Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Transport, Boss?

It is in the maze of narrow backstreets (gang) where all the life and commerce exist in Kuta -- hostels, bars, restaurants, surf shops, and many many sole-proprietorships selling the same touristy knockoff shirts & hats & sunglasses. These alleyways are maybe 10' wide and filled with scooters (and the occasional car) racing in both directions on the wrong side of the street. Sometimes a narrow elevated sidewalk accompanies the street, but it is often crowded with vendors minding their stores.

The most common words I hear while wandering around town are "Transport, boss?" as everyone with a scooter or car is looking to give a tourist a lift to wherever. Far too many nice looking taxis roam the streets looking for fares, too, and they give a brief tap on the horn whenever passing a potential customer (tourist). Though not nearly as pestering as the kids in Morocco who wanted to be our tour guides, the offer of a ride in Bali is far more prevalent, sometimes occurring 3-4 times in about 15 seconds. It's symptomatic of a developing society where people are looking for income and doesn't bother me in the least.

The beaches in Bali are nearly endless, encircling the island. Before lunch a bunch of newbies were out surfing so I approached a local surfing instructor and learned that early afternoon (1pmish) is high tide and better for catching waves. I'd been envisioning surfing as more of a quiet morning pursuit out of the heat of the day, but its not like that on this part of the island. So after a $5 pork & rice lunch in the neighborhood favored by low twentysomething Aussies, I put in my contact lenses and hit the beach. Surf's up, bro.

I rented a surf board ($5 for 1 hour) and hit the waves along with scores of others on Kuta beach, the Waikiki of Bali. I never fully stood up and rode one out, but I got close a few times before the beating sun and reflecting water started to get to me. Damn, it's hot. Just how hot is it? It's so hot that I'm actually considering purchasing a wide-brimmed hat. I turned in my board with 15 minutes to spare and spent some quality time in the shade watching a game of dominoes and drinking copious amounts of water.

As I write this it is Thursday morning and I've had enough of the super touristy beach scene. My expectation was always that I'd only be here for a couple days and that has proven to be accurate. I'm heading for the town of Ubud which is less than 2 hours away by bus. Ubud is the cultural and artistic center of Bali and I think it will suit me better than the beach scene in Kuta. It's also where Tony Bourdain ("No Reservations" TV show host) ate what he said was the best pork in his life -- and he's a pig guy. A book I've been reading is called "A House in Bali" and it was written in 1930 by a Canadian music composer who came here to study the local music, specifically an instrument called the gamelan. The book is fantastic and it's giving me a great sense of the culture and history of the area.

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