Kuta – the ‘cesspool’ of Asia, or just a really good time?

I had only just returned from my Thailand trip – reeling with post-trip blues, the likes of which I had never before experienced and which made me suddenly lament the city I had previously loved living in – when I found out that I had to take all of my annual leave in the calendar year; including the extra two days I had now picked up due to being sick during my Thailand trip. Naturally, I somewhat spontaneously booked flights to the cheapest place I could think of, and about which backpackers in Thailand had been raving – although I had always assumed it to be worse than Thailand – Bali.

It was only after I had booked my flights that I started looking into where I should go once there, and remembered a place that a couple of 20-year-old Britons on the second boat party of Koh Phi Phi 2015 had said was their favourite place: ‘Gili T’. And it was only after booking my flights that every person I spoke to suddenly started talking about this place, Gili Trawangan; and I quickly; that is, through many hours of laborious internet research; deduced that I would love it, and that it would be the place I would spend the majority of my trip.

In the meantime however; I would need to fly into South Bali. Although most people I spoke to (and various travel blogs) immediately dismissed Kuta as a cesspool; more rigorous research convinced me that I should at least start there, and that choosing a good hostel might mean having a good time with international travellers while avoiding or at least ignoring the apparently awful Australian bogan contingent.

Relishing the relatively short, direct 6+ hour flight but fearing being trapped in another exhaustion spiral like my first few days of Thailand, I had cheekily thought to pop a couple of the valium pills I had purchased in that country before my plane ride. The blissful result was that I managed a couple of hours sleep in my window seat – $19 well spent – which I don’t usually manage during a daytime flight when I’m not completely exhausted from travelling. Despite this nap, by the time I got to the well-reviewed Funky Monkey hostel (which, being in Kuta, was only 20 minutes from the airport) I was tired enough to join the other several bodies in my eight bed dorm having a late afternoon nap. However, unsurprisingly, my body clock was not yet ready to sleep in the daytime. So, I decided to give up at about 5pm and get showered, dressed and put my makeup on, just to be ready for when something happened later.

This proved to be a weirdly fortuitous choice, as just as I was walking out of my dorm at around 5:20pm a group of people announced that they were heading out already, to the all-you-can-eat-and-drink $10 buffet at the famous (or infamous?) Sky Garden club. My timing was impeccable, so after quickly cleaning my teeth I joined the walking party there.

I had been quite wary of the spirits in Indonesia, having read extensively about cases of methanol poisoning, and so was initially hesitant. However, I soon deduced that the reason the drinks were so crazily cheap – alongside an actually unlimited amount of surprisingly delicious food – was simply that they were very weak; and that later in the night they became expensive enough to counteract the early cheap price.

Nonetheless, we managed to stock up on and consume enough weak drinks to feel quite merry by 9pm, when the special ran out and we all headed over to Alley Cats, the next popular bar. Here, I amazingly ran into the two UK travellers I had met on my last night in Koh Tao in August, and then again in Koh Phangan. I had gone home and worked for seven weeks while they were still travelling around South-East Asia!

Unfortunately I was still tired from my three-hours-out body clock, so shortly after we all moved onto the final bar, Eikon; I had to call it a night and head back. Unfortunately, I had listened to Figo, an enthusiastic character in my dorm room, who had advised me not to take my phone out for fear of theft. This proved a big mistake, as I could not for the life of me find my way back to the hostel. I tried following the instructions of the other hostel mates as I left, but soon became lost.

Help was quickly at hand, however, in the form of a group of local men dressed in matching traditional Indonesian dress. They asked where I was going and I told them; they informed me I was going in the wrong direction and one of them offered to take me there. I knew I was possibly taking my life or at least my valuables in my hands, but at this point had little choice and decided I had to take up the offer. Happily, the friendly man took me straight there on his motorcycle, and when I offered him money, accepted none but instead asked if I wanted to keep partying. I politely declined… and would never not take out my phone again. What else is a local SIM card for but Google Mapsing your way to the accommodation?

The next day I was ecstatic to find myself able to comfortably sleep in until 1:30pm, in stark contrast to my recent Thailand trip and what I am normally able to do at home on weekends. Rising satisfied, I went to get some food and chose a restaurant that had several diners, including a group of what looked like Indonesians, and was beside the beach-side road. This seemed a good choice as after I ate my $3.50 meal plus decadently unnecessary spring rolls and wandered back along the road to my hostel I noticed that food was up to double that at most places. First, however, I examined the beach: although I did notice one hawker, it was not too bad at all and reminded me of Phuket.

Kuta was quite busy, but the smaller road that led to my hostel was not unbearable and there were some interesting looking bars and shops. I passed the two UK girls from the previous night and they said that we would all be going out again to Sky Garden at 5pm! This suited me, as I so enjoyed the change of going out and enjoying the nightlife early and not having to wait until 11pm or midnight, as usually occurs in South East Asia.

When I got back to the hostel a couple of people were lounging on the poolside beanbags and I decided to follow suit. It wasn’t long, however, before the heat of the sun cooled and I noticed some people who looked like they were getting ready to go out, including a friendly Dutchman whom I had met in our room not long previously. I put on my dress and joined them, and soon enough we all headed back to Sky Garden.


This time we were slightly earlier and so had our pick of the tables; however, it also happened to be Halloween, which meant everyone and their dog, including ex-pats living in Bali, apparently had to go out that night, although they do not usually. The result was that our evening passed in much the same way as the previous one with one key difference: the drinks queue, which had previously stretched to ten minutes later in the night, was up to 45 minutes before long; and I found myself queueing for an hour for food. It was unfortunate, as there was no apparent difference in anything else about the night – and nothing that should have drawn anyone out more than usual – except for the painful queues.

At 9pm we headed straight to Eikon where they had a similar deal of $10 for unlimited drinks (as usual, a limited choice of beer or sickly sugary pre-mixed Smirnoff drinks) from 9-12. We were basically the only ones there at that point but we set up a beer pong game on the front patio and eased into the night. Eventually, we headed to the rooftop bar where some people had shisha. Ultimately, it was another good night that was relatively big despite ending at around 1am, and although I was satisfied that two nights in Kuta were more than enough, I was left with a generally favourable impression of the place – at least compared to what I had been led to expect.

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