Archives for posts with tag: Kuta

The countdown has started. David and I have just 9 days left before we get on a flight back to the States. My best bud Eliza left a few days ago to head back to NYC after a fun week snorkeling on Gili Trawangan and swimming and celebrating my birthday in Kuta, Lombok. And now David and I are hunkering down with our last dollars and preparing ourselves for our next culture shock. Home.

Eliza and I on the boat to Gili Trawangan

It has been an amazing and unforgettable 5 months.

I’ve started to make a list of the things I will miss.

Dodging potholes on the motorbike. The drive at night on the motorbike back home from Yeye’s in Uluwatu, looking up at the starry sky. Sweat. Banana juice. The smell of incense. Being barefoot. Calling out “cow” or “monkey” while driving. The sound of flip-flops. Nightly rain showers. The friendliness of the Balinese. The deafening sounds of nature. The ease of starting conversations with other travelers. The smell of satay sizzling on the street. Vivid colors everywhere. Smiling and highfiving children. Ants in my food. Hearing Indonesians sing Justin Bieber. The feeling and sounds of life everywhere – plants enveloping you and thousands of bugs crawling and flying, geckos scurrying, chickens clucking and roosters crowing, rust-colored cows, algae and mud covered water buffalo, dogs barking or sleeping, leggy goats.

David and Eliza on Gili Trawangan

It’s going to be weird going home. Real life. Ugh.

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Sorry for the brief sabbatical in blog entrying. I promise I’ll be better. Since arriving back to Bali from Thailand a month ago, David and I have been incredibly busy playing host and tour guide to friends who arrived from other parts of Southeast Asia as well as friends who flew all the way from the States to visit little ol’ Dav and Taz.

David and Eliza in Nusa Lembogan

Our first arrival was my best bud and home girl Eliza O. who flew from NYC and met David and I at our trusty home at Susie’s Beach Inn in Bingin Beach. I had been looking forward to her arrival for months, and was ecstatic that this lady friend had decided to stay for a month – long enough for us to show her around most of Bali, as well as do a side trip to Gili T. and Kuta, Lombok.

The first day Eliza arrived we met up with two friends that David had met while traveling down the Vietnam coast, Dain and Tesha from San Francisco. We spent the days between swimming at the pool at their Westin Resort in Nusa Dua, and swimming in the ocean at Uluwatu and pooling it on our turf of Bingin. Dain and Tesha left a few days after and flew to Australia and are currently spending the year living out of a van and working down the coast of Aussie.

After a few days in Bingin and getting sunned out on the Bukit peninsula, we three headed up north to Ubud where we spent a few days getting us$5 massages and facials, buying monkey masks, loving a little dog we named Boners, and making a second trip to the delicious Naughty Nuri’s for some more bacon cheeseburgers and the subsequently unavoidable food comas.

Shane, Jenna, and Eliza at Espresso Bar. Kuta, Bali.

We then made a stop in Kuta where David and I planned to extend our visas as well as show Eliza the not-so-great part of tourism in Bali. Surprisingly however, we spent two nights here discovering the most-delicious-and-best-for-your-money-restaurant I have been to in Bali, the Smiling Frog, and our late-night-live-music-bar, Espresso Bar. The Smiling Frog on Jl. Benesari is an unexpected breath of fresh air in the noisy and sense-assaulting streets of Kuta. Owned by the generous and personable Alex of Italy and his wife, David, Eliza, and I stumbled upon this restaurant one evening and never looked back – frequenting at least 5 more times and raving about it to our friends. The ingredients and preparation of the food make this restaurant stand out from what would appear to be similar establishments throughout Kuta. Everything from the welcome drink to the fettucine al funghi to the chicken curry hits the palate just right, and Alex hands-down has the best arak madus I’ve tried throughout my travels. Finished by a cup of Italian coffee and the best (and also complimentary) desert of a rich, fudgy, thinly sliced chocolate cake make the whole experience a decidedly good one.

