From Bintang to Bad Games of Golf, Bali's Been Good to Me

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April 29th 2007
Published: April 29th 2007
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Bali SunsetBali SunsetBali Sunset

doesn't get much better than this
My Golden Week trip to Bali was EXACTLY what I needed! I dabbled in going to many places- Mongolia for some urks and Gobi Desert action, volunteering with Habitat for Humanity in Bangladesh, Malaysia’s Perentian Islands for some beach time and scuba diving, or heading to Bali for a week of diving, beaches, and partying. After some research, Bali was the winner! Going to Bali was unlike most of my adventures over the past 2 years. Instead of immersing myself in the culture and being on the go all the time, I relaxed, spent a lot of money, and did manage to see some cultural sights along the way. It really felt like I was on a spring break trip like during high school and college- just what the doctor ordered. My friend Marc accompanied me on my trip. Bali is the Hawaii of southeast Asia and the atmosphere here is very different than other parts of Indonesia. Read on to see what unfolded during my week of indulgence. From crazy nights out in Kuta, surfing, relaxing at a resort, taking in culture in Ubud, to diving in Padang Bai- I fell in love with Bali.

Krazy Kuta
Upon arriving in Bali we headed to Kuta. I was told that Kuta was the Patong Beach (Phuket) of Bali- littered with crazy drunk tourists, trashy, and hookers all over the place. If this is what I was told it was like, why was I going there? Marc and I were in for a dose of some heavy partying and Kuta was the party Mecca on Bali. To my surprise I really liked Kuta! There were drunk Australians all over the place and it lacked any traditional Balinesian culture, but it was pumping with action, cute restaurants, surf shops around every corner chalk full of cute surfers without shirts on, and the hookers kept to themselves down the dark and seedy alleyways. Kuta was definitely geared towards vacationers in search of relaxation and fun, not necessarily the seasoned backpacker (although many backpackers were found. Moreso, backpackers head to Lombok these days). The Kuta bombings of 2002 really affected the area. I think Kuta was on its way to being just like Patong Beach, but the bombings toned down tourism for a few years and took it down a new route of development - one that is more upscale than trashy. To

Who can resist a bar shaped like a boat?
prevent a repeat of 2002, they actually check the IDs of locals before entering many of the clubs.

Marc and I anxiously headed out into the streets of Kuta, dodging motorcycles, cars, and the occasional drunk Aussie who was starting early. Prices were not nearly as cheap as Thailand, Vietnam, or Cambodia, but beers were still cheap at $1.50. Our friends Jane and Evania came to Bali in December 2005. They told us all the places to go in Kuta to maximize our party experience. When in doubt it was a “WWJED- What would Jane and Evania Do?”

No trip to Kuta is complete until you have gone to Bounty. Who can pass up a bar shaped like a boat where all the waiters have on sailor suits? They even have themed nights, like Pirate Night and the occasional drag queen show. Yes its campy and if I was a local would probably hate it, but as a visitor, it was a blast. It was full of foreigners out for a good time. In most Southeast Asian countries they serve up death buckets- a small plastic bucket full of a mixture of cheap alcohol and some concoction of
Bounty InteriorBounty InteriorBounty Interior

way too much fun. And no, I did not dance in the bird cage...
juices to make it tolerable. Due to the quantity and quality of the alcohol, drinking a bucket is a guaranteed hangover. Bounty switched things up a bit, offering up drinks called “jam jars.” You guessed it- same type of hangover juice but in a jar instead of a bucket. At $3 for one, it was easy to load up on a few of these before the end of the night. Marc and I spent the night dancing and drinking the jam jars and Bintang beer. In spite of the numerous cute Aussie surfers surrounding me, I happened to spend most of my night dancing with a local named Agus. I like to call him Agus Bagus, “bagus” meaning “good” in Bahasa, the local language. Around 3AM Marc and I called it a night, stopping off in a kombini for a late night bag of chips.

The next morning, a bit tipsy from the night before, Marc and I headed to the beach! Kuta is the main beach which runs into Legian and futher north is Semniyak. Although different names of the beaches, it is basically a huge beach that runs for 8km. It used to be separate little beach towns but over time have turned into one big area. On the way to the beach we passed numerous tourist stores that all sell the same thing- cheap beach clothes, jewelry and sandals. How they all stay in business amazes me. Motorcycles with surfboard racks attached to them whizzed by us. The most impressive sight was a motorcycle with 3 guys on it, two of them holding surfboards along the side and one of them with a surfboard over their head. Definitely rivaled the sight of 5 people on a moto in Phnom Penh.

