In Bali With Baggage: Getting There

[read earlier parts of "In Bali With Baggage" here]

It’s the first time I’ve ever traveled business class and getting on ahead of economy feels strange. I am now one of those guys I’ve always hated. Seated at the front of the plane as the second-classers trudge by, grunting and depleted, I’m tempted to call out, “I was once like you.” But instead, I sip my sparkling wine and fiddle with my screen remote. A remote. Because God forbid you should have to reach the extra 10 inches to touch the actual screen like a peasant.

One in a long list of reasons I don’t travel well is turbulence. Each tiny bump feels like I’m being pinched awake to the fact I’ll one day die. If not on this flight, some day. The whole voyage, in fact, becomes a meditation on death. And not just theoretical death but painful, visceral, smashed-against-a-mountain-balls-protruding-through-my-eye-sockets death. When I land, I am always sweaty – the book I’m reading often looking like it’s been dropped in a bathtub – but I also feel a bit reborn, and grateful.

The beauty of business class, though, is the way they ply you with drinks, and drinks make me brave. And philosophical.

“We all must die one day,” I think, as though I am a South American colonel.
I watch TV sitcoms while drunkenly coming up with travel tips. Among them: a good way to fight back against travel paranoia is to get the jump. On your first day in a new city, pick someone’s pocket. Statistically speaking, what are the chances of robbing someone and then getting robbed? Practically nil, I’d say.

Sparking wine, scotch, two glasses of red wine and port after dinner. I pass out and am actually able to sleep on a plane like I never have before. And when we land, I’m still pleasantly buzzed. Despite my prior worries, getting my visa is a breeze. Not only that, but the airport smells of incense.

Outside I catch a cab. The streets are narrow and twist and turn. I do not see one traffic light. There are a million things going on and much to honk at. My first thought is that the Balinese are a very honky people.

“You like girls?” the cab driver asks while leaning on his horn for no obvious reason. “I’ll get you.”

“No thanks,” I say.

“Don’t you like girls?”

“They’re alright.”

On the way to the hotel, we pass Circle Ks, Alfa Marts, Mini Marts and Maxi Marts. Everything is so topsy-turvy that, sometimes, the Minis are larger than the Maxies. This was also the case with my grandparents’ friends, Minnie and Maxie Greenberg. Bali clearly plays by its own rules. I only hope I can learn them.

Check back tomorrow for part four of Jonathan Goldstein’s series “In Bali With Baggage,” or follow the daily-updated thread here.

[Photo credit: Flickr user ^Riza^]