Bali series: Kuta

Gates to Kuta main beach

Gates to Kuta main beach

Alex and I are enjoying a beach break in Bali, Indonesia. Yesterday we enjoyed our first day in the comfort of the complex which is the Grand Balisani Suites Hotel.

Today we plan to travel into nearby Kuta where we can explore the local beach, the Bali Bombings Memorial and see what Bali shopping has to offer.

After our complimentary hotel breakfast of cereal and pancakes, we catch the complimentary hotel shuttle bus into Kuta for an afternoon of shopping and exploring.

Kuta according to Wikitravel:

Kuta is the best known tourist resort area on the island of Bali in Indonesia and has a great surfing beach

With a long broad Indian Ocean beach-front, Kuta was originally discovered by tourists as a surfing paradise.

It has long been a popular stop on the classic backpacking route in South East Asia. Back in the 1980s they used to talk about the three Ks: Katmandu in Nepal, Khao San Road in Bangkok and Kuta. Today Kuta still attracts some hardcore backpackers as well as families and tourists from all over the world, and is most notably a playground for young visitors from Australia.

Due to the ever increasing popularity of Bali, Kuta is continually developing, and is not short of unsightly, poorly planned buildings. It can come across at times to be chaotic, overcrowded and congested. However, amongst all the mayhem this place somehow works, and hundreds of thousands of visitors enjoy their time in Kuta every year.

Infrastructure has come a long way in Kuta, although it is still insufficient for the amount of visitors who stay in the area. Some side alleys still have significant potholes and road rules still don’t mean very much. Most roads are constantly busy with motor scooters, metered taxis and private cars. Instead of using signals, locals and the seasoned travellers honk their motor vehicles to signal overtaking or squeezing into a tight spot near you. Often cars fold in their side mirrors when negotiating narrow single lanes with parked vehicles. Touts will persistently try to get you to buy something from them, whether you’re walking on the streets or seated in a restaurant.

The five km long sandy stretch of Kuta is arguably the best beach front in Bali. The beach is safe, partially clean, well-maintained, although the beach vendors remain annoying pushing massages, hair braiding, cigarettes and surf boards. The long wide stretch of sand is often full of sunbathers and although most of the serious surfers have moved on to newer pastures, there are still plenty of surf dudes around at most times of the year, and especially so during peak season. As you move north along the beach to first Legian and then Seminyak and Petitenget it becomes progressively quieter and less frenetic.

With a few traffic jams along the way, our mini bus trip from Seminyak to Kuta takes about 30 minutes. We pass trucks with passengers travelling on the top and trucks with chickens that look like they are ready to pass over to the next life… poor chickens.

From our shuttle bus drop off point in Kuta we head straight to the main beach where we are immediately offered cold drinks and chairs. While it looks inviting, we need to explore first and, after a quick survey of the beach, head back into the chaos of the street life.

We head down a side street lined with clothing vendors. The first thing on my shopping list are some sun dresses. “How much?” (I ask with a smile). “IDR$150,000”. I am told by the gentle balinese lady. She quickly follows this up with “What your price?” So, after (minimal) negotiation on my part, we agree on two dresses for IDR$200,000 (AUD$20). Still too much but I am happy enough with that.

How’s your shopping list looking Alex? Alex has scored some shorts for a fair price. We walk on in search of somewhere nice for lunch. We happen across a cool surfer bar tucked down a laneway. This is obviously backpacker territory with many young men around, going to or coming from the beach. Our lunch costs us IDR$150,000 (AUD$15).

Now we head towards ground zero and the memorial to the victims of the 2002 Bali bombings.

According to Wikipedia:

The 2002 Bali bombings occurred on 12 October 2002 in the tourist district of Kuta on the Indonesian island of Bali. The attack killed 202 people (including 88 Australians, 38 Indonesians, 27 Britons, 7 Americans, 6 Swedish citizens and 3 Danish citizens). A further 240 people were injured.

Various members of Jemaah Islamiyah, a violent Islamist group, were convicted in relation to the bombings, including three individuals who were sentenced to death. The attack involved the detonation of three bombs: a backpack-mounted device carried by a suicide bomber; a large car bomb, both of which were detonated in or near popular nightclubs in Kuta; and a third much smaller device detonated outside the United States consulate in Denpasar, causing only minor damage. An audio-cassette purportedly carrying a recorded voice message from Osama Bin Laden stated that the Bali bombings were in direct retaliation for support of the United States’ war on terror and Australia’s role in the liberation of East Timor.

We wander past Padi’s Pub and stop for a drink at a pub across from Surfer Girl. My small Bintang costs IDR$35,000 (AUD$3.50).

More walking past more shops selling more of the same stuff. Most of the shops are selling clothes, shoes, perfumes, wallets and massages. Shop after shop call to us as we approach… “hello”, “hello Boss”… each wanting us to look, to buy. We pass each shopkeeper with a smile, a polite “hello” and a firm “no thank you”.

We have done a full circle of the main Kuta area and finish our day back at the main Kuta beach. We find a balcony cafe called the Black Canyon Coffee. We start with a cold drink and decide to stay for dinner.

Our balcony view gives just enough clearance over the citadel like beach wall.

The surfers continue to surf until the last threads of daylight disappear.

Now is when the town starts to light up, literally and takes on the feel of one giant market place where everything is affordable.

Bali side streets after dark

Bali side streets after dark

We finish our day in Kuta via Poppies II laneway and on reaching the main thoroughfare hail the first blue metered taxi we find.

“To Seminyak? Grand Balisani?” “Meter?”

The answer is yes to both and we jump in for our 30 minute journey back along the narrow roads to Seminyak.

Our taxi driver is pleasant, uses his indicator a lot (which is both unusual and comforting) and has a comfortable car.

I ask how much if he drives us to Ubud tomorrow, wait for us while we look at the temple and the drive us back.

I think we agree on a AUD$50 fee.

We make arrangements for him to pick us up the day after next at 10:00am. He shakes our hand and appears happy with the arrangement.

For previous Bali series see Grand Balisani Suites Hotel
For next Bali series link stay tuned…