We stepped off the plane into a humid, muggy airport and felt the first wave of excitement hit us. Unfortunately I’d managed to spend $30 before even leaving the country, so my wallet was feeling somewhat lighter. Ah well, the 1L bottle of rum we’d bought did reassure me that we weren’t going to be poisoned by the infamous ‘arak’ (cheaply brewed Balinese alcohol that can be fatal…) or tempted into buying any dodgy cocktails.
And so, three hours and forty minutes later, we’d made it. We met our poor friend who’d been slowly losing her mind loitering at the airport, exchanged our money and “negotiated” a taxi- a rather stressful experience when you have Indonesian men harassing you from all angles. It turned out we got hideously ripped off anyway.
Once we were on our way, we spent a good few minutes loudly and ignorantly figuring out the dollar-rupiah exchange rate- which was unnecessarily confusing. Maths A level certainly didn’t help me out. Having finally figured out that 100,000 rupiah is $10 (I think), the taxi driver asked us if we’d been to Bali before. Oblivious to the fact that you’re always meant to answer ‘yes’ to this question, I wryly answered “Can’t you tell?” My shrewd friends were more on the ball, and replied ” lots of times, but we have to re-figure out the currency”‘ so I’m hoping my sardonic comment was lost in translation. They soon got carried away, however, and remarked: “isn’t it amazing that we’re actually here- it would never occur to me to come to this place”, before quickly realising and adding “apart from the fact we’ve come here loads of times before!” Smooth.
Apart from that hiccough, we made it safely to the hostel, beads of sweat rolling down our faces from the intense humidity (despite the fact it was 1am). Our room was the furthest possible room away from reception, and during that painfully long five minute walk I was thinking “let’s hope this strange man actually is leading us to our room!” After going down a dodgy
alleyway, past some bins, and simultaneously tripping over a bump in the road, we made it.
Our place was humble and sparsely decorated, with two colourful pictures on the wall illustrating a desperate attempt to detract from the suspicious brown stains on the walls. It was also advertised as a four person dorm, but unless I’m ridiculously blind (which I kinda am), there were most definitely only two beds in the room. My friend volunteered to sleep next door, and after knocking and being ‘greeted’ by an extremely hostile woman, I was glad that she’d taken one for the team. (My mum was once forced to share a room with a stranger because she was travelling alone and had no money, and woke up in the middle of the night to the woman howling at the moon…)
We spent the hottest part of the following day wandering around and miraculously not getting lost. The streets were bustling, with hoards of motorbikes zooming by honking at us. How we didn’t witness a crash i don’t know. Motorbikes were weaving perilously in and out of speeding cars (actually, technically not ‘speeding’ as there aren’t any speed limits here), and pedestrians would step out onto the road with no warning, forcing cars to screech to a halt. We soon learned this dangerous habit, so I’m a bit worried for when we get back to Perth and the drivers don’t stop… We walked on the treacherously narrow and slippery pavement and marvelled at the undeveloped state of the country. Piles of rubbish were stacked up on the side of the street, slowly rotting in the heat, and every few hundreds yards you’d come across a casual gated temple with a dogs head or some other innate figurehead framing the entrance. As soon as I stepped out of the hostel I loved the vibrant bustle and mania of the place; the juxtaposition of shoddily constructed shacks with beautifully and architecturally sound temples. It’s odd that the pace of life here seems so hectic at surface level, with frenzied salesman trying to make a living, yet if you dig a bit deeper you’re met with a serene and can-do type lifestyle, where everything is mackled together and easy going. It certainly makes a change to the uptight nature of western culture.
We browsed the shops, attempted bartering, and then had lunch at a swanky beach bar and passed out on bean bags in the sun. The beach was beautiful considering it’s Kuta- well known for being overly touristy and ghastly, and we wandered along the shoreline, trying to avoid burning and being harassed by men selling surf lessons. We definitely failed at both of these. Having had our fair share of sun, we headed back to the hostel and attempted to get a taxi- once again, more difficult than it sounds. We asked the woman at the desk to order us one, and felt very organised, but when it still hadn’t arrived, we asked her to call again. What she neglected to tell us was that the taxi company were busy and she’d never even got through. Hopeless.We resorted to walking down the street and hailing every car that drove by. Finally, we managed to grab one, not abiding by the ‘only get a Bluebird Group taxi’ rule, and picked up the last member of our crew at the airport.
It was then that the hilarities truly began. Having failed to step out of our comfort zone for lunch, we wanted to truly immerse ourselves in the Balinese culture. We got in a taxi and paid $10 to literally go down the road (rookie error- classic tourists), and asked him to drop us off at an authentic Balinese restaurant. I cant deny that we certainly got what we asked for. The place was grimy and had the feel of a diner to it- the worst of both worlds. And the loos at that place were really something else- with a basin of water on the floor as a sink and a putrid smell that mad me feel ill. All the menu was in Indonesian so all we had to go by were badly lit photos of questionable looking meat and wilted vegetables. We pointed at a few things that we liked the look of, and were promptly told that they’d run out of everything we wanted.
Since our choices were limited we ordered a quarter “ekor” (portion) of everything that they actually had, but the food that arrived couldn’t have been further from what we asked for. We got four of these vegetable things, which they apparently didn’t have any left of, and three scrawny looking chicken/mystery meats. Honestly, thank god for the rice.
We took one bite and our heads were nearly blown off. So. Goddamn. Spicy. We were immediately in hysterics, and I don’t know whether the tears running down my face were from the spice or my laughter. Either way, it was priceless. We ate about two mouthfuls of the stuff before feeling like our lips were being burned off, and resorted to eating the nuts and the rice. Nutritious.
Desert was equally as amusing. They had various curious flavours of ice cream and “traditional Balinese dessert”, ranging from durian and avocado to black rice. I opted for chocolate ice cream- the safe option, and it was surprisingly good. My brave friend, wishing to embrace the Balinese culture further, ordered the traditional dessert. I’m pretty sure she regretted it as soon as her spoon made contact with the surface. It was the consistency of putty crossed with jelly, and went back to its original position once you took your spoon out. She described it as “like eating someone’s insides’. What’s worse is that the girl who she’d bought it from was staring at her from across the room and so she felt obliged to have a few mouthfuls of that repulsive stuff, which actually had no flavour at all.
Following that farcical experience, we decided we wanted the comfort of the familiar- i.e. alcohol, or more specifically, rum and punch. Thankful for our forward thinking, we mixed the drinks and drank from plastic bottles- classy. We sat by the pool, had DMCs and had a night of drunken revelling. It was utter perfection until I passed out at 10.30…but that’s a story for another occasion.