This is an ongoing series reflecting on my first trip overseas to Bali in 2008. You can read the entire series here!
Upon arriving at the airport, we were met by a representative from our travel agency, and Ben, the Balinese man who would take us on our “Big Day Out” we had booked for the following day (more on that later). The news was not ideal (especially for control freak me in my first few steps in a foreign country) – the hotel that we had booked a few months ago had just shut down yesterday! Cue mini freakout on the inside, while trying to look chilled and take it in my stride on the outside.
The good news was that they had booked us into another hotel which they were going to take us to instead. I was intrigued when we pulled up to the hotel and were stopped at boom gates while a security guard went around the car with a mirror on a long stick, checking underneath the car (I assume for bombs). Apparently this was a measure introduced after the Bali bombing a few years earlier.
We farewelled Ben for the moment, confirming that he would come and pick us up at 8am the next morning, and stepped into the open air lobby of the infamous Bounty Hotel. Having not had the luxury of doing any research on the place in advance, we weren’t sure what to expect. When the porter dropped our bags off to our room and asked us “You like party?”, it was pretty clear that our first few nights until we changed hotels were certainly not going to be quiet!
The porter told us that there was a big party that night at the Bounty Bar, and we organised tickets with him as it seemed like a fun intro into the Kuta nightlife. For the “special deal” of 250,000 rupiah each (about AUD$25), we had all you could drink tickets for later that night. We quickly dropped our bags off in the room and set out into Poppies Lane to explore.
Our first shopping experience was to get ripped off and pay an exorbitant amount for manicures! Two lessons learned here within my couple of hours in the country – always be sure of the exchange rate, and be confident when you’re bargaining! They definitely saw us coming! With our pride slightly dented, but writing it off as all part of the experience, we continued on to check out the famous Kuta Beach.
Kuta Beach was not what I expected, having been spoiled by the beautiful white sand beaches of Perth where I was living at the time. It was certainly very packed with people, which definitely contributed to the amount of rubbish around (they have been doing some work to try and clean up the beach in more recent times). As well as people sunbathing, swimming and surfing, there were many locals selling food, drinks, trinkets and leasing jet skis and other water sports. Much more hectic than I had pictured!
We returned back to our room for a quick swim in the hotel pool, and then headed out to the Bounty Bar after dinner at a small warung (Balinese cafe). Let’s just say at the Bounty Bar that we made it our mission to drink our way through the entire cocktail list – an excellent decision at the time, but something we certainly regretted for our early start the next morning!
How do you usually spend your first day in a new destination?