Getting Sold in Bali
We arrived in Bali, Indonesia without much of a plan.
We hoped to find a nice (cheap) place with workable wifi where we could settle in for a week and continue to make progress on the kids’ schoolwork. Which is the short version of how we found ourselves at the Swastika Bungalows in Sanur.
No, we had not wandered in to a Neo-Nazi cell in Indonesia.
Turns out, the swastika has existed as an ornament and symbol since the Neolithic period. It remains widely used in eastern religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
In Sanskrit, swastika refers to 1) any lucky or auspicious object, and 2) a mark made on a person or things to denote good luck.
Regardless of the original meaning, in Western societies the rise of Hitler and World War II forever stigmatized and effectively ended the use of the symbol.
So it was a bit disconcerting checking into the Swastika Bungalows, regardless of how comfortable and affordable they were. Particularly with snatches of German and other Eastern European languages being spoken around the pool.
Despite the unfortunate name, the bungalows proved to be a welcome sanctuary.
To visit Bali in the offseason is to submit yourself to an onslaught of entreaties from local merchants, tour guides, drivers and touts. From the moment we left our hotel we were bombarded: “Boss, you need transport? Maybe tomorrow?”
As we walked down the sidewalk in Sanur, taxis driving by would slow to a crawl and toot their horns (as though we were having trouble spotting them). I’m not talking about one or two taxis – I’m talking about every taxi.
Soon we learned not to slow to look at a merchant’s goods or take a store’s flyer. If we did, we’d be pulled in to the store or followed down the street. There is no “just looking” in the off season. It’s straight to hard sales and negotiations.
When we walked along the beach, the products changed but the sales tactics remained the same. Touts offered everything from surfing lessons to jet skis.
We grew weary of the constant sales and found ourselves avoiding long walks through town or along the beach.
By the pool at the Swastika, I talked to a Austrian tourist about the problem. “I tried to tell a shop owner that I would be more likely to buy something if he left me alone and gave me time to look,” he said.
He went on: “Someone should do some training for these businesses – but really, I doubt it would do much good.”
More pictures from Bali are posted here.