Trapped In Asia: How It Took Me 2 Credit Cards, 5 ATM Machines, 4 Travel Agents, And A Bike Ride Through Horse Dung To Buy A Plane Ticket
All I wanted to do was to buy a ticket from Bali to Ambon and then to the Kei Islands, the next stop on this amazing journey through Indonesia. Pretty simple, right? But it took me four days to do this. Because I am the type of person who likes to get the best possible deal, I checked on the internet first. But, I know the travel agents in Asia often offer better deals than the internet, so I thought I would check with one before booking. I stopped and asked and was given a price that was about twenty dollars cheaper than the internet, so I told her I would be back the next day with money and to book the ticket. But when I came the next day, the price had gone up by about forty dollars, so I decided to use the internet after all. I mean twenty dollars can go pretty far in Asia, right?
So, I went to book the ticket on the internet, and the internet is so slow that after I put in my credit card information, the computer gets stuck in an interminable think mode and my ticket never goes through. I try the next day, and finally it goes through, but it says my credit card is not accepted. I try another card and the same thing happens. By this time, I am staying at a different hotel in Ubud closer to a different travel agent, and his price is $40 higher, but I am so tired at this point that I decide to just buy the ticket. But then he tells me, I have to get the ticket the next day, that it has to come from the main agency in Kuta. Well, I am leaving the next day before he opens so this won’t work at all. I am beginning to think Bali doesn’t want to let me leave. Wants me to stay forever, this place that has touched me so deeply that it’s the only place in the world that I’ve visited twice. But, since I am the type who wants to leave everywhere I go even though I know there’s nowhere better, I am beginning to fear that I will never get a flight.
Of course, I persist. At the port today to catch the boat to Gili Trawangan, I decide to use the extra thirty minutes I have to find a flight with the agents there. I go in the first office I see, and this travel agent tells me that he is closed because his brother has died, and he cannot help me. I arrive in Gili Trawangan after an exhausting adventure of being stuck at sea because the boat had run out of oil. (Oh the adventures of travel in Asia!)
After a lovely afternoon on a sparkling white sand, aquamarine beach I decided to try once more for my plane ticket. This travel agent also charged $40 more than the internet, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to get my ticket. So, I told him that I would walk down the way to the ATM. But I get there, and there is a blank screen. So, I walk farther to another, and the same thing. Still farther, and again, no power. The electricity had been shut off at our hotel, so I thought maybe it was off on the whole island. I asked a guy and he laughed at me, and said, “You can still hear music, so we have power.” I walked dejectedly back to the travel agent, and told him what was going on. He told me I had to go somewhere to a different ATM, but where I didn’t understand. I just knew to go in the direction he pointed. He told me to take his bike, that it was a long way. I couldn’t believe that in order to get a plane ticket, I was now riding a bike to god knows where to get money to pay a travel agent whose entire operation consisted of a pack of receipts, a pen, and a bike. He didn’t even have a computer.
So, I set off on this jalopy of a bike with barely any air in the tires, only one of the brakes working, and start searching for an ATM. This was no ordinary bike ride. Here I was dodging horses, trying to remember to stay on the left side of the road instead of the right, and being swallowed by potholes every couple of seconds. And then it happened. Dodging a pedestrian on one side and a pot hole on the other, my bike rode through the biggest pile of horse dung I’ve ever seen. Nauseated by the smell, I kept on. I drove and drove and drove. And asked people. And never understood exactly where to go. Finally, I found it. A shining ATM!! But, alas, this one, too, had a screen that was black. What to do? I asked around and found that there were more still farther. Meanwhile, I couldn’t help but laugh. When I last came to this island seven years ago, there wasn’t even one ATM on this island. Now there seemed to be quite a few, and I was finding them all!
Finally, once I was halfway around the island, I found it!! A set of three ATM’s all together. And air-conditioned ones at that. I stepped inside feeling the cold rush of air cooling the sweat on my skin and, yes, the power was on. I finally had money again to buy my ticket. Stepping out of the ATM across the street from the beach was a beautiful view that I stopped to take in and enjoy. I made it back to the travel agent who wasn’t too upset by the um, shall we say, shitty condition of his bike. He even offered to let me use it for the rest of my time on the island. And me? I am now the proud owner of the hardest won plane ticket that I’ve ever had in my possession, and excited about the journey soon to be made to the Spice Islands of Maluku.