Sunday, June 19, 2011

Indo Part 1: Kuta and Scooters

Sorry mother. You made me promise two things when I left for Indonesia, and in my first day I broke them both. One – don't ride on a scooter, and two – don't go to any night clubs.

I have never been one for the “short vacation” style of travel but with university wrapped up and winter sneaking on in like the cold unfriendly creature it is, I decided to head for the warmer waters of Bali for two weeks. True to my usual travel form I have gone alone and with no idea what I'm doing. I figured I would meet some other surfers on the flight over, I mean it's Perth to Bali right? No such luck though, it was all families and couples heading over for their annual 3 day Kuta vacations! I don't usually go to the most touristy areas but as I stood outside the airport sweating trying to juggle my surfboards I found myself uttering those two dreaded words to the taxi driver... “Kuta, please”.

For those of you unfamiliar with Bali, Kuta is a town right near the main airport and is the hub of tourist activity. Situated next to a nice stretch of beach it's home to many hotels, bars, nightclubs and a whole load of obnoxiously drunken Australian tourists. I figured I'd spend one night here, find my feet and figure out where to go next. Finding accommodation was my first issue. It was hot, I was sweaty and the streets are narrow and filled with crazy scooter drivers and erratic traffic. Lugging my boards around was no fun so I went into the first budget accommodation I could find.

“Chempaka Losmen”, the sign read out the front. The first thing the guy at the desk tried to tell me was “minimum three night stay”. No thank you I said and went to leave. “Wait!” he tells me. “We only have one room with no bathroom.” He takes me to the room, it's dingy, dirty and FULL of a whole swarm of bugs. No thank you I tell him and go to leave.

“Wait!” he yells after me yet again. “ I have one other room!” This one is a little better (not by much) and I figure it's only for one night. I didn't realize at the time but I am the only person staying here, which is never a good thing. It has been alright though, all my stuff is still here and I don't have bed bugs. I'm still no good at using the squat style toilet in the bathroom though. Apparently co-ordination and leg muscles are two things I'm missing.

Now mum, I know I promised you I wouldn't ride on a scooter. Traffic here is crazy and my travel insurance doesn't cover scooter mishaps. But I met up with a friend of a friend from Hawaii who is stuck in Kuta waiting for his lost surfboards to be delivered by the airline and he has a scooter. We went to go find surf, him driving, me on the back and both of us holding surfboards. It was pretty fun, dodging and weaving through all the traffic and people, trying to hold onto my board without it sticking out and hitting something or someone. We did ride through a huge swarm of bugs on the way back though, that was not so much fun. I'm pretty sure I swallowed a few.

And mum, I know I said I wouldn't go nightclubbing here either. But I was curious. I was only going to pop in and see them for a few minutes. It was everything I expected, giant neon five story music blasting packed out drunken tourist dancing craziness.

It's day two of my trip and I'm sitting having a coffee waiting for my friend to wake up. Today we plan to get the five hour ferry over to the neighboring island of Lombok and hopefully score some good surf. I know it has only been one day, and I know I'm only in Kuta, but so far I really really love Indonesia. The local food is amazing, the people are friendly, the water is warm there is a certain Asian third world chaotic charm to the place. And I promise again mother, and I mean it this time, no more scooters.