An unexpected change of plan
After spending two weeks recuperating in Kuala Lumpur, I booked a ticket to Bali. My plan was to land and head straight to Sanur, located on the South East coast. From there I would be able to take a ferry/speedboat over to Nusa Lembongan the following day and get on with some diving and finally see some manta rays, and if I was lucky, a Mola Mola known as the sunshine fish.
However, after landing in Denpasar I received a message from my friend Antoine saying he was in Kuta, Bali. So, after reclaiming my luggage, I took a taxi over to Kuta instead of Sanur. I knew Antoine’s trip was soon coming to an end so it was nice to see him once last time in SE Asia before he temporarily abandons the continent.
Antoine had a friend visiting him from France/Luxembourg who arrived that night as well. So after dinner we went exploring some the local bar/club scene in Kuta.
Kuta is a spring break type location for Aussies so the clubs there are about as cringe-worthy you can get. We went to a big club (I think it was called Rooftop Garden or something like that). It was a multi-level club complex (I think 5 or 6 levels in total). On the ground level, they had a scantily dressed dancers. At around 11 pm the dancers started to dance with midgets and tourists, were allowed to get up on stage and dance with midgets if they so wished.
The following night we went the potato head restaurant-bar-resort and chilled in the pool.
We rented some motorbikes and drove up to a small town on the West coast of Bali, just slightly above Seminyak and Legian.
The traffic was a slow moving waddle of vehicles, as it always was in Bali. But we followed the lead of the other motorbike drivers and squiggled in and out of the traffic, between cars and used the express by-pass for motorbikes (the pavement).
It’s well known the tourists on motorbikes look like moving sacks of money with dollar signs on them to the Bali police force – pulling over tourists is big businesses. Tourists will get pulled over for absolutely anything. The most common is for not possessing an international driver’s license that incurs a negotiable fine of 1mn Rupia. Those with international driver license will find that once they’ve presented their license, they had unbeknown to themselves committed another traffic violation (like putting your foot over the white line in another lane when you stopped) which carries a 1mn Rupia fine or whatever cash you have in your wallet at the time.
A little preparation goes a long way. Before getting onto a motorbike in Bali, it’s worth moving all your money and credit cards into another pocket. Then keep lots of small notes in your wallet. When you’re pulled over for your traffic violation, you should bear in mind you are simply a sack of money. Most sacks of money don’t talk and so you should respect that tradition and minimise how much you say. When the fine has been explained to you, you should open your wallet, say this is all I have, then take out the notes and give it all to the policeman. You should put your hands together (like your praying) and say “Thank you, thank you. Terimah Kasih”. You should drive off, pull over as soon as you are out of site of the policeman and put some more money back in your wallet for when you get stopped again.
We had made it about half way to Canggu when we arrived at a junction. Antoine’s friend Pierre who had been leading the way slowed down and stopped at the front of the pack of traffic. He spotted it too late. There was a police box just on the corner and a policeman walked over to him beckoning him over. Pierre quickly asked, “Which way to Canggu?” hoping the police officer would get distracted. Of course to the police officer, Pierre was nothing more than a sack of money, so barely registered that an inanimate object had just asked for directions. He asked Pierre to get off the bike whilst the officers colleague grabbed Antoine. They were fined for something or another and Pierre took out his wallet to show the officer he didn’t have the 2mn Rupia that was asked of him (£100). The officer saw the card in his wallet and said there’s an ATM across the road. After some careful discussion and assessment of the exact motor rules broken, the police officer and my friends agreed that the rules they had broken actually carried a 300k Rupia fine.
Whilst this was going on I held back hoping to avoid attention. Eventually, I was spotted and the policeman beckoned me over. I went.
“Where are you from? India?” he asked as I took off my helmet.
I replied “Yes. I’m from India. Yes, a Hindu from India.”
“Really?! I’m Hindu too!”
“Wow. Yeah, I used to study the Bahabarat and the Ramayana when I was growing up.”
“You have broken some traffic rules but because you’re a Hindu brother I’ll let you off this time”.
“Thank you! Shukria” I said holding my hands together and bowing slightly in his direction.
In Canggu, we stopped off for a break at an awesome Restaurant-Bar called Cloud 9. It was really chilled out, had outdoor bean bag seating facing the rice fields and all import VW Camper Van parked in the corner.
After cloud 9 we drove around trying to find some accommodation close to the beach. We found a really nice place called Leo’s homestay that was a short scooter ride to the beach and had really clean rooms. It was a bit pricey but kind of normal for the Kuta/Seminyak/Legian area – 200k for a room.
The following day we rented some surfboards in the morning and went (attempted) surfing. I had first surfed in Morocco several years before and by the end of that lesson was just about able to stand up on a board for 7 seconds on smallish waves. So, as an absolute amateur surfing in Bali, I spent the best part of two hours getting beaten up by waves falling off the surfboard.
Canggu was great for surfing but also just had a really relaxed vibe with lots of really good restaurants and everyone’s favourite pub – The Old Man’s pub. If you’re in Canggu, the Old Man’s pub is where most the fun happens.
From Canggu we rode to Uluwatu using mostly the same road we had taken to get their but in reverse. We knew where the police outpost was and made sure we didn’t get caught on the red light at the junction, and drove on the outside of cars and trucks around the corner to stay out of the police’s sight.
Uluwatu is best known for massive surf waves. Most of the town is located on the top of the cliffs. They offer some great spectator sport for watching surfing but also really beautiful cliff faces (if that’s your thing).
At night Uluwatu also had a beach party with a great vibe. It’s a million miles from types of parties in Koh Pa Nang and Koh Phi Phi – these beach parties were a lot more chilled out.
Having spent a good few days with Antoine and Pierre, I left early the following day, returned my bike and made my way to Nusa Lembongan to do some diving and find some of these elusive (at least for me), Manta Rays.