This originally appears in The Point, Northeast Kansas's finest news source. Pick up a copy today!
This is the last in the Bali series. My other stuff on Indonesia is here, here, here, and here.
Sunday in Indonesia seemed to be a fine time to see how drunk I could get for roughly $10. After exchange rates and fees, my 100,000 Rupiah probably cost me as much as $11.28, but the general thought is that 10,000 rupiah = $1.
This was no premeditated plan, but rather resulted from my standard mix of laziness and incompetence. After spending most of my daytime money on tourist attractions, poorly made T-shirts, smokes, water, dinner, and a couple beers, I returned to my hotel to shower, put on clean-ish clothes, and to get nighttime money from my hotel safe. I walked down to my neighborhood Circle K and bought a large bottle of Bintang beer, then strolled into the night. I’d spent the last night out at clubs on the inland road, Legian Street, so I opted to head for the beach road to walk north (always north, south was the airport) with plans to stop at the first interesting looking bar I saw. The beach road was fairly dead at night, and after I’d finished my beer I still hadn’t found anything. I came across another Circle K and bought another beer. It was only after buying this beer that I realized that I had exactly 100,000 rupiah left. I had taken my nighttime money out of the safe (maybe $50) but I’d left it sitting on my hotel bed. I was a 25 minute walk or $2 taxi ride from home. Going back was out of the question.
It was at this point that I made the decision to see how drunk I could get for ten bucks. Yeah, I’d already had five drinks since the sun set to lead off, but five drinks for a cat like me is simply a base. I generally consider any night that I have five drinks as a “non-drinking” night. Plus, Bali is hot. Everything gets sweated out. Despite the lakes of water and beer that I was drinking there, I pissed once every other day or so. I established some rules for my $10. I couldn’t cheat and go back for more convenience store beers. I couldn’t buy a bottle of arek either (arek is the Indonesian national hooch, it falls somewhere on the scale between Listerine and wood varnish.)
I walked inland from the Circle K on the beach. I had a good feeling about it, that a cool cheap bar was right around the corner. I found a nice loungy tropical outdoorsy place that was selling gin and tonics for 10,000 rupiah until 10. It was a little after 9:00. Nice.
I sat down at an empty stool next to two beautiful Indonesian girls. After throwing down three G&Ts (which took roughly 15 minutes) I decided to talk to them. A magical bouquet of unreal looking tropical flowers sat on the bar halfway between the knockout to my left and myself. I felt a petal of one. It seemed otherworldly. I said to her “are these real flowers?” Not much of an opener, but within seconds we were on another topic. Like a number of other local girls that I’d met in the Indo-Malay world, she was well-traveled and her English was as flawless as her figure. I downed a couple more G&Ts while chatting with her, though my pace slowed considerably.
At 10 PM, I’d finished 5 gin and tonics and had to buy a Bintang beer for the bar’s normal price, which was still just 15,000 rupiah. At some point, the girl boyfriended me. I didn’t flinch, Instead, I girlfriended her back.
The previous night, on the beach, I’d decided to invent a girlfriend. At first, it was just for dealing with touts and whores. There’s literally thousands of touts in Bali. They all use the same general script. “Hello, my friend. Where you from? “Your first time in Bali?” “How old are you? 19, right?” “You married? You have girlfriend?” Well, I got tired of saying no to that last one. I started saying yes. Though it lead to more offers to buy gifts for my “girlfriend,” it shut down the touts that were actually pimps as well as the whores. It also allowed me to tell jewelry-selling touts that their wares weren’t her style, which lead to more and more of a creation of a backstory for my fake girlfriend. She’s Korean. We’d been dating two years. I met her at a bookstore in Seoul. She wasn’t with me on the trip because she couldn’t get off work, and also we’d been going through a rough patch when I booked my ticket 4 months ago. Things were fine now, or they weren’t, depending on who I was talking to. We were considering marriage. We were considering breaking up. I had a lot to think about. I even changed my iPod screensaver to a picture of myself and this girl I dated a while back. It was fun to girlfriend this girl at the bar. She didn’t see it coming. You can be anyone you want on vacation. I chose to be the farthest thing I could think of - a real person.
As I didn’t have a follow up chess move for the girlfriending, I headed to the next bar. I only had 35,000 rupiah left. I needed a new happy hour special. I headed toward Sky Garden, a club that I knew had happy hour until 11. On the way, I passed another club that advertised 15,000 rupiah screwdrivers until midnight. Good to know.
I got to Sky Garden at almost 11, just barely in tie for a 15,000 Bintang rather than their usual 25,000. Sky Garden is part of a complex of clubs called Legian 61, and it’s right next to where the Bali bombs in 2002 went off.
After finishing my beer, I headed to the club with cheap screwdrivers. It turns out they aren’t available on Sunday nights. I headed for Bounty, another Kuta club institution. It was after midnight by the time I got there. I had 20,000 rupiah left. Fortunately, that was the exact cost of a non-happy hour beer. Bounty features what I later found to be a Bali specialty - open mic night every night. Essentially, it’s live karaoke. Choose a song, the band plays it, and you sing with the band. Watching drunken Aussies do it made for a wild scene.
I headed home at around one. As I walked, I realized that I was suitably liquored up. I had been to four bars and downed 8 drinks for $10. Even Lawrence can’t match that. As I walked home, I had a blast with the touts. “Transport sir?” “My friend, where you go?” I had 300 rupiah left, worth roughly 3 cents. I showed off my empty wallet and 3 cents to every tout on the way and joked with them all. One tout actually offered to give me a lift for 3 cents, but just the notion that he would made me not trust him.
I got home, and decided I wanted one more beer and some drunken internetting. I went into my hotel, took $5 off the stack of cash lying on my bed, and went to Circle K for a beer. As I was walking to the internet cafe, which was 40 feet from the Circle K, I was stopped by three whores. They were hanging out on a couple of scooters in the alley. “Hey, we go to your room? You take all three!”
I was really drunk at this point, the last beer from the bar hit me as soon as I opened my road dog. “Sure, come to my room. I have two bucks.” I pulled open my wallet to show them the 20,000 rupiah.
“Oh no, you have money in your room right? Come on, take us there.”
“Well sweetie, that’s not gonna happen.” I sat down in the alley next to them. One of the three, even in my obliterated state, was clearly a dude. They sat down with me, and I passed my beer around. I asked them why they were hanging out in this particular neck of the woods. Bali has a small smattering of whores, but I never saw any on my street before this night, or after for that matter. When the beer was gone, they all got onto one scooter. They didn’t own the other one. They sped off to fish for johns in more fortified waters. As for me, I was quite possibly too drunk for the internet. The night had been too loony. I walked the fifteen feet it took to get back home.