Having left the tranquility of low season Kho Lanta, we found ourselves in the midst of high season Kuta Beach in Bali. We came here seeking waves.
Naomi and Keegan grew up near the beach in Santa Cruz, and are very comfortable playing in serious surf. As lovely as Kho Lanta beaches were, there was basically no surf. So we sought out an easy to reach destination with waves, which meant the South and west coast of Bali.
What we didn't realize was that Kuta, and surrounding beaches at this time of the year are more Australian than Indonesian. We sought out an Aussie sports bar to watch the Australian rugby team play in the world cup, and got into a conversation with our new friend Paul, who lives in Manley near Sydney. He began our first conversation by apologizing multiple times for the tourists from his country (I am used to doing this for America). We learned a new name "Bogan" which is the Aussie equivalent of a redneck. Paul referred to the area between Kuta Beach and the Denpasar airport as being "filled with Bogan nests". He was much more scathing than warranted by anything we witnessed, but we needed his warning and moved north with our next lodging.
Kuta was lively, crowded and commercial. The beaches are actually hard to get to, usually requiring walking by through a resort (no problem for tourists like us), or following signs through a maze between buildings to get to the beachfront road. Inevitably, these already small passages were made more claustrophobic by the timing of a motorcyclist seeking a shortcut to the beach.
But, once on the beachfront road, there is a happy confluence of really nice resorts and restaurants on the land side of the road, and multiple snack bars with great beanbag seating and umbrellas on a beautiful sand beach with serious waves. Keegan and Naomi were ecstatic!
We all took turns in the waves, though Laura and I stayed well closer in than our adventurous offspring. The first day, we were seated in the section hosted by Uncle's Bar. The hard part of this was that you to order at least one drink a piece to pay for your seat. Luckily, we had discovered Bintang Radlers, which are excellent lemon shandies - the perfect beach drink. Uncle's extorted a whole 30k rupiah for these (about $2.50).
Though walking the streets of Kuta (which involved avoiding motorbikes everywhere) was largely and exercise in saying no to commerce ("Bike?", "Sunglasses?", "Taxi, Boss?", "Hat, Miss?"). We immediately noticed the impact of Balinese Hinduism on the Indonesian community here. Many buildings looked like temples, even those which were homestays or stores. Every store had a shrine of some kind, which we saw in active use. The radio stations playing hard rock would air the call to prayer and then go back to this regular programming.
Everywhere there were the Canang Sari which are the daily offerings, consisting of specific materials for each of the three major Hindu gods, topped with some kind of offering, usually "small money". Though Indonesia is 80% Muslim, Bali is 90% Balinese Hindu, and it is woven into everything the Balinese do, no matter how Bogan-focused they might be.
Our first few days in Kuta were dedicated to the beach, the pool, laundry, catch up shopping, and even making dinner in our kitchenette one night (trying to imitate the Massamun curry from Citrus in Kho Lanta).
Laura was thrilled to discover Mugshot Coffee, whose iced coffee was much more like a coffee milkshake. I also became a fan, as they had meat pies (which bring out the British on both sides of me) that I had thought I would not encounter until Australia.
We enjoyed trying out the different restaurants, from the true Indonesian Warung on our first night (dinner for 4, with beers, for $13 US) to the lovely Mozzarella which delivered great Italian food and the tiramisu martini.
We left Kuta to get more of "the real Bali" by visiting Ubud (post about that is forthcoming) and then came back to Seminyak which is just North of Kuta Beach. Everywhere we went in Bali, we found people to be welcoming, warm, appreciative of our visit, and proud of Bali.
In spite of my earlier slagging, Bali managed to produce some very nice sunsets.