Briefly Bali

Trip Start Oct 20, 2009
Trip End Apr 01, 2011

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Flag of Indonesia  , Bali,
Monday, November 1, 2010

I landed in Bali at Midnight and was greeted by the warm muggy night air and the bustling streets of Kuta. I headed straight for Kuta as it was nearest to the airport and i didn't want to venture too far into the unknown at that time of night. Still, in the busiest town on the island, littered with hotels and bedsits, i still had to walk around for about an hour and a half before i found somewhere with room, that wasn’t too expensive. Finally settling (due to heat and tiredness) on a mid range hotel, with a swimming pool and air con for about 10 a night, which whilst being expensive for Bali, was refreshingly cheap for what id been used to in Australia.

In the morning i went exploring for cheaper accommodation and entered the hektik mayhem of Kuta’s busy streets. Walking in amongst hundreds of scooters, like swarms of road-wasps, funnelling down streets which you could barely call an alley, with every guy you pass asking you to enter his store, to rent a taxi or hop on the back of their bike and every girl asking if you want a massage, it was immediately apparent why so many people dislike this town. I quite like it though, finding the whole thing quite entertaining.

After moving my bags to a cheaper hotel and being asked for a massage and a scooter about fifty-hundred times, i decided to get some fresh air, some space and get down to Kuta’s famous beach to catch some rays and catch some waves. I spent a couple of hours surfing under a thankfully overcast sky, as it was nice to escape the unrelenting power of the sun for a short time at least. Although i didn’t really manage to catch many good waves, i still had to smile at having the privilege of being able to surf the world famous surfing beach of Kuta. I was still smiling when the monsoon set in and i found myself surfing quite a surreal torrential rain-peppered landscape, encased in a grey dome or rain, barely able to see the beach.

Waking up with a tropical fruit platter, mango smoothie and three hours of surfing in the sun, is definitely something i could get used to. I have however, seen an interesting looking club night advertised on one of the Gili Islands just off Lombok, Bali’s Neighbouring island. So i spent the day trying to determine how to get to the Gili islands, if it was cheap enough and whether it was all feasible. In the end, the winning argument was "why not?", so i began to set the wheels in motion to leave Bali already, to travel to a tiny island, about 1km wide, with no transport besides horse and cart, to see the polar opposite side of Indonesia. From Bustling city, straight into the simple life on a nigh-on deserted island, for a bit of chill out time.

But i did decide to hire a scooter for my last day and explore Bali a little, in order to get a good idea of where to go next, when i return from The Gili Islands. I'm not quite done with Bali just yet. Having only seen the centre of Kuta, i expected this to be all there was, with no further western influence and no shops as we know them, just market stalls, souvenir shops and convenience stores. But then as i took one turning i had walked past many times, i was suddenly confronted with tourist central. The street was lined with western shops and shopping malls and i began to see why everyone said Kuta was too commercialised. It was a little sad to see, as it removed any character and replaced it with any old shopping centre street from any part of the western world. Not really what i came to Bali for, but very convenient none-the-less, so its all swings and roundabouts i guess.

After about an hour of getting lost, taking wrong turnings and getting stuck in extremely subtly signposted One-Way systems just trying to get out of Kuta, i realised i had left my camera behind and had to go back into the madness to get it. Back on the road and a little bit wiser, i cleared Kuta and began to buzz my way down the chaos that they call a freeway, like a manic bee, in the middle of a swarm, desperately trying to break free and get to the sweet sweet honey.

The roads around Bali, particularly in Kuta are insane. Actually insane. I'm sure there are no actual rules and anything goes. People overtake into oncoming traffic as a casual daily occurrence, traffic lights appear to be optional, roundabouts seem to work in the opposite way where people entering the roundabout have right of way, and crossroads are completely insane. There are no lights or markings, so everyone just sails across, hoping that there's nothing coming. Its weird, its like there's a moment of pure silence and time slows down as you cross the centre, just hoping that everything will be ok. Then with a storming buzz, the clattering noise of the streets returns and you zoom off into the distance happy to still be alive. There are people standing by the sides of the roads whistling and pointing at things arbitrarily, the road signs are ambiguous to say the least and sometimes I would pass giant yellow lamposts that look important as the arc over the road, with a yellow flashing light on it. What does this mean? Hopefully nothing important. No one else seems to take much notice of them, but then they dont really take much notice of anything. I have no idea how everything moving doesn't crash into everything else, but in a weird chaotic way, everything seems to work fine.

I managed to find a few little spots, pointed out by the bible, also known as the Lonely Planet Guide but they weren’t overly impressive to be honest. But once I gave up following this trail and carving my own path through the island i started to really get a feel for what Bali Life is really like. At the foot of the volcanic ranges was a smattering of local towns, straddling a winding path which cruised lazily between tropical forests, picturesque palm trees and sparkling rice paddys. A little way down this aesthetically pleasing road, it became apparent that many of the people in these towns had never really seen white people before and had probably never travelled far out of their villages. So a sunburnt white-boy, bombing through the middle of the village on a moped proved to be quite a spectacle for them. Whether they smiled happily, waved and said hello, scowled, or just looked completely baffled, pretty much every person i passed had an intriguing look to pass my way, as i cruised by, soaking in the atmosphere and admiring the Balinese architecture. Eventually finding a temple up on a hill at the end of the road, i paid my respects like a true traveller would, by taking a few pictures and then scooted back down through the villages in search of new sights.

I ended up in Badung Bai, which is the harbour which i would be departing from the next day. The town was very small, with not much to see, but i had made it just in time before the monsoon set in and found a little cafe to shelter and eat while the rain passed. Ordering Chicken Nasi Goreng, i was presented with a lump of rice, some green beans coated in lava and what looked like an anaemic cats leg. Not being a fan of spicy food and there actually being no meat on the cats leg, and it smelt of cat, i ate the rice and left as the rain subdued. Walking round the corner a truck drove by through a puddle, completely soaking me in thick black mud. Being too hot, soaking wet, muddy, hungry and feeling pretty disgruntled, i found the most western place possible and ordered some potato wedges as comfort food, while i began to question what exactly i am doing out here, travelling, and what are my intentions. Exactly how far off the beaten track did i want to go and what if all i would be greeted with are grotty little towns like this one?

 Finally the rain stopped and i dragged myself onto my bike and rode home. Passing through a nice looking holiday town which turned out to be Sanur, i decided to find some western food to quell my hunger and try to sort out my state of mind. As it turned out, i ended up ordering the nicest burger I've ever eaten and being a lot more happy with the surroundings here, with a much nicer vibe, the smile returned to my face and i felt a lot happier. Its strange how, when in strange lands, one little thing can throw off your whole state of mind and really affect the experience so much. All to be resolved by something so simple as a nice meal and comfortable surroundings.

Waking up early, at 5am for me, as my phone had updated to the wrong time-zone, making me think i had an extra hour, i began the two bus and two boat journey that would take up to Gili Air for 5pm later that afternoon. It was a shame to be leaving Bali so early, especially considering i had intended on spending about two weeks here and was leaving after only three days. But Bali had not quite been what i had expected, not that i had expected anything, but, perhaps, not as i had hoped. There is still a lot more that i want to see here, so after a short trip to the Gili Islands, ill be back again, ready to ride the waves once again and ready to tap into the true magic that this island holds at its heart.
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