“Bali is too mainstream and overrated.”
“Everyone has been and wants to go to Bali.”
“Bali beaches are dirty, overcrowded, boring and again, DIRTY.”
“Bali is filled with drunk Aussies and their party shenanigans.”
Ok, I’ve been told enough.
I’ve never been to Bali before and after my trip, I think everyone needs to go there at least once in their lifetime because, why not? Bali is so famous, everyone flocks there just to claim that they’ve been to Bali. Everyone wants to get stamped in Bali.
End of and beginning of the year rarely involve beach bumming because most islands are in the teeth of the south-east monsoon. Thus, it makes most islands including Bali a low season in February – means cheaper accommodation and less crowded (yeay?).
Bali itself is divided into nine different districts and because this is my first visit, it was really hard to choose between Kuta, Seminyak and Ubud. Kuta and Legian are more for the party scene, Seminyak is a tad laid back – the spot for honeymoon goers and Ubud, an astounding spiritual town in the heart of Bali is steeped in culture and an ideal place to escape from the frenetic beach life.
But I just had to choose Kuta because I wanted to have a crazy time in Bali. The 5-day trip was nothing short of wonderful.
Although the monsoon season hasn’t really ended, the weather was still perfect with only a little rain during my last day there. I didn’t have any plan, didn’t go by books or maps or even Tripadvisor, it was more of a “free & easy” trip (probably my first of such kind). So there will be no extraordinary stories and places I visited to share in this post but I have a few experiences or things I did, tried and was told not to miss in Bali.
Taking a stroll along Kuta Beach
Kuta Beach is not the nicest beach I’ve been to but it’s not the worst either and I didn’t have any high expectation after hearing so many bad things about it so it was fairly good. The beach is not bad, but it’s not an admirable trash-less white sandy beach. The view from afar is still amazing though. My advise is if you’re planning to stay in Kuta and hoping to have that “beach escapade” mood, you should splurge on your accommodation. A nice resort would compensate your beach disappointment.
My hotel is next to Oceans 27 Beach Club, located just outside of Discovery Shopping Mall Kuta. This is a chilled spot, with pretty good food and amazing view. A great place to sit back and sip on your cocktails while watching the sunset.
A good view to de-stress yourself.
Low season means less people, I pretty much had that place all to myself most of the time. Cocktails and drinks are good, food is pretty good too and price is so reasonable. No reason not to go there. It’s pretty convenient to stay here provided you’re not looking into the most serene place to live in Kuta.
As I mentioned earlier, if you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of paradise in Kuta, it’s best to splurge on accommodation as the beach will be a disappointment. At least you can have a pool with a stunning view of the ocean. Bali Garden Beach Resort is not a bad option; it’s close to Ngurah Rai airport, the mall is just next door and it’s a walking distance to the market, Kuta Square and Legian area.
Oddly enough, I had no craving for local food. I did try some; Bandung grilled chicken, spicy soup and smashed chicken. I’d recommend eating at the Blue Lobster restaurant, a few walks away from the Waterbom Kuta. Places with tropic weather are always famous with their fresh juices, Bali is no exception. I’d usually avoid sweet drinks but you can never say NO to fresh smoothies!
Go Crazy at Sky Garden Bali
I’d say this is (arguably) the best and most happening club in Bali. 8 pubs under the same roof? Is that not massive enough? Right in the centre of the chaotic street of Legian, you will stumble upon it. I’m not crazy about this place because of the drinks and crowd but you can find a $5 buffet spread with 7 different rotating menu themes. The cheapest and probably one of the best buffets I’ve ever had and they even have a free flow beer from 5pm to 6pm daily. This is obviously not a 5-star hotel dining but how can anyone complain considering it’s an all you can eat BBQ buffet for RP50k and it was so damn good?
