I said goodbye to my travel partner and headed off to the airport, starting the public transport journey through the grey, congested city. It was starting to rain, and I took it as an omen that leaving Kuala Lumpur for Bali was a good call. It was.
Once the plane had risen above the clouds, I was given a beautiful view of the sunset and its reflection off the plane wing. Indonesia was going to be good, I could feel it.
On the ground I collected my belongings and negotiated my way to the lowest taxi price I could find, 60,000 rupiah (~$6) to ride on the back of a motorbike. I told him the town and the name of the hostel and we were off. 30 minutes later I learned he didn’t know the hostel, and stupidly I had neglected to write down directions or even an address, so after cruising the town for a while I just got dropped off at the end of the beach sidewalk.
I vaguely remembered the map sent by the hostel with my confirmation showing the beach so I figured I would walk down the beach and hope for the best. By the time I admitted to myself I didn’t know where the hell I was going it was 11pm. I eventually found a Circle K (Indonesia’s answer to the rest of Southeast Asia’s ubiquitous 7-11s) with free wifi (Circle K > 7-11) and took out my laptop to figure out where I needed to go. This is when I learned that Google Maps is not a global phenomenon. The main roads were there (albeit ambiguously labeled), but the smaller twisty sidestreets that everything here seems to be connected by were not.
I spent about 30 minutes comparing satellite photos, tourist maps, and the hostel directions before setting off again. Every 60 seconds or so a taxi would pass by and honk at me, as my walking around alone late at night with a giant backpack made it fairly obvious that I probably could use a ride, but I was determined to figure it out myself. When I was just about to lose faith in my typically good sense of direction I found the main highway, which I was able to use to orient myself. In order to cross I had to wait for a brief break in the busy traffic, run across one side, scramble over a large concrete barrier, and then do the same for the other side. I would end up doing this dangerous highway dance many, many times over the coming week. Eventually I found the hostel on a random sidestreet, off another random sidestreet. But there it finally was, and it was glorious.
All my exhaustion disappeared instantly and I took myself out for a late dinner and ice cold beer to celebrate. I bought some more beers and headed back to the hostel where some of the guests were hanging out and drinking. We chatted and drank for several more hours, as things turned into the classic get-to-know-you game of Never Have I Ever. Everyone was fun and friendly, and I felt instantly comfortable and welcome. Even though the town it was in didn’t really have too much to do, I eventually ended up staying seven nights at that hostel because the people and facilities there were just so good. The unpleasant journey to locate it was absolutely worth it.
The people ended up being stellar to a person, and we all quickly bonded. We would go out and have stereotypical Bali club nights, hire cars and explore secluded to beaches, spend nights in watching movies or sharing stories, and sharing many delicious communal meals.
In addition to the fantastic people there, the facilities were probably the nicest I’ve stayed at on this trip. It had a relaxing deck to chill out on, a beautiful blue pool to swim or sunbathe in, an actual kitchen (first place I’ve stayed in with one), super cheap wifi, and an open-air TV room with a huge selection of movies and couches. I also splurged for the A/C dorm ($11/night) and it was awesome to be able to snuggle up under a blanket at night – a rare treat in my trip so far. Also there was almost always toilet paper in the bathroom and the rooms were cleaned every day – like I said, this place was fancy.
A few times we ventured out to nearby Kuta, about 30 minutes away, site of the most raucous Bali nightlife and devastating terrorist bombings a few years back. I’d specifically avoided staying here due to its aggressive party party party culture (thanks to Koh Phi Phi those types of places are kind of ruined for me for the time being…), but if you wanted to have a big night out there was no other way. And we did. So we went.
While it was fun to dance and act the part of a stereotypical Bali party tourist, the best time was the afterparty back at our hostel. The 11pm closing time for the pool and basic decency would both be neglected.
The hostel made a great home base from which to explore and appreciate the surrounding areas, which we would do with gusto.