We arrived in Bali on 11th January and to be honest we were a bit nervous about our time here; so far we have traveled through mostly Westernised countries and we both knew that Bali was going to be a shock to the system. However we had no idea of how much of a shock it would turn out to be.
After getting through the airport and collecting our bags we went outside and were hit by our first ever round of Asian touts. There were rows and rows, hundreds and hundreds, of taxi drivers everywhere calling to us and trying to offer us a lift into town. We had read though that these airport taxis can charge quadruple the amount and that if you walk straight through the airport car park and out into the normal street you can hail a normal taxi with a meter for a much cheaper price
. So we ignored the all the taxi drivers who were shouting at us and started to walk defiantly through the car park telling them all: "No, no we don't need a taxi, we're fine". To tell you the truth I was looking at Tom and wondering what the hell we were doing; it was 4pm, we had no accommodation booked for the night, we had no idea where we needed to go to hail a cheaper taxi and we were literally getting stalked across the car park by a group of seriously p*ssed off taxi drivers. But we merrily pressed on, pretending that we weren't bothered by any of it, and before we knew it we had found ourselves an official metered taxi and were on our way to Kuta.
The drive to Kuta was only short but we got stuck in rush-hour traffic (which seems to be 24 hours a day!) and we both sat silently in the back of the taxi staring out of the window. It was crazy outside; there were kamikaze people zipping about on scooters, whole families bundled riding down the street on one moped, babies sitting on motorcyclists knees, the streets were jam packed, there were mountains of rubbish at the side of the road. Our first glimpse of Bali, certainly didn't look like the tropical paradise we had seen in the holiday brochures. The layout of Kuta is really confusing and becomes undrivable at certain times of the day, so our taxi driver told us that he wouldn't be able to take us to our exact destination but that he would drop us off at the southern end of town, which we didn't mind because we had read in our guidebooks that taxis do that quite often in Kuta
. We were also really happy with the price for the taxi as it only turned out to be about £1.60. However when we tried to pay him we encountered our first little Asian scam. Since this first day in the taxi we have experienced this little scam quite a lot; apparently the taxi driver had no change and he just expected to us to let him keep the change for himself as some kind of tip. This has happened to us loads since we arrived in Bali and we wouldn't mind so much, but the price of the taxi was only $24,000 and he wanted to take a $76,000 tip! We ended up getting some change from one of the shops nearby, but we have learnt from this escapade to never fall for the old "oh I have no change" trick in the future. So we got dropped off at the bottom of town and even though we had to accommodation for the night, we knew the area we wanted to stay in so we headed straight up there. Walking up the main street in Kuta turned out to be a real nightmare; we got heckled by nearly every tout in town, people tried to pull us into their shops or bundle us into taxis, cars and mopeds beeped us as they drove down the street trying to sell us a lift, girls in salon door ways tried to sell us massages and pedicures. It was just crazy. The difficult part is that you have to keep on walking, if you stop in the street to check your map our guidebook you will get pounced on by touts. It probably sounds like I'm over-exaggerating but the touts here can actually be very intimidating when they come towards you in big groups; they put their arm around you, pull you towards their shop, try and take your hand. And when you are in a new town, feeling dazed and confused, carrying a heavy cumbersome backpack in the sweltering heat, the whole experience can be slightly frightening. But in the end we managed to find the road we wanted and set out to find a room for the night. We spent about 20 minutes walking in and out of the guest-houses along the street and settled on a really nice one which had a traditional Balinese courtyard which our room opened on to..
. and it only cost £9 a night! We have heard all these stories about Asia... you can find a 5* hotel for £3 a night, you can eat a 3 course dinner for £1. But we are starting to realise that those kinds of prices are exceptions to the norm and we were felt that £9 a night was a reasonable price to pay for the room we had.
That night we headed into Kuta to get some food and we were hit again by how crazy it was compared to our expectations of Bali; there were people coming up to us trying to sell us drugs in the middle of the street (which come with the death-penalty if you're caught trafficking), children barely old enough to walk were begging in the streets, prostitutes were propositioning Tom as they drove past on scooters. It was fair to say that our first night in Kuta was an eye-opener. We ended up staying in Kuta in 4 nights, during which time we went out on a tour into rural Bali (the next blog entry). By the time we left Kuta we both really needed to get some space and peace and, while we became more accustomed to some parts of life here, we were both starting to despair that the whole of Bali would be like this. So next on our agenda was to visit a place on the east coast of Bali called Sanur, which our guidebook said is a more 'family-friendly' and relaxed town. After 4 nights in Kuta we felt like we needed a holiday!
Okay so now that Tom has managed to patch our laptop back together for a while I'll type up a blog entry for our time in Kuta.