I loved the many chambers and levels of different music and crowd. The top level has a special drink promotion every 15 minutes, something like vodka & redbull for RP25k ($2). Everyone is pretty much hammered by midnight, that being said, party goers are reminded to keep an eye on their drinks. I’ve heard many cases on people taking advantages on solo and female travellers, spiked drinks are pretty common too.
The night I met Avici… doppelganger
Magic Mushroom Anyone?
I just found out that it’s actually illegal (I’m pretty naive tbh). All I can say is happy things should be legalized 😉 As long as people don’t do anything stupid (though I know it’s beyond our control sometimes). As far as magic mushrooms go, I made McDonald’s a few hundred thousand Rupiah richer. That’s how I’m going to justify my appeasement that night. What happens in Bali stays in Bali, or maybe not.
Rent a Bike / Car in Bali
Doesn’t matter whether it’s a scooter or a bicycle, rent one for RP70k-RP150k per day and drive around Kuta, Legian or head up to Seminyak. The view you get to witness while strolling down the road by the beach is amazing. It’s a great way to enjoy the surrounding, considering cab is a rip-off especially at night but there’s no other way to get back to your hotel safely after a wild night out.
So be prepared to pay up to RP200k for a few mins drive home! I was thrown out of a cab once because my friends and I refused to pay an extra RP100k to the driver who claimed and I quote “the traffic is horrible, it took me forever to get here” but I didn’t even order his cab to come pick us up so why should I pay him extra, no? Honestly, I wouldn’t mind paying them extra just so I could get back safely but I hate rude drivers. Streets aren’t that safe at night because most hotels are located in smaller alleys and the roads are dark and dead quiet. Well, I almost got robbed while walking back to the hotel but the thief was too drunk to get a grip of my bag, I thought that was funny but then I realized it could be worse.
My friend rented a car in Kuta and we parked it by the road whilst getting our hair done, and when we got back to the car, it couldn’t start – basically our car died and a bunch of local men came towards us trying to help. We initially thought they were just being nice and a coincidence to be standing near the car. But when they said the battery died because we didn’t switch off the light, we felt something fishy because who would on the light in a scorching hot daylight? Apparently, it was a scam and quite common in Bali. Park at a secured place next time.
Go Coffee Tasting
Indonesia is the fourth largest producer of coffee in the world. Hence, their coffee is known worldwide especially Kopi luwak or civet coffee, you know the one that comes out as a shit produced by the Asian palm civet. Said to be one of the most expensive coffees. Definitely not my favourite, but it’s worth trying.
I’m not the kind who likes buying souvenirs because I don’t know what to get for people and I don’t think they will even use it but in Kuta, I ended up buying weird stuffs like a penis-shaped bottle opener, bottle handler, reggae knitted top and rainbow dream catcher to name a few. If you’re planning to do some souvenir shopping, head down to Kuta Square and bargain the best you can.
Bali in a Nutshell
Bali is amazingly beautiful. Not in your stereotypical bright, white sandy beaches kind of way, but it’s imperfectly beautiful. The kind that makes you hate the place but don’t mind returning to. Kuta is like the Bangkok of Bali; filthy, touristy, corporatised, frantic and filled with madness. Having high expectations will only disappoint you. Get ready to be ripped off, wasted, harassed and getting annoyed with locals hogging your personal space.
Like I mentioned before, Bali is Australians’ second home, you will meet one in every corner of Bali but that’s not a bad thing. I’ve promised myself I will go to Bali again, maybe to Seminyak or Ubud this time and definitely longer than this trip because there’s so much more to do in Bali.
So why did I still enjoy Kuta despite its infamous reputation? Kuta is shaped to be that way and it tends to pull in a younger and wilder crowd. It’s fast, sleazy, sordid – nothing magical about it. My intention of going there was to loosen up and give myself a break, which I did and that was magical.
My ears are still buzzing with “pedicure manicure ma’am.. massage ma’am.. mushroom mushroom.. come come buy this so beautiful ma’am“. It’ll take a while before I can recover.