Semanyak is almost unrecognisable from the Bali of 30 years ago. Vietnamese restaurants, exotic architecture, and shopping strips have replaced most of the rice paddies and small shacks. And the prices have increased out of sight: our first dinner here we went to ‘Saigon Street’, an excellent restaurant/cocktail bar, with delicious tapas-style dishes. Our bill came to AU$84; more than we usually pay at home for an Asian meal out!
The crowds aren’t too shocking, though the traffic has become more congested with every passing year: it took us an hour to travel 25 km from the airport to our hotel.
Once we’re acclimatised, we dash off to finalise our equipment – we only have one set of flippers and a mask with no snorkel between two of us, and I am not the sort of person who likes to wait her turn when there’s a whale shark in the water…. In hindsight we would have been better off buying the extra sets in Australia – it is not cheap. Never mind, now we can snorkel to our heart’s content.
Our hotel, Taman Ayu, is renovating the restaurant, so breakfast is served by the pool: the travelers assemble on the loungers with plates perched on knees.
We need to get money – lots of it. We will be on board our boat (Putiraja) for 12 days, so need to provide for tips to the crew, payment for drinks on board, fees to local guides and various other sundries. In addition, we will need to pay tourist fees to the local land owners for visiting their property. Fair enough, I reckon. Tourist dollars will offset gold-mining, deforestation and blast fishing as sources of income for the locals. Gotta be happy with that!
We hand over our Aussie dollars to Dr G and he will try to get the best exchange rate with a chap he has dealt with before
He walks out of the change booth with a gazillion rupias in a black plastic bag: AU$1 = Rp 10,000… Where else in the world can you walk out of a foreign exchange office with a suitcase-worth of cash and not get mugged within a millisecond?