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The Power of Information

INDONESIA | Thursday, 27 November 2008 | Views [1039]

Information is very valuable. How much should things cost? What are good places to go? Who can you trust? When traveling, I hate leaving the backpacker path, since if I am not staying at good hostels, everything else becomes more expensive and my time is not spent efficiently. I especially hate showing up somewhere ithout a booking. I have very little ability to bargain, when I arrive late in the day ith a large bag on my back. The places I end up in usually are MUCH worse than the places I find on hostelworld (or similar sites) and more expensive. The numerical ratings on hostelworld have mostly been quite accurate, and I keep ending up at great places.

Anyway, on the way to Lombok I was booked with Wannen Wasaka, and taken to there store, where they pressure everyone to buy a return ticket with them. Dani who works there hit me with a sequence of lies:

1. There are no people on Gili Trawanan now, so the fast boats keep being canceled

2. There is no place to book a ticket off the island on the island, so you will have to pay $30 for a private taxi

3. I wanted to fly back on thursday (to have 5 nights in Lombok) but he said there are only flights on wendesday and friday (not sure why he told me this, but it was not true)

And a few more dusies.

Eventually he tried selling me a return trip off the island to senggigi beach, an airport transfer, and a plane flight to bali for 900,000 (=$75).  I ended up paying 800,000, since I had no idea if what he told me was true (I didn't beleive him), or what a flight back actually cost (412,000). So essentially, he charged me the $30 I was trying to avoid paying for the boat ride off the island (true cost= $6). Anyway, he is a liar, so don't beleive him. When you arrive at the boat terminal, it turns out that no matter who sold you the boat ticket, you go in the same boat (maybe there are 2 companies?). People out in front lie to you some more:

You need to buy moscito netting, since there are bad moscitos on the island and no nets.

And many other lies.

Yuck.

I don't mind paying double or triple when it is due to scarcity. If I hike to the top of a mountain, and want the convenyance of buying water up there, the person who brought the water there added value by providing the service to a limited number of customners, so its fine if they charge more. But when the prices are high do to collusion, or due to systematic attempts on keeping people ignorant, that  really bothers me. The folks changing money on Gili Trawanan, were offering about 9,000 per dollar when the true exchange was around 12,000. Again, its scarcity power, since you need to go back to the mainland to get to an atm, and there is little enough compition, and I think some collusion, to give such bad rates. So if you go there plan, ahead and bring lots of rupiahs (enough for a few extra days, since you will like it there, and remember to bring enough money to buy return transportation)

Guide books are very expesnive ($20-$25 when you are, in some of these countries, spending that much or less per day). yet good ones, provide info on prices, schedules, logistics, scams, and so on in addition to the usual recomendtions of sites. That is really valuable. Nothing is quite are useful as an updated lonely planet, although a good hostel when they help there guests, is almost as useful (since you also get lots of info from the other guests).

Anyway, I had an amazing time on Gili Trawanan (the largest of the 3 islands off the coast of lombok). Its a beautiful tropical island. There is good snorkeling off the beach. Its a nice 2 hour walk to walk around the island. there a views of the volcano on bali. There are great sunsets. There are lots of very good places to eat (I had some great fish there!) There are parties there every night (although  I went to sleep) and magic mushroom shakes which I did not try (mmm, mushrooms). I just liked snorkeling, reading and lying in my hammock, while paying 150,000 ($13)/day for an AC room ith a big bed, but only a cold shower, 100 ft from the beach. It did take me a while to find a place to stay. I went to a place recomended as a good value by the lonely planet, but its prices had doubled since then, so it was no longer a steal. Anyway, there are a few nice high end places but its mnostly mid range or cheaper on this island.

Anyway, its a great place I could have spent a week there. My first day, the island was covered with students from central lombok, who traveled to the island to practice there english (and were sleeping for free on the floor of the mosque, which did not even have a fan). I had a large group hanging out with me and snorkeling with me for 3-4 hours. They were carrying around sheets, where they asked tourists for there name, country, and to grade there english. It was both boys and girls, and the girls were mostly wearing islamic head dresses, so stayed out of the water, while the guys were trying to learn snorkeling also. The teacher got me to "teach"a large group for a little while, so I wnet around the group and asked about there families. It was very cute. One of the older ones (19) wanted me to go with him to talk to these two sweedish girls who were sunbathing, so I went and did all the talking, which was not my plan (the girls were his age, not mine). Later I borrowed one of the sheets to go up to these two women from switzerland (who were also surrounded by a small group of students) and asked them "how is my english?" ""Oh. your accent is excellent" says the women from zurich. We had a laugh, and a short conversation, then I left them to talk to the students some more.

My second day on the gilis was quiet.  I decided to not to do the 5 hour snorkeling trip ($6) due to a mild sunburn (I should have gone), looked for a sea kyack to rent (coulkdn't find one, since the kyack company was closed for november), and tried to go snorkeling with the turtles, except I could not find them, even though everyone I asked said they had seen 3 or more. I get tierd very quickly while swimming in the reef, so maybe I just was not out there long enough. It easier when you go by boat, since you end up right where the fish, or turtles or sharks are.

I also was invited by this guy nyoman to hang out with him the next day on lombok since it was his day off. One again, I failed to make an advanced booking (the internet sites ept foiling me, and not taking my credit card) so I had to find a place in Senggigi when I arrived there at 9:30.

Oh I almost forgot, a number of people told me that lombok was 1 hour different than bali. But I kept getting conflicting information. So I had to go to my boat (7:30 AM) back to bansal (the bats leave from there, its 10 km north of senggigi beach) 1 hour early, just in case....

Tags: lombok gili

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