Kuta, Legian and reunited with Tim
29.10.2012 - 13.11.2012
My arrival in Bali, which also constituted my first steps in South East Asia, was after some local storms and, after experiencing no visa issues at the airport despite the late hour, I caught a taxi (it cost IDR150,000 which, to be honest, meant nothing to me at the time as I had no idea of exchange rates and taxi fare rates) to secure cheap room and board at the Bedbunkers Hostel in Kuta.
The next morning I did the usual on-foot reconnoitre of the local area (hot, dusty roads with no pavement, chock-a-block with seemingly millions of mopeds and motorbikes buzzing around like flies and beeping their horns at everything that moved or even threatened to - welcome to Asian Standard Noise).
Having made my way to the grand beach entrance at Legian I was accosted by Pepe, a local who was touting for a holiday ownership programme (NOT timeshare apparently) and who pretty much blackmailed me emotionally to go with him to their sales office for a short, painless, no obligation presentation for which he would earn US$50 - enough to keep him for a month. When will I learn to keep my mouth shut?? After 2 hours of the usual timeshare style sales technique and, armed with literature and their "once in a lifetime discounts, only available for the next 48 hours" price quotes I was whisked back to the beach entrance where, finally, I was able to walk onto the hot sand and soak up the relatively uncrowded view.
Afterwards I walked (sweated actually) back to the hostel to meet Jeff, the dutch owner, who runs Bedbunkers. It is a good hostel but suffers from a poorish location for the beach and main tourist amenities. The dorms comprised 12 beds in the room, triple deckers which could instill vertigo on the upper levels, with each bunk having its own locker and light built in. I stayed a couple of nights, just enough time to locate a conveniently close MacD's, for my breakfast coffee, and a couple of decent local food eateries (warungs) where I was happy to sample new and exciting asian fare. Discussions about places of culture and interest with Jeff revealed that the journey to the island's cultural heart, Ubud, was a simple matter of catching the Parama bus in central Legian and cost about £3 (or 50k in the local coinage) one way. See the separate entries regarding my short sorties to Ubud and The Gillies.
Following the frankly harrowing minibus journey from the return Gili trip I returned to Bedbunkers and arranged to meet up with Tim Barnett, a long term traveller from Oz who was one of the first people I met in my Americas trip. I had traversed the USA, dipped my toes into South America's cultural waters, returned home to the UK for 8 months to work and completed 5 months in NZ and Australia since we last met. He, on the other hand, was still enjoying uniterrupted travel and had no plans to return to his home. Naturally his extensive time on the road (particularly around SE Asia) had given him immense local knowledge regarding hostels/homestays, great cheap places to eat, how much to pay for and where to rent motorbikes (only c£2 per day) etc, etc.
We met up on the Wednesday and by the weekend I had rented a motorbike and joined the road chaos (the girl at the hostel reckoned the helmet made me look like a nazi?!?!?), moved into the Dua Dara hotel (own room, included breakfast, swimming pool, great central location), tried my first sheesha (the hubbly bubbly thing, wasnt unpleasant but not sure it if did anything for me), and enjoyed a big, alcohol fuelled, night out at the Sky Garden.
The Sky Garden deserves a separate mention - this is THE place to go in Legian, with 8 different bars, each of which plays different music genres, multiple free or cut priced drink offers throughout the night and great views of the night time city from the higher floors.
The friday night alcofest was a big one, what with pre-club drinks in the street (Jaegermeister and Morgan spiced rum with coke), then free drinks from 9 til 10 in Sky Garden, then back to the hostel for more Capt Morgan. Back again to Sky for cheap drinks and dancing, I imbibed a significant volume of strong alcohol, lost Tim, have no idea what time I returned to the hostel and next day found that Tim thinks he was out til 5am.
Food choice in Legian is great, with many warungs (including the Suckling Pig place by the bridge), Tims local favourite off of Jl Poppies 2 and the great night market. Plenty of fried options and the chicken satay at Smiles warung in the market was fab (they put something extra in the peanut sauce for us to help us smile!)
My departure day from Bali was a mixture of the old and the new - an early morning swim, breakfast, packing, McDs for coffee and poor wifi were the norm. Todays variety was the post Dua Dara hours - the taxi over to Ubung bus station, swapping indonesian and spanish words and phrases with my friendly Bluebird driver followed by the local bus trip to Gilimanuk. Local buses here run along similar lines to those in south america in that they are quirky, brightly coloured mini-buses in varying states of disrepair and that they are operated by a two man team - the driver and his "catcher" who's job is to tout business along the streets of each town. The upshot of this is that every time we went through any built up area the driver slowed down to crawl along the side of the dusty roads at fractionally above walking speed. Indeed, when we left the Ubung bus station we spent the first half hour of the trip in first gear kerbcrawling, no wonder the journey takes about 3 hours! The locals are a canny bunch, sitting at the side of the road along the route waiting for the bus to come to them, unlike the Fool who joined at the start. As well as joining at any point the bus also stops anywhere that the passengers want to get off so be prepared for a very disjointed trip.
About halfway through the journey I saw a motorbike skidding along the tarmac outside my window and coming to rest in front of the bus. The bike was closely followed by the rider who slid, rolled and tumbled along the road beside me until he too came to a halt, somewhat bizarrely landing on his feet after a final balletic roll. Dusting himself down he trotted over to the bike, made a brief check and then prepared to resume his journey - no idea how or why he came off his ride but nobody was hurt so all good!!
The rest of the journey proved uneventful with arrival at Gilimanuk in the dark at just before 8pm. Touted by a local to stay cheaply up the road, I bedded down for just the one night in what was definitely the worst homestay, hostel or hotel room so far - its ONLY redeeming feature was a window fan which eventually lowered the room temperature to just below the boiling point of blood by the early hours of the morning. As well as being sited right on the main road which runs 24/7 with lorries going to or from Java, we also had the deep joy of being very close to one of the many mosques in the west of Bali and this one had an immensely powerful loud speaker system. At 4.15 am I was awakened by the early morning call to prayer blasting through the open louvres in my window, I was not a happy bunny!!!
My morning pick up was way ahead of time, however I was already packed and, to be honest, couldnt wait to leave my "home away from homestay". I had planned to take some breakfast at the ferry area but found myself whisked right to the ticket line and 5 minutes later I had been frogmarched aboard the ferry so, with barely a backward glance and a very empty belly it was farewell to Bali, hello Java.