Next target, Bali…but I found myself heading back to Lombok. The damn ticket I’d bought needed me to go back to Lombok to the café I bought it from. That’s where I sat, soaking wet boots from the boat exit, waiting for someone to turn up. Eventually I was shuffled onto a mini-bus, no information of what the hell was going on. All I knew was the ticket I bought would take me to Kuta in Bali. Remember, just go with it, everything seems to work out that way.
The minibus took me all the way to the dock at Lembar where I stepped off with a few other backpackers, waiting for something to show us where to go next. Eventually a man stepped up
“Yes hello come here” waving to the large crowd of backpackers which now gathered. We all shuffled along with matching enormous backpacks in single file down the walkaway as we were waved through security and unleashed to the mob of snack sellers along the path to the boat. Agonisingly the ferry wasn’t ready to board, so we all stood in line as vendors walked up and down advertising their merchandise. One man grabbed my attention by flirtatiously singing
We boarded the ferry and I quickly settled in a reclining chair and caught up on some well needed rest. Roughly 6 hours later I woke refreshed arriving in Bali. So, what next? Just follow the backpackers. Luckily, we arrived upon another man yelling
“Yes this way please” following him to the streets of Padang Bai where another minibus was waiting.
The man checked the destination on our tickets and luckily Kuta was accepted. The minibus was packed to capacity, with every passenger’s multiple bags stacked in a repeatedly collapsing pile at the front. Driven by what can only be described as a CHILD at the wheel. I swear to god this kid had not shaved in his life, at the helm of this piece of shit van with 15 people inside. Unlucky for me, Kuta was the last destination, meaning in total it took 18 hours to get from Gili T to Kuta, where I could of travelled directly in about 2 hours for the SAME price!!
Here in Kuta I found the bargain of the century. Always go for the cheapest hostel. In Indonesia, that’s easy as the average hostel costs around £6 a night. However here in Kuta I found a hostel for a grand total of £2 a night. BUT…there is always a price to pay.
The WORST hostel experience I had this whole trip. I arrived exhausted, and the beds weren’t your normal bunk-beds, these were prison-style, stacked 4 high!! Not only that, but a total of 6 bunks: 24 beds! Thankfully not all were available to sleep on, however, what a horrible bunch on bastards were there. On that first night, beneath me slept a contender for the loudest snorer in history. I mean thunderous, internal organ shakingly loud. I could hear him from the rooftop terrace 50m away on the other side of 3 walls. This happened three nights in a row, which I clearly couldn’t sleep through. It got to a point where I actually threw water on the guys face as he slept which went completely unnoticed. As well as that, directly opposite me an Asian guy was puking on his bed violently…before gently resting back to sleep in his soiled bed. You get what you pay for.
I expected the beach to be pristine, it’s Bali after all. I might just be a “beach-snob” at this point after facing competition from the East coast of Oz and the other Indonesian islands. However the beach was atrocious, disgusting in fact. Lined from one end to the other with rubbish, the only parts that hadnt had only pushed the piles of plastic shit to the side. Even heard when you went swimming you could feel all manner of plastics beneath your feet.
I planned on staying a week in Bali, which didn’t go to plan. The problem came with my visa extension. I followed a helpful blog which guided me through the process. I rode my rented scooter three times in total to the immigration office and filed all the forms and handed over proof of onward flights, passport photo’s etc. I was told the 3-step process would take 4-5 days, great. It took 2 weeks in total to process my extension. A religious holiday also dragged the process out. I was forced to spend the time in Bali, unable to move on as the immigration office had my passport.
As I’ve said before, I just do not like Bali, mainly Kuta. It’s too Magaluf, complete pandering to western tourists, mastering the use of the word “mate”. However, make the most out of the situation. Bali became the perfect place to master the scooter. At first, a local street rental cost 75,000 rupiah. A bit expensive, but that day I needed one badly. My hostel provided a rental service for 35,000 a day, perfect. I took the scooter all the way to the Southern Tip of Bali and as far North as Ubud. Here I experienced yet another attempted scam, of big proportions.
