Escaping Kuta, Bali, Indonesia

April 20, 2010 at 12:00 pm 14 comments

Like most visitors I have a love/hate relationship with Kuta. At the root of my confusion is a glaring contradiction; I want to stay forever yet I want to leave this instant. Even in exactly the same situations my feelings are hot one day and icy the next. One night I am never happier than when I am sitting in an open-air bar explaining the importance of Bon Jovi to Annemarie and bobbing my head  to a live rendition of Enter Sandman. The next day that same bar leaves me in a cold sweat when I have to elbow my way through incapacitated schoolies (drunken Aussie teenagers) and slap away the roaming hands of sweaty, hairy, shirtless middle-aged men.

Even walking from A to B isn’t easy in Kuta as it involves negotiating the narrow ‘pedestrian’ streets where there are invariably two cars parked face-to-face, filling every available inch of the alleyway. Having ignored insubstantial matters such as the dimensions of their vehicles, they have ploughed down the street in opposite directions eventually meeting each other and deciding to resolve the problem by sitting in their cars honking their horns and shaking their fists at each other until the build-up of traffic behind them has made it impossible for either one to give way. When you are sitting in a restaurant chowing down on Nasi Goreng, this is quality entertainment but when you are racing to catch the last few hours of morning sunlight, trying to get out of a sudden monsoon or driving a motorbike, it can lead to rapid hairloss.

The solution to the Kuta problem, for us anway, was to take regular breaks – pretty much all day every day breaks actually. Whenever we were sick of Aussies in wifebeaters, topless surfers parading around shouting about how drunk they were last night, tauts screaming “Transport, transport, transport, marajuana?” or women on the beach trying to cut us a deal for 50 bracelets when we have spent the last half hour explaining that we didn’t even want one, we hopped in a car or on a motorbike and got out of there as quickly as we could.

On our first road trip we literally headed for the hills, passing Ubud and making our way towards Bali’s inner spine of volcanoes. After about 2 hours on the road (most of which was spent driving in circles around Denpasar) Gary slammed on the brakes jolting Annemarie out of her slumber. She had afterall only had 13 hours sleep already that day. The reason for his dramatic change of plans became clear when we stumbled out of the car only to return for our sunglasses. After hours of rain the sun had suddenly cleared, leaving the valley of rice terraces and palm trees the most dazzling shade of green I have ever seen.

Unfortunately the rain returned just as we arrived at the volcanoes so we had to wait patiently in the car for the odd break in the clouds and a glimpse of the still active volcanoe and the thick smoke that was rolling out of its throat. The drive was fantastic though despite the weather and as we snaked through rice terraces, skirted ancient calderas and watched Bali unfold before us in a lively show of colours, Kuta seemed a million miles away.

You don’t have to traverse the whole country to put the strip behind you though, as we learned the next day when we rented motorbikes and braved Bali’s crazy choked arteries. It was AM’s first time on a motorbike so it took all of my concentration to keep her from tossing us off with her constant hopping from side to side, jumping up and down on her seat, squealing and turning around to check if Gary was still with us. Still we battled on in our search for the perfect beach, eventually locating the perfect road (all hairpin turns, smooth concrete and not a car in sight) which brought us to the beautiful cliffside Ulu Watu and then the infamous Uluwatu Beach, the only surf spot in the world where surfers launch from a cave into tubes of up to 10ft.

After watching open-mouthed for a while, we decided to find a more subdued spot and made our way to Jimbaran Beach – a vision with its clean sand, quiet shore, seafront restaurants and perfect tranquility. Happily we were just in time for dinner so we settled into a table on the sand  to wait for our delicious meal of fresh lobster, red snapper, clams, prawns, squid, veggies, rice and fresh fruit. Not half bad for $15 a head.

In future, I think we’ll stick to Jimbaran. Until we can afford to stay in the spectacular Semaya in Seminyak that is.

Note: Another of Kuta’s more, eh, ‘personable’ traits is the questionable integrity of its moneychangers.  Magicians of their trade, Kuta’s moneydealers are experts at swiping notes from your pile, rigging calculators to bum rates and convincing you that you are getting the deal of your life while they swindle $50 from you. A general rule of thumb that worked for us was ‘If it looks too good to be true, it is.’ This means that if a moneychanger offers you the higher rate of change where you should be getting the lower rate (the buying rate rather than the selling rate) it’s a con. Remember to count your money at least twice (once on your way out the door), try not to leave your money on the counter but if you have to then keep a finger on your pile, do your own calculations and choose a place that has a reasonable exchange rate – preferably a standalone business rather than a stall in the corner of a shop. If it all goes wrong don’t be afraid to make a scene and demand your money back.

More pictures from Kuta and around are available in the gallery


Entry filed under: Travel. Tags: , , , , .

Here’s looking at U(bud), Bali, Indonesia Last but not Leste, East Timor

14 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Moranna  |  April 20, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    What a lively, interesting blog and super pictures. Thank you for bringing back long ago memories of our visit to Bali.

  • 2. ziad el adawy  |  April 20, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    well… a very nice review on Bali … i went to bali last year and i got the mixed feeling of Kuta .. and did almost a round trip as u did .. i m going again to bali .. in 2 months.. but there are a couple of good places .. and even some new islands in indonesia .. that u might visit but still bali is awesome and i love it thnx again for ur review !!

  • 3. southernamericancomfort  |  April 20, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    Hey guys!!
    Yes keeping South america nice and toasty for you! about 35 degrees today.
    We are just back from the Ilha Grande today and are now in Paraty! Its beautiful!! Hope Oz is good!

  • 4. Cahya  |  April 21, 2010 at 3:53 am

    Honestly, if there is an option, I prefer not to visit Kuta, its a ver crowded area (indeed it has it’s own beauty).

    I prefer go to middle or north Bali as you said. Batur (the vulcanoes) and other areas arround, Lake Buyan, Lake Tamblingan, Baturiti…, well, all those sites has good scenaries 🙂

    I wish this year I can back home to Bali.

  • 5. keynar  |  April 21, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    Bali is a hotspot for visitors, so I guess you would see many visitors there. Too commercialized. But still interesting to go to.

    There’s a lot of other beaches and islands in Indonesia, I hope you have a time to go to that places 🙂

  • 6. allif arramidly  |  April 22, 2010 at 1:35 am

    Nice Blog 😀 bro Please come to my blog too

  • 7. Ceebag  |  April 23, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Jesus…get a tan, Ro x

  • 8. Bandie  |  June 4, 2010 at 3:07 am

    Wow the perfect Blog

  • 9. Mbak ayu  |  June 27, 2010 at 1:06 am

    I like the pictures,

    • 10. yearlongbreakup  |  June 27, 2010 at 1:50 am

      Thank you. We’re glad you are enjoying the blog.

  • 11. jul  |  June 28, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    visit us for another info about bali

  • 12. Indonesia Cars  |  June 30, 2010 at 5:00 am

    I thought the topics you posted on were very interesting. Nice Blog and keep posting 🙂

    Indonesia Cars

  • 13.  |  July 9, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Today Singaraja has all the characteristics of a colonial city with wide tree-lined streets and colonial Dutch architecture. In addition to the Dutch influence was also visited by many other Singaraja Naval powers, as demonstrated by numerous Arab and Chinese influences in the district of Singaraja, the former shipyard. Singaraja hosts a rare Chinese Buddhist temple that there are only a handful of Bali.

  • 14. indra indo  |  August 17, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    I like the pictures


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