Vulture-Like Cab Drivers & Cheeky Monkeys: Arriving in Bali

As our AirAsia flight begins to make its descent, I turn to Ciaran and tell him how thrilled I am to be here in Bali. The plane makes a swift landing and we hustle off in an attempt to be the first in line at customs.It’s both of our first times in Indonesia and we’re bursting with anticipation. An overwhelming sense of excitement envelopes us as we have had this trip planned for months and it’s a surreal feeling to be here at last! The queue at customs is filled with tourists from all over – lots of Aussies, some Brits and Americans. Ciaran notices there’s a sign to buy tourist visas and gets a bit worried that perhaps we need one.

‘We don’t, don’t worry!’ I assure him – as I double checked all of that before we left. There’s a long list of countries exempt from needing tourist visas, so be sure to check if yours is prior to flying.

We make our way through immigration fairly quick, grab our luggage from the peaceful  baggage claim area and exit to a barrage of crazed taxi cab drivers. Hundreds of them holding up passenger signs, asking for jobs and anxiously pacing around. We sift through the throng of eager drivers in search of ours from Munduk Moding Plantation, our first hotel of the trip. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack as we read each sign carefully in search of one thats reads Monaghan but we didn’t have much luck.

We make our way over to the information desk, and like moths to a flame, about 10 voracious drivers flock to us, asking us if we need a cab, asking us where we’re going and asking us if it’s our first time in Bali. We politely say no and explain we’ve pre-booked and that we are just waiting for our driver to arrive. You would think they would leave, but no, they are persistent and stay.

Clutching my bag close to my body, I am thankful to not be travelling alone at this moment in time, as it feels quite unsettling having all of these men bombard you Making a mental note, I think to myself ‘I am going to tell all of my friends who have trips planned to Bali, to pre-book!’ It’s much safer.

One of the taxi drivers asks us if we want to use his phone to call the hotel, we say no. He persists, but we continue to say no, thank you. It  may seem like a friendly gesture, but all they really want is your money, a tip for allowing you to use their phone. We quickly become privy to this.  

“They aren’t coming, I will give you a good price,” he says, as his taxi wingman also walks up to us and back him up.

“No, we’re fine, but thank you,” Ciaran politely keeps saying, but it doesn’t matter what he says, they stay close by.. We move away and keep an eye out for our pre-booked taxi, when all of the sudden I look up and see a friendly, smiling face, holding a sign that low and behold says “Monaghan.”

Thank god.

With a welcoming outstretched hand, “I’m Maddy from Munduk Moding Plantation and i’ll be taking you to the hotel,” he politely says as he also apologises for not being able to find us.

Right off the bat, I feel at ease. He is kind, friendly and we instantly feel protected being with him. The vultures quit circling around us and fly off to find some new prey. Maddy takes our bags, we jump in the car, and our two hour car journey to North Bali kicks off! Away we go.

We drive through all different parts of beautiful Bali – very populated areas near the airport, through little villages and the forest. We see a lot of poverty – ramshackle houses on the sides of the road, tiny markets selling trinkets and fruit, farmers harvesting crops, etc. Scooters with three to four people on them + children zoom past us, weaving in and out of the lanes. It’s quite an eye opening experience and comes as quite a shock to me.  I sit in the back of the car and observe it all, taking in all that I could about the culture and the life they live, making mental notes. Before I know it, 2 ½ hours had come and gone and Maddy lets us know that we are coming up to a mini monkey forest.

“Do you want to get out and see them?” he asks.

“Ahh, i’m not sure, are they friendly?”

“Oh yes, just keep hold of your things,” he says, ‘They’re thieves!”

I slide out of the car carefully, my camera secure around my neck and look out to see dozens of them. Mommas cuddling their babies, some mischievous ones drinking soda out of old cans on the road, and whole monkey families sitting together in packs. It’s amazing. I snap away and try not to get too close, but right before we say our goodbyes, I must have crossed the line as a mother holding her baby comes right up to me and bears her teeth.

“Sorry, sorry” I say nervously backing away, as if they can hear and understand what I am saying. Protective, fine, I can totally understand that until the father monkey comes right up to Ciaran. We jump into the car, and the monkeys try to get in too! Maddy hops in the driver’s seat and we make a dash for it. And that was our first foray into the monkeys…

Hearts racing, I’m as happy to have seen them as I was to get out of there! Note to self – don’t get too close and don’t come near the mommas with babies!

All of us start laughing about the ordeal as we pull into Munduk Moding Plantation, our home for the next four days. 

My gaze is taken to the stunning hydrangea lined drive leading to the hotel. It’s breathtakingly beautiful. As we get out of the car, we’re greeted with open arms by the friendliest staff, who put orange flower leis around our necks and hand us a surprisingly delicious welcome drink of ‘herbal coffee’  – a rather divine concoction of half herbal tea, half coffee, lemongrass and ginger. We sip on our drink as the staff whisk our luggage to the room. The sun is setting and we don’t want to miss it! The team lead us outside and we’re blown away by the gorgeous infinity pool the lie in front of us.

It is the most insane sunset we see our entire time in Bali and our whole lives. The sky is set ablaze with radiant hues of pink, whilst the silhouette of the jungle, the mountains and the valley leading down to the ocean lie behind it. It’s one of those real pinch-me-moments you remember your whole life. We take a few photos on the edge of the infinity pool, then enjoy a few drinks as we watch the sky turn flaming red to deep purple to black.

We have a seat by the crackling fire to admire the beauty of this place and slow down after quite the eventful day.

“Cheers,” we say, clinking glasses of refreshing Bintang beers as fireflies flicker around us. And just like that, our first day in Bali draws to an end. It’s already one of the most magical places we’ve been and we can’t wait to explore more in the morning.