As I flew into Bali for my one month visit on one of the most turbulent flights I had ever experienced, I tried to remember the last time I had been here. I think it was 2012 or 2013 but I cannot be sure. I wondered if much had changed.
Arriving at the airport, I made my way to the supposedly official taxi counter where they quoted what seemed to be an extortionate price. I knew from my pre-destination-research what the going rate was supposed to be so I declined and was left to deal with the hordes of taxi drivers outside competing for my business. I eventually managed to haggle a price that seemed a bit more reasonable with a very sketchy, unofficial looking driver but fortunately he dropped me off near my hotel without robbing or kidnapping me. I later discovered on checking again that the article I had read showing what the prices were supposed to be was from 2003 so the taxi counter were in fact quoting the correct 2018 price, increased over 15 years of inflation. I had actually negotiated a very cheap price, well below the current market rate i.e the 2003 rate.
I used the phrase “near my hotel” in the above paragraph because after the taxi driver dropped me off, it took me over 45 minutes to find the place. It wasn’t where my map said it was, it was several hundred metres down the road up a dark, long alleyway. When I finally got into my room, I discovered that both the WIFI and the Air Conditioning didn’t work properly. Now I am British which means I don’t usually complain to service staff about these types of issues – I just put up with the issue and have a moan about it to my friends or family instead later in the pub, or just feel bitter about it inside. However, on this occasion it was 30 degrees outside and hotter then that in my windless room so after debating for another 30 minutes or so I decided to go and have a whinge. This was an excellent decision as I was upgraded to a room which was double the size, had a fully functioning and blissfully cool air conditioning unit, a balcony and strong, stable WIFI. What did I learn from this? – Moan more. I might just get an upgrade. I guess that might be why some older people occasionally grumble a bit more – they have already learnt this valuable life lesson which I did that day. Anyway, to return the favour I did leave them with a nice review.
I was in Kuta to meet my brother who was flying to Indonesia probably somewhere over the middle east right then. I sent him some messages in the hope he might clock onto the WIFI when he got the airport to tell him about the confusing location of the hotel but he didn’t and he went through the exact same process as me – difficult negotiations with the taxi drivers (he arrived very late at night so he paid the 2037 rate), dropped off in the wrong place and spent nearly 1 hour looking for the hotel. I had decided to wander around the streets outside in case I spotted him and sure enough, I bumped into him in the street searching in the wrong alleyway a few hundred metres down the road.
That night, we did what you are supposed to do when you are in Kuta, Bali and haven’t seen someone for a while. We went out drinking copious amounts of the local beer, Bintang, until the early hours of the morning and then woke up and did very little the next day, suffering heavily from the after effects of……..drinking copious amounts of the local beer, Bintang, until the early hours of the morning. Why did we do this to ourselves? I can’t answer that – only the higher being or evolutionary mechanisms that designed me has the answer.
Anyway, we had made it to Bali!
The day after we recovered from the obligatory Kuta hangover, we decided to rent some motorbikes and head down to Uluwatu. Unfortunately, on the way down we somehow lost each other as the roads were busy and we took different turnings, I was unable to turn back as it was a one way. I was a little worried as we didn’t have local sim cards yet so couldn’t call each other but when I reached Uluwatu he was there waiting in the main beach car park and we found some accommodation.
As if to punish us for daring to try and escape a nasty UK winter, the weather in Ulutwatu lashed out at us with rain and wind and there was also no surf so to find something to do, we took a hike to a cliff’s edge to visit the Uluwatu temple which had some pretty amazing views and a lot of cheeky monkeys. The reason I described them as cheeky is that the monkeys in this place have an ingenious system going where they will steal items from tourists by sneaking up behind them such as their sunglasses, mobile phones and even handbags. They will return the items but only in exchange for some fruit. Conveniently, fruit is sold by the locals on site although you can apparently ask the monks at the temple to help as well. Although I would have been annoyed if they had stolen something from me, I was very impressed by the intelligence demonstrated by this bartering style of behaviour. Later, we just rode around on the motorbikes, visited some beaches and had a few beers.
