Bars and body boarding in Bali…

Bars and body boarding in Bali…

We arrived in Bali a few days ago after taking the ferry from Java. The crossing only took 45 minutes but we had a bit of a long drive the other side, before we could check in to our hotel in Kuta – the last part of the journey being completed in funky local minibuses.

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One of the first things we noticed about Bali was more of the same gorgeous scenery that we saw in Java – in particular the lush green rice terraces that stretched as far as the eye could see. The roadside is also dotted with intricate Hindu temples – marking a slight change in the dominant religion in this part of Indonesia.

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It was already dark by the time we pulled into the seaside resort of Kuta – famous for being Bali’s ‘party town’ and the scene of the 2002 Bali bombings which killed 202 people. Our hotel was situated in Jalan Legian, a popular bar and restaurant strip in the centre of Kuta. We were pretty knackered after the early start and excitement of Mount Bromo so we opted to leave the bars for the next day and just had dinner in the hotel’s restaurant before going to bed.

After a much needed lie-in the next day we set about catching up on few ‘chores’. Bali was our last chance to relax and get our bits and pieces sorted out before we fly to Australia and begin another relentless batch of bus travel, so we got all of our washing done – spending extra time on our volcanic ash-covered clothing and caught up on the blog.

Later that evening, it was time to discover whether the nightlife in Bali lived up to the hype so we went out to meet a few of the other Oz-busers in a bar down the road. They were already quite merry as they had been taking advantage of the “all the beer you can drink for 3quid” promotions! We moved onto a reggae bar which had a live band playing and spent most of the night there, dancing and drinking – it was a great laugh! I have no idea what the last bar we went into was called, but the five of us who were still standing at that point, stumbled out of it at about 4.30am.

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We were suffering slightly the next day – not just our heads, but our wallets too, as Jalan Legian isn’t the cheapest of places to go out drinking! In a bid to take it easy that day, we had a swim in the hotel pool before setting off to explore the rest of the resort on foot. Kuta is basically made up of lots of alleyways, branching off the main streets, which are packed full of souvenir shops, clothes shops, massage parlours, bars and restaurants – it’s completely geared up for tourists. The two main alleyways are called Poppies I and Poppies II, but walking around them isn’t particularly relaxing as you are constantly dodging motorbikes and cars which tear down the narrow lanes behind you. It’s also impossible to go more than two feet at a time before you are stopped by touts offering you massages, transport or cheap t-shirts – this quickly got irritating so we got out of the alleys and headed to the beach.

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We walked across the fluffy white sand towards the water’s edge and watched as hundreds of surfers and body boarders made the most of the fantastic waves. Kuta beach is absolutely massive and just as well because there were lots of people taking advantage of it!

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Richard decided to opt for a bit of body-boarding himself so rented a board from one of the many makeshift ‘stalls’ that line the sand, and dove into the warm Bali sea. I watched him ride the waves all the way back into shore whilst avoiding whacks on the head from surfers – he loves the sea (whereas I prefer the pool) and he certainly got his money’s worth from the board!

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Despite the beauty of the beach, the atmosphere was spoiled slightly by the constant pestering from drinks sellers, pineapple sellers, straw mat and ‘massage’ sellers, who approach you one after the other asking you to buy. One guy was even wandering around with a crossbow for sale – what are we supposed to do with that!?

On our way back to the hotel we stopped by the monument which marks the spot of the Bali bombings. It stands in the old location of Paddy’s Bar, where one of the bombs was detonated. It was strange to stand there, surrounded by tourists, imagining the horror of what happened on that fateful night.

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That night, we walked back to the beachfront area via Kuta Square – a road filled with designer shops and Western eateries. The square has a much more up-market vibe to it than Jalan Legian, as does Jalan Pantai Kuta in front of the beach, which is dotted with funky looking bars and restaurants.

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We did another loop of Jalan Legian too – walking quickly past the drug dealers and pushy sellers who descend on the area at night. They really do spoil the atmosphere of the place and make it impossible to relax and do some window shopping. Every time we stopped to look at something we were hounded, so just ended up racing past them to the end of the road with our heads down.

The next morning, we prepared to leave Bali by packing all our stuff away, ready for our flight to Darwin, Australia, before going out for lunch and soaking up some more of the sunshine. Tonight we are having our final group meal in Indonesia – in fact, our final meal in Asia! It will be strange to say goodbye to this continent as we have spent so long here, but we’re looking forward to the next section of our epic journey.

Indonesia has been very interesting for us and we’ve found ourselves with mixed views about the place. We’ve had a taste of three different islands – Sumatra, Java and Bali – all of which have had their own unique character. Sumatra, our first island, is probably the one that is least used to seeing tourists. This was obvious from the way that the local people looked at us and the fact that we couldn’t go anywhere without being shouted at in the street or asked where we came from – something that surprised us. The landscape in Sumatra also surprised us. We didn’t imagine that it would be quite so regimented – most of the indigenous plant species have been replaced by plantations of rubber trees, palm trees and coffee beans – many of these plantations being illegal. This in turn has had a devastating effect on the local wildlife with 140 species of mammals threatened and 15 of these on the critically endangered list. In a country famous for its biodiversity, this really is a shame and epitomizes the damage that people can do in their quest to make money.

Java on the other hand was filled with natural beauty – a mixture of flora and fantastic scenery surrounded by mountains. We felt instantly more ‘fond’ of Java and it was here that we had one of the best experiences of our trip when we visited Mount Bromo. The roads were also much better and the people more used to foreign visitors. In the cities however, we were a bit disappointed with the way in which we were treated. Rather than not being used to seeing people like us, the locals seemed to look at us as a way to make a quick buck! Not that we didn’t meet some lovely people, we did, but these were limited to rural areas or markets that weren’t frequented by tourists.

Bali, once again, is a beautiful island and Kuta has so much potential as a prime location for visitors. The seas are warm, the skies are blue and the opportunities for sightseeing, shopping and watersports are boundless. Unfortunately, in our opinion, it’s people that make a place, and Kuta has been ruined by the sheer amount of drug dealers and rude salesmen that wander its streets. Quite frankly, we have been shocked by the amount of illegal substances on offer and don’t understand why the Police have done nothing to stop it. Tourism is the number one business here, and whilst we have heard on good authority that there are hundreds of fantastic places to visit in Bali,  I don’t think we’d choose to come back to Kuta unless the touts and dealers disappeared. It’s a typical tourist resort with all night partying and a great sandy beach – perfect for a week’s holiday to let off steam, but it’s not for everyone!

The fact that our schedule has only allowed us to visit Kuta means that we can’t comment on the rest of Bali ourselves. If we were to come back here again, we would definitely give ourselves more time to get out and about into the heart of the island. This goes for all of Indonesia. As we have always thought, the best way to get the most out of a country is to immerse yourself in it – away from the tourist spots. So we would suggest that if you’re planning a trip to Indonesia, do some research, hire yourself a car and go in search of the ‘real deal’. We’ve had a mere glimpse into this country and know that there is much more to discover.

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2 Comments

  1. December 23, 03:03 #1 Aisleen Author

    Thanks! Java was by far our fav – you should definitely make the trip out there!

  2. December 20, 14:16 #2 Sofia

    Bali is one of my favorite places, especially Ubud and Amed. Would love to visit Java some day. Great description about each place!


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