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August 7, 2005

Immigration Circus

Location - Kuta, Bali

Have any of you reading this ever been to Kuta? Christ, what a nightmare. So many large-bellied Brits, Aussies and Germans waddling around the streets wielding a Bintang beer in one fist and an ice-cream in the other. Such a contrast to the relative modesty of most (but not all) Balinese people. Bizarre. It's all I can do to stop myself from running away screaming from the place.

I'm still hoping beyond hope to be able to fly back to Labuan Bajo this Wednesday morning. The key issues that still need to be resolved are looking good though. A new adapter for the laptop has been located in Jakarta and can be got here for Tuesday. It's going to cost 1,500,000 rupiah - around $150 USD. I know I'm being ripped off (the same adapter can be bought for $40 in the US) but they know I'm desperate and have no other options. Expensive ding to the kayak this is turning out to be.

At least this will mean we can update this blog when we're out in the field though.

Perhaps the biggest part of the puzzle however is getting our visas renewed for another month. I knew this would be the biggest hassle of the whole trip and indeed, it is turning out to be the biggest hassle of the whole trip. So far I've spent a small fortune and all of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday running around in a taxi with my local 'fixer' Gomang (he's Hindu, speaks a little English and has the patience of a dead saint) - picking up forms from one office, faxes from the sponsor in Jakarta from another. The immigration office in Denpasar told me outright that we were on the wrong visa and we'd all have to leave the country and reapply! "Oh, could I pay a 'penalty' to get these visas renewed without leaving the country?" I asked with my stupid expression on. "Hmmmm, come into my office. Maybe there is a way" was the reply.

2,000,000 rupiah? I don't think so.

So off to the other immigration office near the airport (where I should have gone in the first place). "No problem, you can renew this visa here".

But then we needed more faxes from Jakarta of ID cards of the sponsors, special stamps from the post office that had to be located on a particular part of the form. April and Lourdes sent their passports on the Friday flight from Labuan Bajo as it turns out I can renew everyone's visa even in their absence. Instead of picking them up from the plane as it landed (as I'd been told I could do), Gomang and I were sent off on a wild goose chase around Denpasar for the mythical 'Kristal Cargo' office that, after 2 hours of stress and anxiety that the passports where already out on the streets getting flogged to potential suicide bombers, ended up being back inside the airport terminal where we'd started out from. Indonesians will rather tell you the wrong directions to a place than admit they don't know where it is, perhaps so you don't get disappointed. It's lucky I didn't have a blunt instrument with me after the 5th person gave us the wrong directions as I would have happily got Gomang to drive back the way we'd come and use it to illustrate how disappointed a person can really get.

So the upshot of all this nonsense was missing the applications getting to the immigration office before the weekend. Tomorrow morning the circus starts again when I make my appearance (in trousers and a long-sleeve shirt - they won't allow shorts or T-shirts) at the 'visa extensions' window. I then have to ask my 'friend' sitting behing it (he so sick and tired of me and my questions, but unless you hire an agent to do this there's no one else to tell you how fill out the wretched forms) if he can 'help' me get the visas turned around in 24 hours, instead of the usual 3-days, so I can still get my flight on Wednesday. This will inevitably involve some kind of extra 'fee' that will be agreed upon in a back office.

While the tourists and expats that I've met here moan about corruption, on the flip side it doesn't take a genius to realise that this is one way for government employees making 500,000 Rp a month ($50) to make ends meet. And from where I'm standing it's either that or shelling out for the privilege of spending two more days of my life in Costa Del Kuta.

Posted on August 7, 2005 11:48 AM



Glad to hear you're enjoying Kuta! Can't say we thought much of it either. It's just like so many other tourist destinations around the world. I'm sure there must be some better places to visit in Bali.

Glad to hear Jason and April survived the dragons.

Posted by: Hugh (& Ben) at August 22, 2005 9:37 AM


Hang in there Jason....sounds like there are serpents everywhere.

Glad to hear the laptop power is going to be restored.

Be well.

All the best,

Posted by: Jake at August 7, 2005 6:34 PM