This is a story about that time we tried to save a dollar. Back at home you probably wouldn’t imagine yourself making a big effort to save a dollar, but on this day we just didn’t want to spend the money. We had hired a private Balinese driver for the day. There were five of us, including Elijah, and although we all were enjoying our tour of Bali, there were certain times throughout the day were we began to wonder if our driver was taking us to the sights that benefited him. Our first stop that morning had been to a Barong and Kris Dance, and although it was nice to experience this traditional Balinese dance, we did feel like it was a tourist trap and we probably wouldn’t have wanted to spend our first hour of the day watching this show. In fact, we later found out that drivers are paid 60,000 IDR per group that they bring to watch the show. We each had to pay 100,000 to watch the show. It wasn’t even that we didn’t want to see the show, but rather that there is so much to do and see when on vacation, and none of us had this traditional dance on our list of priorities. Not wanting to seem difficult, we went along with it and watched the show. We had, however, already paid our driver a decent fare for driving the five of us around for the day, so we started to get slightly frustrated when he took us to temple after temple. Most of the temples charge a fee for entrance, and since it was a national holiday, these temples were all packed!
Just before we arrived at Taman Ayun Mengwi, we discussed perhaps not entering the temple grounds if it looked too crowded, or if the entry fee was too high. In hindsight, 15,000 IDR is only a dollar each, so in the grand scheme of things, a dollar is really not much money. But when you really don’t feel like doing something, having to pay to do it kind of adds insult to injury. We tried to explain to our driver, in the most respectful way possible, that we had seen enough temples, and that we didn’t really want to see anymore. Despite our sensitive approach to this, he seemed pretty insistent that we check out Taman Ayun Mengwi since we had already driven there.
Not wanting to be too difficult, we all climbed out the car and made our way through the masses and towards the main entrance of Taman Ayun Mengwi. Elijah had a fever, and the rest of us were starting to get tired and hungry. It was a hot and humid day, and we were just not in the mood to explore another over-crowded temple. As we got to the gate, we saw a ticket counter but everyone was walking straight by it so we pretended not to see it and tried to do the same. As it turns out, only the locals were allowed in for free and we had to pay a total of 60,000 IDR to enter. We then thought that perhaps we could be sneaky and just walk a little closer to take a few pictures, and then leave, so we told the gate guy that we were just going to walk in a little and then go back. We really did feel like fools to have to pay when, firstly, no one else was, and secondly, we really didn’t really want to go in anyway.
We walked further and tried to sneak into a side entrance so that we could take a few pictures. Clearly the gate guys where onto us because one of them signaled another and he came running after us. We felt like sneaky little kids who had been caught out doing something wrong. They made us go back to the gate, and since we had made it clear that we DID try to go into the temple grounds, we paid the money. Crazy to think that we were willing to try and “cheat” our way into the temple. Perhaps we were fools – we should have just been more firm with our driver, and made him take us somewhere we wanted to go.
In hindsight, we ended up really enjoying this temple and while we were here Elijah started to perk up and even run around with some local kids. We found some pretty gardens behind the temple and Eli played onto grass with the Balinese families there.
Moral (two morals actually) of the story… FIRSTLY, make sure you explain what you expect from a day tour when you hire a private driver in Bali, and SECONDLY, don’t be cheap! While traveling it is easy to get caught up in trying to save money. Food and accommodation are expensive, but when you’re out at markets and the local sights, trying to save a dollar is really not worth it. Go or don’t go, but don’t try to cheat the system. Our bad! We tried to sneak in, and we got caught, but in the end, we really enjoyed our time in Taman Ayun Mengzi.