Smells like Bali

It’s the smell that hits you first; one step out of the plane and it burns away the malaise of the flight and re-sets your body clock. It’s hot and rich; a chemical shot that tells your body you’re in Indonesia, and that there’s no-where to hide. It doesn’t matter how much you prepare yourself, until the tropical heat wraps its arms around you, until the fetid odor of 3,891,428 people crammed onto a tiny island is dragged into your lungs, you won’t know you’ve arrived.

I was overdressed and dehydrated, I was tired and lugging far too much luggage but with that smell rapidly invading my blood stream I was getting very excited.

I had a desperate appetite for a Nasi and a Bintang. I unceremoniously pulled off my boots in the middle of the arrivals lounge. With a groan of ecstasy I replaced them with thongs and charged into the masses of sluggish travelers. Using my surfboard as a lance I prodded my way through to the exit and out to the waiting theatre of taxi drivers and guys holding signs with names on them.

I wasn’t expecting there to be a guy holding a sign with my name on it but I scanned the little placards nonetheless, with an optimistic hope that the best dressed of them might, by some bizarre fluke, be waiting to drive me to someplace with a pool and cocktails on arrival.

Instead I ended up with Ketut. He didn’t speak much English and he had a long scar running down his neck.

At any transport stop in Indo it’s never a battle to find a taxi but rather to avoid the initial rush of touts; to find that mellow character hanging in the background, someone who lacks the hyperactive desperation to rip you off.

I waved off the initial onslaught and found a pillar to lean against. With my phone out I tried to appear in control, that I was calling my driver or waiting for a friend.

I looked-up and waved to the first taxi-driver-looking-guy I saw. He waved back before turning away; perfect. I lugged my bags towards him and asked, in scattered Indonesian, how much to Seminyak?

“R200,000” he said. I laughed and shook my head.

“Na, R100,000, surely.” I said.

We went back and forwards like this for a while. He laughed and I laughed. He told me my surfboard would be extra; this confused me.

I kept saying R100,000, he kept saying R200,000, but eventually he got bored and called over his friend Ketut.

Ketut smiled and started to load my luggage onto his shoulder. I met his gaze, “Seminyak, R100,000?” I asked.

“Bagus, bagus.” He said. “Good, good.”

He assured me knew the address. He asked me where I was from; I asked him if he had a wife; he asked me if I had any children; I asked him if it had been windy; he asked if I was going to surf, I answered “yes”.

True to his word he found the road. We reversed back and forwards along the narrow strip of concrete for five minutes trying to read house numbers and signs and soon enough there it was! This was miraculous. When Anna appeared at the gate she couldn’t believe I’d found it without having to call. Bali is a labyrinth and this was a good omen.

Soon enough I’d jumped into the pool and devoured a Nasi.

So far so good…


IMG_4370 244_bali_husslin Bali

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  1. Charlotte says:

    Love your blog post on arriving in Bali 🙂


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