Our first day in Bali was just as chaotic as I expected. On the plane, I was very nervous. I kept thinking about Indonesia’s sketchy flight safety record! But we landed safe and sound.
We were feeling pretty cocky in the airport because some people were total idiots–didn’t know they had to pay a visa fee to get in, standing in the wrong line, etc. Before we even left Darwin, there was a girl on our shuttle to the airport that forgot her phone and wanted the shuttle to turn around so she could get it. We found out that once she got to the airport, she couldn’t get her ticket to Indonesia because her passport expires in less than a month. Some people are really not very well prepared for traveling.
Our cockiness was short lived. As soon as we got out of the airport, we were hounded by hawkers. We were expecting this and had read that much cheaper taxis could be hired on the road outside the airport. So, not sure exactly where we were going, we walked through a parking lot and ended up on a very busy main road, and tried to hail a cab. None of them were stopping. (In retrospect, this is hard to believe, as you normally can’t walk three feet down the road without someone yelling, “Transport? Taxi, yes?” at you.) We gave up and were walking back to the airport when a taxi just happened to pull out of a driveway in front of us. It was a Bluebird Group cab, which we heard was the best. They use a meter, so you don’t have to haggle for a price. We were hoping for 20,000 and it ended up being 23,300, but a cab from the airport is 50,000.
The cab ride was crazy! I mean absolutely crazy. Indonesians drive on the left side of the road. They also drive in the center, on the right side and sometimes on the sidewalks. The roads are narrow and jam packed with cars and motorbikes. Tons and tons of motorbikes, darting through traffic in every direction. I had to shut my eyes a few times.
We finally arrived at our road in Legian, a town that’s basically connected to Kuta. Since we didn’t know much about the area, we just went with what Lonely Planet said. We stopped at an inn that wasn’t listed in Lonely Planet and checked out the rooms there. The cheapest double room with fan and cold water was 150,000 and the guy wouldn’t budge on the price at all. We had read about rooms for 70,000, so we decide to keep looking. We start walking. We’re wandering around in the heat with our packs on, fending off countless hawkers, but we don’t see any other guest houses. I start to get frustrated and worried that we won’t even be able to find the first one again. We turn around and on our way see a sign for a place listed in Lonely Planet. Turns out it was right down the street from the first place, we just didn’t see it.
The room there is also a double cold-water-only and it has a ridiculous USA bedspread. Just like the first place, it’s 150,000 and the manager wouldn’t drop the price at all. We have a feeling we’re getting ripped off, but we take it anyway. Even if it is a rip-off, it’s only $17 total. In Australia, we were paying $47 total for a shared dorm room.
Once we get settled in, we face our next challenge: finding food. We set out again and I’m feeling more confident about my sense of direction, but we don’t see any cute little local joints. All we see are empty Western restaurants. Brad declares he wants an Indonesian dinner, so we turn onto the side streets and keep looking. Eventually we find a warung that has a few locals eating in it. The place isn’t super busy, but it seems promising. We feel pretty conspicuous and stupid, but we walk in anyway and I use the little bit of Indonesian that I know. We both end up with a plate of “nasi campur.” I thought we were going to get an awesome meal. I was wrong. Everything was dry and hard, except the chili sauce. The chili sauce was amazing. I eat as much as I can, basically whatever I can cover in chili sauce. There’s a bowl of soup, too, but it’s also not very good. Surprisingly, Brad eats almost all his food. We go pay the bill: 30,000, or $3.40. After that we stop in a bar for happy hour and split a large Bintang: 24,000, or $2.72. Kuta may be crowded, run-down and touristy, but I could get used to these prices!
Now I’m sitting in the little garden of our guest house. In the distance I hear loud noises. It sounds like a mix between a drag race, a construction site, and a festival. I’m not sure what exactly is going on or if this is normal. We already decided to spend another night here. Not so much because we like it, more to get acclimated and buy a few odds and ends. I’m not sure what tomorrow will bring, but I know it won’t be boring!