October 19, 2016
Let’s say you’re at the Seeds of Life Raw Food Cafe & Tonic Bar in Ubud, sitting on a pillow by the open front entrance – you know, by the big plants and cool statues – glancing at the menu. You note they have pizza made with zucchini, sprouted seeds and herbs topped with veggies and ‘rawmesan’ cheese. Yummy! But it’s got a 30 next to it if you add a side salad – which you really want – and a friend tells you that means 30,000. Outrageous! Right? Not really. In late 2016 when I was there that was about $2.24 U.S.
Next, maybe you walk over to Tukie’s for some of the best coconut ice cream on the planet. 25,000 a scoop it says right where the woman makes those awesome creations with fresh coconut and other niceities placed on top. That’s about a buck eighty-something.
The Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) is the local currency of Bali, commonly also abbreviated to Rp. Denominations of Rp.100 and 100 are in the form of coins, 500 and 1,000 are in either coins or bills, and Rp.5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 and 100,000 are only available in bills. On my first day in Ubud I needed to exchange my dollars for local money so I went to a reputable place recommended by the people at the retreat center I taught yoga at (foreign currency should be exchanged only at major banks or authorized money changers). Even so, it was a learning experience because at first they didn’t want my $50 bills saying they were “old money.” The teller showed me a photo of a newer version with a different Ulysses S. Grant. That’s the fifty they want. Eventually, however, they relented, docking me a a few cents off their conversion rate.
Here’s when I received another thing about the United States Dollar versus the Indonesian Rupiah. I handed the teller $300 in my old fifties. She counted out for me a VERY huge stack of Indonesian Rupiah. So big I couldn’t fit it in my wallet. About 4,000,000.00 Indonesian Rupiah. I had on cargo shorts. Into the pockets it went. Bulging, I walked cautiously around Ubud for the next couple hours until the prearranged time for my driver to show, and take me back to the retreat center.
Money also goes far in Bali for spa visits. Not really my thing, but a lot of women visiting our retreat center raved about their spa time. The price and quality were amazing, they said. With that in mind, one day in October 2016 I’m walking the streets of Seminyak. In front of the Organic Spa, a very lovely Balinese woman makes eye contact, smiles and asks if I would like to make an appointment.
“For what?” I ask.
She hands me a rather extensive menu of spa treatments and adds, “Everything is 30% off today. How about a pedicure?”
“You do men?’
“Of course. All the time.”
I feel it is important to stop right now and say I have never had a pedicure, plus admit my feet are, well, gnarly. I did a quick calculation in my head and realized an almost hour long pedicure at 30% off would cost me less than $10 U.S. If ever there was a day…
The pedicure was amazing, although I felt more than a tinge of embarrassment when the water got very dirty, very quickly. However, power tools were not even used, although I bet they were considered. Near the end, a few of the staff gather around me and ask if they can take my photo. “Sure, but why? Worst feet of all time?” I ask.
“No. Because you’re our first customer.”
“No. First ever. This is our first day open. We’ll put you on the wall.”