You know, sometimes it’s the little things that really just annoy me to no end.
It’s not the mama with her intentionally dirty baby who’s following us around hoping for spare change whilst trying to hide the ringing of her cell phone.
It’s not the dude who hounds us relentlessly with his human-rights-violating-factory-made-cheap-crap bracelets with an opening price of about ten cents.
They have mouths to feed, and I remind myself of that. In another life, I could be that mom, or the down-and-out tout.
It’s the well oiled foreigner-fleecing machines that are so cunningly disguised as little old ladies that really make me wish I spoke fluent Bahasa Indonesian so I could make myself very clear.
It was a lovely day, really.
We took a drive up into the misty volcanic mountains of the interior of Bali and gasped aloud at the views of the sea from 5000 feet. We saw long tailed macaques (monkeys are always a win) and basked in the less touristy interior of this emerald jewel set in a liquid sapphire sea. What’s not to love?
We were actually quite excited when a fantastic Hindu temple shimmied out of the cloud veil at the top of the mountain. We should have known when the dude with a table napkin folded on his head got that green-glint in his eye as he pointed us toward the ticket booth.
25,000 seem a bit much to tour a temple complex to you? It did us, too, but it’s really only about $2.50 USD, so we bit the bullet. It’s the fact that there are six of us that gets us every time. A temple is definitely worth $2.50… but when you translate that into $15? Meh.
Tony hadn’t even gotten his change before the ladies had the kids by the hands, hauling them off to “choose a sarong.” It is true that one must wear a sarong to enter the templel; we’re good with that. But what we’re NOT good with is being sold up river.
“You buy the sarong, you choose your colour!” the three toothed granny drools.
“Ah, NO… we are not buying the sarong, we just want to tour the temple…”
“Okay, okay,” she pats my hand, “For you, we rent….” I look over to see Ez being wrapped up like a Christmas package and tied with a purple satin bow.
Tony knows the smell of a sting operation from two miles away.
He furrowed his big bald brow and fixed what Hannah has affectionately dubbed his “Death to the infidel!” look on the lady and asked, “How much!”
“For you? 25,000 rupiah! Very cheap!” she grins.
I frown and grumble to Tony, “You have got to be kidding me! They’re fleecing us for the freakin’ sarongs.”
By now Elisha is tied off with a bow. Gabe is resisting; he sees the drama going down between his dad and the shoe leather lady who comes to his belt.
“No way. We just paid $15 to get into this temple, I am NOT paying you another $15 to rent the dress!” He hands her back his sarong. Her friend begins wrapping me. I’m swatting her off like a fly, she pays no mind and keeps at it, figuring, I assume, that once I’m packaged I’ll stop resisting.
“Okay, okay,” the toothless one smiles, “For you, 10,000! Only $1!”
Apparently she works for the world bank and has a direct line to the international currency markets.
Tony shakes his head. I yell to Hannah to cease and desist all wrapping and disentangle herself and her brothers from the clutches of the spiders.
The lady wrapping me is now standing with her hands full of sarong and a frown on her face. She’s beginning to get the message.
“Ain’t no way!” I fume, “They’re selling us up river. I am NOT paying an extra $6 for these rentals! Let’s forget it.” I grab Ez and spin him like a Mexican top to get him out of his wrap and he staggers toward the door. The spiders are now gathered like a clutch of hens, clucking.
Tony stalks his big self to the entry desk, slaps the tickets on the dirty wood and requests our money back.
There is a flurry of Bahasa, which we don’t understand, but the gist of is perfectly clear.
“You cannot have your ticket money back,” the lady smoothly replies… “The sarongs must be worn and they are only another $3 USD” (the price has been reduced to fifty cents a person, it seems)
“Well we’re not paying another dime,” I reply, with equal conviction. “We’ve paid $15 USD for this temple and we’re not paying any more, and now I’m annoyed and not interested in going any longer, so we’d like our money back.”
There is discussion: Our money cannot be returned. But the sarongs are thrown in for free. The spiders grumble as they repackage the children. This time not in the pretty sarongs decorating the wall, for the cooperative and easily fleeced foreigners. This time we are given the stiff, ugly, “sarongs of shame” reserved for those who demonstrate that the brown substance crusted on their well traveled boots is not, in fact, mud.
I had to work hard not to let that sour my day. We’ve had a rough couple of weeks and this felt like a rotten cherry on top. In spite of what it looks like to the rest of the world, we are not, in fact, made of money. Traveling with four kids (2.5 of whom are teenagers and eat like it) is not an inexpensive proposition and we do a lot of doing without, as well as doing the hard way, to make it happen. We’re good with that, it’s worth the trade. It does, however, get tiresome to The Man to have folks take one look at him and try to take him for double the price of admission just because he’s managed to produce a big family and figure out how to live a bit differently.
The temple was great, of course, although definitively NOT worth the price of admission.
Hindu temple: check that off the list.