Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Arrival at Bali - A Corrupted Custom Officer and His Scam

12 May 2014 (Monday)

The plane landed at about 9:45 p.m. Things didn't go smoothly at Bali (DPS) Airport. I cleared Indonesian immigration without hassle. It was the Customs Department which gave me troubles. My luggage went in and out of the Customs baggage scanner without problem. I was picking them up when another Custom Officer approached the scanner and decided to pull me aside for questioning. Yes, pulling me to a quiet corner and questioning me there.

I suspected that it was a ruse to solicit some extra cash from innocent visitors like me. He asked me to show him my passport, to open my luggage and to remove all items in my pockets. He even went through my Hanoi itinerary which I had printed on a piece of paper. Now, what has a piece of paper with my Hanoi itinerary anything to do with Customs Department? After showing him the content of my wallet, I mentioned that there were some small USD notes in the wallet. He asked me to "bagi-bagi" the USD notes and I said I did not understand what he meant. He explained that he wanted me to give him the USD notes but I said I needed the USD notes during my stay here. Probably sensing that I was not an easy target, he returned me my passport and walked away.

After walking out of the Arrival Hall, I changed SGD150 for IDR1,342,500. Where I was able to walk to the front to the public area from the money exchange counter during my last visit, this time, it had been cordoned off. Passengers have to walk to the left and exit through the retail shops. Andy, a colleague was with me.

After exiting, we turned left to go to the taxi counter to purchase the taxi coupons. The counter selling the coupons had closed. We continued to the taxi parking area and saw a few taxi drivers standing around. I asked a driver the fares to Bali Duta Wisata Hotel. The price was IDR100,000. From my last visit to the airport, I had photographed the price list showing the taxi fares to various destinations in Bali and I knew that the price to Kuta II region should be IDR62,000 only. I rejected the offer and was referred to another driver. I asked him how much and he quoted an even higher price, I think he said IDR120,000. I got a shock. I did not answer back and walked away. A third driver tried to talk to me but I decided that there was nothing to talk. I told Andy we would look for the taxi coupon counter.

As we walked back, a waiting driver outside the Arrival exit called to us and inquired whether we needed a taxi. I asked him how much, and he replied IDR100,000. Without answering him, I asked him how much it would cost to go to Tuban to drop Andy and then to Bali Duta Wisata Hotel in Kuta to drop me. He said IDR160,000. We asked him to give us a discount as he has two passengers now. He agreed and offered us IDR150,000 - IDR100,000 to Kuta and IDR50,000 to Tuban. I said there was no discount for me and asked him for a further discount. He agreed to offer me IDR90,000 to Kuta.

After dropping Andy at Harris Hotel in Tuban, the driver asked me for the address of Bali Duta Wisata Hotel. He either didn't know or acted ignorant of the location. Anyway, I gave him the hotel confirmation slip which I had printed. He called the telephone number given in the slip but was "told" that the hotel was full. He gave me his phone to talk to the person on the other end of the line but this person seemed not to understand. It sounded fishy. Just a day earlier, I received a message from asking me whether I wanted an upgrade at Bali Duta Wisata Hotel. Unfortunately, I could not confirm the actual status as a credit card number would usually be required to guarantee a booking. This did not happen with my booking.

Either the driver was lying and never actually called the hotel but acted this out with a friend on the other end of the line or he was telling the truth. I didn't know. After pausing for a long time, I decided to return to Harris Hotel to ask a receptionist to call Andy as I wanted to ask Andy whether he could share his room with me and split the cost. He has no problem and he came down. We asked the receptionists whether we could put another person in the room and how much additional cost it would be. A receptionist replied it was free. That was great.

I decided to pay the driver the full amount for the Tuban ride by paying him the additional IDR10,000. He asked me whether I could pay him an additional IDR10,000 for the toll. Feeling sorry for him for waiting, I gave him the additional IDR10,000.

After having moved to Harris Hotel, I had to inform Ketut Indra to pick me up at Harris Hotel the following morning. The hotel provided free wifi but I had some problem sending out the message via Facebook due to my own ignorance. Finally, it went out but there was no response from him. I decided to call Ketut's phone using the hotel land line. I also could not get through to him. I felt bad because Ketut might waste his time waiting for me at Bali Duta Wisata Hotel tomorrow. It was already late in the night and I could not do anything but to retry again the next morning.

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