Updated: Nov 22, 2020
The first stop on the two month journey around SE Asia was the Philippines as we were in commute to Bali. We had to fly into Manila, drive to the distant city called Angeles or something like that and find a hotel for the night to catch a different flight the next day. From reviews on wikitravel it seemed that it was a small enough city with plenty of hotels, so i didn’t bother to book ahead. I soon learned why a smaller city with a small commuter airport has so many hotels.
As the main road started to open up to the downtown the streets became flooded with legions of Filipino girls. They didn’t appear that trashy at first, some of course were, but most of them dressed as if they were going out for the night like you would expect a 20 something year old girl to if she was in the states. Naturally every hotel was full, we literally went to nine different hotels before we found a room. I reached a point where I just didn’t care anymore, I just wanted something that didn’t charge by the hour. What I thought was really incredible was the sheer amount of girls that crowded these streets. We drove down alleys where no one else was and it was lined with girls. The ratio of hookers to guys walking around was maybe 10 or 15 to one.
When a lone white guy wondered into the street they would grab and fight for him like a school of hungry fish. Our cab driver made the off comment on the subject by saying “The Girls are hunting tonight”. If I even made eye contact through the window of the car they would start knocking on the window.
The next morning I was eating breakfast at the hotel when a guy named June introduced himself to me. He was the hotels driver/self proclaimed body guard. I asked him about how safe the area was considering if you were in the US you would tend to assume that any area flooded with prostitutes would naturally have other issues. He told me that despite what I saw the previous night its actually a pretty safe area in comparison to Manila. He then told me a couple things that would suggest if this was a safe area in comparison to Manila, then Manila must be a war zone. He told me how if I walk around the street at night in Angeles city a guy might start following me from half a block away. This would seem like trouble anywhere else. But this guy would actually be a hired bodyguard from one of the local hotels/resorts that employ people to shadow foreigners on the street to ensure their safety.
He also told me not to get in the tricycle cabs because I would probably be knifed. I also learned that there are hardly any gun laws in the Philippines and non concealed weapons are really not an issue.
As June was driving us to the airport the growing curiosity boiled over and I asked what the going rate for one of these girls was. He said 40 USD per night is the going rate, and then quickly added the comment that the next time I come in he knew some very good ones and would show me. I guess he read too much into my question. I also learned that in the Philippines it's legal which means that government dollars help ensure health care for these girls. I guess that translates to them getting checked by a doctor according to June every two days, and they were all “very clean”.
When we got to Bali it was already started to get late on a Friday night. I wanted to stay in Kuta beach which is the main reason why most people come to Bali. Kuta beach is the night life/tourist center. It's a main vacation hub for Australians and Europeans, like Cancun would be for us basically. But I had no guide book, and without a book the best strategy is typically to stay in the most touristy place to find things to do, or at least connect to the backpacking circuit of knowledge. We went to a couple of hotels, none of which I was too happy about, it was getting late and I think our cab driver who already received a fixed rate was starting to get a bit irritated, so the next hotel would have to be a winner. We wound up at this place off the main drag called the Bendesa hotel. It actually had really nice grounds, and from the outside would be classified easily as a 2-3 star hotel. The nicer rooms that have A/C, TV, etc that were all booked up went for 300,000/night which is about 24 dollars, the one we got stuck with was 12 dollars a night. I was somewhere behind the janitors shed. Just a slow working ceiling fan, the sheets were blood stained, and the bathroom was covered in cobwebs. The guy at the desk had a nicer room that no one had claimed the reservation on, he said after 2am we could have it. Thankfully we went out for a bit, came back and got the better room which was a legit hotel room. The difference in 12 dollars is astronomical.
Our first day we just hung out on the beach and for 8 dollars learned how to surf for the afternoon. Things in Bali are insanely cheap. You can get a very decent sized portion of food at a restaurant for about 1-2 dollars. Street food typically less than a dollar. Paying more than 25 cents for a big bottle of water is a rip off. One time I walked into a coffee shop that was charging about 2-3 dollars for a cup of coffee which is normal by our standards, but when you can get a meal for one dollar it pretty expensive. When I walked in I was greeted by a guy holding a tray of cold towels to refresh myself with, upstairs there was a lounge with computers and free Internet for customers. When walking around the streets in Kuta there are massage parlors every 50 feet, they are actually legit massages with nothing on the side and they are on average $5 for an hour massage. It’s not surprising that importing fine crafts out of here to the US can be pretty profitable. I met one of these guys in our hotel lobby named George who had been coming to Bali for the last twenty some years. He suggested that we hire the driver he uses and pay him to drive us around the island for 3 days. The rate for a knowledgeable driver/guide and car with gas was about 40-50 dollars a day. We decided to take three full days and see the island with his driver named Sandy. Sandy being from a small village in the middle of Bali knew all the spots. For three days we went through a whirlwind of ancient Hindu temples, scenic terraced race patties, markets, and whatever else was on Sandy’s itinerary for us. To write about all of it would be a dazing experience. In short we stayed in a different town each night, rooms were decent and cheap ranging from 8-12 dollars/person. Sandy typically stayed with friends that he seemed to have everywhere. The temples were pretty magnificent, often set in dramatic settings like the footsteps of a volcano or floating in a peaceful mountain lake. We saw different ceremonies, and a few traditional dances all filled with the most elaborate and vibrant costumes and colors. The country side is so photogenic its good we had a driver otherwise I would have stopped every thirty feet to take a picture of something and in three days we wouldn’t have got more than a couple miles. Actually Sandy stopped many times when I asked to take a picture of something, versus being on some bus or train this was a pretty cool concept.
Heres a couple funny excerpts from the trip. One time in Ubud a central city in Bali an old man passed me on the street he must have been 85 years old, hunched over dressed in traditional white hindu clothes. He paused in his shuffle slowly cocked his head up to look at me and said with enthusiasm in his eyes “massage?”.
There are orb weaving spiders that are no joke the size of my hand that they catch and make soup out of. They also make soup from Dragon flies, I saw an old guy catching dragon flies with a stick with some sort of sap on the end, he would grab them, rip off their wings and stick the bodies in his pocket. There is plenty more to write about from Bali, but that should be a good dose for now. A preview to future posts will concern hookers and healthcare