Since I learned how to surf in Hawaii over Thanksgiving, I had been itching to get out on a board again. With 2 instructors and two boards, Marc and I headed for the waves. Kuta is the perfect place to learn how to surf. It is a shallow sandbar with decent beginner surfing waves coming in all the time. None of the waves (at this time of day) would barrel out, but were strong and big enough to push the surfer into the shore. The undertow of the current was much strong than I ever expected. My instructor Jeff (coincidence? Jefe haunts me when he’s
Surfer GirlSurfer GirlSurfer Girl

I am making this look good!
not even there!) and head out for the waves. Like in Hawaii I popped up like a cork and did very well. Within the first few tries Jeff’s job was to pull me back out to the breaks since my arms were getting tired. I was surfing on my own! It was amazing! After 2 hours my arms were exhausted and it was time to call it a day. I am definitely ready for the next step in surfing! Before you know it I will be as good as Kelly Slater.

That afternoon we wandered through the tiny alleyways of Kuta and down to the beach. Everyone we ran into was so relaxed. Bali is definitely an Australian getaway. We met so many Australians that come there every year. Some Aussies work for six months at home and then live in Bali the other six months. Americans need to adopt this laidback lifestyle! On the contrary, the hawkers on the beach are vicious. They first will offer you a sarong, then a massage, then jewelry, then for their husband to drive you somewhere, drugs, food, and before long I thought they were going to offer up their first born.
Wipe Out!Wipe Out!Wipe Out!

Marc almost got it that time
We indulged in an hour-long massage on the beach as the sun started to set below the horizon. Life doesn’t get much better than that.

For dinner we headed to Jimabaran Bay. This place is lined with outdoor seafood restaurants. You pick out which fish you want to eat, then they weigh it and cook it up for you. Definitely one of my favorite meals of the trip! That night we headed back to Bounty despite my fear of running into my Indonesian boyfriend Agus. He was there again and all his Aussie friends made fun of how drunk I was the night before. (Hey, I am on vacation- it happens.) After a moment of awkwardness, we were fine and out on the dance floor again. I definitely picked the right guy to be hanging out with - he knew all the locals and Aussies visiting! I could not believe how many people he knew. I felt like a badass riding around with him on his moto. At the end of the night we headed to a club in Semniyak called Double Six. The crowd at Double Six was much more upscale in comparison to the drunkfest at Bounty. Double Six has a 24-hour bungee jumping station where plenty of people make the drunken decision to do. With a sober mind, they may choose to do otherwise. I chose not to do the bungee just yet (read on to see if I make the plunge!). After 2 days in Kuta Marc and I were ready to set off and explore the rest of the island. I must say that Kuta is a black hole that sucks you in. I can see how once someone comes there it is very hard to go anywhere else.

Resort Life
The next day Marc and I were headed to a few days at the Nirwana Resort and Golf Course located 45 minutes northeast of the Kuta area. When my parents offered to give me 3 nights in a plush resort as a gift, I was at first shocked, then jumped at the opportunity. The resort was amazing. There were 4 different pools, 4 amazing restaurants, a great view of one of the most famous temples on Bali, golf course, spa, cable television, white robes, maid services, air conditioning, and room service. It definitely was on par with some of the hotels I
Surf CitySurf CitySurf City

plenty of surfboards to go around
have been to in Hawaii. Thank you mama and papa Lary! The only downside was paying resort prices, which were much higher than anywhere else on the island.

We spent the afternoon lounging by one of the pools and going down the waterslide, as if we were 5 years old again. Many of the other guests were couples. Everyone thought that Marc and I were dating, but alas no, just friends. Everyone called him Mr. Lary. That night we went over to the Tanah Lot temple for sunset. Swarms of people surrounded us and for good reason- it was a great place to watch the sun set behind the ocean horizon.

The next day Marc and hired a car to take us to different parts of the island. It was definitely the typical tourist route for first-time visitors to the island. My favorite stop of the day was the Monkey Forest! I made the mistake of buying some bananas before entering the park. This constituted a problem because shortly after I wandered into the park I had hordes of monkeys coming at me, ready to battle me for the bananas in my hands. I started screaming as monkeys started to climb on me and grab the bananas. I was so scared they were going to bite me! We were told to try to keep our distance at first and not to look the monkeys in the eyes or they will come after us. After being around them for a bit I actually really started to warm up to the monkeys and loved having them sitting in my lap. They were honestly the cutest things ever!

Throughout the day we went to three different Hindu temples. Whenever we entered a temple we had to wear a sarong. This was the first Hindu country I had ever visited so the customs, artwork, and traditions were all so new to me. All over Kuta, the temples, and basically everywhere we went we saw offerings. An offering is a little basket woven out of banana leaves, and inside was some incense, a flower, and usually a bit of food. Hindus make offerings three times a day, either by going to a temple and placing the offerings in front of the god statues or by placing an offering in front of their houses. I think most women spend their day making the offerings. I have concluded that these offerings are a food staple for the all the street dogs. Without these offerings these mangy dogs would cease to exist (which could a good or bad thing, however you want to look at it!). I am bad because I can only remember the name of my favorite temple, Gunung Kawi. This temple was my favorite because of all its ponds and beautiful statues. Three temples was enough for the day.

