Pictures are of me happy to have caught a wave on my 1st day of surfing and of us girls on a night out in Bali – (l to r) Niki, me, Anna, and Monique. And of me, Niki, and Anna with all of our bags on as we head from Lombok to Bali on the ferry.
After an incredibly beautiful, calm and relaxing week in Gili Trawangan, Niki, Anna and I headed back to Bali on the slow ferry. Anna is a Danish girl who is a naval officer that patrols the waters around Greenland and reminds me immensely of my friend Nathalie from college – both in terms of looks and personality. Anna, Niki and I hit it off really well and so Niki and I were more than happy to have Anna join us for the remainder of our trip in Bali. To get from Gili T to Bali was a 14 hour experience and involved a boat, a bus, a long, slow ferry, and another bus ride. Our last bus ride, it felt like we were traveling in a hearst – our minibus was dark on the outside and inside. First they packed all the bags in and then the vehicle appeared full, but no, somehow, they managed to squeeze in 13 westerners. My hip bones were squashed and I had to go to the bathroom for the whole 3 hours, but all was well in the end.
We made it to Bali and found a room for $5 for the three of us in a really great location, so we were happy. The next four days we passed at the beach, learning to surf. The first day we all took lessons together and Niki and Anna were really awesome – both able to stand quite a bit. Me… not so much, but then again, my instructors only advice was “stand up” Not the best instructor. But, it was still fun and the moments when all 3 of us caught the same wave, it was a really nice feeling.
We met up with our friends Rick and Monique, who Niki and I had traveled with in Sumatra. It was SO good to see them again – seriously, just like seeing old friends. And being back in Kuta Beach was like a homecoming of sorts. I think I have a love-hate relationship with the place. On the one hand, it’s a backpacker ghetto, which is very comforting and necessary at points – as it has everything a backpacker would want – massages, western food, cheap accommodation, clothing, sunglasses and art stalls. And the setting is absolutely stunning. The beach is expansive and gorgeous and watching the enormous waves roll in is absolutely mesmerizing.
On the other hand, Kuta Beach has a very bad reputation due to the large number of Australians that are there. Now, nothing against Australians, but I do have something against what we started terming the “Bintang Bali Aussie Boys”. Bintang is the beer of choice in Indonesia, and wife beaters with the Bintang logo are aplenty, especially in Kuta Beach. Going out at night, the streets and clubs are just littered with Australian guys wearing these awful shirts and getting absolutely hammered. I met a good number of Australians who are embarrassed by the Bintang-wearing crowd…and rightfully so. But, it makes sense – Bali is what Cancun is to the American college kid, except way cheaper, and flights cost next to nothing, so of course there are lots of Australians. So, after days of seeing guys in board shorts and Bintang wife beaters, it gets old pretty quickly.
But, the fun that I had with my friends here and the thrill of catching a wave totally outweighs any negative impression I have of the place. By my 4th day of surfing, I was catching more waves than I wasn’t and finally mastered how to correctly paddle and actually stand up. There was a bit of a learning curve, no doubt – I learned that while I snowboard “normal,” I surf “goofy” – and that took about 2 days to figure out.
After a day of surfing, our evenings and nights were filled with massages, or should I say “yes, massage”, because every single massage place you pass by the women say “yes, massage.” We’d get on the internet, shower, get ready for dinner and sometimes went out. Honestly, being in the sun all day and surfing is a fairly exhausting routine and we quickly tired of the Bintang Bali crowd, longed for the quieter nights on Gili T, so we had a more low-key night life this time around.
And now I’m at the airport and absolutely sad to be leaving this place. Never before have I been so sad to leave a place I’ve traveled – ever. It’s probably the combination of the country, the people I’ve been with, the food I’ve eaten, etc, but I’m really, really sad. Niki has been such a godsend – I know we’re both really grateful and happy that we met and traveled together. We’ve had such a blast together, have been through a lot together and definitely will be friends for a long time to come. Of the 7 weeks I’ve now been traveling, we’ve been together for 5 and a half weeks. I’m in the midst of trying to convince her to join me in Nepal, so this might not be the last you hear of her yet. I had such a good rapport with Rick and Monique and Anna and Niki that it’s really sad to leave them all – feels like I’m leaving some really good friends and now I’m a little sad to be traveling on my own again. I know that I’ll meet more people along the way – it always happens, but at the moment, I’m not quite ready to say goodbye – to Indonesia or the people I’ve met along the way.