Indonesia, the final short term trip I was going to make in Asia. Why here? Well throughout my time in Asia, I never actually went to a beach even though the beaches in Asia are probably much better than North America (not to mention much cheaper to try water sports). Actually, my initial goals were exactly that – to try as many water sports as I can – but it ended up being something quite different at the end. Regardless, the place of interest was Bali.
So the trip began with the cheapest flight I could find. Going from Hong Kong, China Airlines would take me to Taiwan which then I transfer to another plane an hour later that would take me first to Singapore then to Surabaya Indonesia. As my final destination was Bali, I would then catch the first plane the next morning to my destination. My initial plan was to crash one of my friend’s house in Surabaya but after learning that she was expecting guests for the week, and looking closer at my schedule, I realized it probably made more sense to stay at a hostel that night so then I wouldn’t have to bother anyone. So the flight duration to Surabaya was about 13 hours with an estimated arrival time of 11pm. But it ended up taking 14.5 hours which meant I got here closer to 1am. Because I hadn’t bought my ticket to Bali yet (credit card kept failing) I figured that I would have to by my ticket at 5am to catch the 6am flight and so I decided that I would crash at the airport. After getting myself comfortable I felt myself slowly drift to sleep until I heard to quiet voices that sounded like they were saying chungsoon. Opening my eyes, I was surprised to see my friend along with her parents. It turned out that after I told her that I wasn’t going to stay at her house, her whole family got worried and decided to come find me anyway. And so I ended up staying at her house for the night and got a ride back to the airport the next day (at a later time since we were able to get a flight with their credit card).
So when I imagine Bali, I only think of beaches, bikinis, surfers and the never ending sun. So when my flight reached there, I was taken back. With taxis everywhere, I followed the instructions from my hostel. Taking the taxi there, I realized just how much more there was to Bali. The amount of locals I saw far outmatched the amount of tourists I saw along the way, but that was just the beginning.
So I looked up my hostel a couple of hours prior to my initial flight from hong kong and I had a friend of mine help summarize the reviews while I was on the plane. From the quick analaysis, it seemed that this was the place for backpackers – most people were solo travellers and there were plenty of common area for people to hang out. Using that as my main reason for reserving with them, I had expectations of this place and when I got there, I was glad that it met my expectation. With a tv lounge, swimming pool, two big tables and most importantly, lots of people chatting, I was ready to mingle.
The group of people at the hostel.
Another look at the hostel.
So during that first day, I ended up going with a couple of people who were in the same room as me to see the southern part of Bali. We rented a van with a driver for 8 hours at a cost of $45. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything in particular that stood out for me. However, that night, we were in Kuta (where most tourists go for beaches) and while getting food I checked out the tour booth there. Looking at the white water rafting brochures, the person said that I could get the experience for $35 (from the stated cost of $75 in the brochure). Taking what I learned from Shanghai, I decided to tell him that I would come back after diner while I thought to myself what cards I had available. Some of the tricks were being friendly – it keeps it easy on you and on him. Another one was to take other brochures that offered a similar experience to see what prices the person stated and then asking them to give a similar price for the one that you’re actually interested in. And finally, the last card that I played was to do the bribery game. “how about you say I paid $20 (as you pay a deposit and the rest on arrival) and I’ll pay a larger deposit that isn’t stated”. Unfortunately for me, the best card that you can always have is numbers. If you’re able to say you have a lot of people interested, you can usually get a much better deal, but in this case it was just for me. So using the comparing idea, I asked about another rafting place and he said it was $30. I simply asked, whether it’s possible to get that same price for the other one and he said yes. Finally, trying to get it to 25, I offered him $5 if he was willing to write down a cost of 20, but he wouldn’t budge on that. That to me, probably meant that $20 was out of his powers and so I offered 25 for an additional $3 which he accepted. Thus this trip costed me $7 less than before I tried to work out a deal (which is equivalent to the cost of a nice nice dinner in Indonesia). Thinking back on it now, I’m glad to say that I don’t think I could’ve gotten it much lower. It might’ve been possible to pay 27 instead of 28 but I don’t think I could’ve done much more.
