Bali, Indonesia

  • September 23, 2017

“What’s the worst thing that’s happened on your trip? Has anything gone horribly wrong?”

Fellow travelers pose me these rather morbid questions with surprising frequency. Luckily, my current response is a tame anecdote about mistakenly taking an Estonian bus 20 miles in the wrong direction. But as my trip comes to an end, I suspect that all this good luck will soon be equalized with a massive eruption of bad luck. Given that Bali’s Agung Volcano is smoking, causing 5.0+ earthquakes, and just 40km away, that eruption may be all too realistic. If and when it erupts, fear not: I’m staying well outside the 7.5km evacuation zone.

Part of what that bad-luck-eruption must equalize was my pre-Bali good luck at Hong Kong’s horse races. With Chef Tony as my guide and bidding adviser, I fared much better than during my Venetian gambling endeavors 6 months ago. The weak value of the Hong Kong dollar had me rejoicing over a $100 winning ticket until reminding myself that’s only about $7 USD.

After Hong Kong’s bustling urban neighborhoods, I welcomed Bali’s decelerated pace of life. The island attracts an eclectic mix of surfer bros, smiley locals, and my favorite subgroup: yogis. Yoga is a whole new game in Bali. Imply that the sacred practice is even remotely about fitness and prepare for a slap on the wrist. The practitioners dedicated enough to come to Bali are here not to stretch but to learn about things like “Shakras seven, eight, and nine which connect your body to the planets.” After a brief analysis of my birth date, my Yogi friends told me I’m on Shakra Eight…out of nine. Looks like that good luck may just continue.

While the Yogis are busy sleeping meditating, the streets are anything but calm. Moped riding tourists dominate the roads. After a near death experience on one five years ago in Thailand, I’ve elected for more traditional methods of travel. Traditional, at least, by millennial standards. Bali has Uber. But I’ve learned to tread carefully utilizing this transportation method as well. After I asked my first Balinese Uber driver why his license plate doesn’t match the one listed on my phone, he relayed the following paraphrased warning to me:

The Taxi Mafia doesn’t like Uber. Sometimes, they will pose as a customer and request a car through the app. When the car arrives, they’ll pull the driver out and teach us a lesson. I lie about my license plate so I have an alibi if they catch me. Be careful, sometimes they get angry when they see customers calling Ubers too.

Note taken.

With the taxi mafia and erupting volcanoes close on my tail, I’m leaving Bali for another island. That miniature island, Gili Air, is known for its world class SCUBA diving. Its circumference can supposedly be walked in just 90 minutes.