I read of the latest travel warning on the third day of our five-day stay on the island. Should I venture outside our hotel compound? Bali has returned to relative normalcy in the last eight years. The streets of Kuta are not only flooded with water; there are also lots of tourists, mostly Aussies, around even as the rainy season sets in.
When you arrive and pay your entrance fee, you are assigned a mandatory guide.
“Can’t we just walk around by ourselves?”
“You must have guide. Not safe.”
“Oh come on.”
So we entered the area with our guide. Not twenty seconds later a king monkey attacked me when I made the mistake of putting my right hand in my pocket. He jumped up onto my shorts and pulled himself around me, jabbing and biting anything that might contain food. Finally, our guide batted him off with her umbrella.
“Not put hand in pocket,” she said—laughing.
“Tell tourist this before tourist put hand in pocket,” I said.
“Ha ha. You funny.”
“Not joke.” I looked down at my clothes covered in monkey tracks. There was a hole torn in my t-shirt.
“King monkey. Very strong. Mean. You want to feed?” She pointed at the container with the food that we could purchase for a small price.
“Nah,” I said. “So, do the monkeys forage for food themselves or do you feed them?”
“You feed them,” she said.
“This is the only food they get?”
“Ah-hah.” I wanted to leave, but I didn’t want to cause a scene. These animals were vicious and desperate to get the food in that container because they were HUNGRY. We kept walking. The next spectacle was enormous bats. I could only assume that they were also a sort of circus show. The whole thing made me so sad for these animals.
After about ten minutes of walking around, our guide hurried us around the temple and down another path.
“Down here,” she said. “My shop.”
“Yes, my shop. Souvenir,” she said.
At that point we turned a corner and a woman, who turned out to be our guide’s sister, greeted us: “Drink? Singha beer?”
This is what everyone says when they want you to buy something. “For luck.” Whose luck? Mine or theirs? It’s like in the Middle East when the salesperson tries to convince you to buy something because you’re his first customer of the day, and not buying something will cause him to have bad business all day. One shopowner said this to me at around three o’clock in the afternoon one time. Obviously, he’d already had a fairly poor day.
As an obsessed traveler it’s hard for me to come to terms with my role as a tourist. It’s something I struggle with every time I travel to a developing country and see how desperate the people get when there aren't enough tourists to go around. It will probably be quite a while before I head back to Southeast Asia. The trips for 2011 are mostly in Canada and Europe.
Right now I’m home for a few days. Yay :)
I must be off (to wash clothes),