Unfortunately, I did also come off my motorbike when driving down a very wet, slippery area near Bingin but I came out fine with just a small scratch on my ankle. I was more worried about the bike in case they tried to charge me for damage. The bike did have some damage, a part of it cracked off but I couldn’t be sure if it had been like that before or not as it was a pretty run down, old bike!
I have two brothers and we still had two more days until we were due to meet brother number 3, so after a little bit of a chat with my mate Google, we decided to go off the beaten track a little bit and stay in a random place called Jimbaran which was supposed to have a nice beach, surf and good restaurants etc. Unfortunately, Google had lied to us and we had made a bit of a mistake coming here as neither of us really liked Jimbaran but we tried our best to make the most of it. There is nothing really to report about this place – not much going on, it’s just a fishing village and lots of tourist buses come here to eat at the seafood restaurants dotted along the beach. I don’t like seafood and it was hard to find anything else to eat. Beach is ok but a lot of rubbish about. I am sure it would be nice if you were staying in one of the fancy, expensive resorts on the hills and these are probably the people who left the good reviews but we were staying in the rough part of downtown Jimbaran. There was still no swell but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway as there was nowhere around to rent a surfboard. I was glad we were only staying a day. We did go on a few nice motorbike rides in the area and had a few swims in the sea and some beers at a beach bar.
We had finished the southern loop we were on and it was back to Kuta to meet our other brother. The first memorable thing I did in Kuta was cause some carnage in a Swiss style restaurant by bashing my head on a chandelier which then (in full slow motion) proceeded to fall down from it’s hangar and smashed everywhere with a bang that seemed far too loud for what had occurred. I apologised to them trying to avoid the stares of all the other patrons and they told me not to worry about it. I didn’t feel at fault in any case as they had placed the table we were sitting on right below the chandelier and so I slept easily that night with a guilt free conscience and I woke in the morning with a slight bump on my head and we met our other brother.
That day we explored Kuta, went to the beach, got sunburnt and ended up at a beach bar. After 3 months of me trying to avoid the ladies on the beaches trying to sell me a wide variety of beauty treatments and massages, my younger brother got well stuck in on day one and opted for the whole works – massages, pedicure, manicure, bracelets etc. We had a few drinks that night and after a very interesting discussion on the merits of using a bum gun versus toilet paper in South East Asia we booked our transport to Nusa Lembongan and it was time to explore some of the islands off the coast of mainland Bali.
I have been to Indonesia twice before and it seemed to be the same, the people seemed friendly as always and I was starting to remember why I loved this paradise island. They do, however, now seem to have a visible plastic rubbish problem now on some of the tourist beaches of mainland Bali which washes up from the sea at this time of year due to the currents. I could see first hand that they do try their best to clean it up from the beaches but (as a local near our beach bar explained to us) it is a futile task as once it is cleaned, more plastic rubbish washes up the next day. I don’t remember that from last time and it was the first time I had seen in full view the issues that plastic pollution can cause. I felt sorry for the locals who had to put up with it and I hoped it wouldn’t get worse. Obviously, a bigger concern is for the damage it may cause to the marine wildlife. For the record, the problem only occurs on the beaches for a couple of months a year during the rainy season when the currents change and there are many beaches it doesn’t effect so it certainly shouldn’t put anyone off coming here but it was sad to see this on such a beautiful island. Anyway, I am not trying to be some sort of plastic pollution warrior here but I will definitely try and reduce my own consumption of plastic where I can after seeing these types of effects and I am not quite so angry that they charge me 5 pence for a plastic bag back home now!
Anyway, the plan was to go to Nusa Lembongan, maybe Nusa Penida, Gili Trawagan and Gili Air taking a total of 8 – 10 days before heading back to mainland Bali.
Solo Travel is great but travelling with other people – especially family – was a welcome change.
Next post: Islands around Bali, Indonesia – Nusa Lembongan, Gili Trawagan and Gili Air.