Labuan Bajo, Flores, Indonesia • March 2017 • Length of Read: 3 Minutes
Having successfully flashpacked my way around New Zealand and the South Pacific, scoffing in the faces of those travel wankers more frugal than Ebenezer Scrooge, I found myself on the island of Bali in Indonesia. My connecting flight from Australia had been delayed, and by the time I got the arrival stamp in my passport I’d been awake for twenty hours, with another four having been lost to time zones. Strolling through the arrivals gate, hordes of taxi drivers surrounded me like bees in a hive, like paparazzi around a Hollywood A-lister; each offering the ‘best price’ to wherever my heart’s desire wished to go. Too tired to haggle, I accepted the first price quoted to me and followed the bewildered driver to his car. Those who get into lengthy barter transactions just to save an extra £0.30 really need to have a look at how they are spending their most important resource: their time
“Do you want to go and see some dragons?” I asked Fraser, taking a sip of export Corona. Local beer in Asia is a lot cheaper than that shipped in, but the taste just doesn’t agree with me sometimes. I could drink Bintang all night and rather than feel drunk my stomach will just bloat up until I look like a pregnant woman. We were sat in the lounge area of our hostel watching a Canadian guy making a bowl of pre-packed super noodles. Why someone would come to Indonesia and cook for themselves is beyond me. South East Asian cuisine is some of the most diverse and tastiest in the world and if bought from one of the myriad street stalls is so cheap that it will make you feel like you’re shoplifting.
“Dragons?” queried my fellow Scot. I’d met him just that morning, having conked out upon my arrival the night before. Both of us had checked into one of the six-bed dorms available which, for an extra £1.18 per night, meant that we got air conditioning instead of a fan. The room was like walking into the large storage freezer of a food production plant, both in temperature and smell. With the sun blasting down rays peaking in the thirties and humidity levels comparable to that of a dense jungle, it confounded me why some people always opt for the most basic and money-saving bed available. How little do you care about your wellbeing that you are happy to sweat like a paedophile in a playground all night just to save a quid?
“The Komodo dragons,” I explained. “It says here in my guidebook that the small islands of Komodo and Rinca off the west coast of Flores are the only places in the world where these big giant 3m long monitor lizards can be seen in the wild.”
“Absolutely man,” nodded Fraser, biting into a white chocolate and almond flavoured Magnum ice-cream. In the soaring heat you need to ensure that you stay cool, and a little treat every day isn’t going to burst the budget. I’m a firm believer that you should never travel until funds are so low that you return flat out broke. I’ve met a scarily large number of people living in hostels and working part-time shifts in cafes because they can’t afford to get back home. At least they are fending for themselves, I suppose, and not committing the number one backpacker sin of calling the bank of dad for additional funds.
“Awesome,” I smiled, happy to have found a new companion. Flashpacking is best done in groups of two of three. This way, at least one person is usually always keen for a night out or a daytime activity and you’ll egg each other on to do cool shit and live like you are dying. When travelling alone, it is easy to hole up and reduce spending at the cost of missing out on potential adventures and on creating memories that will echo down through the centuries for millennia to come.
“How are we going to get there?” he asked as I pointed on the map to where the islands were located. “It looks quite far.”
“Yeah, by boat it takes about four days. You can also fly there in just over one hour, though.”
“And what’s the price difference?”
“Irrelevant,” I laughed. “We’re getting on a plane.”