So this would be the second time I rafted while in Asia (as the first was in Thailand). However, with Thailand’s it was part of a package whereas this was just the trip on its own. The rafting experience consisted of a 12km course which took approximately 2hrs to complete. The midpoint was a waterfall that you could get right next to for pictures whereas the ending consisted of a 4m drop in the raft. There was a pickup and dropoff at your accommodation and also a buffet lunch after the trip. My raft consisted of 4 australians who were a great deal of fun. The course wasn’t difficult and most of the time, we took it easy, but what made it fun besides the scenery was the fact that we splashed every single raft we could which caused a free for all war throughout the whole 12km. At the 4m drop, the steersperson got us to sit in the holes (where you normally put your feet) and since I was at the front, it become quite tight. This made me figure that I could probably go handless (not grab onto the sides) and that was exactly what I did. Half expecting to fall into the water, the fall only plunged water into my nose. They also took pictures along the way in an attempt to sell it to us after but luckily for me, the Australians said they could just send me a copy after so I didn’t have to buy one. However, up until now, I still haven’t seen the package so maybe I wont get those pictures…
After haggling for rafting, I became a lot more comfortable doing that and so my next goal was going snorkling at Menganjan Island (as I was told by many people that it’s awesome there). So I went to the touring booth street in an attempt to go for less than $50. At the first booth, I asked if they provided it and they said no. On the second booth, they were able to show me a company that stated it would cost $52 for four people. Asking how much it would cost for just me, the person told me that there must be a group of at least 4. So then I asked how much cheaper I can get it and he said $50. Telling him that it was hardly a discount, he said $48 and so I said thanks, I’ll go look around to see if anyone can offer me a better price. So the next stop I went to also had a brochure. At the next booth, I told him that there was a booth before his that was willing to make it $45 per person. I showed him the brochure to prove to him that I indeed did talk to someone else. Unfortunately, they had an updated brochure that stated that it costed $60. However, all I said was along the lines of it’s still the same company, and the other booth was willing to do it for 45, so it doesn’t make a difference to me as to what the face value was. Understanding that I was not willing to take anything higher than that, he called his associates to see what kind of offer he can make. At the end, he was willing to match 45 but he can’t do much more than that. After getting more details about logistics and stuff, I told him that I will see if I can find 3 others willing to go. Thinking I’d try the same thing with other booths, I went up to two other places and flat out told them the current offer made on the table and whether they were willing to beat it. However, no one was willing to do so and so I went back to the place that offered 48 to see what they’d do. When I got back there, he told me he provided me with the wrong info and that it was actually 60 and after me asking how much he can make it and constantly getting 50 out of him, I figured that 45 was the lowest I was getting. With all that being said, the end result always goes back to people are indecisive and the trip did not happen. However, I was proud to see myself bring it down to 45 and I probably would’ve tried the personal buyout if I had the numbers to actually bother with it.
So with the failed attempt at going snorkling, I was trying to figure out what to do when I overheard a couple of people talking about scuba diving at the hostel. Intrigued, I asked them for more information and after a nice long conversation, I decided that I was going to get my scuba diving license. However, my original plan was one more day in Bali before I leave for the Gilis (islands next to Bali) for two days. In order to get the license, you needed to spend at least 3 days at the Gilis or 2 days in Bali. The other option was do the intro course in Bali which should cut the time at the Gilis to 2 days. Talking to the owner of the hostel, (as they have a special promo to get to the Gilis and back), I found out that the return trip would be in the morning ad so wouldn’t leave me enough time to finish it. Hence I decided to drop the Gilis and get my license instead.
The diving class was right next to my hostel; refusing to barter, the course costed me 320 and would be completed in two days. The first day consisted of 2hrs in the swimming pool getting me accustomed to the basics. Everything was pretty easy except for the kicking with fins. According to the instructor, I kick as if I was cycling which was wrong (I probably do that since there was so much resistance if you use a normal swimming kick). After, we went into the sea for two dives at 10m each for about 30mins each. In addition to practicing what we did in the swimming pool, we added a couple of small things and just practiced swimming underwater. The underwater world was quite a sight. With hundreds of fish coming up to you because they were curious of the bubbles, the place was full of colour.
The dive ended around 2pm and I was asked to read a 250 page book so that I can do the final exam the next day (so we can keep it to 2 days). Skipping everything we covered at the pool, I spent the rest of the night reading and was able to finish it before going to sleep. The next day, my instructor changed and the location of our dive also changed. This instructor was also really nice and when diving, was willing to go a lot longer underwater than the previous. Going up to 18m underwater, I used up my tank to 50bar each dive (1/4 of oxygen left – also known as the suggested amount to resurface). However, he only used up to 100bars (still had half a tank) and he told me that if I improved my swimming technique, I would have to breathe less and hence have a lot more time underwater. I kept that in mind for my last dive and I did increase the amount of time I was under water from 35mins to 43mins. After the dives, we went back to do the exam which didn’t prove difficult, and so that is the story of my PADI open water course. Now why did I do this? Well the idea was since this doesn’t ever expire, I figured it would be nice to be able to dive at will. With all the travelling I’m hoping to do in the future, this just added the list of potential activities I may take on.
Learning to hover above the ground so that you don’t destroy the habitat.
Somewhat learning how to control body position while floating.
So the biggest myth that people say about getting your diving license in asia is that they aren’t as thorough with safety. However, with my experience, I believe that the way they cut down the time because of the book. Shifting the responsibility of going through the book to the student and skipping the quizes, it cuts the time down by multiple visits.
On the last day, I figured I’d do something else I’ve never done before: read on a beach. At the beginning of the trip, I bought the book Deception Point by Dan Brown and I finished it on the beach (though I finished half the book before I even got to Bali). The whole process was quite relaxing. Just sitting on a chair, immersed in a book and whenever I came back to reality, besides the rolling waves, I heard covers of songs by Boyce Avenue and by Sabrina. After finishing the book, I just took a nap. I must say, I should get myself a kindle or something to read, but at the same time, with this being my last trip in a while, I don’t know how often I would actually read with one. Who knows, I’m quite spontaneous like that.