After a mind-numbing two days of travel, I scrambled off the plane in Indonesia. And thanks to my hideous lack of trip planning, completely unsure of what to expect.
It sounds silly, but when the tires of my plane squeaked down, and the smiling China Airlines staff opened the door to my new home, I was more nervous than anything. Even after 16 countries and more than a year accumulated in Asia, I feel as green as a newbie.
As always, the first thing that overwhelmed my senses was the humidity. Wow…this place is hotter than Thailand even! I guess the Equator has a way of doing that to a place.
I breezed through the small airport in Denpasar and customs with no problems, and sidestepped the enormous immigration queue thanks to getting my visa in advance. There is a happy buzz — even the normally notoriously grumpy border officials were smiling.
I stood waiting for my backpack for ages, desperately staring at the baggage belt with puppy dog eyes and making silent vows to be a better person if my bag only came through the little hole. After 90 percent of the people on my flight had happily trotted away with their luggage, my stomach gave a nervous lurch and I started looking around for a counter for help.
Just then, a sweaty little porter came caring my bag from outside where they were being unloaded. He had intercepted it rather than just letting it go on the belt like all the others. Indonesia scam #1? Of course, he wanted money before sitting it down, but I held my ground and he defiantly dropped it after some time.
Why not choose someone with Armani luggage…my backpack looks like it survived a war. Don’t they know backpackers don’t have any money?
I made my way through the usual madness of transport offers and hotel touts you find in every airport of every developing country and found a shady spot to sit outside the airport. Luckily, a breeze was helping to keep me from passing out, but I was already sweating like a man on an electric chair in Texas.
Somewhere, mixed in with the never-ending drone of scooters, overwhelming smells, and heat, a flood of experience, memories, and confidence hit me. Something snapped inside my little brain, and I had the startling realization that I am once again standing in Southeast Asia. This is my beat. To put icing on the moment, a wailing Muslim call to prayer sounded in the distance. I nearly cried.
It’s been a long time, but I’m home.
To save the $6 they wanted for a taxi, I pulled out my compass for the first time, pointed my feet north, and started walking up the busy road towards Kuta Beach.
Being foreign makes me quite the mark for taxis anyway. But trudging along with two bags and looking like a man that just crawled across a desert had them swarming me with offers of rides. I politely declined, even the last offer of only $2 to be taken the rest of the way to Kuta! It was more a matter of pride than anything, although I probably would have paid $200 for a shower and bed.
One foot in front of another, dodging motorbikes and broken sidewalk bricks which lead to imminent sewer death below, I stumbled for 45 minutes into Kuta, the Khao San Road-esque heart of Bali.
Surprisingly, there are just as many families (mostly Aussie) and older tourists here as backpackers. That’s actually a welcomed relief. I’m just not ready for Koh Phangan part II yet, and maybe I’ll behave myself easier.
For $7 (more than I expected) I ended up in a quiet place off of Poppies Lane 2, with a fan and cold shower. You pay more for hot water here, but who the hell needs that when it’s 105 degrees Fahrenheit outside? By budget travel standards, my room is above average.
One shower and a nap later, life is good!