There is a trio of colourful, slightly evil looking cats hanging on the wall above my bed. They are painted in a traditional Indonesian art technique called batik. We looked up the city's main attractions and found Jalan Malioboro, a 24-hour shopping street. Within minutes, we were approached by a man with a broad grin who wanted to know where we were from. The nice man asked if we were looking for batik, and offered to show us the best stalls. Hot, tired, and overwhelmed, we decided to follow him. We hesitated for a moment, before agreeing. After all, it was a tourist area. He was probably a well-meaning tour guide, giving us a cultural experience. My friend and I felt we had better buy something. The cats caught my eye, and didn't seem too expensive - maybe $30?
It's hard to tell when you're dealing with hundreds of thousands of rupiah. Later, when I did the conversion, I realised I had spent more than $100. By Indonesian standards, that's an obscene amount of money. Back at the hotel, I looked up Jalan Malioboro again. "Beware of batik scam", one of the first posts said. Our experience was textbook. The batik we bought were more than likely screen-printed fakes, worthless pieces of cloth. The main lessons I learned? They're painfully obvious, but in the heat of the moment, it can be easy to forget. Always do your research. Be skeptical if someone is too helpful to be true. And know the damn currency conversion. I know you're judging me. Don't worry, the cats on my wall are, too.