Right after being able to leave my stuff in the hotel, I was headed for the beach in Kuta, Bali. I took a cab not knowing it was just a 10-minute walk. The traffic was terrible so I decided to get off and walk anyway. I walked past strings of American surf shops which made me think twice about my actual location. There were authentic Roxy shops, Billabong, etc. Bali seemed like your typical American boulevard.
When I got to the beach, I couldn’t have been more disappointed in my life! There were throngs of people, literally hundreds, even thousands perhaps. The place was just chaotic! The sand was dirty gray and there were trash all around the area. There was a big number of foreign-local mix with the foreigners staying at the shaded area where there were makeshift stalls set-up for drinks and food. This was not the Bali I expected! I expected a serene scene with romantic lounge areas and posh restaurants where you can enjoy the scenery. I wanted to go home. I took a couple of pictures avoiding the spots where it showed exactly how miserably filled it was. A couple of kids were flying nice-looking kites. Peddlers were selling what seemed to me as pinipig ice cream, cotton candies, a variety of drinks – exactly how it was back home.
After the big disappointment from the beach, I immediately looked for money changer rates. I opted to settle for the averagely-high priced changer near my hotel. What happened next was exactly similar to an enacted scene from travel books I usually read. Now, let me get this straight. I do not look like a tourist, I do not act like a tourist and I don’t have the mindset of a tourist. Coming from a third world country going to another felt pretty much the same for me. I knew and was completely certain and self-assured that I won’t fall into any typical tourist scheme as I’ve lived with it back home. But then I was so wrong. Boy, was I wrong!
I walked up to the money changing person and confirmed the rates. Another guy, came up to my side and started engaging me in side talk. By this time they were certain I wasn’t Indonesian because I obviously did not speak the language. So I said I’ll have 100 dollars changed and they asked me the denomination of the currency (they pay higher rates for bigger amounts of currency and lower for smaller denominations). I reached into my bag did it on the side so the guy who was still standing there won’t see my money but as I counted and leaned to the side, I caught the guy taking a peek at the money I was counting. By this time, I was already feeling completely uncomfortable. God I wish I had a guy with me! This stranger can just go take my bag off me right then and there if he wanted to and I wouldn’t be able to do a thing except sulk and go back to my hotel. So I just wanted the entire thing to be over and done with. The guy at the counter started counting my money in front of me and he counted them in batches. They were in Rp100,000 batches. I don’t remember how much that was supposed to be for because I just immediately took the money so I can get away from the area. I went straight to look for a place where I could eat . As I sat in Julia’s Inn with the really nice smiling local waitress whose face I will never forget, I took my bag and counted my money. I was shocked (well more like furious) to find out that I was short by Rp100,000! I counted it thrice and it was the same, I was short by Rp100,000. I felt enraged for having been tricked without any effort whatsoever. Their only method was the magic behind intimidation and it worked like hell with me as a single female traveler in a foreign country. It wasn’t the god**** money! It was my pride. I always considered myself to be street smart and a step ahead everyone else’s but these 2 con artists made me fall for such a simple age-old money changing trick. This would have never happened to me back home! Now, let me clarify that, they would have ‘tried’ to do it, but I wouldn’t have fallen for it. The worst part was, there was no other route for me but to pass by that awful place to get to my hotel and it just feels really bad to pass the area knowing that these men were able to deceive me straight to my face and I’d never be able to say anything. It’ll be useless to go “do” something about it as there was not even any evidence of the transaction.
The only thing that made me go back to my old happy mood was the food that was served in Julia’s Inn near Kuta Beach. I asked the waitress what she can recommend for my first Indonesian meal and while I knew about nasi campur and nasi goreng (which was what they had in Malaysia as well) she made me try a local beef stew in coconut which turned out to be really good. While it was a little on the pricey side, the meal was worth every cent. Plus, the laid back, low-light ambience and service was great. And so I ate the rest of my beef stew with mixed mental agony for my loss and pleasure.