Kuta. What a place for a discussion. No doubt it could match the grime, sleaze and greed of Bangkok and maybe even surpass it. Arriving that morning to the Australian Benidorm, I simply had to tell my friends the word ‘bogans’ to describe the people here. On Lombok one man said that he wouldn’t return to Bali because it had lost its charm and culture. Kuta had absolutely no class and culture, instead it had a variety of awful bumper stickers with such quotes as ‘What the fuckin’ fuck you fuck’ and a variety of other filthy, badly typed messages. Classy it wasn’t, tacky it was. As I tried to get a room in the area, I discovered the locals had hardened to the tourists and their smiles seemed to have curdled permanently. Everywhere to stay was overpriced and everywhere else to go was horribly westernised. The bombs that went off in Kuta years ago temporarily destroyed the tourism industry, before they re-envisioned the spot as Australia abroad, grabbing in the Aussies with the stickers such as ‘Suck my vomit rod,’ the reference to singlets and even a mention of the department store Bunnings. It was unbelievable to think this was Bali… but it really was.
My friends and I wisely decided to hit the beach and stay away from the markets. As people have already mentioned to me when I showed them images, the beach was filthy and crowded with garbage. Even the sand left a lot to be desired. As we embraced a moment of pure sunlight, we were lucky to see a passing beauty contest. Comment on what you make of the girls and how serious a competition this really was…
And in the evening we went (with huge regret) to the tourist epicentre for clubbing, the Sky Bar, a place where you were able to have an hour of free drinks; literally, an unlimited bar. I stopped after five, momentarily before I vomited, because I realised this could have been petrol, my friends didn’t. So as I watched the girls/transvestites-cum-prostitutes get down and dirty in their PVC creations and a dead behind the eyes stare to the sounds of irritating Adele remixes and other top 40 shockers, I realised that Kuta almost had a this-is-so-ridiculously-tragic-it’s-almost-amazing kind of atmosphere. Especially because the dancers were followed by vaguely talented flame throwers who also looked unappreciated and unloved when performing to the violently drunk crowd.
And then we left, in a whirlwind of vomit due to those free drinks. I’d like to say it was because we heard the fifth Pitbull song in an hour, but either way we were rushing back to the accommodation with my friends making a fast exit out of Kuta. As it was we experienced the final moment of Indonesian aggression when my owner from my homestay got in to a heated debate with one of my friends about the luggage being left in my room. The book I was reading at the time referred to Asians as putting business first and foremost in their life, and one could certainly see that this owner was a perfect example of this. The argument continued – and spiralled out of control for a worthy twenty minutes before everybody made a stage exit to the airport in a flood of recriminations, lively discussion and overwhelming happiness Kuta was becoming a distant memory.
And for my final part of the trip I had the joys of the New Year to see, the silence to survive and Seminyak, the upmarket Kuta left to see. Let’s revisit that time next.