Bali may have the nicest people we have met on our trip. They are polite, friendly and easy going. Even haggling in the market can be a pleasant experience with the Balinese.
In Bali there are touts. I expected this. Most countries we have visited thus far in Central, South America and Asia have touts. Touts try to get you transport, a hotel, a motorbike, pretty much anything and everything. They can be fairly passive or very aggressive, and can be the bane of your existence in a country, or something to try to ignore like that fly on your nose.
WS and I rented a car for a few days to explore Bali (NOT recommended-stick with a motorbike) and headed north to the beach town of Lovina. While we were at a light, a man knocked on WS’s window and offered him a business card for his hotel. This is not unusual–unnerving for my U.S. blood, but not unusual. WS made the mistake of telling him we would see the hotel to be polite.
Now the man was slowing down his motorbike in front of us so we were forced follow him. With not much choice now but go and see the hotel, we relented. The hotel was nice enough, but not what we were looking for. We thanked him and headed on our way.
As I looked back, I told WS “I think he is following us”. Sure enough, when we got to the next hotel, he jumped off his motorbike and exclaimed “this is my uncle’s hotel!” We were a bit taken aback after being followed and I think he could see that as he said “no trouble, I’ll leave” and went to talk to the security guard while I checked out the room.
We decided to look at a few more hotels. As we drove down the road, I noticed a group of motorbikes off to our side. As soon as we passed, one took off behind us. It’s worth noting all the tourists receive the same Jimmy rental in different colors, like a blazing neon TOURIST sign.
As we made a few turns we realized that yes, this guy was following us! Now in the U.S., if someone is following you on a bike that closely, he is either a cop, paparazzi, or someone you do not want to get out of the car near. He popped off his bike as I went into the third hotel, jumped in front of me, and said “oh you are looking for a room!” My Attitude kicked in. Being unnerved by all this, I said “not anymore” curtly and turned around.
Now I do not mind help from a tout now and then. But if I am walking into the hotel to look at a room, and you are showing up after the fact you have not done your “toutly” duties. You are simply cutting in on the deal, and costing me more money for your so called service.
I got back in the car, and off we went. We looked back and realized we were being tailed by another tout. They were buzzing around us like a nest of bees and this one was wearing a bumble bee yellow t-shirt, talking on a cell phone. We did a few turns, including a 3 point, and he tried to look as if he was checking out the scenery and not us. It was quite comical actually, as he gazed up at the buildings and open field, pretending not to wait for us. He realized he was had (hello Lance Armstrong yellow jersey!) and passed us off to another one.
This time I had enough. We pulled down a side street and slowed down. As we slowed, so did the tout. I told WS to stop the car. Before WS could realize what his crazy wife was doing, I jumped out and started to yell at the tout. “CAN I HELP YOU WITH SOMETHING??? WHY ARE YOU FOLLOWING US??? LEAVE US ALONE!!” The tout took a step back, bewildered. “I only wanted to show you a room,” he said, clearly startled by my ranting. I got back in the car, fuming, as we drove off, leaving the shell shocked man standing by his bike .
Later, a hotel security guard told us “Please understand, this some people business.” The tourist industry in Bali is taking a heavy hit from the bombing in 2002, 2005 and the executions of the bombers last month.
Australia has issued a travel warning for Indonesia (88 Aussies were killed in the bombings). Our Quantas flight from Singapore to Bali was discontinued (we were rerouted through Hong Kong). The hotels are empty, restaurants are empty, most shops are dusty and untouched (except in crazy Kuta). All the locals want is to get back on their feet and make a living. Bali is mostly Hindu, and they do not understand the Muslim bombers any more than we do. The Balinese are so genuine, you have to have a heart of stone not to want to see them recover from all this.
So who was the Bali bully, me or the tout? After much thought, I think it was me.