Arriving at our home for the next week, Nakula Guesthouse, we were pleasantly surprised. Despite it's location just off the main strip, it was incredibly traditional and exactly how you would expect a Balinese house to look. Archways covered in flowers, ceremonial offerings in the centre of the courtyard and small sculptures dotted around the surrounding streets. We were greeted by the lovely owners at the outdoor reception to then be taken up to our private room complete with balcony (so far, so good). Apart from a minor glitch with some malfunctioning air conditioning (not great in the 35degree heat of Kuta- far too hot for us Brits), it was pretty much a perfect place to base ourselves for a week of relaxation.
I'm not going to write this blog as a narrative because to be honest, a lot of what we did was the same each day. That's not to say we didn't have a great time, but for readers it might not be the most interesting. Here are our Kuta highlights and some memorable things we saw and did:
Ate and Drank too Much
Kuta has a surprisingly wide culinary selection, although be warned, for the budget backpacker it definitely doesn't cost the same as Indochina. With the heavy tourist influence, prices have risen accordingly and the 10-20% tax and service charges add up quickly! Saying that, we did manage to eat very well during our time here, with both Indonesian and Western food being of a consistently high standard, some particular favourites were:
Chatime- an amazing Asian chain of drinks including smoothies, fresh iced teas and coffees with a range of toppings including delicious jelly! Think we made a stop pretty much every day at the stall outside discovery mall
Beer Bintang which is a surprisingly good local beer. We had to limit our consumption due to the relatively high pricing but managed to treat ourselves to a few from a guy selling them out of a cooler on the beach. Best enjoyed while watching the sunset.
Seafood is understandably good and not too expensive- we managed some good snapper and mahi mahi at a beachfront restaurant (with an additional bonus of traditional Balinese dance), tuna steak burgers, king prawn noodles and tuna steaks with garlic and fries.
Local dishes including Nasi Goreng, Satay and Mie Goreng are definitely cheaper than western fare and widely available. Thought we'd tried rice and noodles in every way possible but apparently there's still new cooking methods to sample. Head to the warungs for the cheapest and best food (mostly around Poppies Lane), don't be put off by the stray cats in the restaurants begging for food.
The odd few indulgences including Wendy's serving surprisingly good fast food (tried it in America but Rob hadn't so we couldn't resist), Oreo doughnuts from the local bakery and copious amounts of lemon iced tea (don't know how I'll cope at home where this isn't so widely available)!
Splashed around in the huge waves on Kuta Beach
Despite not rising until noon most days (catching up on missed sleep from the last 3 months), we still managed to fit in a fair amount of beach time. After a few minutes spent on Kuta Beach, you understand why the surfers head here. The waves are ginormous and it's far too much fun to jump around in them. When we weren't doing this we were basking in the beautiful weather, avoiding the hawkers selling tat on the beach (although Rob was tempted by a Buddha head bigger than his own) and watching the hundreds of surfers and secretly laughing when they fell off. Normally the beach days were capped off by watching the sunset over the ocean and taking a leisurely stroll along the boardwalk.
Surprisingly, the cultural elements of Bali still reach the beach and we saw several processions walking along it, normally headed by people in traditional Balinese masks with hundreds of people in white carrying incense.
Spent too much time walking up and down the Kuta Strip
Kuta Strip is huge and with us based at one end we tended to spend a lot of time walking up and down it. Not only is it huge, but it's incredibly difficult to navigate with never-ending building work on the pavements and an army of hawkers scouting tourists.
The most persevering of these are perhaps the ladies offering massages (who also seem to be keeping an eye out for men to be their new western boyfriends) who greet you with a chorus of 'hello darling' whenever you walk past.
Next up are the market traders selling some amazingly hilarious t-shirts, wooden carved penises, novelty stickers and the usual tourist tat. Everyone assumed we were Australian so greeted us with 'g'day mate' or 'crikey'....stereotypes at large. First quoted souvenir prices are insane so start off at 10% and work from there. They pretend to be angry but won't sell if you go too low. Normally we just got shouted at that we 'don't understand Bali prices'.
Apart from these, we got various other offers including taxis, day tours, shuttles, surveys to fill in, competitions to enter; when these don't work you get the more stealthy offers of magic mushrooms and cannabis- not your run of the mill travel services.
All up the strip there are more restaurants than you can count, ranging from ultra-budget dives to the poshest of establishments. They all have people outside trying to bring the tourists in, sometimes doubling up as security guards. Live music is also everywhere with some questionable tribute acts including the Rolling Stones and the Bali Beatles. A lot of them also have pools, something of a hazard when a lot of people have indulged in too many Bali Moon cocktails.
Apart from this, we took one day tour out, not being able to help ourselves or waste a whole week on pure relaxation (see next blog for the return to sightseeing) but for the most part we enjoyed a week of 'tourist hell' in Kuta although don't go for anything other than fun.