You want taxi?

Nusa Dua, Bali, Friday 1 June 2012

It’s impossible to walk more than ten metres along the main street in Nusa Dua without being offered a taxi, transport, or a ‘programme’ by a man, or a massage by a woman. Now before anyone gets any ideas, especially after my brothel-visiting escapades in Kalgoorlie, the massages are massages, not ‘massages’ and a ‘programme’ is an organised tourist activity not a bizarre initiation into a South East Asian cult. Nusa Dua is built on tourism, and this is how the locals make their money.

Every second building is a spa or booth providing ‘transport’ and things to do, from elephant safari to parasailing via diving. The businesses in between tend to be restaurants, mini-markets, or laundries. The restaurants, interestingly, don’t tout so much; the mini-markets are entirely standard air-conditioned units, there’s nothing for them to tout; and who wants to be told that their clothes are dirty and they smell? The competition amongst the spas and drivers is fierce and they feel that they have to promote themselves and seek out custom.

The irony is, however, that for people like me they manage nothing other than to dissuade us from employing their services. If I want or need a taxi, I’m perfectly capable of arranging one for myself, they’re bright blue and two-a-penny; offering me one is hardly likely to send thunderbolts of inspiration crashing into my brain that I desperately need to get into a car and stop exploring under my own steam. That for me is how I grow to know and understand somewhere, what it feels like, how it smells; it’s how I get some of my very best photographs. I can’t get that from taxi; they take me from a to b with a definite air-conditioned purpose. Most of the time, I don’t want to be at the mercy of the driver.

Having to decline the offer of transport or a massage every few metres becomes an exhausting exercise in maintaining your demeanour and trying not to lose your train of thought as you stumble along what passes for a pavement. I could say that they don’t know that I’ve already been offered five taxis and six massages since I stepped out of my hotel, but the truth is, they do. They know this because everyone does it; it’s how they operate. I can only assume that they regard it as a process of attrition: if they pester me persistently, I will eventually lie supine, yelping ‘Take me, take me 20 feet in your taxi to my hotel.’

This might appear an inconsequential thing, and something that it is very easy to politely decline with a smile, but this happens every time you step out from your hotel, and usually at least as you pass through its security gates. It becomes very frustrating quite quickly.

No, I don’t want a taxi.

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