11th – 15th April 2015
With the ship to
Oz confirmed we left Sanur in a euphoric state and turned our attention towards
the notorious party town of Kuta, Bali. Based on the reviews of other travelers
neither of us were keen to stop by a district of this beautiful island
described as a hellish cesspit and mecca for morons but with a friend in town
we had little choice.
On the advice of
our English pal from Laos, Will, we checked in at the quaint and cozy Mama’s
Guesthouse. Tucked away at the entrance of a gang (alleyway) ten minutes’ walk
from the main strip and beach Mama’s offers ultra-basic but cheap lodgings.
It’s not the cleanest place I’ve stayed at but compared to the rest of Kuta
it’s pretty good although I would advise sleeping in a silk liner just in case
of bed bugs.
|Beginner Surf Spot|
If tourist board
adverts were based on popularity alone Kuta would surely feature as the islands
headliner. The problem is that if that were to happen the islands position in
the “top places to visit around the world” would probably plummet to just
behind Croydon at 2,000,000th place. Kuta is to Bali what Blackpool
is to England. You know it’s a popular destination, but you also know it
shouldn’t be. The narrow, pot hole ridden streets stink of petrol fumes
emitting from the exhaust of hundreds of bluebird cabs and scooters. Even walking
around is like taking part in a race that merges the grand national
steeplechase with scrapheap challenge. Hurdling shit stained sewers when
pathways disappear, dodging scooters that drive whichever way they please and
keeping an eye out for Yorkshire terrier sized rats whilst being heckled and
hassled by locals asking if you would like a cab, massage or a plethora of
narcotics (and this is during the daytime). Maybe someone will one day find a
cure for Wiel’s disease and these guys will finally have something worth
selling. Like Blackpool, Kuta’s best asset is the beach and really that’s the
furthest my crude comparison can stretch. The gradual sloping mass of golden
sediment stretches north from the peninsula as far as the eye can see and even
with the hordes of holiday hippos wallowing about 500 yards from their
beachside hotel complex its really easy to find a quieter spot. As with Sanur
you have to show a degree of patience and resilience when visiting the beach as
the locals take no hesitation in spending most of the day enquiring if you
would like a massage, fresh coconut, opium or a beer. Surfing lessons are
popular here due to the favorable conditions for beginners (loads of long
breaks of white waves, sand under foot and plenty of schools on offer) making
it easy to surf at your own pace. Those looking for larger surf will want to
|The second coming of Will "Jesus Christ!!!" Dadson|
Our stay in Kuta
was always planned to be brief and to be honest we wouldn't have stopped by at all
if it wasn’t for a familiar face. It had been almost six months since we had
last seen Will in Vang Vieng but finally in Mama’s Guesthouse we met up
with our English pal from Laos. He was now travelling with a friend from
home after spending some time working in Vietnam and Cambodia. It’s on nights
like these that the real benefit of travel shines through. Here was someone
that we travelled with through Laos after an eventful border crossing (those
who have read the earlier posts may remember Mr K. Unt the bribe master) for no
more than a few weeks but in that time we built up a good friendship because we
were on the same wavelength and were ultimately willing to meet new people. It always
frustrates us when you visit a hostel and nobody has the decency to even respond
to a simple greeting. Maybe their shy or just pig ignorant, who knows but one
thing is certain all travelers who have been away from home for any period of
time need someone else to talk to in order to raise spirits. Jono has recently
convinced me to start reading the Lee Child “Jack Reacher Novels” and the
popular British author really summed up the one thing all wanderers require in this one
quote from his first book of the series “Killing Floor”.
“I’d been a lonely wanderer for six
months. I’d learned something. Like Blanche in that old movie, a wanderer
depends on the kindness of strangers. Not for anything specific or material.
For morale”. - Jack Reacher
After a few formalities
and greetings we all shared stories from the last few months and ultimately
returned to where we all left off. Drinking games in a hostel bar with reggae
playing. Sitting in the hellish heart of Bali’s seediest suburb drinking,
laughing and joking, raising morale. Living the dream.
12th April 2015:
We parted ways with Will early doors. He had a crowded minibus to catch destined for Padang Bai before grabbing the fast boat to the Gili's. Jono and I hightailed it out of Kuta via private taxi to Balangan Beach. Well I say private taxi but really that's probably an overstatement. In reality it was with a local dude with a car masquerading as a cab driver. After successfully negotiating a price which clearly insulted him the driver continued to attempt to pick up other passengers to try and claw back some cash. A slightly weird situation to be in but at least it added a little comedy to the short journey.
|Balangan Beach |
|lunch time entertainment in a beachside warung|
Balangan couldn't be more opposite to Kuta. This sleepy beach bum hangout lies on an isolated headland on the northern end of the peninsula. Great coastal views and good surf abound this was the perfect spot to waste away a few days before meeting up with Storm. The only negative is that the calm is often interrupted by incoming and outgoing aircraft from Denpassar Airport.
There is a good mix of accommodation close to the beach. The cheapest option is grabbing a very basic room in one of the wooden warungs on the beach front but if your looking to spoil yourself there are many boutique guesthouses hugging the hillside.
If you want to explore the peninsula it helps to hire a scooter in Denpassar before you visit as taxi's are few and far between. We didn't have a scooter and it meant we were really limited to hanging out at the beach but I imagine the narrow, winding roads are quite fun to drive around on.
|Unexpected visitor in the hotel|
All in all Jono and I were both pleased we decided to visit the peninsula even just briefly but by the time the 15th April came around we had no choice but to return to Sanur and await the coming Storm.
|view from the warung's looking out towards the amazing cliff side golf course|
|Fishing for his supper: a local takes advantage of the steep cliffs and cooler late afternoon temperatures|
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