Sunday 22 June
So, I’m in the town of Padangbai (or Padang Bai – spaces appear to be optional in Indonesian place-names), on the East coast of Bali, and I’ve decided to stay here for a second night, rather than leaving immediately for Lombok The reasons are legion, but basically it seems like a nice town, relaxed, and the hostel I’m in is magnificent- small but very friendly, with aircon in the dorm that works, and run by an interesting, friendly, and mad-buzzing-around Belgian.
Getting here was, well maybe ‘awkward’ is the wrong word, maybe I made it more awkward than it really needed to be, but it was certainly an adventure.
Leaving East Timor wasn’t a problem at all – mikrolet to the roundabout near the airport, then a short walk to the terminal building (probably confusing any taxi drivers riding past as they wouldn’t be expecting a foreigner to be doing that).
East Timor is also one of those annoying countries with an ‘exit tax’ that you need to pay when flying out the country. Although this seems to be quite common, in many countries the tax is included in the price of the plane ticket so you never really notice it. In Dili airport, there’s a separate kiosk window you need to go to before you can stamp out at immigration. $10. It’s not a lot, but it’s the principle of the thing.
Dili airport’s not that big – check-in, luggage deposit, immigration, and the exit tax window are all in different parts of a grubby yellow open-plan roughly square room that’s only maybe twice as big as the average school classroom. My ticket specified ‘gate 1’, but it didn’t take much exploring in the departure lounge to discover that the only obvious exit wasn’t numbered at all.
The airport in Bali was much bigger, and coming out the arrivals building you’re immediately confronted with a piece of Hindu architecture surrounded by trees; it’s really quite pretty. Or would be if it didn’t have taxi touts milling around.
Bali airport isn’t served by public transport – the main way out is by taxi. And they have ‘official airport taxis’ with ‘official rates’ to anywhere on the island, rates that are somewhat higher than perhaps they need be. These are, however, cheaper than the rates you’re likely to get from the touts outside the arrivals building. I figured I’d take a taxi to Denpasar (the main city) and catch a bus from there to Padangbai rather than catching a taxi the whole way (Denpasar was 150k rupiah, Padangbai would have been about 350k. There are 20k to the £, so these prices aren’t really that extortionate, but again, it’s the principle of the matter).
The main issue I had in the airport however was that the ATM didn’t want to give me any money, regardless of the options I set, Fortunately I still had quite a few US$ from my time in East Timor so it wasn’t that I was out of money, but it was a worry in the back of my mind just in case I continued to have trouble.
It was a longer journey than I expected from the airport to the bus station, mainly down a dual carriageway. It surprised me that Timor-Leste drives on the left, but now that I know that Indonesia does too, it makes more sense, though, as Indonesia was a Dutch colony originally, it’s still weird.
The bus station itself was a gravelled square surrounded by half-built buildings and a large warung. And absolutely no signage whatsoever – it resembled a coach park you’d find by a tourist attraction. However with a bit of effort I did manage to find my way to a small minibus that was allegedly heading in the right direction. With no timetable it set off with just me and one other person in the vehicle, after they gave me time to buy a drink and a snack at the nearby stall.
The journey took about two hours in total. My impressions of the whole of Southern Bali were that it was one huge urban area; from the airport until deep along the way to Padangbai all the roads were full of houses, businesses, and people – it wasn’t really what I was expecting. The minibus was quite small and cramped, but fortunately it was mostly empty – about halfway along though, two women got on with five large steel containers and two bunches of flowers, that all ended up taking up most of the minibus but they only rode for about 25 minutes.
It was also a more expensive journey than I’d been led to believe –costing not that much less than I would have expected a taxi to be and it’s hard to negotiate in a foreign language when you’re in the middle of nowhere.
Indonesia was not endearing itself to me so far.
Padangbai is not a very large town; it consists mainly of one long road running along the seafront, the main (and indeed only) road coming into town that ends at the harbour from where you get the slow boat to Lombok, and a couple of other roads coming off these two. Most of the buildings are restaurants/hotels, travel agencies offering trips to the nearby Gili Islands, or places offering water-based activities – it’s good snorkelling/dving/surfing country here.
After three attempts at two different ATMs, I did manage to get money, although the maximum withdrawal was only 2million Rupiah, so half what I’d normally be allowed to withdraw. This could get expensive with regard to commission fees.
The hostel is lovely though, and the town seems restful; maybe what I need, so I can decide what to do next.
And it is a bit cheaper here; looking at the café/restaurants on the seafront, you can get a decent meal for £2. And lots of fresh fish.