The Big Kahuna Surf School

Trip Start Aug 22, 2005
Trip End Jul 17, 2006

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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Friday, December 2, 2005

Whilst travelling around Indonesia, it was common for the locals to ask us whether we'd been to Bali yet. As the crown jewel of Indonesia's tourism industry it was inevitable we'd visit sooner or later, although given that Sarah had been before we limited our stay to about a week. First up was Ubud, the geographical and cultural centre of Bali. This was a very relaxing few days indeed: strolling around the town's "monkey forest" and surrounding rice paddies, feasting on culinary delights such as Balinese smoked duck and just generally enjoying each other's company. Sarah treated herself to a massage, body scrub and floral bath, which sounded pretty good ("Ooh yeah if I was a girl I'd definitely go for that one") so I joined her and very nice it was too! We took in a couple of traditional shows, which actually showcased a number of different schools of Balinese dance. Kecak involved a chorus of bare-chested men representing a monkey army, their infectiously catchy chanting providing the accompaniment to the dancers in the centre of the stage, whose movements could best be described as Kathakali on speed (see one of the earlier India posts). After this we saw a trance dance, in which two young and supposedly untrained girls performed a perfectly synchronized dance with their eyes closed throughout. Finally some guy on a hobby horse came out onto the stage, set fire to a pile of coconut husks and proceeded to use his bare feet to kick them all over the stage, a few of which landed dangerously close to the audience. This he continued to do until the husks had extinguished themselves and, presumably, his poor feet could take no more. The second show featured graceful Legong dancers accompanied by a traditional Gamelan orchestra, and also the Barong - an amusing half-lion half-dragon character controlled by two men like a pantomime cow. On our last day in Ubud we took a trip around the island to see ruins, temples and volcanoes before heading down to Kuta beach for some surfing.

With its plush hotels, glitzy malls and themed restaurants, Kuta is a bit like Vegas by the sea. However, unlike many other SE Asian beach resorts Kuta has managed to retain a certain cool appeal for people from all walks of life and has not fallen prey to excessive amounts of sleaze. This has probably a lot to do with the fact that the surfing here is top notch, suitable for beginners and seasoned pros alike. Not wanting to be left out of the action, I resolved to learn in the few days we were by the beach. By a stroke of luck we bumped into a veteran surfer from Hawaii called David who offered to teach us for half the price of the local schools. This all had to be very hush-hush though, and if anyone asked we were his friends and he was doing us a "favour" as he didn't have the required work permit to teach in Indonesia. For him though, the payment was only nominal as his real reward, he told us, came from sharing the gift of surfing with his students who had ranged in age from 6 to 76! Should be no problems teaching a fit and healthy 22 year old then. Well, I spent most of the morning in the water rather than on the board, but by the afternoon I was able to stand up and ride the wave to shore. The next day I moved onto a shorter board which was much more difficult but I eventually got the hang of that too. I can't make a proper turn yet, but I definitely plan to practice more in Australia and Fiji.

The memorial displaying the names of the 202 people from around the world who died in the terrorist attacks of 2002, including brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, served as a poignant reminder of the indiscriminate way these people kill. On a Friday night we found ourselves drinking in one of the clubs which had been hit, which made us a little nervous but it was very comforting to chat to a group of Aussies (who lost 88 of their countrymen) whose general attitude was "f*ck 'em, we're still gonna come and party!". Having talked about it for weeks, on our last night together Sarah and I finally tried the local lobster which could have turned out very badly for Sarah given that her mum is dangerously allergic to crab. Fortunately a trip to hospital was not required, and we chowed down heartily on the tasty crustacean. The next day I went with Sarah to the airport and said a tearful goodbye for the second time in as many months. But this time was for real - from now until the middle of 2006 I'm on my own, without my best friend by my side.
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