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A 1.7 Million Rupiah Embarrassment in Bali
The step up from domestic tours to international voyages, a Bali guideline, and over one million IDR
This one’s about the capital of Indonesia.
A Story For You
Age and dough turn domestic trips into international peregrinations. And if it's the first time you’re traveling with your favorite cousins, you know it’s going to be unique.
Busting open our laptops, we typed - ‘best places to visit on a budget’ and boom, beautiful Bali ruled the lists.
An Indian passport might not give you access to 136 countries, but Indonesia is not one of them. A $35 dollar visa-on-arrival fee and you’re in. It was perfect.
My wisdom at the time matched the nincompoops who wholeheartedly believed that the Earth was flat. Why? Because I wholeheartedly believed that Bali was the capital of Indonesia.
I learned it the hard way so that you don’t have to (It’s Jakarta.) But let’s quickly skip past that, shall we?
We were there for a week and we had prepped accordingly. Spectacular Airbnbs at jaw-dropping prices, a designated driver and a car took us everywhere we needed to go, a few hundred dollars were exchanged at the airport to get us through the night (airport exchange rates were horrendous) and our bags were packed for the dry month of October.
We struck up a conversation with Ram, our driver, on the 1 hour 15-minute drive to the first Airbnb in the north of Ubud and it was enlightening, to say the least.
Food: One of our first questions was about food; his answers didn’t disappoint. Mie Goreng - stir-fried noodles, Laklak - sweet Balinese cakes, Nasi Goreng - fried rice with meat, vegetables, and egg, Nasi Campur - literally translated to a mix of everything, were some of the dishes he recommended.
Language: To get going in the local markets, he equipped us with some Balinese words. /Selamat pagi/ meant good morning, /tolong/ meant please, /terima kasih/ was thank you, /Ya/ was yes and /Tidak/ meant no.
Faith: Being mindful of all the religions and cultures was key in Bali. Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism co-existed peacefully on the island and they wanted to keep it that way.
The Bali crash course came to end when we reached our villa. We quickly dumped our bags and got ready for dinner.
When you’re in vacation mode, there’s little attention paid to reality.
We reached the restaurant and started ordering like we hadn’t eaten ever before. The amount of food on the table had the staff shocked as well. Needless to say, we ended up eating everything. And then, we asked for the check. $1 = 15,500 Indonesian rupiah approximately. Our bill was 1.7 million Indonesian rupiahs.
‘$110? That was it?’ We thought. That was a bargain for five people.
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But that was the first goof-up in our immaculate plan. The next four days were filled with visits to tourist spots, caves, and islands, hogging on food, meeting the locals, and shopping carelessly.
The night before we left for our second Airbnb in the south of Bali, we rummaged through every jeans pocket, every backpack, and every sling bag to find what was remaining of the money we had.
$20 is all we found.
Everyone’s budget had flown out of the window after that first dinner because we assumed everything was cheap but we never realized when things started adding up. There was no contingency fund either.
We had no option but to make the embarrassing phone call back home and we were back on track, this time counting every rupiah before going off on another unauthorized spending spree.
But apart from the one mishap, it was a wonderful experience. It was a much-needed break from our daily lives and a place that made us realize money wasn’t important to have a good time at an exotic yet affordable location.
A Story From You
Experiencing the beauty and the uniqueness of another culture is a beautiful feeling; something so different from what you are used to and yet, it’s what someone else has known all their lives. But there are times, we are ignorant of our way of life, and it’s not on purpose.
What was your biggest culture shock?
I can recall one such incident when we were at the local markets in Bali. We were bargaining with an antiquities seller and because we couldn’t settle on a price, we ended up walking away from his shop.
Throughout the bargaining process, however, he kept smiling and saying no. Not once did he raise his voice or display any kind of negative emotion. Ram, who was observing from a distance, walked up to us and said, “Indonesians don’t like conflict. We are not confrontational. We will laugh, and smile to keep the situation calm but not waste time shouting.”
And we respected that. It was a beautiful way of life. Nothing’s ever resolved with anger.
So tell me, what culture shocks have you had while vacationing abroad?
In our last newsletter we asked you “Where is home?”
Haifaa Adham said “Home is wherever family is, I guess.”
And that sounds like a pretty good guess to me.
Till next time,