Friday, 1 November 2013

Surfs up: Kuta

I'd dreamt about travelling to Bali since my teens; I remember sitting at the kitchen table flicking through a weekend travel supplement of The Telegraph and stumbling across a full page spread about the beautiful island, teamed with the obligatory photograph of everybody's dream beach - white sand, perfect turquoise waters  you know the one.

When I jumped on Vicky and Nadia's backpacking bandwagon, we only really discussed Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam; The Philippines then thrown into the equation and talk of Bali. Desperate to go to Indonesia and with trouble in The Philippines, bombs in the South and reports of flooding, that was soon off the cards and Bali was fully agreed upon. 

As you know from my travel preparation posts right in the very beginning, we never did and never really had a proper plan when it came to our trip; plans never fully work out anyway. As we travelled, we decided two weeks in Bali to end our 7 weeks in Asia was definitely what we needed - 14 days of sunbathing and cocktails, yes please! But there's much more to Bali than this, as I discovered after spending a few days in Kuta, and now I'll be spending at least 12 months in Australia, I think another holiday to Bali in 2014 will be on the cards.

I'd read a lot about Kuta; 'overpriced' and 'tacky' were two of the negative views on the place, and although this is partly true - I LOVE Kuta. Yeah, it's touristy and busy (even in low season, which doesn't really seem to exist here) but it's fun, you can surf, the weather is great and the food/drink is VERY cheap, contrary to popular opinion. So don't be put off by Kuta, you might just love it like I do - and those that know me most definitely can vouch that tacky is NOT my thing at all.

After Singapore, we were all pretty tired so were very happy to arrive at our hostel; only, our hostel was actually a guesthouse. Warung Coco is possibly the nicest guesthouse I have ever come across - the staff are ridiculously friendly to the point that it feels like you're being greeted by old friends when you arrive, every morning when you wake up, right through until late at night. The rooms are either double bed or two three quarter beds, with the option of an extra bed being added to the room if needed. Warung Coco has two guesthouses, one in Poppies 2 (just off Legian Road, the main tourist area) and one a 10 minute walk from Legian (just up from Skygarden). They both cost around 5-6 pounds per night but non-Poppies has a swimming pool and is much quieter. I would definitely recommend this as a first choice for those wanting a place to be able to relax, get some sleep and escape from the party scene. Coco at Poppies 2 is great location wise as it's 5 minutes from the beach and 2 seconds off the main strip, but word of warning - the cockerel round the corner likes 5am wake up calls! Fabulous when you arrived home at 3am. We spent three nights in Coco non-Poppies and one night at Poppies Coco (they didn't have space for us for an extra night!)

Now, I need to tell you about Sky Garden and if you take one thing from it - you NEED to go if you are ever in Bali. Sky Garden is a five floor complex with eight clubs in it; great for a night out, really cheap, offers free drinks 9pm-10pm AND on a Sunday ladies drink free from 9pm-11pm. But that is not the reason why I love this place - the rooftop bar does a daily barbecue...but not just any barbecue - an all you can eat barbecue for 50,000 IDR (around 3 pounds 50 pence) YES, I kid you not. The food is absolutely incredible - you know I love food so this can't possibly be an over-exaggeration. Each night also offers a different special as well as the daily barbecue food - Sunday night is traditional roast, Monday is pizza and pasta, Tuesday is tacos and burritos (my favourite!), Wednesday is all you can eat get the jist. AND, free all you can drink Bintang beer from 5pm-6pm. Seriously, if this hasn't convinced you/made you drool/made you jealous then, I don't know what to say. On our second night we ate at a restaurant called Maxi, almost opposite - just don't do it - the food nowhere near compared and it cost us way more money for something not even half as good.

Now - nightlife. Legian Road is buzzing, literally. Every club, bar, mini mart generally has music blaring from it. Other than Sky Garden (I promise I'm not promoting for them!), we had been told about Engine Room, Apache Bar, Alleycats and Bounty. I didn't make it to Apache but the girls told me it was great and had live music but we did all manage Engine Room. I have to admit, the clubs in Asia are really strange - enthusiastic dancing and really, really dreadful remixes but Engine Room managed  to keep me happy with good music, even a bit of Biggie! Again, cheap drinks and a good vibe - we met some lovely Indonesians - they're all so friendly, all just wanting to speak to you and find out where you are from. 

Possibly my favourite thing I've done during this whole trip is surf lessons. I searched trip advisor for surf schools and came across Odyssey Surf School, part of the Mercure Hotel on the main beach road, and booked for two lessons (both two and a half hours long) for $65 - which I think is excellent value for money. I booked us in for the next day and arranged pick up with Odyssey (yep, they even do pick up and drop off). We arrived the next day, got in our wetsuits, grabbed our boards and headed down to the beach - yeah,I felt pretty cool at that point. Our instructor was Tony and he was great, not only really funny but a good teacher too and got us all in the sea, standing on (and falling off) on boards. If you don't, for some reason, stand up on your board successfully, they give you a free lesson to help you progress. I definitely want to get surfing in Australia - good exercise, so much fun and I felt pretty cool. Hey surfer chick!

We have another Kuta stop over for 5 days at the end of our trip before Australia so I'll fill you in on the shopping and other must do things in Kuta.


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