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Oz Journals Entry Number Seven - Bali High

 article about Oz Journals Entry Number Seven - Bali High
2005-05-30 03:14:33
When I was last in an airport my baggage was overweight by maybe half a kilo. I am the type of traveler who rarely packs my bags no earlier than ten minutes before the taxi is due to arrive and whisk me to the airport. On that occasion, they overlooked my extra weight and told me to pack more carefully in future.

On one flight I took, I was not so lucky. I was told to unpack my bags in order to redistribute the contents of my luggage in order to ensure each bag was light enough to meet the weight restrictions, which I agreed to do, in full view of every nosy individual in Pearson International airport. I had nothing to hide. I wasn't smuggling anything, nor was I carrying any compromising material; no articles which would cause me embarrassment should anyone catch a glimpse. I dutifully pulled the bags' contents out, spread the stuff around the floor and tried to gauge the weight and began to repack them. Ten minutes later I rechecked the bags successfully and gave them no further thought.

On another occasion, my wife returned from one of her many business trips abroad with her usually overweight luggage. I recall puffing and panting carrying one of her suitcases up our steep stairs in Holland and tossing it down (after ensuring there was nothing fragile within) and watching it land on the floor with a dull thud and catching out of the corner of my eye what appeared to be white puffs of smoke emitting through the sewn seams of the suitcase's outer zipped compartment. After pressing down on it and witnessing this same phenomenon a couple of times, I pulled the zipper back and reached down into the outer flap and extracted a sandwich bag full of fine white powder which had come open at one corner.

Now naturally, although I am fully aware that my wife is not a drug smuggler, I instantly decided that the contents of the sandwich bag I held in my hand must be either cocaine or heroin. What other fine white powder comes in a Ziploc sandwich bag?

" Dr. Scholl's foot powder. I lost the lid somewhere and poured it into that. I mustn't have closed it correctly. What did you think it was? Drugs? ", my wife explained, barely containing her amusement.

Well, you can imagine the frivolity that ensued from that little episode. We laughed it off, filing it as an amusing anecdote to share with friends later over cocktails. Tee Hee. Har dee Har Har. Which brings me to my next train of thought, and it is no laughing matter.

Death by firing squad. That is the maximum enforceable punishment that can be meted out to travelers who are stupid enough to smuggle drugs into Indonesia. Not life in prison. Not forty years of hard labour.


By firing squad.

These rapid talking oriental islanders do not mess around with drugs. They are serious. Apparently the authorities in Bali thought that a young woman named Schapelle Corby who flew to their little paradise with a few friends on vacation was stupid enough to try her hand at smuggling four kilos of marijuana. Perhaps she was that stupid. We will never know the real truth I suppose, because apparently the Indonesian system of jurisprudence involves taking all available evidence into consideration and then totally disregarding it in favour of deciding whether one is guilty or innocent based on either the flip of a coin or maybe by the way tea leaves settle on the surface of liquid or possibly just by sheer guess work.

They certainly did not give this young woman a fair trial. But why should they? One merely has to look at Schapelle Corby to see proof of her guilt, no? I mean, just look at her! She is occidental (the occidental tourist?). She is young and she is beautiful. She obviously has plenty of money (enough money to go on vacation) and she is so greedy for more money that she brought illicit narcotics into their country to sell to their children and turn them into hopeless drug addicts (apparently Australians have nothing better to do with their vacation time). Why, her mere presence in their wonderful country mocks its decent but poor citizens, who, unlike her, toil day in and day out to put food in their family's bellies, working as servants for the likes of this shameless Australian strumpet who had the audacity, the unmitigated gall to carry narcotics into Bali in her boogie board bag! This surely makes her as guilty as sin in Indonesian eyes (which, incidentally, are rarely as blue as Ms. Corby's and of a different shape altogether). So they threw her into jail.

There were protesters outside her cell taunting her, carrying placards urging for her to get the death penalty. For pot! All this right in front of Ms. Corby's distraught mother. Nice people these Balinese are. Ms. Corby was sentenced to twenty years in prison the other day for her alleged crime. Twenty years in a third world prison for four kilos of grass! In this day and age! Add to that the indignity she suffered by being placed in a holding cell adjacent to that of the infamous laughing Bali bomber ( who, by stark contrast, was given the hefty sentence of just over two years imprisonment for his involvement in the premeditated murder of over two hundred mainly Australian tourists in a discotheque bombing a few years back), so called because he laughed uproariously and incessantly throughout his trial. Apparently this charming fellow would utter death threats and vile oaths to the Ms. Corby on an hourly basis. I suppose that she could have told the prison guards (the same guards who, for five US dollars, would allow anyone at all to come in off the street and gawk at the imprisoned young woman in her cage), but it is unlikely that they would do anything about it. The bomber had probably bribed the very same guards in order to get into the cell next to hers.

The Indonesian Government and its judicial system are well within their rights to hand out their version of justice as they see fit, even though anyone with half a brain knows for a fact that marijuana is just about as harmless a drug as one can get. It is far less addictive than tobacco and does NOT lead to addiction to harder drugs at all. I have smoked marijuana for years and I have found that the only thing it has led me to is the refrigerator. Giving anyone, guilty OR innocent a sentence as extreme as the one given to Schapelle Corby is ridiculously harsh. But, these people are simply enforcing the laws of their land and we must respect their right to be closed-minded and obtuse in their thought processes, if that is how they go about enforcing those laws.

Travelers must keep in mind that once they check their bags at the departure point, that their luggage is no longer in their control. It may be opened and investigated by any number of individuals, be they honest customs officials going about their job, or larcenous baggage handlers looking for things to steal, or vice versa. Locking the luggage can help, but if someone really wants to steal something in your bag or plant something explosive or illegal within it, there is nothing at all you can do to stop them.

Schapelle Corby may indeed have tried to smuggle marijuana into Bali. On the other hand, she may be telling the truth, in which case someone somewhere has a great deal to answer for. If she is indeed innocent, then the person or persons that planted the cannabis in her boogie board bag will have to live with the fact that they have ruined a decent person's life by placing her in a situation whereby she found herself at the mercy of the corrupt and unjust system of a backward country seemingly incapable of showing any mercy for the sake of a lousy four kilos of weed that they were too chickenshit to smuggle themselves. And may they rot in hell for doing that.

I will close by saying this: If you want to travel anywhere on this beautiful but flawed planet of ours, do a little research. If you must travel anywhere for any reason at all, go somewhere where people of your creed and bearing are not reviled by the locals. For the life of me, I cannot understand why non-military civilians take trips to Iraq, for example. It is tantamount to wearing a sign when you get off the plane that reads "Please kidnap and behead me". And if you absolutely have to travel anywhere at all for whatever reason, just make sure that you make it clear BEFORE retrieving your luggage that the proper authorities are fully aware that those bags have been out of your control from the time of your departure. Oh and one more thing… if the meal on the plane is a choice between beef and chicken, go for the vegetarian.


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