You want see rice terrace? What you do tomorrow? Tonight? I take you somewhere? I know special place, good food, cheap, human food.
I take you tomorrow? Volcano? Rice terrace? I take you temple, we make little offering, very special, good price.
What you do Friday, Saturday? You have plan, thing to see? I good driver, very careful. Only three accident ever, not my fault. Big car problem. No good Ubud. Motor bike small.
Sunday you I go out, all day, see many thing. Silver village, carving, furniture. Lunch special place. Go waterfall, you swim, I take photo for you. I know camera, many camera, I take good photo.
What you do Monday? Tuesday? You need ride back airport? Kuta? You go Kuta, to bar, to beach. I take. Show you good spot.
I very good driver. I drive long time. You me go volcano, temple, waterfall. You book now good price.
This is the litany from the front of the motor bike intent on beating me down, although muffled by helmet, bike engine and traffic around us. Not to mention that I’m hot, tired, and may have swallowed a small bug when I opened my mouth to say: No thankyou, no thankyou, no thankyou. No, again no. I don’t know what I’m doing. No thankyou.
I’m too bloody polite for my own good.
We are jerking our way down Jalan Bisma in Ubud, avoiding the thick traffic on Monkey Forest Road. 3pm, and school’s out, and all the motor bikes in the world are stopping and starting on both Monkey Forest and Jalan Hanoman, not to mention the ‘car park’ of Ubud Raya Rd.
Motor bikes head straight towards each other on all the roads, swerving at the last minute, when both have tooted their horns in a ‘I’m here’ way. Not all the drivers look at the road. At least four that I see on this short trip are texting on their phones. Phone is in one hand, sometimes the other hand is on the handlebars. Sometimes holding packages, coconut, baby.
I’ve walked all the way down JalanHanoman in the heat of the day, and have reached the Monkey Forest. Absolutely knocked out by heat, I take the first offer of a ‘you want taxi?’, with accompanying revving motor bike hand gestures, and we’re off to my villa in Penestanan.
This trip to Bali has been my ‘attract toothless old men who want to be my Bali boyfriend’ trip. And I’m talking really old, and really, really toothless.
My taxi driver is old, but has most of his teeth. A friend remarks that ‘he’s hardly your type, then’.
My taxi driver is persistent, but also resigned. He goes through this spiel each time he picks up a tourist.
He says yes, he knows Lily Lane Villas in Penestanan. But I have to direct him the right way several times.
We pass shops and homestays I’ve not seen before, as we’re off the main drag. We pass a juice shop called Poopy. An orange and an apple form the o’s in the name. Poopy Juice.
You want stop here for painting? Very good painting here. Artists. Back old Ubud days, Ubud artists village. You take class? I collect you, drive you to painting, pick up, we go lunch? Maybe volcano? Maybe you like see Sanur? New Kuta? Very good tourist place. Beach, drinks. I take you, cheap price.
I’ve stopped responding, and simply point out that we’re coming around the corner and there’s Lily Lane.
I hop off the bike and pay him 25,000 Rupiah. $2.50 AUD.
“I see you tomorrow yes?”
“No,” I say. “No thankyou.”
“I don’t want to.”
“Oh. You no like?”
I want to shout ‘No, I don’t like being harangued!’ but it will do no good. This is how it is in Bali. They ask, and ask, and sell, and sell.
“I don’t know what I’m doing yet.”
“You make booking maybe Friday?”
“No.” Not with you, mate.
“Oh. I see you some time yes?”
My voice is tight. I walk away from him without meeting his eyes.
I have so much, and he has so little, but…. But….. Don’t nag me. Don’t ever nag me.
I walk up the steps to the villas.
“See you!” he calls.
I wave an imperious arm behind me that could be ‘goodbye’ or could be ‘get lost, peasant’.
I am through the gate into Lily Lane before I hear his motor bike rev. He’s watched me the whole time, like a hopeful dog waiting for a pat. Perhaps I’d come back, gush over him, and say ‘Sure, Friday, let’s go see the terraces’.
It takes me about four days to get hardened to life here, like stone, to be brutal and firm. I arrived Sunday. It’s Wednesday now.
I’ll tell you when I want transport, and you come running then. And only then. As if you were a servant, a peasant, a serf.
Photo: Ubud - Bali, Indonesia _ VasenkaPhotography