From outback Australia to the hustle and bustle of Bali's most popular town........
07.08.2011 77 °F
Kuta - Bali - Indonesia
Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
july 2011 - 11.30pm
Sitting at the Darwin international airport, Australia a keen 5 hours early (so we didn’t have to put up with the increasingly drunken idiots in the town, but mainly so we didn’t have to fork out another $60 for us to go in a 12 bed dorm!) we wondered what to expect as we head into the gateway to Asia. Food, transport and money being the main topics. So as the wheels of our Bali bound Air Asia flight left the tarmac we waved good bye to the country that has been our home for the past 10 months (thanks Australia, it’s been emotional!).
Instead of the tropical blue seas and lush green volcanic mountain ranges I was expecting to see, we landed at Depenser airport, Bali greeted by grey cloud, misty rain and some moody looking Visa desk clerks. $25 US and 15 minutes later we were through customs smoother than a baby’s bottom. The massive DEATH PENALTY FOR DRUG SMUGGLING sign was the only concern.....gulp.
Taxi to Legion please !!!!!!!!!!
We were told that you have to cling onto your bags at the airport to stop people trying to carry them for you then demanding money, but we didn’t get any of that (maybe because it was early in the morning). Our destination was Legion (town up from Kuta) and the first quote we got for a taxi was "200,000rp”! A taxi should be between 45,000 and 75,000rp, we knew he could see us coming! Tired and inexperienced we settle for a taxi for 100,000rp unable to be bothered to look or haggle any more.
Our guide book reads that Legion was built to be an up market retreat from Kuta but as our taxi navigated the already bustling streets of Tuban, Kuta then Legion, it was hard to see where one ended and the other began. A few moments later, fully laden with our backpacks we arrive at The Legion beach resort wondering what the 150,000rp a night double room (recommended by our friends) would look like.........and it was surprisingly nice! Ok, so the showers are saltwater and come out at a questionable pressure and the air conditioning was a ceiling fan, but for roughly $15au (and this is high season prices!) it seemed like a bargain (I say a bargain because for the past few days in Darwin we were spending $60 a night for a 12 bed dorm!
Everyone says to get out of the Kuta area as soon as you can if you want to experience the real Indonesia and to an extent they are correct because between all the scooters, cars, restaurants, hotels, home stays, shops and the questionable street cleanliness it’s hard to imagine how Bali is the tropical Mecca its made out to be!
But if you do choose to stay, what you have to remember is...........Kuta isn’t a fair representation of just how beautiful Indonesia actually is. What was a small fishing village 50 years ago has fallen into the tourist trap with hotels and shops constantly springing up everywhere.
What is now an Aussies cheap get-a-way retreat, the main reason Kuta "got famous" are the beaches that produce surf pretty much all day long/all year round So feeling the need to justify dragging my body board and fins around oz with me for the past 4 months, getting back in the water was a great feeling. The mornings were when i was out in the surf the most as the beaches can get quite crowded in the afternoons and surf etiquette goes out the window! Watching 20 people all trying to surf the same 30 meter wave is quite amusing though. The waves are pretty much constant all day and although most of the time they are nothing spectacular they sometimes get big and are amazing for the more experienced surfer.
Just watch out for the big purple jelly fish though !!!!!!
The afternoons were when we ventured into the countless shops/market stalls and from the first time us doing it until the last it was always the same, hawkers galore! By this i mean people trying to sell you things ranging from taxis, trips, sun glasses, watches, food, drinks, scooters, tattoos and magic mushrooms! You can’t even escape it on the beach either as it’s lined with mini bars where the sellers have a big cool box or chairs and you can grab a local beer when the sun gets too hot. To be fair though they don’t hassle you to a point where you feel like you get annoyed, so a polite "no thank you" usually does the trick, but the thing is you end up saying "no thank you" so much it becomes instinct when someone talks to you ! But towards the end of our stay it really got on top of me, putting me off even going to the shops as you can’t even look without having a massive sales pitch thrown at you! The most amusing thing is their Aussie accent they put on to try and get you attention "alllllriiiiite maaaate", "sorry mate, I’m English", "lovely jubbly!" Bali trotter!
If you do see something that takes your fancy, and to be honest most people come to Kuta for the cheap and plentiful shopping, then you enter the world of haggling and bartering. Their asking price is going to be roughly 50-75% high than what they are happy to sell it for and while you think they are offended when you offer them 1/3 of the asking price it’s all part of "the game". The trick is being strong with your offer, say that you can get one from someone else for your price and if they still won’t do the deal say bye and start walking away. The usually come running after you trying to get as much as they can with all the tricks in the book! Sometimes you will find that it’s like you’re in a Scooby doo cartoon because you see the same 3 or 4 stalls/shops every 20 yards! Jokes aside, you haven’t been to Bali unless you haggle for a Bintang vest and a pair of “real” ray ban sunglasses. Although I went one better and left with a ukulele and case for 200,000rp!
Got the munches?
While you can get burgers, chips and pizza from most of the more expensive restaurants or even the McDonalds (that even has delivery drivers on scooters!). But if you want the best food, stick to traditional stuff that the locals know. We loved exploring the back alleys finding mini restaurants that specializes in local cuisine. The traditional menus are mostly Warung style consisting of noodles, rice, fish, chicken, tofu, and fresh vegetables and cooked in sauces most notably peanut and chili. Most of the meals range from 8,000 - 25,000 (90c- $2.50) so a cheap healthy feed that bursts with flavor was a much welcome change from the typical bread, 2 min noodles or pasta that we have lived on for the past 4 months of travelling Oz.
Almost just as important as the food is the amazing juice bars that are everywhere. Every day we had maybe 2 fresh fruit juices loaded with more vitamins and minerals that bodies almost went into shock! Obviously the water that comes out the tap isn’t drinkable (saltwater coming out most of the time anyway) so the juices are a refreshing break from the bottled "water" that you have to keep you body topped up with in the hot Indonesian sun (which seems to be getting hotter each day and muggier during the nights). For a real drink we didn’t go out in a busy Aussie packed Kuta, preferring to stay in the less crowded and cheaper Legion area. Plenty of live music normal fills the air at night and there are lots of happy hour deals for the tight ass backpackers like us.
Being a largely Hindu population, colours and flowers are everywhere, so if you don’t want to shop we found a walk down the street is often rewarded with traditional religious celebration in one form or another that are also the only things to halt the traffic on the mental roads.
Although Kuta isn’t the tropical paradise you image Bali to be I don’t think it deserves to be written off completely. Ok it might not have the best beaches, be full of scooters, street sellers, questionable public health and safty and you have to barter for everything (even where you walk sometimes as the bloody scooters go everywhere !).
That aside we had an amazing last day in some big morning surf and then just chilled on the beach whilst being entertained by "harry" the beach boy. Although it is his job and duty to be friendly I really got on well with him even more so when he whipped out his guitar and I had a strum. With the wonders of everyone being on facebook thesedays it was great for us to swap details to keep in touch. So as the sun fell behind the hazy Balinese horizon Harry decided it was time to sing us some lincon park on the acoustic guitar in his thick indonesian accent. That I didnt think id ever hear, but Bali just seemed full of suprises !