I slept nicely my first night in Bali, the fan on full blast to keep me cool and swoosh away any pesky mosquitoes. I washed up in my private bathroom, a much-needed change from the communal hostel showers where I'd have time-release controls, or be subject to hearing guys hawk loogies in stereo (seriously gross habit!). My fancy bungalow even had warm water.
I had read The Lonely Planet on the way to Bali, yet I didn't manage to put one bit of its advice into practice on my first day. Everyone comes to Kuta to make money from the tourists, and it took the first day for me to realize a few things (which again, The Lonely Planet clearly outlined):
- Don't look in a cheap shop if you have no intention to buy something. In fact, don't even make eye contact with the guy sitting outside of it. And when he calls to you “hey boss” or gestures to you, don't slow down! Heck, don't even say “no thank you” or turn your neck – it'll wear you out by day's end.
- There are far too many people trying to offer “transport” in cars, taxis and on motorbikes. Haggling for transport, like a lot in Bali, is expected so brush up on your skills and be ready to walk away.
- It's really, really, really hot during the day, so take it slow. Even slower. No one will care if you don't move more than 100-feet in a day. Just check out the locals – they're all sitting around too.
- If you go to the beach, expect garbage to wash up during the rainy season (which includes my time here in February). If your accommodation has a pool, use it instead of the ocean. Walk past the area with palms where all the hawkers will try to sell you stuff. If you buy something from one, say a small pineapple, then you'll soon be surrounded by people trying to sell you everything from a drink, to wooden Buddha sculptures, cheap blow guns, hand-carved chess boards, and massages. It gets annoying fast, so head closer to the water where it seems they're not allowed.
- School kids on break from Java will have assignments to practice their English with the tourists. It made me feel like a rock star – being asked for my signature, photo, and interviewed about where I'm from, etc.
- Everything is as cheap as I was lead to believe – sweet as!
My first Balinese meal was at an upper-scale restaurant across from Kuta Beach. I had fettucine with crab in a white wine sauce as my main, and white chocolate creme brulee for desert, along with tea. The meal totaled about $15, easily half the cost of what I'd have to pay in a Western restaurant for food of the same quality!
I struck up a conversation with a couple of Swedish girls in the bungalow next to me, inviting them over for a beer (Bintang beer really is $1 a bottle!). The next time I saw them they were in the pool as evening set in, and I had to join them. A few bats were flying overhead, however we otherwise had the place to ourselves.
We went out to dinner after the swim, and I ordered Nasi Goreng for the first time. It was love at first bite! It's a traditional Indonesian rice dish served in various ways (such as with seafood or chicken).