When I told people I was visiting Bali, they didn’t know the country it belonged to (Indonesia for those who don’t), some thinking it was its own country. Goes to show how well known Bali is, giving me such high expectations. I was to be thoroughly disappointed.
My time in Bali was divided into two segments, first when I arrived from Australia on the 30th of December, spending New Years there. The second, a few weeks later totaling 2 weeks. This post discusses my first stint. I flew at 7pm from Darwin, leaving Oz and into one of the most anticipated countries on my list, Indonesia, landing in Bali at around 9pm.
A disclaimer; I absolutely love Indonesia throughout, except Bali. More specifically the region of Kuta in the South. This was just not what I was looking for. The reasons for which are immediate after arriving at the airport. I had the address of a cheap hostel, just needed to get there. I’m sure there was some forms of public transport, however I didn’t have the energy or patience, and dragging my bags the distance was out of the question. I might as well get a taxi, I knew Indonesia was cheap anyway. But where was I supposed to catch a taxi? Stupid question really as the entire front of the airport was mobbed by taxi drivers shouting
“Hello yes taxi?”
“Hey friend where you going?”
Here’s the first reason for disliking Bali. Every day you’re approached by countless amounts of merchants trying to sell me anything and everything. Politely rejecting one man only to step 2 feet before another asks if I’d like to buy the exact same thing. You can only politely say no for so long.
I went around the corner of the airport to try and avoid the horde of drivers to get my bearings
“Where you going my friend?”
This would be my taxi driver. I showed him the address and asked for a price
Now I’d JUST gotten there, and still wasn’t to grips with the conversion rate. Some quick calculation, it was just under £20 for a couple of miles to the middle of Kuta. Could be the pressure of him staring me in the face as I tried to do my mental arythmatic, or simply having no energy. I accepted.
That quickly brings me to the second reason for disliking Bali. Being scammed, all-the-fucking-time. Now I COMPLETELY understand, and I don’t blame them for it. If I was them, living in near poverty, and I saw a gullible, fat-wallet tourist come to town, I’d rip the poor bastard off too! However doesn’t change the fact that its pretty annoying. Especially straight upon arrival. When travelling BACK to the airport, I got the same journey for 100,000 rupiah…
My arrival at the hostel was a crash course introduction to life in Indonesia. I’d left the efficient, ordered life of Australia long behind. It was 11pm as I walked through the wide open door (bare this in mind) into the hostel, which from the inside resembled more of a courtyard with 2 floored wooden shacks forming a wall around a tiled pool at the end. The reception was a 2 walled desk that stood in-front of the length of grass before the pool. There was nobody around except for 2 backpackers asleep upon a single dinning table with empty bottles around them. I waited for about 15 minutes with no sign of anyone. I waited impatiently until one of the German backpackers asked:
“Have you booked a room?”
“No I’m looking for one”
“The woman’s just left…she’s gone home”
So there I find myself, fucked. I had no way of finding another hostel, I could be walking around for hours trying to find one. Taxi’s long gone and no idea where or how to get another. To my salvation, and absolute surprise the German said
“Just go upstairs and take a bed”
I looked at him perplexed. Surly I cant just walk into a room and commandeer a bed?
“Just sort it out with her in the morning, it’ll be fine man”
Due to the circumstances, I felt I had no choice. On the right, through the front door, there was a wooden set of stairs which led to the top floor above the reception/dining room/garden entrance combo. How am I going to get in the room without a key/code or whatever they use? Turns out it wasn’t a problem, as the stairs led directly to where the beds were. It suddenly struck me, if I can walk off the streets, and climb into bed, any thief or criminal could! The whole arrangement was bizarre, but I was too tired to argue.
My itinerary was quite simple, 2 days in Bali before catching my next flight. The next day was New Years. For the first day, I kept it nice and simple, having a quick look around the beach and surrounding area, as I guessed that would be the centre of activity. Walking lost for an hour and a taxi ride later I found tourist central. Quite far from the hostel, about a 45 minute walk. Once I started to see the many thousands of shops selling the usual beach/touristy crap, I knew I’d arrived. Here came another strong dislike for me about Bali, the endless hassle from local merchants.
“Hello my friend you want new t-shirt”
“Hey my man come in, come in”
Constantly harassed by these locals desperate to overcharge for unnecessary crap. Waving you in the direction of their stalls and wares, even occasionally trying to grab my arm, pulling me inside. That definitely gets too much.
I indulged in one aspect I do approve of Bali life, the multitude of different bargain massage places! After 5 long weeks of bags dragging down against my shoulder and back, it was needed. An hour-long full body massage for less than £5, pure heaven. There isn’t a shortage of them to choose from either, along every street you’d hear the call “Helloooo massaaaaage?”.
