there were a lot of them. What I wasn’t prepared for is the crazy, chaotic patterns and ways of driving that I experienced on the way to the hotel. First, I think that perhaps there are 5 traffic lights in all of Indonesia. They just don’t exist. Second, Indonesian drivers do not stop or yield or pause when turning left. They simply go and turn and trust that if someone is coming that person will honk their horn. Which brings me to point three, horns are used a lot, but not in a mean way. They are used as a way of saying, “Hey, I’m here, just wanted to let you know”. Next, drivers have no problem swerving around each other and/or driving on the wrong side of the road [and I don’t mean wrong side of the road for US folks, I mean wrong side of the road for Indonesian folks]. Apparently, there is no wrong side of the road. Our driver literally straddled the center line of the road the entire hour-long drive to our hotel in Canggu.

On the insistence of the Infinity Mountain Biking Company that we had been in discussion with prior to our trip, we had chosen a hotel they recommended out in Canggu; a little further away from the Bali Airport because of the traffic. Our plan was to spend our time in Bali biking from place to place [making a loop around the island and also into the middle/central portions of the island where the volcanos are]. The hotel they recommended was the Legong Keraton Beach Hotel. Here, they would deliver our mountain bikes in the morning.

Because of airline delays, we didn’t end up getting into the hotel until around 2:00AM, but from what I saw that late/early, it was beautiful. Situated right on the beach, Legong Keraton features spacious rooms with connected balconies that overlook tropical vegetation and trees. We quickly settled in and caught some rest. In the morning, around 7:00AM, we received a call stating that our bikes were there. We headed downstairs and met with a group of about three guys from Infinity Mountain Biking. The bikes were really nice: One Giant and One Polygon. We were handed two sets of bike gloves, two helmets [not sure they had quite the same padding amount as in the states, but they would serve their purpose], one bike lock [we were a little leery of that], two water bottles, a bike multi-tool, two extra bike tubes, a patch kit, and we were offered but declined a backpack. There was also supposed to be a pump, but I guess they forgot it. Andrew asked if it would be easy to find a pump if we needed one. After some talking back and forth, they agreed that they would return with a bike pump in about an hour. We handed over $600US [well, the equivalent in Rupiah] as a bike deposit. The total for all of the gear and the bikes for 12 days [including delivery today and pick-up at a hotel in Ubud 12 days from now] was $240US. So, when they come to pick up our bikes in Ubud, they’ll return the deposit minus the $240US. Not too bad for a week of traveling.

When they headed out to get the pump, we headed to breakfast. There is a restaurant at the hotel and breakfast was included in our stay. We entered the open-air dining area and were instantly greeted by a woman who offered to cook us eggs. Andrew ordered ham and cheese eggs and I ordered mixed eggs, no meat. My eggs turned out to be: cheese, mushrooms, peppers, and onions. Yum. In addition, there was a buffet style set-up with strawberry juice, water, coffee, tea, cereals, fresh fruit [pineapple, yellow watermelon, and papaya], beef sausage, and nasi goreng [nasi = rice, goring = fried]. The breakfast nasi goreng was vegetarian and had egg, onion, and some chilies in it. Yum!

We dined on a patio overlooking the manicured lawns, palm trees, and beach. While the lawns looked fake, they were still nice and it was very obvious how much time and care was put into keeping them looking perfect. About half-way through our breakfast, infinity mountain bikes returned with our pump and after a handshake and a wave, they were off. We headed back to our room and set about discarding things we didn’t need from our bags and repacking them in an effort to minimize the weight of our packs. At the end of the day, we had about 50lb packs. They were too heavy.

Andrew had also asked if we could store an extra bag at the hotel for about a week [stuff leftover from working in Jakarta for the past 3 weeks]. The hotel said sure no problem and didn’t even charge us! With a few more checks of our gear, we double-checked our maps and headed off down the road to begin our cycling adventure!

Pictures to be added: poor internet connection here!!

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