Saturday, August 5th: Kuta
More About Poppies
We continue to be enchanted with our little oasis in Kuta, Poppies Cottages. Service is fantastic. Every evening before sundown, two women come and light the mosquito coils on the front patio and in our bathroom. And they recharge the electric mosquito repeller that is plugged into the wall. In the morning we have breakfast brought to our patio and we eat outside listening to birds and watching the cats on the thatch roof of the adjacent house. This morning we had two banana crepes, a Spanish omelet, wonderful bacon (its International Bacon Day after all), fresh pineapple juice, jam, and Bali Coffee. The cost? $8.70 including tax and service. The same thing at the pool, our delightful pool. Clean towels, cool drinks, and you can order lunch off the menu. Again, astonishingly reasonably priced.
So let’s describe this wonderful pool (pics will follow). It is a freeform pool with water a delightful refreshing temperature. There are fountains of water coming from “masks” in the wall. Multicolored bougainvillea leans over and shades about 1/3rd of the pool dropping delightfully romantic flowers to float on the water. Frangiapane and palm like bamboo also surround the pool. Spotted doves and lyrical song birds flit in and amongst the bougainvillea flowers. One of the “house” cats patrols atop the coral wall. After a refreshing dip we laid on comfy chaises and read and napped in the shade. Heaven.
Kuta is a pretty frenetic place full of tourists and surfers of all nationalities (heavy on the Austailian). Motorbikes, taxis, bemos, and trucks cascade down the narrow streets. Shop owners call to you in passing. It sounds a bit much, but I think we were expecting it and frankly aren’t that overwhelmed by it (at least in small dosages). For one thing, people are very polite, even when they are trying to sell you something. With only a few exceptions a polite “no thank you” is accepted and you are bothered no longer.
Legian Street is a tree lined busy street filled with surf related shops, restaurant, and night clubs. It is famous, unfortunately, for the Kuta 2002 bombings that occurred at a well known night club popular with tourists in particular Australian tourists. 202 people of many nationalities died (including Balinese and Javanese workers)and another 244 were seriously injured. It was a tragedy both for those who died as well as for Bali itself. Bali is a very peaceful and gentle island and the bombings came as an unacceptable shock to all. A little bit of the “old” Bali died that day along with all the people.
Suffice it to say, Bali (at least Kuta/Legian/Seminyak) doesn’t appear to have let their guard down since. All cars/trucks/motorbikes and people are checked out before entering the major hotels and many restaurants. Security officers stand in front of many of shops, banks, restaurants, and clubs They are always polite and often helpful.
Along Legian Street near where the bombing occurred, the Balinese have erected a beautiful memorial which lists all the names of those who died. It is on a prominent corner and was funded by many people and business owners in the area (there are also memorials in at least 4 cities in Australia. We stopped by on our walk in the area and reflected on the many events of the past decade across the world that has forever changed our perceptions of humanity.
One evening we ventured up to Seminyak for dinner. We ate at Sate Bali which serves traditional Balinese food. It was on a tree shaded street in a quieter part of Seminyak. We had the “Rice Table” (Rijstafl) where we could sample a variety of Balinese dishes and desserts. It was good. We especially like the pork dishes. I liked the minced duck in a banana leaf. And with the exception of the traditional black rice pudding, we loved all the mostly fruit inspired desserts. The only little surprise was that they took only cash….almost the last of our cash. So there we were without cash for a taxi. And ATMs are not a common sight in many areas. So we took off walking to the main area of Seminyak looking for the ubiquitous money changer office. Fortunately we didn’t have to walk too far, and the rate wasn’t too bad. So with cash in hand, we grabbed a taxi for the shopping district where we walked off some of our dinner before going home to bed.
Practicalities: Phones, Money, and Internet:
Internet: Our hotel has free WiFi…wireless (so I am typing this from bed after an afternoon nap). There are many places with free Wifi. Some restaurant/cafes offer free WiFi during hours where business is typically slow. Others who offer internet at a charge, offer it at a very reasonable price. Now this is in Kuta. We will see what other areas have to offer.
Blackberry My blackberry works here. I signed up for the international plan before I left so that I have unlimited email and texting. So that is primarily how I correspond with folks at home.
Skype. We have skype on my notebook, so we’ve used that to call home (you can call to phone numbers as well as connect to computers). We tried it out to call my mother and it worked like a charm. It cost us about 2 cents a minute. Far less than the $2.40 reduced rate charge on my blackberry and the $4 buck a minute “regular” charge by cell phone.
Local Phone. Our friend David lent us his Balinese phone (he visits here each winter) to use while here in Bali. We bought a sim card for $5.00 bucks that gives us about 300 local minutes. So we can more easily call our hotels, drivers etc.
ATMs. Not all towns have them once you get out of the bigger towns. Also, sometimes there are scams/rigged machines. So the best advice is to use ATMs associated with actual banks. Exchange rates are good but you know those fees on both ends!
Money Changers. CHECK THE RATES and commission fees. They vary widely, street to street and day to day. Ask your hotel for a reputable money changer. Some will try to fast talk you and confuse you when counting out the money. If you feel uncomfortable cancel the exchange if possible. Fortunately in Kuta there are very good money changers with good rates.
Travelers Cheques. I feel old. Travelers Cheques are going the way of the dinosaur. We knew that before we came (AAA doesn’t even sell them anymore). But it turns out that MANY money changers really ding you for cashing a traverlers cheque. We can only figure there must have been quite a counterfeiting operation going on with TCs that increased the cost of doing business in them. However our money changer is an authorized American Express outpost and cashes them for only slightly less than the exchange rates for dollars. They also have offices in Ubud so we’re set.