The next day, New Years Eve, and the pressure was on, I needed a plan. I couldn’t very well spend New Years with an early night could I? After a quick browse of the tourist packed avenue, indulging in smoking inside a bar (something that felt completely unnatural), I made my way back to the hostel, still without a plan.
Time was running short, it was mid-afternoon and it seemed I would spend New Years alone. I sat down in the hostels courtyard and started talking to an Australian sat next to me, Benny. A few Bintang’s and cigarettes later we’d come to the conclusion our night would be spent together. I also met a friend of Benny’s, and Indonesian girl living in Bali, Pamela. These two would be my compadres for the evening.
By mid-evening the plan was to travel to another local hostel they both knew to meet up with some friends. That’s when Pamela held a set of scooter keys in front of my complete blank stare. The three of us would have to travel to the hostel; one motorbike and Pamela’s scooter, which she couldn’t ride with someone on the back of. This meant that I would have to ride her scooter.
Two points here: 1) I’d never driven a scooter in my life, and my first time would be on the chaotic streets of Bali where order does not exist 2) Back home I’d be legally drunk and arrested for riding in such condition, something that doesn’t matter in Indonesia. Apparently its completely fine to drive a car/motorbike when pissed off your tits, as long as you don’t cause an accident. Madness.
So there I was, helmet-less, performing my driving test along the 200 meters of quite road from my hostel leading to the mainroad where swarms of scooters and cars weaving between the lanes rushed by. Safe to say I was fucking terrified, and my expression showed it. Travelling at possibly 20 mph, but feeling like I was doing a million.
After riding maybe 15 minutes and loosing 25 litres of sweat in total fear, mercifully we arrived safe and sound. The hostel we’d be spending our night was completely unnoticeable from the road, you wouldn’t of known it was there. It was only recently started by a young local Indonesian, very basic, but with a bar of cold Bintangs, it was all I needed. The owners were even kind enough to feed every one of us, eating just like a local with our bare hands, which was a new and frankly a better experience. We spent our night there and as tradition dictates we got well and truly hammered, in the company of Indonesian’s, Indians, Germans, Swedes, Australians and Russians. The thick accented Russian girl also brought out a shisha pipe that fit so well in the environment.
We depleted the small bar of all possible form of alcohol until 11pm, quickly panicking in the realisation we would miss midnight. We headed to the beach, where the firework display would be. Benny, Pam and I stumbled our way through the crowds, with 5 minutes to spare we arrived at Kuta beach where I entered 2017 watching the fireworks very far from home. No health & safety official was seen here. Locals selling handfuls of enormous rockets “one dolla sir, only one dolla” to pissed tourists, resulting in several exploding within the crowds, momentarily turning the beach into a warzone.
The rest of the night was spent on the main strip of Bali, the filthy, Ibiza/Magaluf-style streets repulsed. Sure, for the night out that I was on, great, bar after bar, club after club, the odd fairground ride stuck inbetween young children begging, selling home-made bracelets lined up their arms. Or the constant call of “Hey boss, mushrooms? You want coke? Hey man ecstacy you like?” which I seemed to attract from every dodgy looking guy. I was quite excited to experience a club at Indonesian prices. Turns out, not so cheap, may as well be back west. Extortionate entry prices with absolutely ridiculous drinks prices which caused the night to be ended prematurely.
Waking up the next morning at roughly 11am, with a monstrous hangover, I had a long list of plans. I needed a supply of anti-malarials, needed to research where I could extend my visa on my next visit to Bali, etc. The next day I would get my next flight. Luckily, by some divine miracle, Benny asked me
“When’s your flight tomorrow?”
Not 100% sure I checked my papers, where my stomach dropped through my arse. My flight was THAT DAY, at 1pm. I dropped to my knees in a rushed panic shoving everything into my bags with a soundtrack of
“SHIT! SHIT! SHIT!!!”
I hurriedly scuttled as quickly as I could with 25+ kilo’s dragging me down to the main road and tried waving down a taxi. Funny how I’d been asked a million times “Transport?” in my time there but couldn’t get any when I needed it.
Eventually I got my ride with time to spare to the airport. I made my way inside and looked for my flight on the board. Several increasingly stressed looks at the board and my boarding papers confirmed my flight wasn’t on there. I tried to look around for any official looking individual. Eventually I found an information desk
“You need to go to the domestic terminal”
An agonising 20 minute walk with a river of sweat and I was finally where I was supposed to be. Passing through security was made that more difficult due to the panicked-sweaty look I brought with me through the scanners.
That concluded my first eventful stint in Bali, and onto my next island, Flores, to Labuan Bajo