Kuta Beach is mad.
The main road along the front, the beach itself and the two ‘gangs’, Poppies Lane I & II, that lead from it are crawling with Australian holiday-makers and expats and with locals trying to sell you drinks, surf lessons, sunglasses, vests, magic mushrooms and massages. You can’t escape it. I learnt early on that a response is enough for them to follow you down the street shaking your hand and doing their favourite English impressions (“luv-lee-jub-lee” “sees-ya-late-uh-al-uh-gate-uh” “you-want-boh-ul-wah-uh-mate?”) and they don’t forget it when you say “maybe tomorrow”… The only way to deal with them is to try to ignore them, but they’re all such good characters it’s a biter a shame sometimes. On a couple of occasions, after a few Bintangs (we’ll get on to that!) we sat down in one of the stalls where the guy was playing guitar and had a bit of a sing-song with him. We also became good friends with, Edy, one of the drink guys on the beach who looked after our bags for us when we were in the sea and let us sit in his chairs under his umbrella the rest of the time, in exchange for a few drinks of course! We, by the way, was me and Dan, a guy I met on the first night whilst watching the Aussie open semi-final, who was 4 weeks into a 2 month stay in Bali for the surfing.
One thing you notice as soon as you arrive in Bali is the excessive number of ‘Bintang’ logos everywhere. It’s quite a challenge to find a vest on Poppies Lanes that isn’t emblazoned with it. I am in fact the proud owner of a Bintang towel! Just like a local, sort of. Bintang is the local Pilsener lager that is sold across Indonesia and brewed in Jakarta. It’s served icy cold and in an insulating sleeve to make sure it stays that way during the day. There’s is nothing more refreshing than a chilled Bintang on the beach at sunset after a day of surfing!
My plan in Bali was to chill out, learn to surf and generally try not to spend too much money after the hole in my pocket left by Mt Kinabalu. However, after a couple of surf lessons, board hire, purchasing a rash vest (which was unsuccessful in preventing a rash), hiring a scooter (I mean push bike, mum) on a couple of days to check out some of the rest of the island, and 5 or 6 Bintangs (average) per night, I was spending more in Bali than I was in Malaysia, where drinking is so expensive that most travellers don’t bother! So, that was a failure, but Bali was good fun just the same.
On the days we rented scooters we went up into the highlands to the art culture heavy Ubud and Candikuning’s volcanic lake; both quite impressive but ruined slightly by heavy rain – not good on a scooter! Ubud is full of art galleries and I was surprised at how contemporary Indonesian art can be. Candikuning I’m sure is beautiful when you can see the sky – a lake surrounded by jungle and mountains – but when overcast, it’s a brown lake with trees around it. Not too impressive! There is a beautiful temple, we were told, but the only way to see that was a boat trip across the lake… In the rain!
It must seem like it rains constantly from the way I write about it. Don’t worry, it doesn’t. I just don’t talk about it when it’s hot because its what I expect. When I’m in India in May I’ll be telling you how hot it is. Don’t worry about that!
Next stop, on 1 Feb, is (the Amy Russell recommended) Gili Trawangan. An island close to Lombok with no police where recently an Australian died from ethanol poisoning. Wish me luck!!
P.S. Just noticed the excess of exclamation marks above. Must try harder.
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