Riding along happily, headphones in, I was waved in by the Indonesian PD, where I pulled in along with a bunch of other scooter riding tourists…I quickly caught on to the situation. I’d heard this scam already; police waving in naive tourists demanding an international license, the lack of which is a finable offence. This is exactly what they attempted
“Licence please sir” I handed them my UK licence, knowing it wasn’t any good. “International Licence sir”
“This is my licence”
“You need International Licence”
“You need licence or pay fine” Call it cocky, call it stupid, but this day I refused to be scammed.
“Why do I have to pay?”
“You pay here or we go to station” This might be considered particularly stupid.
“Ok, take me to station” They were stumped, they both conferred briefly before deciding
“Ok sir, we give you warning, must get International license” I pulled away as the next naive tourist pulled up behind me.
My 2 week stay in Bali could only be described as forced! Thoroughly disappointed, a tourist trap mess. Too be fair, my issue is only with Kuta, and the £2 hostel. It’s unfair to paint the whole of Bali with the same brush.
I had the pleasure of being able to meet up with a friend I’d made last time I was in Bali. That was Pamela, the girl I met and spent New Year’s with. With time in hand, I met up with her and spent the day with herself and her new puppy, Nacho. We drank Bintang on the beach front of Seminyak as I played with my new best friend.
A short scooter ride out of Kuta and you find a more authentic Indonesian experience. I rode South on two occasions, first to visit Uluwatu temple. Every visitor was required to cover their knees out of respect, and provided everyone with a very sliming sarong. Stone walkways crafted along the cliff face lead to the temple on the very edge overlooking the crystal blue sea. The second was Tanah Lot, a temple found in the middle of the ocean at high tide, somewhat less beautiful due to the torrential rain.
As Bali is the tourist hotspot, the attractions are full of them, which somewhat dampens the spirituality of the experience. Despite that, they are still incredibly fascinating sites to behold and worth seeing. At these sightseeing destinations, a common yet bewildering event will happen to the white tourist. This could be a pleasant experience, or a constant annoyance, depending on your mood. Teenage Indonesians will often approach, keen to engage in conversation
“Hello sir, may I ask you questions?” Each interview is essentially the same. “Where are you from? How long you in Indonesia? Do you like Indonesia? Why you come here? May I take photo with you?”
Mostly a pleasant interaction, however on those shattered days, when everything goes wrong, a barrage of reporter/paparazzi teenagers can be irritating. They’re mostly students, brought by their teachers to tourist traps encouraging them to engage with as many tourists as possible to improve their English. Ingenious yet deceiving.
There is one place in Bali I fell in love with, Ubud. Kuta and Ubud are the two main area’s when it comes to travelling Bali, both with complete different personalities. Where Kuta is the bright light big city life, Ubud is the peaceful oasis, back to nature. I originally planned on staying a few days there, but with the visa issue and the serious bargain hostel, I stuck it out in Kuta. I opted to make my time in Ubud a day-trip on my rented scooter, with two sight-seeing targets in mind.
First, possibly the most famous attraction in Bali, the Ubud Monkey Sanctuary. I’ve been nose-to-nose with a Kangaroo, stood 2 feet next to a Komodo dragon and swam in the same space as a shark. However, the monkey sanctuary was the most terrifying experience of my entire life. I have never been on edge to this extent, ever.
As unbelievably cute and cuddly as they appear, certain things put you on edge. For example, a sign warning you not to make eye contact with the monkeys, as they see it as a threat. So, what happens when you accidentally catch the eye of one?! The repeated squeals as a couple of monkeys would scuffle. I made the mistake of leaving my guard down. I relaxed, got comfortable in their company. I eventually sat next to a group of small juvenile monkeys. Eventually they were confident enough to climb all over me and my backpack, one of which was sat on top of my bag right behind my head, running his fingers through my hair and holding my ear, studying the multi-coloured earring on it. I swear to god, the feel of that little monkey’s hand on my ear was indistinguishable to that of my nephews hand, it was scary.
