On Christmas Eve, Santa Claus—also known as the Dude in Bali—was over the Pacific Ocean, edging closer to his beach house in El Segundo California after delivering the last sack of toys to so-called good girls and boys.
Meanwhile, a couple of elves eagerly awaited his arrival, one would escort his nine reindeer to a cabin in Big Bear, while the other took him to LAX, just a quick eight-minute drive. Santa would embark on a red eye to Bali, Indonesia where Mrs. Clause was already enjoying a plate of gado-gado.
His two 62 linear foot suitcases weighing precisely 100 pounds were ready to go with mostly aloha patterned shirts, board shorts, tops and flip-flops, leaving behind his bulky, red wool suit with wide, woolly white cuffs; a thick, black broad buckled belt and heavy black boots.
Santa also packed his 60-pound stash of cookies and cheese in the form of 1-kilo bricks into his rolling carry-on bag and a handy backpack.
Santa sported his Ray Bans before heading to the airport so that he wouldn’t stand out too much and risk having his identity revealed. They would for sure find his cookie stash like they did before…
- December, 1943, Adolf Hitler had Santa Claus captured in an effort to demoralize American people.
- December, 1978— questioned on a Lufthansa flight for the disappearance of some $5.8 million in cash and jewels at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City.
- December, 1982—More than 100 Federal, state and local law enforcement officers staked Santa out near a runway at Brookhaven Airport seizing 610 pounds of cookies stuffed in duffle bags
- December, 2010—Kidnapped by the drug kingpin Christopher “Dudus” at Gustavo Rizo Airport, Guantánamo
- December, 2013—Suspected for having cocaine in bags of porridge at Jorge Chávez International Airport, Lima, Peru.
- December 2019—cookies were seized at Narita International Airport, Tokyo while looking for concealed animals or illegal ivory.
- December, 2021, seized 9.3kg of candy canes at Jaipur International Airport, India on his way to Dubai
The list goes on, however, with a wink of his eye and a twist of his head they let him go with nothing to dread.”
After touching down at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Santa followed passengers down Terminal 3’s long corridor until they were directed to wait at a checkpoint.
His boarding pass, passport, and negative RT-PCR test result were all ready in hand before proceeding to the next checkpoint, along with his KITAP, quarantine hotel reservations, and PeduliLindungi app, which were required to take another rapid test.
After taking the rapid test, he headed to baggage claim, where Arief from the Royal Palm Hotel spotted him and led him to a waiting room, where he was advised to wait two to three hours for the results.
Santa Claus was somewhat pleased with Arief and liked his company. However, before Santa could offer any cookies, he had already vanished into a crowd. Reaching into his pocket, Santa pulled out a wad of Indonesian Rupiah and bought himself three milk boxes from a nearby Indomarket. He was still washing down a handful of cookies when Arief reappeared just over an hour later with Santa’s negative test results.
Royal Palm with Quarantine Please
Arief brought Santa Claus outside the terminal and bid his farewell after placing Santa’s luggage into an obscure 90s model line minivan complete with amber-tinted windows and multitone browns painted on the body, which Santa instantly became enamored with, despite the strong odor of clove cigarettes.
The van was the property of the Royal Palm Hotel, decked with the driver’s personal decor including family photos and lucky fuzzy dice swinging from the rear view mirror, which he avoided looking at, just in case Santa Claus tried to start a conversation.
Nonetheless, Santa Claus was happy to be back in Indonesia; he could hear the call to prayers as the sun began to set, into a dark haze just above the horizon, soaking up as much as he could through the van’s dark tinted windows and steady rain drops.
Santa arrives at the Royal Palm Hotel
The drive to the back of the hotel, where two young and eager porters awaited Santa’s arrival, took less than 30 minutes. He was escorted to the lobby of the former Aston Cengkareng City Hotel, which had elegantly aged with a shiny marbled floor and Dutch-influenced decor.
They gave Santa a rundown of his quarantine schedule before showing him to his second-floor quarters. It had a large window overlooking an alley with passing motorists, a laundromat, a small warung, one street food vendor selling meatballs or Jual Bakso, and an adjacent hotel often frequented by the same two women.
You could say the view helped him divide the time while lounging on the couch, washing down cookies with spiked hot cocoa, while trying to find any kind of subtitled or nostalgic old movie on TV.
A towel was placed at the bottom of the door to keep the guards’ cigarette smoke from entering his room who were dressed in military fatigue in case some bloke tried to bolt, you could hear their laughter echoing in the hall.
The hotel offered a daily laundry service, so there was no need to unpack. In addition, without a scale, he had no way of knowing whether or not his bags were within the allowed weight range to avoid paying outrageously high baggage fees.
As promised, three meals were delivered to his room every day in a paper box, lunch and dinner consisted of a small piece of meat, usually a drumstick or thigh, mixed vegetables, a hard-boiled egg, steamed rice and a warm boxed tea.
Breakfast was usually a Spanish omelet or chocolate donuts with freshly sliced fruit, usually mango or melon, and a coffee to compliment his spiced rum.
Santa Claus gets another rapid test
Two nights later—twas the night before his last rapid test, not a creature was stirring, not even a stray cat; when all through the halls of the hotel, at four, he heard a knock at his door, his boxers were hung by the shower with care, in hopes his better half would soon be there… “Mister Kringle?” “Yes, that’s me,” he said as he slurped down the last bit of spiked drink and squeezed out of his chair.
Santa Claus was escorted down the elevator, and down a hall before seated next to an exhausted German couple who were propped up against each other, desperately trying to stay awake.
While they were shoving a Q-tip up his rosy red nose, Santa Claus attempted to break the uncomfortable silence with a warm ho ho ho before returning to his chamber. Later, the doorbell rang again, with an unfamiliar voice: “Mister… Kringle?” That’s right, I’m still around for the moment. After receiving his travel documents, he was granted permission to go.
Santa Claus is free to leave
A new driver met Santa outside the hotel in a newer model van with black tinted windows, black leather seats, and air conditioning that pumped out a constant stream of ice-cold kretek (combination of tobacco and cloves). Rain had just bathed the streets of Jakarta, and residents were fishing in the Citarum River for the microplastic catch of the day; the city was bustling with the perfect mix of traffic, noise, fumes, crowded sidewalks, packs of dogs, hoards of street-food vendors, and warungs; it was urban poetry in motion.
Santa Claus vs. Predator
Santa Claus was taken to Soekarno-Hatta Airport Terminal 1 to catch a flight to Bali. The only way in was through the far eastern door, where a thermal scanner like the one in the movie Predator immediately tracked Santa and displayed his 98-degree temperature.
With the X-ray machines and border patrol agents in his way, his heart was beating twice as fast as normal, but he was given the all-clear after an abdominal x-ray and a CT 3-D scan came back negative.
Once again, showing his PeduliLindungi App certificates, visa, and swipe test results to authorities before receiving his boarding pass. He made a quick call to let Mrs. Clause know he would soon be boarding.
Flight from Jakarta (CGK) to Bali (DPS)
The plane was old and packed like sardines, the flight attendant smelled like cigarettes, a child on the naughty list fell asleep on his arm, and some passengers stared curiously but never said a word.
Santa Claus was making his way through Bali’s empty Ngurah Rai Airport when he heard, “Welcome back, dude.” A customs officer had recognized Santa Claus, who had been chasing swells in Uluwatu since the early 1970s.
Once outside the airport, Santa’s mission came to an end when he heard a familiar voice in the distance ask, “Where’s my cheese?”