Also See: Feature on the Kuta Bombing Site three months after.
Contributed in part by Veronica Siwi
Note: This updated travelogue is dedicated to the men and women who lost their lives tragically as a result of the senseless terrorist attack in Kuta on 12 October 2002. When I went to Bali in January of 2002, I went to the very clubs and shops destroyed, so I was chilled and saddened by the news. My prayers go to the families and friends of those lost, and I hope that the island can once again bathe in the peace and tranquility so loved by its people.
Kuta is the most famous place in Bali. Natives often call it 'downtown'. Various clubs, restaurants, stores and hotels are all here. The primary reason why people come to Kuta is to shop, and Kuta's shopping areas sprawl tens of city blocks wide. Chances are, if you come to Bali, you will spend time in Kuta.
The first picture shows Kuta Square, the center of Kuta. Kuta Square is loaded with boutiques, restaurants, and banks -- mostly of internationally renowned brands, either from Europe or Australia. (The KFC banner at the left is a bit of a giveaway, isn't it?) Not suprisingly, Kuta Square is also home to Bali's obligatory Hard Rock Café.
One thing you will notice in the first photo is at left, the long line of motorcycles or scooters. Kuta is such a busy plance, that to avoid traffic jams all the streets in Kuta and the nearby Legian areas are made into one way streets. Trust me, it didn't help much. Those with scooters had a definite advantage. In fact, the scooter was sometimes the family "car", and it was not uncommon to see a whole family of four or five riding a single scooter around. I was amazed not to see more tragic accidents.
Perhaps the reason accidents were few was because of Balinese tradition, that was very evident in Kuta. Note the second picture. Most road intersections had a temple or offering altar in the middle of it, often decorated with yellow cloths (representing Vishnu, I believe). The Balinese were required to prepare offerings to the Hindu gods (an offering being a bamboo bowl filled with rice and vegetables to nourish the gods... further explanations found in Besakih), and place them both outside their homes -- to bless the house, their stores -- in hopes for a successful business day, and at the traffic intersections -- in hopes that there would be no accidents or mishaps.
The further away from Kuta Square you got, the more truly indigenous the goods became -- such as T-shirts, sarong, and woodcarvings. Also, while Kuta Square had the McDonalds, KFCs, and other western restaurants -- you can easily find traditional Indonesian cuisine further out. As an example, the most famous restaurant in Kuta was the Warung Made (MAH-duh), literally meaning "Made's Restaurant" -- In Bali there were 4 common names used in every family: Wayan the first male child, Made the second, Nyoman the third, and Ketut is the fourth. The fifth child would normally be again called Wayan, effectively restarting the cycle. Beats the Monty Python sketch with the guy who named all thirteen of his pets 'Eric'...
Although many of the buildings in Kuta were new and modernized, there were plenty of traditional Balinese-style homes and family temples throughout the city. An example of a family temple is shown in the fourth photo -- one of the rare temples visible to the public. Most Kuta homes were private, enclosed areas with a temple hidden inside, where I was only able to see the very top.
Kuta also had a number of huge hotels, built in Balinese-style architecture with thatch-roofed huts, huge pools, and temple-like buildings as decor. Many of Kuta's hotels catered to the surfing crowd, filled with youngsters congregating from Australia or Europe seeking to catch a wave.
And to catch a wave, Kuta was a great place to go. Kuta Beach was only a couple minute walk west from Kuta Square, part of a long stretch of beach running to the Denpasar Airport to the south. The beachfront was pristine, with gorgeous white sands and clear inviting waters.
Speaking of water, if you decide you don't want to go to the water, that doesn't necessarily mean the water won't come to you. November through April is the rainy season in Indonesia, and if you have never experienced an Asian monsoon, Bali is a good place to try. During the rainy season, the mornings are beautiful with a blue sky, but as the day progresses the clouds collect over the volcanoes, eventually working their way down to the southern part of the island... bringing with them heavy rains.
We were rather fortunate to have settled ourself neatly inside a beautiful open-air Japanese restaurant when the monsoon shown in the fifth photo hit. The overhangs were plenty sufficient to keep us out of the weather, but that didn't mean we avoided getting wet. You can sense from the photo that the roads became instantly flooded, and we were splashed pretty well. Word to the wise -- when traveling to Bali during rainy season, always bring an umbrella with you, a heavy duty one!
All told, the southern coastline of Bali is among the most refreshing and relaxing places in the world... a great mix of beautiful scenery and culture. Kuta was the heart of it all, a major economic center in Bali, a major tourist draw, and a great place to get utterly drenched if you aren't careful!!!
Trip taken several times over the period 15-26 January 2002 -- Page last updated 28 October 2006