Our favorite late-night hang out spot is the Espresso Bar, a hole-in-the-wall dive that has the best (Indonesian) cover band singing renditions of everything from Lady Gaga to Rage Against the Machine, always with their own hardcore rock twist. They are a blast to watch, and the whole vibe of the place is far cooler than the nearby clubs that make you want to Purell your body. Literally, 40 year-old prostitutes in police outfits and young Australian guys in tiki skirts and Mr. Miyagi headbands. Literally.

(Left to Right) Eliza, David, Arlene, Shane, and Aram. Breakfast at Villa Kresna, Seminyak.

After Kuta we took the boat to Nusa Lembogan to chill out in the cleaner sun and sand for a few days before my good friend Aram and his friends Shane and Arlene flew from L.A. to meet us for a fun-filled 5 days in Bali. Aram helped treat David, Eliza, and I to a 2-bedroom villa with a private pool at Villa Kresna, the most beautiful hotel I have ever stayed at (and also the best breakfast). David’s friend whom he had met traveling in Vietnam – Jenna from San Francisco – also joined us for some time while we were in the Seminyak area. I had some of the best days of my trip hanging out and going on adventures throughout southern Bali with our gang. Thank you guys so much.

Aram and David walking on Uluwatu beach, Bali.

And now it’s back to David, Eliza, and I. Tomorrow we head to the Gili Islands and then to Kuta, Lombok to relax for a bit and show Eliza my favorite spots of Indonesia (so far). It has been a great experience and a fun time being the tour guide to both friends and acquaintances for the past month. Some people have already been traveling for months in Asia and are just on a stop in Indonesia; some are on a short work vacation from the States; some people have traveled a lot in their lives, and others not at all. Regardless, sharing my knowledge about traveling (especially if it is my favorite place in the world) – whether it is about the people, the food, the language, the environment, the religion – gives me a rush. Perhaps it’s an adequate reason for not noticing that I hadn’t posted a blog entry in a while. Too busy doing what I love.

Today David and I made a realization. We only have 3 weeks left of this epic adventure of ours. I don’t think either of us are ready to say good-bye quite yet.

….And my birthday is in 5 days!

Kuta, a small beach town on the south end of Lombok, has perhaps become my favorite town in Indonesia over the years. I’ve spent a lot of time here – always staying longer than I anticipated.

The landscape differs from Bali almost completely. Relative to Bali, Lombok is full of rolling hills and mountains – lush green cascading down hillsides like a thick moss – and ribbons of white sand beaches at every turn. There are farms, cattle, winding roads, rice fields, and smiling children who slap you five as you zoom by on your motorbike.

a young girl comes to say 'Hi'.

A house set in the rice fields

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The air is much drier here than the rest of Lombok. The days are sunny and hot with the exception of an occasional rainstorm in the late afternoon. Dav and I often start the day by taking our motorbikes along the coast roads looking for a different hidden white sand beach. At many of the beaches, the waves gently lick the sand, leaving a soft layer of white foam before heading back to sea. We stop for a while when we find a good spot, take a dip and maybe a nap. We might stay there for a while, or we may cruise to the delicious vegetarian restaurant Ashtari, or the family run Sonya’s.

The view from Ashtari

Back at our hotel, I sometimes play volleyball with the staff of the Novotel, or challenge David to a ping pong game, or swim in the hotel pools, or take a yoga or cooking class. There never seems to be a dull moment here. Even if you don’t have a plan for the day you can just take your motorbike down one of the many potholed roads and find yourself on a deserted beach, a small fishing village, or at the steppes of a rice paddy. You might spot a tanned surfer cruising by with his surf board, and before long find yourself at Grupuk or another surfer’s haven. Bumping along a sandy beach path, you might be stopped by a grazing family of oxen, oblivious to your presence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kuta is paradise. The laid back atmosphere and the few tourists allow the area to feel as if it’s your own. It is a place I look forward to visiting many times to come and I hope this beautiful area stays as it is, although the encroaching resorts and new airport threaten the environment here.

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.