Sunday night back in June, 9:36pm.
“So do you want to come to Bali?” an old work colleague asked over the phone.
“Um, with who?” I responded- I didn’t want to be the third wheel to him and his wife. Or perhaps on reflection, it was the actual destination that made me hesitate and not answer with the enthusiasm he was hoping for.
In the end I agreed to going on a two-week holiday with four old work colleagues, his wife, his 20 month old daughter and two friends of friends to Bali. The place that has always been close to the bottom of my “Places to Visit” list. Way down the bottom. In fact, a close tie with Thailand. I know many of you who have actually travelled to these places would be disgusted that both Bali and Thailand were so low on my list. And now having been to Bali, I can understand your disgust. Because much to my surprise, Bali is now on my list of “Places to Re-visit”. And I don’t doubt that Thailand will make its way on to that list later this year when I visit for a wedding.
Bogans. That’s what I was worried about. I didn’t want to travel six hours on a flight to be surrounded by the loud, brash, arrogant, Bintang wearing singlet* Australians who are known ‘affectionately’ by the term ‘bogan’. Yes, my flight over to Bali was full of them. However their loudness was overpowered by my friend’s recount of her recent bedroom adventures with a guy… the cabin quietly sighed with disappointment to not hear the outcome of said adventure when our other friend alerted her to the volume of her voice.
People go to Bali to eat, swim, drink and party. They do not go there to spend 6 hours looking around a Resort and listening to a sales pitch that they have absolutely no intention of joining up for. But yes, that’s what we did. Lured with the possibility of winning one of three prizes ($500 US cash, an iPad or 7 nights accommodation), six of us trundled off in a chauffeured car creating a convincing enough story of our lives so that the local who had organised the visit was able to get his US$50. Which is a fair bit for a local Balinese person. He didn’t think that saying that 5 out of 6 of us had the same career was plausible (it is true- we all worked with each other!), so in the end, I had to pretend that I was in a relationship with one of my male friends, who instantly become a technological engineer, whilst I revamped my career as a restaurant-owning chef.
On arrival at one (of the three) of the resorts we ended up visiting that day, we were greeted with soft drinks, answered questions about our fake relationship and careers and then were introduced to Gil. Clearly that wasn’t his real name, but for any Simpsons fans out there, our Gil was very much like the Simpsons’ Gil by the time we had finished with him.
Sitting down with Gil, he began to explain this special accommodation offer that we were able to be part of, for a ‘small’ fee. The small fee he wasn’t going to specify until he had all of our information and could gauge whether or not we would be worthy of such an exclusive money-saving/making proposition. “Look at this wall of famous people who love being our guests,” he gushed as we walked out to the car park and were allocated a driver and car. Off we went to the second resort, where by then 4 out of 6 of us were well and truly over the ordeal. But I was a little curious to find out exactly how much this would cost and another wanted to take the opportunity to visit the resort out at Jimbaran Bay. So off we went, the six of us with fake jobs, Gil sensing a sale and expertly driven by our driver in our air-conditioned people mover.
By the time we were arrived, we were all drenched with sweat and practically pushed each other out of the car to get in to the fresh air. Of course we were shown the most amazing sections of the resort (which were, actually quite amazing) including the pool, the outdoor shower and massage tables which overlooked the bay, as well as the fernicular that took you down to the beach. But the kicker was Gil coming back with a key for a villa which he hadn’t been in before, so he didn’t know what to expect. This villa was actually made up of three buildings, the main one looking out over the bay, the other two surrounding a private pool. Like young children, we ran around gawking at the views, the features, the amount of rooms, the cinema room, the office, the kitchen, the pool, did I mention the view?… all whilst Gil started to slowly realise that we were perhaps taking advantage of the situation and had no intention of being part of this program.
The group I was travelling with are a curious bunch- we like to find out things and we like to ask questions. So we kept asking questions and Gil was still thinking that he still had a chance with us. On arrival back to the office at the starting resort, Gil organised bowls of fruit to be cut up for us all, as well as more soft drinks. My ‘partner’ and I listened through the rest of the spiel, just so we could satisfy the group’s curiousity and find out how much it cost to be part of this scheme. Finally we had the head guy come over, write down a figure for the Level Two package between $25,000 and $27,000 and explain how we could pay for it. My ‘partner’ explained that it was too much for us and
we were quickly offered to be on the lowest package (out of a total of 26 levels) which came in around $17,000. Still, that wasn’t going to work for us, so sadly we had to decline. This invoked a threatening ‘throat-sliting’ action by Gil to the ladies cutting up fruit- clearly we weren’t going to get anything to eat now.
Now I’m not going to be able to capture in words the way Gil slumped back in his chair with such defeat and despair. But it was as though his whole world had come crushing down and that the local Balinese who delivered us was going to be dining at Ku De Ta that night whilst he was having rice and chicken from KFC yet again. We couldn’t have been exited out of there quick enough. We were given some free t-shirts, some sad eyes from Gil and a chauffeured drive back into Legian.
Oh and for those who were curious, we won the 7 nights accommodation. Which you have to take at one of their resorts. Which you have to pay an additional US$150 minimum to claim. Which was so not worth the six hours we spent pretending to be people we weren’t and then breaking Gil’s heart at the end.
*I do now own one of these, though I am yet to wear it in public.
If you are smart enough to stick to the eat, drink, swim, party motto, then here are some of my favourites worth checking out when in Bali:
Eating: Ku De Ta (Seminyak), Sardine (Seminyak), Potato Head Beach Club (Seminyak)
Drinking: Potato Head Beach Club (be there at 11am to score a day bed and ask the waiters for drink reccomendations- they know their stuff), Alley Katz (Kuta), Bum’s Bites and Cocktails (Seminyak), La Plancha (Seminyak)
Swimming: Potato Head Beach Club (Seminyak), Kuta/Legian Beach
Snorkelling: Gili T Island (hire yourself some snorkels for the day- only $2.50)
Partying: Sky Lounge (Kuta, hosts a wide range of international DJs nightly and has good drink specials)
Sunsets: Gili T Island, La Pancha (Seminyak), Kuta Beach