Bali Bug

By William J. Furney
The Bali Times

After four days cavorting around Bali, a group of friends from Jakarta and their colleagues said they didn’t want to leave. And who could blame them?

Typically, they compressed as much fun-filed frolics into their limited time as possible: breakfast at Seminyak; watersports at Benoa; [pause for various beauty treatments]; sunset drinks at Blue Point (the rollercoaster road is a sheer thrill); dinner at Jl. Pantai; and clubbing in Legian till 4am. And that was just Saturday.

The following day was less frenzied but included lunch at splendid Geger Beach, bungee jumping in Kuta and dinner-on-beach at Jimbaran Bay, where seafood is supreme.

The two days leading up to this nonstop party were equally stridently entertaining.

It’s little wonder that Bali has gained such a standing around Asia and the wider world as a party town. The Legian strip on a Saturday night is insane: on the street, thousands mill about in pursuit of pleasure; in the clubs, it’s a grinding mix of body-against-body, thumping, slithering, crashing. Everyone’s after a high.

At one establishment, the crowds were claustrophobic. A female friend got whacked on the forehead by a bottle. I was finger-flicked on the face by a bizarro-behavioured foreign man, who then stared me down. (In such instances, it’s best not to react.) Amid the heaving body collective, a man came racing towards us and – us sidestepping in time; not an easy feat given lack of foot space – plunged to the floor, where a mêlée of sorts ensued.

It was action-packed and pumped up, but the trippers also took in more sedate areas of the island, amiable Ubud among them. The famous duck eatery in the New Age heartland is a big draw for Jakarta folk. They said they wanted maximum enjoyment during their spell here, before heading back to gridlocked and workaday Jakarta.

With Bali now in high-season mode, snarl-ups are all too common here too, though. It took us around three hours to get from Uluwatu to Jl. Pantai in Kuta on Saturday night. With clear roads, you can travel from the southernmost point of the isle to the northernmost in less time. The latest tailback torment is occurring daily on the lengthy Jl. Sunset Road artery that was meant to ease the flow of traffic. With ever-increasing hordes of vehicles pouring into Bali, that notion is a thing of the past, and don’t expect the congestion to ease.

However, as with many things in life, we bore such tribulations as a fleeting trade-off for the good times that were had.

“They don’t want to go home,” a friend said, nearing departure time on Sunday night. “They’ve caught the Bali Bug,” I said, thinking how fortunate I am to live here and not to have to fly off home.

How easy it is to be drawn into this tropical world of fantasy, bliss and languid respite by the sea. It’s why many come here and never leave. Luckily for people elsewhere in Indonesia, Bali is only ever a weekend away, and with the number of budget airlines in the skies, tickets are often bargain-basement.

Fears for the immediate future of the island’s tourism sector at the beginning of the year, when the global economy appeared to be teetering on the edge of total collapse, have petered out and the industry is purring along at a vibrant pace, buoyed by rising numbers of foreigners arriving, and Indonesians like my pals from Jakarta.

It’s not prudent to overdo the merriment, though, we mulled on the way back to the airport. “Yes, it just becomes ordinary, and plain,” said one in our party, also alluding to the crab, mussel and lobster dinner just consumed. “If I had that every day, it would be boring,” he said, and I concurred.

“Once in a Bali lifetime…,” another chum said. “That, for you, would be ‘Once, often,’” I replied.

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