Running for Your Life in Legian
By Amy Chavez
For The Bali Times
Youâ€™ve just walked out of BNI Bank on Legian Street, one of the few places that has a cash machine where you can actually take out Rp5 million (US$527) per day in just two transactions with a foreign bank card, when it starts raining. You have no umbrella, nor a rain poncho, because quite frankly, you are not afraid of the rain. After all, your skin is waterproof.
Nay, nay, say the taxi drivers! As you walk out of the bank, pockets bulging, a taxi has mysteriously appeared on the street in front of you. It looks like heâ€™s been sitting there a while, as the cars behind him are honking because he is holding up traffic. Ever hopeful, the taxi driver flashes his lights to get your attention. You shake your head â€œno,â€ and start walking down Legian Street. He starts following you in his car, creeping along at the same pace youâ€™re walking. He flashes his lights again. You shake your head â€œno.â€ Convinced you must be blind, he stops his car, gets out, looks directly at you and says, â€œTransport?â€
You flee down Legian Street, hands over your head, running as fast as you can in your flip flops to escape.
â€œHow about tomorrow?!â€ he calls after you.
You run even faster, leaping over a gaping hole in the sidewalk, narrowly missing the Alice in Wonderland tour of Bali.
In the meantime, various other vendors along Legian Street see you and mistakenly presume you are running towards them, so eager you are to buy their wares. You can see the cartoon bubbles over their heads: â€œHere he comes, my savior! Itâ€™s the man from my dream last night who bought me out. Itâ€™s him; I know it! He will make me rich!â€ hopes the vendor with Big Dreams only vendors can understand.
A vendor pushes a folded rain poncho in your face as you pass in mid-air, so close you wince because you think itâ€™s going to hit you. But the vendor knows just when to pull the poncho away before it smacks you in the face. You feel the faint gust of wind from the motion as he snaps it away. Nearly smacked into a sale, you escape and keep running.
â€œTransport? Transport?â€ You can still hear the guy yelling at you from behind, trying to lure you back. Heâ€™s using a megaphone this time. He just doesnâ€™t understand how he could have offended you.
You realize you must escape Legian Street. Thereâ€™s Benesari Street up there on the right. You can duck down there. Ah, but those damn kids are there selling their leather bracelets. Theyâ€™ve been there for years, hawking bracelets to passing tourists. They must live in the manhole in that spot in the sidewalk because they are always in the same place, right in front of Benesari Street. The kids are quickly approaching you. Theyâ€™re holding up their bracelets. Theyâ€™re looking at you with big hopeful eyes. Luckily the kids are small. You jump over them and continue running. Youâ€™ve missed Benesari Street, but thatâ€™s okay; you can hit Poppies Lane II. Until then, you have no choice but to continue running the gauntlet.
You can see the next vendor waiting for you in front of the Kangaroo Internet. He has an armful of watches, and has stepped out into the middle of the sidewalk, moving in for the kill. Heâ€™s smiling, his white teeth gleaming. Uh-oh, double trouble. Standing next to him is the dreaded sunglasses salesman. The sunglass and watch vendors are relentless. Why canâ€™t they try to sell you something you actually need? Like a Bintang besar.
As you fly past them, remember: absolutely no eye contact! Even a casual glance in their direction will be construed as genuine interest. Better yet, close your eyes to avoid any accidents.
For a moment, in total darkness, you are at peace. You see nothing; you hear nothing. You are floating.
â€œYou want watch? Sunglass, sunglass!â€ You barely hear them. â€œSpecial price for you.â€
When you open your eyes, the vendors are far behind. Damn, you missed Poppies II. You keep running.
â€œYou hair braid?â€
â€œPedicure, sir? Special price for you.â€
â€œYou want masaaaaage?â€
The end of Legian Street is approaching. Hooray! But wait â€” whatâ€™s that? You canâ€™t believe your eyes: The vendors have stretched a large net across the sidewalk at the end of the street. Strong, tattooed guys loaded with watches and sunglasses are holding on to each side. Theyâ€™re smiling, their white teeth gleaming. They know theyâ€™ve got you now. Youâ€™re going to have to buy something!
Aha! Thereâ€™s still one escape route left: the back entrance to Poppies Lane I. You duck down the small gang, and run through Agung Market and stop only when you get to The Secret Garden.
Luckily, itâ€™s happy hour at the Secret Garden and you sit down and order a cold Bintang besar. Youâ€™re exhausted. The beer flows down your throat. When youâ€™ve finally caught your breath, you look up and see a young kid watching you from outside the restaurant. â€œCD mister?â€ You shake your head. The kid comes over to your table to taunt you with his collection.
But youâ€™re already gone.Filed under: The Island