Jase and I had been looking forward to this for so long. Due to Jason’s insistence, this time I’d booked accommodation in advance, he wasn’t hearing any of my “usually I just turn up and it’s sweet” protests. Which ended up being a good thing really, we were going to arrive in Bali at about midnight. After what turned out to be the longest transit EVER. I could have got to London in that time. We went Wellington – Sydney – Jakarta – Bali, with a few hours stops… nightmare. There’s only so many movies I can handle watching on those tiny screens.
I’m in two minds about booking accommodation. I think just arriving in a country it’s a good idea, it’s nice to have somewhere to go with minimal fluffing around. But on the other hand, when you just turn up, you end up meeting randoms, staying off the beaten track in little gems you don’t see on the bloated Trip Advisor or Lonely Planet and you just have so much more flexibility. Fancy a night on the other side of the island? No problem, just go. Obviously the down point here is that if you hit your destination in busy season and everything’s booked out.
Anyway, we drive into Kuta from Denpasar airport and Jase is getting noticeably quiet. I realise I hadn’t quite explained what he was getting into… I know he expected an island resort or something but Bali is a mix between beautiful island beaches of Thailand and a mad city full of street vendors and insane scooter drivers, not so different to Cairo, come to think of it. If you haven’t seen it before it’s definitely a culture shock. It takes a few days to learn how to deal with the vendors suddenly filling your pockets with goods and demanding you pay for it.
My first time travelling to South Asia was a trip with my Dad where we were visiting Singapore and Thailand for his work. He gave me a wad of what looked like monopoly money and said something I’ve never forgotten to this day. “Don’t buy crap”. I think this went with an explanation of how easy it is to want to buy souvenirs straight away and ending up with junk. I’ve always kept it in mind when shopping while travelling. I tried to bestow this wisdom to Jason. “Now remember”, I began. “It’ll be easy to spend money here so don’t buy cra….” I could see his eyes glazing over me to the nearest store with fake Oakleys and knew it was already a lost cause.
Once he’d been ripped off a few times, he started getting into the swing of things. And enjoying it. I literally had to grab his arm and drag him away from the shops. Turn my back for 5 minutes and he’d disappear…. reappearing with an entire rubbish bag FILLED with fake watches, sunglasses, shorts, teeshirts and other random shit. “I have to buy MORE BAGS to take things home” he’d declare. At one such haggling session, I sat on the footpath and smoked a cigarette with a friend of the shop owner we visited the most frequently. “What will you do when you get home”, he asked me. “I’m going to start up a fake watch shop and sell off all this crap you’ve sold my boyfriend”, I told him. He laughed at that.
A stretch of road down by our hotel was especially bad for getting hustled by street vendors. “G’DAY MATE”, they’d yell. “SEE MY SHOP, SUUUUUPER BLOODY CHEAP” in their best outback Australian accent. “G’DAY” Jase would yell back. Eventually it would lead to a piss take Australian accent scream off with each word becoming more and more nasally and screechy.
“We’re NOT Australian” I’d finally interject. This caused immediate confusion.
“WHAT. Where are you from?”
“New Zealand! Wait, wait. Ok” *deep breath, push chest out, staunch up* “KIA ORA BRO, COME SEE MY SHOP BLOODY SWEET AS”.
We stayed at All Seasons hotel which is in Legian, 10 minute walk to central market Kuta. Our hotel was stunning and the people working there were just so kind. The lady who ran the hotel Spa managed to sell us a couples treatment for 2 and a half hours. This worried me due to the fact I can’t sit still for very long and I get bored pretty easy. We decided on a Milk and Honey Rejuvenation treatment, consisting of an hour full body massage, body and face mask, hair mask (my hair was seriously dry with all the chlorine and salt water) then a flower bath. It sounded divine.
The best bit was Jason’s face when he realised they’d given him black frilly disposable knickers to wear. They even sat up his bum slightly as they were a bit too small.
The massage was amazing! Although they did this weird thing with me (and all the massages I had did this) where they gave me an amazing skull massage then, without warning, grabbed handfuls of my hair and yank on it. It was strange but not unpleasant I guess. At the point where they started on the “Milk and honey body mask” it came to my attention very quickly that we were simply being covered in yogurt. Nice yogurt, I’m hoping. “Good for you”, one of them mumbled. IS IT? REALLY? I don’t see the health benefits of yogurt being slapped around your chest and knee caps. God, I couldn’t wait to wash it off. Especially when it started to set. You know when you get your face painted as a kid and you end up stretching your mouth out in weird directions to feel the paint crack? Yeah.
They made us a pot of delicious tea and led us to a huge marble bath filled with petals to soak in. It was so good. From then on, every morning I’d awake to a fully alive and dressed Jason, who smelled slightly floral. “Is it actually necessary to have a massage everyday, just because you can? I’m starting to think you go back so you can wear the frilly undies”. They knew him by name at the end of the week.
My London friends took us down to the beach and talked Jason into learning how to surf. Which he picked up in 10 minutes much to the delight of the small Balinese man who had clearly had enough of teaching people who couldn’t swim how to surf. I watched him whoop and wave his hands around and decided it was a good time to start taking some photos. Jase decided it was a good time to ask to learn tricks and turns. The Balinese teacher wasn’t exactly ready to progress on to that after only one wave. It was kinda funny, I went to hire a boogie board during a particularly large wave day and was allowed under the condition I was a New Zealander and therefore could swim. We were also taken out to a beautiful seaside restaurant in the evening where I cut my hands open trying to eat a crab. Deliciously spikey.