Name the top 6 countries that send the most tourists to Bali. I bet you can get only 3 of them, and I bet you can’t guess #2. Answer at the bottom of this post.
Since my brouhaha with Orbitz I now get a lump in my throat when I buy a flight ticket online. I am usually anxious, anyway, since a flight connotes a dreaded feeling of finality for someone as footloose as me.
It’s a shame it isn’t as straightforward as in Indonesia where you can sashay over to the airport ticket counter, pay your money and get a normal ticket, like a bus or train, like how it should be. There is demand pricing, but it seems reasonable to me. I paid only $25 plus $5 airport tax to fly from Surabaya, Java, to Bali. I knew the price before I got to the airport courtesy of the good people behind utiket.com. To make the same journey by land and ferry it would have cost about $15 and taken 10-12 hours minimum, I believe, plus a shortened life span, and I’m not getting any younger.
To go from unvisited Semarang and Surabaya to the belly of the tourism beast, Bali, is a jolt. I took a collection of bemos (minibuses, vans) to leave the tourist/airport area of southern Bali, which is easier said than done as it’s a pain to get around with public transport. Therefore, I was incensed to see the news headline, “Bali Travelers Turning Their Backs on Public Transport.” Of course we do! What choice is there when there are few routes, the drivers take you for a ride (literally and figuratively) and it’s too congested to hitchhike?
Partially as a reaction to this, the demand for reputable drivers in Bali is high. You have to like the spirit of someone trying to stand out from the crowd by advertising his service on ebay.. “Shipping” is 61 cents!
I’m up in the mountains in Bedugul, Candikuning, specifically, which is a Balinese word derived from ancient Sanskrit texts that means “musty hotel rooms”. Between that and the narrow window of good weather every day to do stuff, I can only take one more night up here, though it’s great for hitchhiking. I’ve had about 4 or 5 rides, never waiting for more than a few minutes. The last ride yesterday was from a couple of ethnic Yemeni guys who said there is a substantial community of Yemenis in Bali and Java. One told me his family has been here for 200 years.
List of Bali’s foreign tourists based on their nationalities:
1. Australia (63,704 visitors)
2. China (55,099)
3. Japan (12,805)
4. Taiwan (11,671)
5. Malaysia (11,656)
6. Russia (10,907)
7. South Korea (10,567)
8. Singapore (7,566)
9. United States (6,783)
10. England (6,325)
Someday those Chinese are going to turn from package tourists into backpackers. They’re going to get all glassy-eyed and slack-jawed with wonder when they see us looking like we haven’t washed our clothes in weeks, hanging out in cafes all day with our laptops, arguing with taxi drivers for 20 minutes over 20 cents, storming out of coffee shops in a huff when the Fair Trade Blend has been sold out, and they’re going to say to themselves, “This is the life!”
Did anyone get the answer to the quiz right? If you came close and you want a postcard from Bali AND you have never received one from me AND we have never met in person AND you “like” my Facebook page (if you are on FB), be the first person to comment below and I’ll do it.