Indonesia

A little money for my friend?

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A great island Bali. The views are stunning with rice fields carved into the hillsides like giant step and every house intricately sculpted to look like a Hindu temple. Riding around you don’t know where to look next or which direction to head. There’s just so much to see.

Sadly a lot of corruption too. Yesterday I was riding up to the volcano and was stopped by a policeman at the side of the road. He’d just finished with another tourist and came over asking for my international driving licence. Anyway having these will know they’re a joke; just a bit of cardboard with a passport picture on the back. I have one but it was back at the hotel. You could see the little policeman’s eyes light up. “Some money for my friend perhaps?” He said nodding in the direciton of his buddy. “Sure, here’s 50,000 ruppees,” or about three pound eightie. There’s nothing else you can do.

Then today when I was riding down into Kuta, the main tourist drag, I get pulled over by a policeman who said I’d gone through a red line. I’d not but he said he’d take me to the police station and have the magistrate deal with me. Or he could take a little money now. First he wanted 150,000, or about 12 quid. Now way I thought, and in the end we got it down to another 50,000. It’s just crazy that real policeman are openly scamming money out of tourists.

It’s then no surprise that some of the locals think they can do the same. You havve to check every bill and price, because a local with quadrupple it because you’re a tourist and add on all sorts of fees on if you don’t question it. Then the hawkers are ruthless in hunting you down the minute you get off yor bike. Girls with postcards and pineapples, men with pictures and naff carvings they want a fortune for. And they don’t accept no, not even the fourth time. In the end, with them trying to force things into your hand and being stood in your shadow, you just have to ignore them and almost push them away. It’s sad that they have to do that to earn a buck.

But that’s the problem with tourism. It dangles the carrot in front of these people and they only way they see they can get a piece of it is by deciet and fleecing,. It’s very sad and the reason that out of all the islands I’ve crossed through so far, it’s East Timor that’s the most genuinely pleasant. I’d go back there in a flash, regardless what they say about warzones.

So that’s Bali. Tomorrow I ride to the west of the island to catch the ferry to Java with a sense of Bali being a stunning place sadly spoilt by us folk who go there for a suntan. Not to mention the policeman with dirty wallets.

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