Here’s Why Most Bali Cabs are Rightly Outranked

By Hector

It is not exactly clear why the deficient and frankly sometimes criminally inclined Not Blue Bird Group taxi companies and cooperatives in Bali think they have a licence to wreck the island’s only user-friendly service. It would be unfair to tar all the non-Blue Birds with the same brush, since they are not strictly speaking birds of a feather – the Kowinu cooperative at Nusa Dua does a good job – but as a generality, if you can’t get a Blue Bird (Bali Taxi) cab that comes with a meter and an honest driver, you’re better off walking. And not just on the streets, either. It’s such a shame you can’t easily walk out of Ngurah Rai airport and away from the grasping collective that has the taxi monopoly there.

The gist of the complaints from the other companies appears to be that Blue Bird Group cabs get all the business. See paragraph one for why this is so. This is not a view formed only by The Diary. We noticed columnist Vyt Karazija was tweeting during the week along much the same lines. And he has written about that very problem before, anyway.

Strange as the concept may be, customers generally want a clean taxi, a visible and verifiable meter, a driver who knows where the clutch is and when to take his foot off the accelerator, and no irritating and enervating arguments at the destination over why you should now magnificently support the driver’s personal retirement fund, or risk assault for non-compliance.

To combat their inability to attract custom other than by running fares down in the street or going out in torrential downpours when people are inclined, sans parapluie so to speak, to throw normal caution to the wind and take a chance on entering a Dodgem cab, Blue Bird’s rivals seem to have decided to wreck as many clean and decent (Blue Bird) taxis as possible and set fire to rubbish outside the governor’s offices in Renon, Denpasar.

We gather from reading reports in the local Indonesian-language press that the police are closely monitoring the situation. One report we read seemed to be saying they were acting as interested bystanders. Oh, and they’re collecting the damaged vehicles as well, which is probably very kind of them. But it was not until Tuesday, the day after the “riot,” that police were directed to arrest people. This needed an order from Police Chief Sutisno apparently. It’s not clear why. Wilful criminal damage is just that (wilful damage); it’s not some kind of unauthorised street protest. Perhaps the police prefer not to attend to multiple scratchings and windscreen breakings? Not really their job? Well, it must get in the way of striding out into the traffic with your whistle at gridlocked intersections and causing even greater chaos; or even pursuing sword-wielding criminals and intrepid cable-stealing gangs, 50 percent of whose members apparently have no trouble outrunning the plods who, it seems, are apt to ambush their own ambushes.

So here’s the gen: Criminal damage is criminal damage whether or not there is a commercial dispute about licensing or anything else; Blue Bird taxis are the safest bet for passengers (by a country mile); and if Blue Bird’s sorry collection of “competitors” for business want to get ahead, they could do worse than look up “service,” “customer value” and “vehicle maintenance” in any good dictionary.

How Delicious

We noted two weeks ago that this year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival was a little less than four months away and nothing much apart from out-of-date advices had appeared on the festival website. Well, nothing has changed, except that the big show is now two weeks closer.

Even closer than that, deliciously, is a proposed writers’ school to be run by Barbara Turner-Vessalago, who is both an author and an academic and who has been running these things for ages. This is the first time she has put Bali on her programme. Her course – which comes at a cost, though less if you’re a Bali resident – is on from September 29 to October 5. UWRF 2010 commences on October 6.

Jade Richardson, a friend of Ubud (and now, delightfully, of The Diary) but somewhat distant from the stellar cluster that has convinced itself it runs the place, tells us she’s been on the waiting list to get on one of the courses for two years. Lending a hand to the embryonic Ubud writing experience seemed to her to be a good way of getting off the waiting list and back to Fun Central.

She notes, in a lovely little billet-doux that came our way from Sydney – thoughtfully defined as “boring as…” – that Ubud is defined by many as a place of fragrant rice. There are other alliterative variants of this moniker and certainly The Diary has always thought of it as more a place that is all about mie, mie, mie. Never mind. A writing course might address the imbalance. It could also assist many who are strangers to syntax. Perhaps Turner-Vessalago could include a session on the inadvisability (indeed inadmissibility) of exclamation marks in plague proportions.

The Diary has a date with Richardson, who communicates with the world from a website which engagingly calls itself girlsontop, when she gets here in a little while. We’re always up for a decent glass of wine, especially in pleasant company and if this indulgence is consumed in decorous quantity and with no police in attendance.

Anyone interested in the course can find out more at

Oh, I See

There has been merriment at The Cage, domicile of The Diary atop the Bukit at Ungasan. It’s not because it has finally stopped raining (evidently it hasn’t). It’s not because two massages at our Favourite Spa were on the schedule this week, instead of the usual measly one allowed by the household budget controller (bless her heart).

It is because we were treated to the Indonesian version of painting yourself into a corner. Our resident handyman – well, he’s not actually resident but he seems to spend an awful lot of time around the place – has lately been employed on “renovasi kayu.” Refurbishing timber products and window and door frames is no easy task, especially for the trade-challenged, which is why our resident handyman is such a frequent visitor.

Our man was going very well until he started on the bale (gazebo). It was, he assured us, a one-day job. And so it would have been if he had not assiduously attended to the railings and the floor before remembering that he had also to do the interior of the roof.

And that the roof would remain out of bounds until the floor had dried.

Chattel Class

We feel for Pollyanna, an Australian woman who wrote on one of those expat online forums the other day relating her experience in trying to get household goods through customs.

She reported thus:

“We thought we had our situation under control. Our Australian movers are responsible on the Oz side and guarantee door-to-door delivery service of our goods at the Bali side in conjunction with Santa Fe Movers in Indonesia. But then Santa Fe wanted a copy of our work permit. We don’t have a work permit and aren’t allowed to have one because we’re coming to Bali on a retirement visa, which prohibits working.

“The Indonesian authorities insist our goods cannot enter the country without the work permit. Apparently there is no legal way around this absurd situation. Santa Fe says it is a problem of two bureaucratic departments not coordinating with each other.”

Ah yes. How sad. But Pollyanna – who we look forward to welcoming as a reader of The Bali Times when she (and hopefully her goods and chattels) gets here to enjoy retirement and discovers it’s best to read the real news in a proper newspaper – is still on a steep learning curve.

It’s not just that two bureaucratic departments do not coordinate with each other, Polly. No one in Indonesia’s creaking bureaucracies, at any level, coordinates anything with anyone.

Nice Try; Fail

The low-fare options now available to overseas visitors who might want to give Bali a try are great. From places close at hand – specifically we’re thinking Singapore, Perth and Darwin, where discretionary spending is the norm and getaway weekends the go – these make a long weekend break here an attractive option.

Some chums did that (from Perth) last weekend. They noted it was actually cheaper than weekending at Margaret River, in the wine country a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Perth. They hopped on a plane (AirAsia in their case) for 3.5 hours instead.

Shame that on arrival they spent something approaching two hours getting through arrivals and customs at Ngurah Rai.

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