We arrived into Denpasar, Bali after slowly working through the longest customs queue of all time. After hopping into a taxi at the airport and being driven through narrow streets and multiple near misses with scooters, motorbikes, pedestrians, chickens, dogs, etc, we arrived to our accommodation in Kuta at about 6pm.
Tired, weary and starving after a day that began at 3am NZ time, we were excited to explore for a moment or two before ravishing down some food and collapsing into bed for a good nights sleep.
On our brief evening explore we didn’t find the beach as we had hoped, having not quite got our bearings yet, but managed to follow our noses back to our guesthouse and grab some dinner at a warung (local food restaurant) across the street.
Maybe this sets the tone for the rest of our travels – I don’t know – but we broke pretty much every “rule” on our first evening. This place had no english menu so we had no clue what we were ordering! We ate Nasi Campur – a common Indonesian meal that is essentially your choice from a selection of different proteins (chicken, fish, tempeh, egg, etc), vegetables and sauces, served with warm rice. With ours we ate cold chicken, cold eggs and some other unidentifiable meats, that had been sitting out for who knows how long. And you know what? We did not get sick in the slightest, it was tasty, and it only cost us $1.50 each!
Kuta has a fairly poor reputation amongst many backpackers, as a place full of bintang singlets, fresh tattoos and heads full of cornrows. Wandering the streets I can certainly see the truth in this, however, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised when we reached the beach. It was lovely, if overly busy and filled with many, many hawkers trying to sell you everything from jewellery and sarongs, to ice creams, kites and bow & arrows! A simple “no, thank you” repeated three times over as they continually ask you to buy their goods seemed to send them on their way.
We spent three nights in Kuta, with two full days which we spent mostly lingering along the beach and enjoying smoothies at various beach cafes which sprawl out into the sand.
We spent one morning waking all the way up to Seminyak beach (about 1.5 hours) where the people thinned out a bit and it was slightly more peaceful.
One afternoon we indulged in a massage, which typically cost between 50,000 and 60,000 Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) for one hour, approx $5-6 NZD. It was quite lovely, but I’m sure a few more dollars would have helped make the experience more relaxing (or at least paid for childcare for the little girl that insisted on continually ripping open the curtain to my massage booth!).
On our last evening there was a beach festival on Legian beach (just down the end of Kuta beach) so we grabbed some tucker from there along with a bintang, laid out the sarong in the sand and watched the sun set.
If you’re on a budget, Kuta’s food offering is not great. Try and eat at local warungs where you can and it will be a lot cheaper, plus a lot more authentic and delicious! We ate at one of the restaurants on Legian street on our second night, and whilst it was a lovely setting, we ordered Indonesian food and not only was it 3x the price of a local waring it was bland and ordinary.
Whilst I did enjoy our time in Kuta, I have been more impressed with the places we have been to since (as I write this I can hear the surf gently folding into the sand, on the peaceful island of Gili Air). It was a great place to start and get a bit of beach time in, so I’m glad we spent some time in Kuta but I’m also happy that we didn’t stay there longer. There is a lot more to Bali (and Indonesia) than an overcrowded beach and a bintang singlet!