The alarm woke us at 5:30 AM and we were ready to go an hour later. Our bus to the airport stood ready and we made it to the check in counter without any problems. Soon we were on the plane, a brand new Boeing 777, and airborne for Bali. The airport is right outside Kuta in a place called Tuban. It is a small airport and fitting for a small island in the Indonesian archipelago. The runway is partially built into the ocean. While we were in line for customs Shelagh exchanged a traveler’s check and we were instant millionaires. At the time $100.00 US became 750000.00 Rupiah.
Customs was a breeze and soon we were boarded on a bus bound for our hotel along with many other travelers destined for various hotels in the area. The person in charge of getting us all to our destinations was so picky about procedure that it took nearly an hour for all the forms to be filled in correctly, but ultimately the bus became mobile. Traveling along the roads in Bali was, at first, a bit un-nerving. Seeing the squalor and mangy dogs of a third world country is shocking. We were wondering if we had done the right thing coming here.
When we arrived at our hotel, a three star totally adequate place, we calmed down a bit. Our room had all the comforts one would expect and nothing was un-satisfactory. We cleaned ourselves up a bit and headed for the lounge to get a drink and a feel for the place. Like most places in Bali a room is basically four poles with a roof on top, and the lounge was exactly that, open air, cool breeze and friendly. Soon Maria introduced herself as the person in charge of the goings on in the bar and restaurant area of the hotel. It’s always a bit strange when you are the newbie in the lounge but that did not last long. We soon met people from England, Australia and the Netherlands. We enjoyed a nice dinner in the restaurant and started planning our first adventure for the next day.
In the morning we enjoyed a nice breakfast of fresh fruit and great coffee. It got us ready for the beach and downtown Kuta. Our hotel was located closer to the airport in Tuban so we had a leisurely walk along the beach to Kuta. Tiny crabs scurried along the sand ahead of us and disappeared into little holes in the sand. The entire beach is lined with resorts and cabanas. Kuta is just a half hour walk away, and once there we meandered along the little streets and checked out the local eateries and party tents. This town is a hot spot for young Australians who come here to let off some steam. The demographic is young and hip, but there is also a more sinister side with drugs and prostitution. Viagra is readily available and delivered to your hotel. There are also a lot of young people selling time-share condos. Our one-day in Kuta was enough and we realized that “our” Bali was out there, away from the tourist traps.
|Anker Beer at lunchtime|
|Kuta Market, every day a new dress|
Our holiday deal included several guided tours and we started to plan our 12-day adventure with one day on a tour followed with a day by the pool for R&R. So the next day was a pool day and we enjoyed just chillin’ in our bathing suits going for a dip in the cool water and now and then ordering something to snack on. Saté, spiced pork or chicken on a skewer and barbecued with peanut sauce, was one of our favorites, along with a bottle of “Bintang”, the local beer. Wine, our drink of choice, was too expensive, and hard booze is concocted at the bar by adding flavors to pure alcohol.
After a nice pool day we dressed for dinner and later returned to the lounge where we became a bit better acquainted with some of the other guests. One, who is now a friend for life, was Jan Paul, a real-estate agent, justice of the peace and lecturer from Gisbourne, Australia. We had a great evening with plenty of laughs and we planned to join her and her daughter Michelle the next day on a trip to Denpassar, the capital of Bali, for a shopping spree.