We also stopped up at Kintamani to have lunch. From here we could see the famous mountains of Bali, including Gunung Penulisan, Gunung Batur, and Gunung Abang. Even though we didn't have time to hike them, it was still fun to see them. The terrain up north was very different than in the south - lush with mountains all over the place. I would have loved to hike the main one, Gunung Batur, at sunrise to add it to my list of famous mountains that I have climbed, but we just didn’t have time. I guess you always have to leave something to come back to.

The last stop of the day was to look at some of the famous rice terraces. We picked the right season to visit them because the rice was at its peak stage just before it was harvested. The stalks were as tall as me! Although not as impressive as the terraces in the Philippines and we could not meander through them, they were still pretty to look at. Our guide and driver were not the most knowledgeable Balinesians (our guide actually grew up on Lombok) and only one of them spoke English, but hey, for $30 bucks a day they were fun, had a vague idea of where they were going, and were good company. I definitely think they enjoyed flirting with me all day and kept asking why I did not have a boyfriend. I told them that an Indonesian boy had already taken my heart and there was only room for one that trip. Post sightseeing all day I headed for the pool. I perched myself up on one of the massage platforms overlooking the Indian Ocean and took a short nap as the sun set. That night I really treated myself to a haircut at the resort spa.

On our last day of relaxation at Nirwana Marc and I played golf.
A Day at the BeachA Day at the BeachA Day at the Beach

A group of Muslims enjoying the water
The Nirwana Golf Course has been voted one of the best golf courses in Southeast Asia. Marc and I had to have a swing at this highly acclaimed course. Neither of us had played golf for over 2 years and were not able to warm up at the driving range because it was closed until 1pm. This was going to be an interesting game of golf! My caddy’s name was Mardi- fully decked out in a wide-brimmed rice-planting hat. She was a true gem. Regardless of how bad I hit the ball or which way it went, she told me I was a fabulous golfer. She also knew the course better than I know my way around Kabe and gave me some insider advice so I could beat Marc. Nowhere else will I play on a golf course where a hazard is hitting into a rice terrace.

Apparently I should have made an offering to the Balinesian gods at the Tanah Lot temple located next to the course before attempting to play- I might have had some better luck. I had some good shots, good puts, and some really bad ones too. My favorite hole was the 7th. It was right next to the ocean with the Tanah Lot temple in the distance- possibly rivaling the views of Pebble Beach in California. I was determined to hit the ball onto the green and over the ocean at the 7th hole. My first ball: a hard hook straight into the Indian Ocean- I considered that my belated peace offering to the Balinesian golf gods. My second ball: made it over the gap but not good enough for me. My third ball: 10 feet from the pin. Victory! I could now leave the Nirwana Golf Course satisfied with my game of golf, regardless of my score. Neither Marc or I played too well and at the end called it a draw. I refuse to post my score. Mike Mattingly, my golf teacher in Chico, would fly to Japan and hit me over the head with my pink putter.

After a wonderful afternoon of relaxing by the pool I dragged Marc on a bike ride around the neighboring towns. We rode through small villages and rice fields before arriving at a remote black sand beach. We followed the locals with baskets balanced on their head right to the heart of a
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enjoying their Golden Week too
festival. This festival was unique and extra special (festivals and ceremonies all the time) because it was located in such a pristine location overlooking the Indian Ocean. At first we kept our distance so we would not interfere, but well, my curiosity overcame me. Before I knew it Marc and I were warmly welcomed by everyone and were taken to the heart of the festival, in spite of my inappropriate attire. A group of men played music while women gave offerings and prayed. It was spectacular. We wandered out to the peninsula and looked back at the tiny temple, glistening in a golden yellow as the sun set below the ocean.

We bade farewell and rode our bikes back to camp in the dark- not my favorite activity. Dinner was a special treat: a seafood market. Similar to the restaurants at Jimabaran Bay, the Nirwana Resort had piles of fish. We got to pick out whatever we wanted and the chefs would grill it up for us. I even got to try my hand at grilling my own red snapper. The mussels were heaven and the tuna steaks were to die for. They even gave Marc and I the “honeymooners” table that looked out over the ocean- so romantic! I met a guy who graduated from Chico State. We sat reminiscing the Madison Bear and LaSalles- not too long before I am there again. The next morning I woke up, took a shower, and enjoyed wearing my white robe one more time. Resort life was fun but it was time to hit the road. Next stop: UBUD.

Additional photos below
Photos: 70, Displayed: 34


Famous Kuta SunsetFamous Kuta Sunset
Famous Kuta Sunset

Post-massage, feeling great!

Dance show at midnight...doesn't get much campier than this!
Jimabaran BayJimabaran Bay
Jimabaran Bay

Looks like dinner to me
Nirwana ResortNirwana Resort
Nirwana Resort

Greeted with leis and fresh juice, we were rollin yo...

5th October 2011

the pictures are very funny, the animals are so familiar with humans, even up to take pictures .... jiwa
5th October 2011

the pictures are very funny, the animals are so familiar with humans, even up to take pictures .... jiwa

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