The Road to Bali

February 20, 2011

The time has come for my midterm exit from Japan. I am allowed only 90 days at a time, exactly half of what Japanese are allowed when visiting Canada or the US, but them’s the rules, and these days I try to color within the lines for the most part (although I am partial to using uncommon hues from time to time…). Anyway, for the past several weeks, I have been surfing the internet travel sites, both Japanese and non-Japanese, in hopes of finding a cheap fare to some interesting and exotic place, preferably one I haven’t visited before. This strategy has landed me in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, and mainland China thus far, and tomorrow I will depart for uncharted territory once again (uncharted by me, at least), the tropical isle of Bali. ANA (All Nippon Airways) offered a flight to Bali for $100 less than their flight to Jakarta, another destination I considered. From Japan it is the same initial flight to either destination, so basically it is like getting the Bali leg of the flight for free, and then having the flight crew bring you $100 to say “thanks for staying on.” How could I say no to that?

I have done all due diligence in preparing for the trip: I’ve located my passport and my International Driver’s License, which have been sequestered in a closet since I arrived in Tokyo in December; I bought the online PDF edition of Lonely Planet’s guidebook to Bali and Lombok (about to be superseded by a 2011 edition, but not in time for my trip), and have printed out pages for the parts of the island I plan to visit; I have secured a couple of nights’ accommodations at the front end of the trip, to avoid arriving there at 8pm and having to find a hotel after spending all day in an airplane; and last but not least, I watched the 1952 Bob Hope/Bing Crosby/Dorothy Lamour film, The Road to Bali. I’m sure I had seen it before, but never with the intention of visiting Bali shortly afterward, so I paid special attention so as not to miss any great travel tips. As you might imagine, the travel tips were few and far between, although the movie was amusing enough (Bob Hope made side comments to the audience from time to time, usually about Bing Crosby, for instance: “He’s gonna sing, folks; now is the time to go and get some popcorn…”).

There were, however, a couple of places where the due diligence failed. First and foremost, it turns out that March is smack dab in the middle of Bali’s monsoon season, so it would seem that an umbrella will be in order. A look at the ten-day weather forecast shows one day of “mostly cloudy”, three days of “partly cloudy”, and six days of “scattered thunderstorms”. There is heat to go with the humidity as well, with highs hovering around 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and evening lows in the high seventies or low eighties. The other thing I didn’t realize is that during my stay I will get to experience the Balinese New Year holiday, Nyepi (the Hindu “Day of Silence”), notable for the fact that from 6am one day until 6am the next day, nobody is allowed out of the house (or hotel), not even tourists. Nobody works, travels, lights fires, or uses undue amounts of electricity. Entertainment is verboten, including lovemaking, I am told. Some don’t even eat, drink or talk. The airport is closed, and the only people out and about are emergency workers (police, fire, ambulance) and hard line security staff enforcing the curfew. I may make a break for an adjacent island (all the nearby islands are predominantly Muslim, and don’t celebrate the Hindu holiday) for a couple of days! I’ll keep you posted…