We are here! Months of anticipation, and David and I are finally in our first week on Bali.

The palm offerings found in front of every house and establishment in Bali

It is HOT. Every day is around 85°F with 80% humidity, but after the initial few days you begin to get used to it.

After arriving at the airport, David and I humped our bags out of the airport to get a cheap(er) taxi to Kuta. Kuta is something that most people will never experience. It was Bali’s first beach resort and now it has turned into a tacky, overdeveloped tourist area that is completely disorienting. If I had ever been to Cabo or Cancun for spring break I might compare Kuta to those. A tourist trap, is swarms with hawkers selling anything from transport (taxis) and massages, to mushrooms and hashish. The streets are lined with restaurants and bars, many of them catering to the large population of Aussies that come here for holiday. There are also a plethora of big surf companies, and fast food chains like KFC, Starbucks, and Coffee Bean. And of course the hundreds – if not thousands – of family run tourist shops selling cheap “I Love Bali” t-shirts, coozies, bags, towels, boardshorts, you name it. In Kuta you can find it all.

During the day you walk the streets being bombarded by someone selling something, while at night the nightclubs open their doors to the many young Aussies who are back from a day of beaches and surf to party the night away to the rhythmic beats of American and British pop music, chanting “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, ya, ya, ya!” as if their presence had gone unnoticed.

It gives you a headache.

David and I were only able to stand Kuta for 2 nights. I had booked a room in advance since Kuta is close to the airport, and it serves as a tourist hub – a good jumping off point to go to other places. It’s fun to pass through, or maybe go for a night on the town, but Dav and I were too exhausted after days of traveling to find more energy to live in this bustling façade of Bali.

This is my sixth time to Bali, but I usually frequent the same towns – Ubud, Nusa Dua, Uluwatu (and right next door at Padang Padang and Bingin beaches). Needing to get out of Kuta, David and I agreed to go to Sanur, a smaller beach community on the Southeast part of the island that is home to a large ex-pat population and is also the point of departure to Nusa Lembogan, a small island off of Bali known as a haven for those living on a shoestring budget where bungalows line the beach and the main tourist activities are snorkeling and diving in the reefs just offshore, and the handful of good surf breaks. These places sounded perfect to us.

We took a shuttle bus from Kuta to Sanur, and having no hotel reservations, we were initially turned down at the budget places we had in mind since it was the start of the weekend.  Not worried about finding a place (Bali IS tourism, and sometimes it seems that people here will rent out their own house before you are left without shelter), Dav and I began walking down the main drag of Sanur with our 40lb. backpacks and soon we were approached by an older Balinese man promising a free ride and a cheap room with air-conditioning. Debating for a few moments (so far the Lonely Planet had been our bible), we finally loaded our gear into the van and a few minutes later found ourselves walking down a small gang (an alley only wide enough for foot traffic and motorbikes) to Gustav’s Bed & Breakfast, a small, newly renovated, and family-run accommodation. It is the small hotels off of the main road where you tend to find the best deals and true hospitality.

Sanur was a nice break from Kuta. We walked down the main streets, doing a bit of shopping, visiting the local supermarket, walking along the beach, and going on our first swim in the ocean that felt like bathwater.

The other night at dinner, David and I met a Californian couple who were on an 8-month trip around Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific islands. They were spending 2 months in Bali and we immediately connected with them and started sharing stories and future plans. One night, sharing a meal with them they had gotten at a local market and washing it down with Bintangs (the local beer) and Arak (the local rice liquor), we made some loose plans to go to the outer islands together. But first we wanted to check out the beautiful island of Nusa Lembogan, which we planned on doing the following day. It’s funny to think that all we wanted to do when we got to Bali was relax for a bit after the long voyage here, and now it is as if we can’t see enough. Bali – and the greater Indonesia – is full of different environments, people, and cultures and David and I want to see as much as possible. Tomorrow we go to Nusa, but hopefully after we return to Bali we will slow our roll and saturate ourselves in a town of our choosing, and get the real Balinese experience.