A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.
- John Steinbecke
To view photos from Kuta, click here.
To view photos from Ubud, click here.
I got off the plane and lined up in front of the taxi booth in Denpasar airport, Bali. To cut down on the expense, I turned around to see if there was anyone who wanted to share a cab. The girl behind me just happened to be the one and only Marjorie Green! Little did I know that meeting this tall, crazy, kind hearted, fabulous blue-eyed blonde was going to make the rest of my stay in Bali the most unforgettable and fun-filled in Asia yet!
At this point, I had been travelling SE Asia for 4 months and Marj for 2 so we were a touch overwhelmed by the many familiar signs from home: Starbuck’s, McDonald’s, Dolce and Gabbana, Crocs and every surf name in the book – Ripcurl, Billabong, Roxy etc. The cabbie dropped us off on Poppies Lane I. Kuta has two Poppies Lanes (aptly named I and II). This is where a good majority of the guesthouses, restaurants and non-brand name/local shopping is...and just metres from the famous surf beach – Kuta!
We were ecstatic with the amenities at our hotel – New Arena. We shared a double room that had a real bathroom with a door and bathtub and a patio overlooking a garden and swimming pool. This was not at all what I had expected. I knew Bali was a major vacation destination for Australians and had expected that it would be really expensive compared to where I had been. Luckily, I was quite wrong. We stayed in this proper hotel for only $7 each/night. We spent 4 nights there before we started feeling a little like high rollers so I took a jaunt to see what else I could find.
If I had blinked I would have missed this place but luckily for me it caught the corner of my eye – it was called d’Kubu Homestay. This place had a good vibe from the get-go. There was a tiny little courtyard surrounded by 8 guesthouse rooms. Marj and I’s room had 2 single beds with a cold shower for $5/night – splendid! Little did we know that we were going to call d’Kubu home for the next 2 months.
Marj and I got our feet wet in Kuta by trying to resist all the fabulous shopping. I had done really well not to buy much besides food along the way so as not to weigh myself down but this was going to be like trying to keep honey away from a bee! Everything is SO ‘cheap cheap’!
Our first sunset at Kuta Beach was truly spectacular. There are ridiculous amounts of people on the beach at that time – mostly Indonesian. The last thing anyone native to SE Asia wants is a tan so most of them don’t come out in the sun until it is just about to set. Marj and I were enjoying a nice walk down the beach when we were surrounded by gaggles of Balinese teenagers wanting to take pictures with us. Marj was the star of the show – they REALLY dig blonde hair and blue eyes. She might as well have been Cameron Diaz walking down the beach – this is something we just expected after some time but it took some getting used to.
Marj’s friend Dan who she had met earlier on the backpacker trail was coming to Kuta so we went out for dinner with him one evening. This was the beginning of a beautiful friendship – translated: the three of us having one hell of a time together. We watched the sunset at Kuta Beach every night we could and met for dinner before going over to Legian street (famous for its clubs) to watch the debauchery at Espresso – a bar overflowing with overserved surfers rocking out to covers of Nirvana and AC/DC. Once we had our fill of that, we would go to one of the many popular clubs there: Embargo, Sky Garden or the legendary Bounty.
Since developing my mega allergy to alcohol (it has now been over 3 years since I have purposely had an alcoholic beverage due to a harsh reaction from even one drop of alcohol!) it has been hard for me to adjust to going out without being able to imbibe a little. It has been a long road of lifestyle adjustment but Kuta really helped that along. I was surrounded by people in Kuta drinking alcohol almost non-stop. It got to a point where I didn’t even notice I was the only one not drinking, which was a really good thing as I normally feel like a pariah.
The first nights out dancing at the Bounty were a bit awkward for me at first seeing as EVERYONE in that place can barely see straight from all the cheap drinks. The fabulous thing about not being able to drink is staying out dancing til dawn and waking up fresh as a flower to go surfing for the rest of the day. And so this eventually became our routine. Dance til the wee hours of the night, sleep all morning, head over to Macaroni for the lunch special and email checking and over to the beach to surf. Sunset usually came along shortly after that – then dinner, dancing – REPEAT! All of this costing – including accommodation – about $8/day.
I had thought I would stay in Bali for a couple weeks at the most. I had been so tired and was keen to get to New Zealand to see Tash already! But meeting Marj altered this course drastically. Having much of the same interests – especially our passion for surfing – bonded us together like sisters. We caught waves together, danced together, fought off googly eyed overzealous suitors together, but most of the time was filled with laughter. When one is having the time of their life one finds it hard not to find everything hilariously, deliciously humorous! The littlest thing could happen and Marj and I giggled over it for days.
After a couple of weeks in Kuta, we decided it was time for a little change of pace. I had wanted to go up to Ubud after reading Elizabeth Gilbert's ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. I had planned to go and see Wayan the Healer and Ketut the Medicine Man and do some yoga and cleansing to get my neck and back realigned and my game on for tackling bigger waves.
Instead, Marj and I shopped (mostly without buying anything save for a great deal on a couple of silk dresses!), made some jewellery, went to the monkey sanctuary (where I was attacked and came within inches of my life!), and sat on the front porch of our guesthouse enjoying our free breakfast and tea while playing with the floppy haired wild rabbit half the day and/or drinking coffee at one of the many cozy little restaurants. After 5 days in Ubud sans surf and dancing we decided it was time to return to Kuta, but not before paying a visit to Wayan and Ketut.
Marj and I had the full meal deal at Wayan’s Traditional Balinese Healing Shop. She was exactly as I pictured her from the description in the book. Of course now since her shop has been featured on Oprah and talked about by virtually every woman in North America infatuated with travel, adventure and happy endings (after reading Eat, Pray, Love), her price had gone up drastically. As with everything in Asia, with a little negotiating we managed to get a price we were all comfortable with.
So Marj and I spent most of the entire next day getting massaged, drinking herbs and juices, receiving a body reading and finally the ever popular vitamin lunch to end the 5 hours we spent getting pampered there.
You’d think the two of us would be feeling fabulous after that but we both ended up getting sick and in the end we blamed all the herbs she was giving us on empty stomachs:(
The next day, we visited Ketut the Medicine Man! We had been told by some ladies we met at Wayan’s that there was a 3 hour wait to see him but we thought we’d take a chance anyway. To our delight, Ketut was chilling on his front step – exactly the way Elizabeth Gilbert found him in the book. We spent a good hour chatting with him. He read my palm and kept saying what a ‘good girl’ I was. According to Ketut, I will have one deep love in my life and 2 kids. I am also going to be bankrupt, but only for 25 days and after that a successful photographer. Oh and I am going to live to 102, so I have lots of time for all of this.
So I didn’t get to my yoga or cleansing but I figured with the amount of dancing we would do every night, not to mention the surfing all day, would make up for what I missed out on yoga in Ubud. Totally justifiable I think - and so back to Kuta we went!