The Bali Incendiary Wallet

October 19, 2010

Sitting close to the street in any of Bali’s open-air restaurants lets you experience the endless variety of the personal retailing brigade at work. Want LED flashing eye-glasses? They will arrive. Want some of that snake-oil liniment to rub over yourself or your loved ones? A customer service representative will be with you momentarily. Need CDs, or DVDs, or hip flasks, or plastic cars, or soft toys that shriek annoyingly in your face? Rest assured – a vendor will materialise to talk you into buying something you don’t need. You will even get regular doses of carefully crafted pathos from tiny children selling pieces of plaited leather (the purpose of which utterly escapes me) and “mothers” begging for alms for their rent-a-baby props. All this during a single course too.

So one night, after numerous encounters with purveyors of fine rubbish, I see this guy come in waving a wallet. He has a shoulder bag with many more. As his target table of diners looks away to discourage him, he flips open his demo wallet, which spews forth a huge ball of fire. “Magic wallet!” he cries to the recoiling throng. “Amaze your friends!” The newly-galvanised customers (mainly the guys) are now intensely interested. I am too, (maybe it’s a boy thing) but I resist going over to find out how this thinly-disguised instrument of warfare actually works. I don’t actually want one – I can quite easily burn through my cash here without benefit of a fire-starter in my wallet.

The fireball it produces is brief, but hot enough to singe nasal hairs, eyelashes and eyebrows completely off the unwary. And it’s big enough to do damage to one’s forelock, if repeated tugging while toadying up to Immigration officials to get your KITAS renewed hasn’t permanently dislodged it. I get to thinking – if the guy is selling ordinary wallets, he has hit on a great promotional gimmick to attract the attention of his customers. Some – those without collateral third degree burns – might even buy one.

But if these things are actually designed as flame-throwing wallets – with gas, or lighter fluid, or even napalm as the fuel, then we have a small problem on our hands. They might be useful as mugger deterrent devices, but I think of small children, bored with mere matches, playing with far more dangerous flaming devices. I think of inebriated bogans lighting the faces of their friends for a lark. “Ooh, sorry mate. Didn’t mean to coagulate your eyeballs.”

But most of all, I think of a ‘harmless’ incendiary wallet which would probably not even attract a second glance from the same airport security people who confiscate our nail clippers. And I think of the subsequent fireballs in the inflammable confines of a crowded plane at 36,000 feet. Or the possibility of accidental ignition while in one’s hip pocket.

OK, I have an over-active imagination. But could someone please reassure me that these are just ordinary wallets being sold by frustrated fire-eating circus performers, and not the real thing?



  1. “or soft toys that shriek annoyingly in your face?”

    This line made me spit coffee all over my laptop, thanks Borborigmus.

    Of course as a victim of the hilarious “electric shock pen” purchased from one of these guys by a 12 year old French kid, I have an axe to grind!

    • Careful. Those street vendor axes are designed to drop off the handle and sever your foot. Not that they’re any more dangerous than the knives, BB guns, dodgy fireworks and cross-bows we can all buy here …

  2. This blazing saddle, er, wallet sounds downright frightening and should be banned, if it is even kosher, that is.
    Regarding being pestered by all and sundry on the coast yes, it is madly annoying which is why I never venture out of Ubud without a very, very good reason.
    You can wander about to your heart’s content there with only a myriad of “Transport miss?” from the idlers.
    Gives them something to do, because hand movements are required to indicate steering a vehicle and makes sure I will never forget how to smile sweetly and say :Jalan, jalan”.
    Ah, Bali, let me count the ways.

  3. Yes, on my recent holiday we were sititng at a restaurant when in came a chap with a flaming wallet. We were momentarily interested as to how it worked, though none of us interesting in buying. The first thing my husband said was ‘now , how would that go on a plane”? All I could htink of was of young kids trying it out and being singed.

    His colleague came in with squeaky toys and coloured spinning tops etc. My girl friend and her husband, well the girlfriend really) ended up with five sticks that glow and spin etc which cost her about $2 a pop and were for her grandchildren. Whilst they were haggling on price me and my other half were walking down the street to avoid it.

    I wonder if I would be annoyed byt the constant selling/pushy etc if I lived over there, which we are considering. Mind you, it takes me a lot to get annoyed. I am a teacher and generally, in my opinion, have the patience of a saint! One has to, to survive the job at times!

    Cant say I blame people for trying to sell their goods. They do it here in Aus which is most annoying when they keep ringing your private phone number but…that is their job. Glad it is not mine. I jsut say a firm no or in Bali avoid eye contact and ignore…or pretend I have no idea what they are saying.

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