This quite tender moment was interrupted when the very same monkey began to chew my head. I stood up and lightly shook in panic hoping to shake them off but not initiate a brawl. Thankfully they backed down. Safe to say my monkey paranoia hit a new level “SHIT, why didn’t I get the rabies vaccine?!” Despite this life and death moment, I was still determined to get that money shot of me and a monkey. Vendors around the park sold banana’s, obviously becoming a target for the nearest monkey. Seemed a bit risky. Eventually as I sat down, some older, more mature monkeys would cruise around, some more curious than others. One brave soul decided my backpack was a perfect vantage point where he happily sat for 5 minutes, helping me finally becoming one with nature.
The second attraction was just as famous, the Ubud Rice Terraces. Terraces are a common site throughout Indonesia, however the sheer size and location of the perfectly stacked terraces in beautifully design one above the other makes it one hell of a view. Sadly, there were two negatives before even starting; it was raining, and the rice terraces were lacking rice. Still wasn’t enough to spoil the occasion. I parked the scooter and was immediately rushed upon by a local
“Hello my friend, you here to see rice terrace?” here we go, another “helpful” local looking for a gullible tourist. This guy happened to be the most helpful charming guide I’d met.
First, he started by telling me not to follow the tourists. Instead he suggested a route 100 meters down the road. Off I went and predictably got lost. My guardian angel reappeared
“come this way” where he started his tour. He led me down a quiet back street void of tourists, something highly desirable. We arrived upon a cage with a creature inside that left me speechless, a civet. I’d never seen this animal before, not in zoo’s or nature programs, I didn’t have a clue what it was. A weird mix of a cat, weasel, fox looking thing.
“You must take picture!” On que appeared a man who took it out of its cage and held it next to me as it set its front feet on my arms. This animal has an interesting story.
Bali is famous for one particular type of coffee, Kopi Luwak. incredible rare and thus expensive in the West. This coffee is made by the civet eating coffee beans, and its eventual poo is then somehow processed into this coffee. As disgusting as is sounds, its apparently as good as coffee gets. Due to the inflated price, I passed.
However, I didn’t miss out, my guide led me to a small seating area
“We wait here sir, they will bring you coffee” Okay, so how much was this costing me? As we waited, a conveniently placed straw hat and basket lay close by providing photo op. Shortly afterwards a young woman walked from a hut on a higher terrace holding a wooden tray with a selection of local tea and coffee samples. The spectrum of caffeinated drinks was unreal, ranging in taste from caramel to coconut all the way to lemon and hot chocolate. The upper hut also served as a gift shop with all the tasted coffee’s available. The best bit, every tourist is given this wonderful tasting session absolutely free.
In the end, my guide never asked me for any money, never even hinted. I even asked if he’d be by my scooter later on, planning to give him something for his generosity. He pointed to the path for the terraces seen in the distance and reminding me to be careful not to slip. That was the last I saw of him.
The start point provided helpful signposts leading the way across makeshift walkways along the edge of the terraces. Smaller ones along the beginning teased for what was to come as the route lead you to a hut at the very highest point. This café/bar/toll-gate stood at the highest terrace overlooking the area providing the best view possible. A view worth the price of entry. Despite the weather making certain sections of the terraces difficult to tackle, and the lack of pristine long green rice plants being replaced by enormous pools of water, it was still a spine-tingling view.
Just to take the shine off, I was once again scammed at the very end of the route. Huts were situated along the route, only some were inhabited. Before me a tourist couple handed a man in the hut in front a few notes, obviously a “toll-booth”. I expected to pay the same price as the other one, still being cheap. I already had a note in hand where he spotted the cigarette hanging out my mouth, and gestured to my pack. A cigarette for the price admission, not bad. To my surprise, I took one out, where he then commandeered my pack, took out SIX, and handed it back, leaving one inside.
In those 2 weeks in Bali, I didn’t drink once. It was time wasted as far as I’m concerned. Forced to stay in Bali awaiting my visa, time supposed to be spent exploring the East of the island Java. I left for Java, wishing a gleeful goodbye to the disappointment which was Bali. Now I would begin my new chapter in my travel life, volunteering for the very first time.