Bali Banter

I think one will hear plenty about how friendly the Balinese are and I am sure in many cases that is true. But it doesn’t take long to see that most of the people you come in contact with see the traveler as a bag of money and their task is to analyze how exactly they might open that bag for themselves or someone they know. I know there will be protests from the Bali-lovers out there, but conversations are pretty much scripted thus:

Helloooooo!
How are you?
Where you from?
First time in Bali?
Where you stay? (If you don’t have a place, he has one for sure. If you do, he thinks a moment, moves down the script.)
How long you stay? You leave soon? (Well, unless you live here, your answer will move you to the next level of questioning.)
Oh, where you go next? You need a driver? (He has one, is one, knows one, will find one if he doesn’t.)
Did you visit the mother temple? You go there? (If yes, it triggers the next question.)
Oh, you must have sari to enter temple. You need sari? I have. My cousin, she make traditional Balinese batik sari (screen-printed in Java)
I take you dare (there).
Change money?
Hungry?
Dolphin tour? Snorkel tour?

After the five-minute friendly “conversation” if you haven’t bought or agreed to anything, you are no longer interesting and are now free to go on to the next guy ten paces on who begins the script from the top. I have been around Balinese who have moved beyond the script with me which is very nice. And on a couple occasions it was a marvel to see someone enter the periphery and my new friend suddenly tensed like a spider feeling that characteristic tremor that says something just touched the web. He interrupted our own conversation, turned to a passing stranger and started the script. It was incredible.

Everyone’s selling something, though usually they don’t ask more than twice after you say No. (Unlike tailors in Hong Kong for example who physically block your path or actually grab an elbow or sleeve!) My favorite hawker moment came from a guy in the darkened parking lot near the beach in Lovina, leaning against his motorbike and looking as shifty as hell. He leaned forward, arms crossed, looked me straight in the eyes, gave a lift of his chin, and said in a low, knowing voice, “I have some information.”

State secrets? Winning lottery numbers? Warnings for the unwary traveler maybe? I already have some of that information.

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