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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Beware of the Money Changer Scams in Bali.

Every travel has a story. My latest one was one of scams. It's my 4th time in Bali and it's such a different experience every single time! The first one was a taste of luxury that Bali offers. Alas, the four walls of Hotel Intercontinental was all i saw because i was there for a BRANDS shoot.

The second one was disappointing because my time was so short and i did not catch the sun set. The third one  was a review of villas and i had 2 of my virgin experiences, one being Banyan Tree, the other is a naughty secret not to be divulged.

The fourth and possibly the last ( i've enough of Bali!) is one of scams.

We stayed in Dana Guest House on our first night. It was really cheap (USD 19/night). For that, you get bed (the sheets were clean) and breakfast (a cuppa and an omelette sandwich). The toilet is really small with no towels nor soap, and there is no sink. The owner, Puti's warmth, however, make up for the cold shower.

On the outskirts of Seminyak, their invoice reads "hard to find (airport transfer 100K Rp/trip), hard to forget."
It was good for a night or for a really tight budget.

Then we got picked up by Tanis Villa to make our way to Lembongan for our island stay (400K Rp/2 way ferry + 60K Rp transfer).

Change your currency at the airport or in your home country. We had no choice but to change $ at Sanur's jetty where there was only one changer. He knew that and he gave us a rate 8 points lower than what was displayed. Cheat 1 happened. Paying by credit card on the island attracts a 3% charge.

Tanis is right on the beach, with nice looking sharing pools and spacious bedrooms.
There isn't much to do on this island even though it boasts of a village of 600. The mom and pop stores were aplenty but their goods are covered with thick dust. Meals start at about SGD 5 because commodities are more expensive, needing to be brought from mainland.
 With not much to do, alot of beach combing was done, soaking up the nature.

Diving there, however, was one of the clearest and most colourful i've seen thus far (next to Phi Phi, Phuket). There was a slight current so we drifted along the walls, it was easy. Trying to be innovative in bringing some bread to feed the fish. Alas, deep sea fishes aren't into bread like we thought they would.

Can you spot the cuttlefish? I never knew they could camouflage!
As a local say, "you are so lucky to come during the Festival of the Dead!" It happens every two years when the village will do a mass cremation for their deceased. They take the two years to save up for the grand ceremony.
This girl is a live one.
They burry the dead first, then 2 years later dig them up for a mass cremation
whereby after the ash'll be scattered in the sea. This period is akin to the Chinese's Hungry Ghost Festival.
2 days on Lembongan is enough, and we head back to Seminyak's Bali Dream. USD 300/night for 6, we were stoked when they upgraded us and we each have a room of our own!

 Happy with the private space.
AND outdoor shower. Teehee.

 Ha ha ha.
Breakfast is included as well as transport around Kuta, Semiyak and Legian which is really useful. Caucasians often get pulled over by cops for no reason. They blatantly ask for bribes. Which our friend, unfortunately, encountered. Cheated x2.
The highlight of the trip, other than the clear water that made me happy, was the climb up Mt Batur in the dark. Getting picked up at 2am and starting the climb at 4am, the air was freezing and the stars were like jewels thrown against the velvet sky.

We paid USD 60 each for Bali Eco Tours for the trek. There may be a cheaper way of finding your own local guide/ transport as i have read in forums but we took the lazy way out.
It is a trek for the fit, and you reward yourself with the world's favourite drink, Coca Cola. This man will trail behind your group, carrying bottles of Coke trying to offer you one at every appropriate moment. The price to pay for such temptation is 25K rp (SGD 3).
 A mountain dog, Popo appeared out of nowhere and started the treak with us at 4am! It reached the summit and watched the sun rise with us at 6. Truly a man's best friend.
 Up at the summit, entrepreneur locals set up tents and call it a cafe where hot teas go at 15K rp.
Included in the tour price is breakfast. They promised that we get to cook ours in the volcanic steam, and we did get to!
Steaming bananas and eggs naturally.
Steamed banana sandwich!
I wonder how did this animal get up here and what is it?! 
Only to learn it was an offering for the dead souls. Some tourists have fallen into the crater.
Mum was right, no running kids! 
The last eruption was 11 years ago, thousands of people died but one lucky temple that stood atop a small hill was saved. The lava circled that hill and left the temple untouched. Uncanny!
 Hawkers are aplenty on the beach, it's like a Tupperware party! I was waiting around for my friends, so i agreed to a beach massage by a tout. She initially quoted me 100K Rp which i brought down to 50K Rp because that's what you get in the spas for 1 hour. After 15 minutes, she told me she was tired and stopped barely reaching 30 minutes. Cheated x3.
Pirates of the Carribean! cool kite.
The biggest cheat of all were the dishonest money changers in Seminyak or Kuta. Using the slight of hand, distracting and confusing you with many hand actions and counting your money numerous times,  they short changed us a total of 2 million Rp! That's SGD 350 or more!!!

These guys are slimy like a slug, it left a bad taste. So glad to be back home in Singapore where there's law and order. 
We retreat into our shells and lick the wounds of our empty pockets.


Anonymous said...

pssst it's sleight of hand...not slight of hand...

Anonymous said...

Ah! Thanks i learn something new!

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