Friday, December 24, 2010

Step 1: Survive the Taxi from the Airport

The turbulence had barely subsided when we finally emerged from the clouds and landed on the Bali tarmac. We were in Bali!!! A new, exciting leg of our trip. We were herded off the aircraft in the typical border-collee style and raced inside to be the first to get in line for immigration. We hadn't arranged our visas in advance, which was fine other, than the potential hours we would spend waiting to be processed in the Bali airport. We paid $25 USD each (in actual US cash, which I think is a bit weird) to a lady in a booth and then were the first eager beavers, smiling hopelessly at the visa officer. He smiled back, took our paperwork and without more than a glance, we were done! We handed our customs declaration card to the officer who was standing behind a podium not even trying to conceal the fact that he was flipping through a magazine. He barely tore his eyes from the Brangelina spread as he waved us past. Did we miss something? Hope not. We took 1.5 million rupees (about $150) out of the ATM and breezed past all those poor folk starring blankly at the empty baggage carousel. Our plane landed at 245pm and by 3pm we were out in front of the airport bartering for a taxi to Ubud. After succumbing to a price (about $18 for the 1 1/4hr ride into Ubud) we were led to a nondescript, but shiny car whose door panels and visors were still covered in plastic. And so the adventure begins. My insides were humming with excitement but my teeth were gritted anxiously.
I wish I could have taken that hour and recorded everything I saw through the air-conditioned windows of my 'taksi'. It felt like I was watching a world pass by me through the lens of a documentary film. A real but absolutely foreign snapshot of everyday life in Bali. As we merged onto the road, aka cutoff 10 motorbikes and began to swerve in and out of traffic, I took out my notebook and began to jot down notes of the surreal scene unfolding before us. Jonathan, in the front seat turned around with wide eyes as we dodged motorbikes, oncoming traffic, pedestrians and stray dogs. I was so mezmorized that it didn't feel real. Was I really seeing all this? Is that guy really sitting on a bicycle, holding it straight with one hand and using the other to hang on to a speeding motorbike who is pulling him along the crowded street? Do people really live in those shacks? Or carve those immaculaely ornate temples and Hindu statues? Are those watermelon at those stalls on the side of the road? Are there really 4 people on that motorbike, and if what I am seeing really is real, is that a 2 year-old propped up in the front sans-helmet?! How are all these stray dogs managing to avoid becoming roadkill? What do they do with the goldfish in little plastic baggies strung up from that rope? Why have they dyed baby chickens neon colours? Are we now actually driving down the middle lane of the highway passing vehicles with less than inches to spare? As I said, it was completely surreal. It was more like being in a video game than a real life taxi. You got points if you stayed on the road, but it was a difficult task. Maybe you got points for behind-the-wheel-creativity? You most certainly earned more lives by honking. Honk, honk, HONK! Although it must be said that honking serves a completely different function than at home. Honks aren't angry. They are more an informative tool. 'Hey fellow driver, maybe you can't see me, I'm here, inches from your side mirror. Just wanted you to know.' or 'Hello oncoming traffic! Yes, it is true, I am in your lane, headed straight for you without any sign of returning to my designated lane. Just shove over a bit, ok? There's room over there on the shoulder. Let's share the road, friend!' The motorbikes roared by in hoards. They weaved through, around, in between and seemingly over top of the cars. 'Does anyone on a motorbike ever get hit?' asked Jonathan as one drove practically horizontal on the side of the taxi. Our driver laughed. 'No, no' he said. Hummmm
The colours wizzed by like silk scarves blowing in the breeze. The architecture that wasn't in shambles was spectacular. No centimeter of stone was left un-carved, no Hindu demi-god statue was less than serene. This is Bali... or at least the Bali that exists between the airport and Ubud. I can't wait to see what else there is!



Anonymous said...

Your blogs are soooo good we feel like we're there with you; but then our 'skype video' talk was even better. To see you and where you are live is awesome.
Maybe you'll need to invest in helmets and lifejackets. LOL

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas <3

Sarah said...

The little girl in the picture is beautiful. Another great shot Pomebot. I also liked the airline signs at the airport, you're in a whole new world.
Miss you two so much!
Mrs Towel