A man with a bow and arrow was stalking the beach. He had a backpack full of other weapons, like blowpipes. He probably didn’t manage to sell many. Nor the salesman sailing a pirate ship-shaped kite through the air. Who needs that crap? Suddenly we spotted a hawker that was selling something useful. A pineapple, expertly sliced by machete for us. Meanwhile, we were crackling in the supercharged Bali sun, on rented beanbags, with iced tea. As the sun burned across the sky, we constantly re-positioned under the umbrella’s shade like some kind of human sundial. When the heat faded from the afternoon, the staff set up vast fields of coloured beanbags. They looked like giant jelly beans on the beach. I was enjoying Seminyak.
Two days earlier, I wasn’t impressed with this place. Kedak, our driver, dropped us off, and we could tell he was eager to leave as soon as possible. Seminyak’s suffocating traffic had clogged the main arterial road and the symphony of car horns was making this small beach town feel urgent and stressful. My first impression of the beach wasn’t good either; for such a popular tourist hotspot, I truly couldn’t see the appeal of the flat ocean and sticky black sand. “Is this it?”, I thought to myself. In the distance we could see the beach extending to Legian and Kuta, and every inch was littered with coloured beach umbrellas, each attached to a bar.
For what it was, Seminyak wasn’t that bad in the end. Of the three towns on that beach front, it is the most upmarket, with some pretty impressive luxury villas. There are a few budget places too (like where we stayed), but in general, there aren’t many backpackers roaming the streets looking for cheap beer.
OK. Kuta next.
With a whole day to kill until our night flight, we walked to Kuta. I knew Kuta by reputation before we arrived, and I was curious. Oh, jeez. One of those places where people think they can act like drunken louts, just because they’re on holiday and have money to throw at the locals. Consequently, the entire culture of the place has been modified to mirror the visitors, instead of expressing the land of the locals. At least Khao San Road in Bangkok was definitely Thai, and despite the big backpacker presence, it at least had Thai character. Kuta seemed no longer Indonesian.
I didn’t like how shopkeepers bluntly called me ‘Hey you!’, and tried to follow me. I didn’t like the Australian themed bars with terrible Australian names. I didn’t like seeing KFC and McDonalds and Subway. I hated all the sexist, homophobic and xenophobic bumper stickers for sale. Do the locals even realise what they say? What kind of bogans take them home for their car? (Seriously, do a Google search for Kuta bumper stickers to see some mysogyny). I especially didn’t like the feeling that here, locals probably saw me as just another tourist sucker to sell stuff to. And we didn’t even see Kuta at night! The solution? We sequestered ourselves in the Hard Rock Café, ate ice cream, and ignored Kuta until our flight.