After departing the insanity of Kuta/ Seminyak area, I hopped in a car and went 9 miles south to the Bukit Peninsula. The area is also called South Kuta or Uluwatu, but the name is misleading because it couldn’t be much different than its’ hectic northern neighbor. The 9 miles feels more like 900. It is fairly shocking how different South Kuta is from the tourist epicenter of Kuta Beach. South Kuta is orders of magnitude quieter, with beaches that have 95% less people on them. The lack of other humans in this area makes me like it about the same amount- roughly 95% more than crowded Kuta.
The traffic is gone, the tourists have vanished, I haven’t seen one ladyboy offering blow jobs, and I can spend hours on the beach without being bothered to buy something every 30 seconds. It is of course not tourist free in the Bukit Peninsula, which is south of the airport, but the difference is huge for how short the distance is. I shouldn’t be so surprised that nearly every tourist in Bali chooses to stay in the madness of Tourist Town, but I simply can’t wrap my head around it. I am definitely not complaining. Having all the silly tourists stay in one area means the rest of the island is nice and quiet.
I have had a really enjoyable routine during my week in the area. I wake up around 8 am, eat some free hotel breakfast, go to the rooftop pool to swim and read, perhaps take a nap, head out for food and to go exploring, watch a sunset on the beach, return home to clean up and then go get some dinner. Not a bad day. There are a variety of really beautiful beaches in this area, all around a 20 minute scooter ride from my hotel. The hotel itself is unfortunately not right on one of the beaches, but it is very central to reach everything. Most days, I just drive until I find a beach. For most of the week, I picked a new road I had not been on before, so I have visited a variety of different beaches in South Kuta. Each beach is incredible, with only one of them (Padang Padang) having more than a dozen tourists.
Several of the beaches have world class surfing, which means the waves are a bit too big and fast for my barely amateur status. Rip Curl sponsors a surf contest at one of the local beaches (Padang Padang) that is going on right now, which is really the only crowded beach in the area. Waves and swells do not bow to human schedules, so there haven’t been any contest days since I got here. They were supposed to have something going on yesterday morning but there wasn’t big enough waves for the pros. The surf is far superior to everything else I have seen while in Indonesia, which I realize is dependent on swell and weather. Three of the beaches had amazing waves, offering long waves to the riders. I can see why Indonesia is such a popular place for the hardcore surf crowd.
The main tourist attraction in South Kuta is the cliff temple of Uluwatu. It was the only real tourist hub that I have seen so far during my time in the far south of Bali. There was a long line of cars to get into the big parking lot, and bus after bus dropped people off from Kuta to wander around for an hour or two. The cliffs and temple are really impressive, and definitely worth a visit even if you have to swim upstream against the tourist hoard a few times. The other thing to watch out for at Uluwatu are the monkeys. Yes, more monkeys. These ones are scarier and more aggressive than the monkeys I saw in Ubud. I didn’t see anyone get attacked or bitten, but I did see a handful of people get their eyeglasses taken off their head. I am not sure if the monkeys just like the glass/ glasses or they know WE really like them, but either way, they sure do enjoy ripping eyeglasses off of human heads. The monkeys still scare the crap out of me since they are so fast and unpredictable. At one point I was trying to get a picture of a baby monkey and an older one growled at me and started coming closer. Perhaps it was angry that I was snapping pics of her baby, or maybe I was just getting too close. Regardless of the reason I angered the monkey, I swiftly moved away, not wanting to get monkey molested.
I stayed at Uluwatu for sunset, which was really cool to watch on top of the big cliffs with the waves crashing far below. This seems to be a popular tourist activity- heading down from Kuta to watch the sunset at Uluwatu. Since that sunset, I have gone to various other beaches where there are hardly any people around. Being around a ton of tourists is tolerable every so often, but secluded beaches are far more enjoyable and peaceful. For how little effort it takes to break away from the Tourist Highway, it is well worth it. Basically a scooter rental and a tiny sense of adventure will allow anyone to avoid the tourist hoard.
It is still a bit surprising how easy it is to get away from Tourist Town. I am thankful for that, since I don’t need to criss cross jungles or get on a 5 hour ferry to avoid the mass of foreigners visiting from their home countries. The difference between South Kuta and Kuta is vast, and their short distance from each other makes that difference even more apparent. Basically, if you come to Bali head south after the airport instead of north and you will have a much better holiday. Unless you enjoy being in the center of Touristville.
Today is my last in Bali and Indonesia. Tonight I take a red eye from here to Sydney, Australia to enjoy my last 2 weeks of this trip. It is surreal that this four month experience is coming to an end. While it hasn’t even been four months yet, it easily feels more like twelve months. The time has also flown by. When I look back at pictures from earlier in this trip, there are times that it seems like a totally different vacation. “Oh, yea. I was in Thailand a few months ago.’” Crazy. Four months at home would normally have been a little over a quarter at my sales job, trying hard to hit my numbers, earning my bonus, going to the gym, and hanging out with friends. This experience has not surprisingly been incredible, and while I am really looking forward to getting home, it will be sad to have it come to an end.
There is also a big pile of nervous excitement about getting back to the US. The Travel Life has become my new normal. Booking hotels and transportation, getting to the next city, figuring out where to eat, renting scooters, exploring, taking photos, meeting new people, and repeating that process has been my entire life since April. It will be odd being in Australia, since it will be the first country in 3 months where everyone speaks English and are predominately white. It will serve as my halfway house between the third world and home.
With that, after two months, my wonderful time in Indonsia comes to an end. There were times i was alone at an abandoned villa watching waves slam into volcanic rock. There was a time I was being creepily massaged by a man who may have been 1,000 years old. For the first time I saw a straight line baggage claim and all the chaos that comes with it. I witnessed the tourist insanity of Kuta, never needing to come back. I took dozens of photos with locals at the big temple Borobudur. I got to stay with my wonderful relatives. One morning I watched Team USA in the world cup as the security guard snored on the couch. All tolled, I visited 11 cities, rented a bunch of scooters, took five boat rides, hopped in a bunch of cars, was on four inter-country flights, and met countless amazing locals as well as fellow travelers. The list of great memories goes on and on.
There isnt anything bad to say about this great country. The people were overly friendly and welcoming, everything is amazingly cheap, it is easy enough to get around (as long as the street traffic doesn't swallow you up), and the locations are beautiful. I wouldn’t rank Indonesian food as my favorite (or even in the top five), but it wasn’t gross either. Indonesia is a country I definitely want to visit again, as I feel like I only scratched the surface of this vast collection of islands. So long, Indonesia. See you next time..