Kacy, Claire, Nicole and I arrived in the Ngurah Rai airport in Bali Indonesia around 10pm on Monday night. The short 3.5 hour flight had us feeling excited and anxious to see our accommodations and plan out what we would be doing and seeing during our stay. We departed the plane from a metal staircase, wheeled and aligned with the side door at the front of the plane. Immediately after stepping through the threshold, I started sweating. The air was thick with humidity and about 80 degrees. We boarded a bus which took us to the baggage claim area of the airport. We collected our bags, and walked outside to exchange our money from Australian dollars to Indonesian. Outside the main door to the airport, a sea of people held signs with different family names and groups of taxi drivers called “taxi! taxi! transport!”. We met up with Asa, the driver that our AirBNB owner arranged, who held a sign with Claire’s name on it. We walked a short way to his SUV and drove 30 minutes through Bali until we arrived at our place.
I’ve never been to a country anywhere close to being third-world. From watching TV and taking many biology, sustainability, and human studies classes, I had some expectation of what it would be like. Experiencing it and seeing it all first-hand was, in a word, amazing. I saw trash littered roads, cars and motor bikes driving with no organization or rules, stray dogs and cats pawing through scraps outside of local food stands, run down buildings, and no doctors offices or vets. I also saw people talking and laughing, enjoying traditional food with their hands out of thin metal bowls, I saw smiles of street vendors talking to their friends, and children playing with simple dolls and wooden figurines. I eagerly stared out the window of the car while we drove, taking in the new scenery, trying to understand what evenings in Bali are like for the locals.
Before we knew it, we were driving down a narrow ally way between a row of local shops. The ally led to an iron gate with traditional balinese design. Asa opened our car doors and took what bags he could carry, then led us through the gate to a stone path that wound around a few small buildings and quaint stone temples. The villa had a small kitchen, tile floors throughout, and three bedrooms each with their own bathroom and a queen sized bed.
Nicole took the bedroom downstairs, and Claire took one upstairs, Kacy and I shared the one at the top of stairs. Exhausted from our trip and eager to get our day started early, we fell into our beds and slept.
It was easy to decide how we would spend our first official day in Bali- at the beach of course! We grabbed our towels and put on our swim suits, stepped out into the intense sun, then took a short walk down the street to Legian Beach. Vendors called to us as we walked by, encouraging us to check out what they had to sell in their small shops. Taxi drivers were everywhere, calling out to offer their services. Tourists wandered through the shops and restaurants. We finally arrived at the beach. Along the coast stood locals renting surfboards and lessons, selling cold drinks out of coolers, charging tourists to sit under their umbrellas, and offering sunglasses, jewelry, and more- for a price. We found a less crowded spot on the hot sand and settled down.
It wasn’t long before we were way too hot to sit any longer. We ran to the water and dove in- it felt like bathwater it was so warm! We splashed around in the waves, rolled around in the shallows, and dodged plastic bags and tin cans the entire time. The blue waters were beautiful, despite the trash. It was a sad thing to experience in a place with so much gorgeous natural landscape. We spent a few hours there until our stomachs started to complain about the lack of food we’d had; the toast we ate that morning was not enough to fuel a day at the beach.
We found a hotel restaurant with a view of the beach and ordered some drinks and snacks. I was excited for my first taste of Bintang- the local beer that to me, tasted like an Indonesian version of Coors. It was cold, refreshing, and much appreciated.
The water that comes out of the tap in Bali is not drinkable. Before we left, people told us several stories of using the water to brush their teeth and falling severely ill. Thankfully, the owner of the house we stayed at provided us with jugs of clean filtered spring water and a dispenser, which we filled our water bottles with.
For the rest of the day, we wandered around our area, checked out some shops, and ate dinner at a close by popular Indonesian restaurant.
After an awesome dinner (and more Bintang) we headed back to our place and washed off the layers of salt, sunscreen, and bug spray. We got in contact with out friends from Australia that happened to be vacationing near us at the same time and invited them to join us on our day trip Tanah Lot Temple the following day. Once they’d agreed and we found a driver to take us there and back (very inexpensive to hire a driver in Bali!) we crawled in bed for a good nights sleep, excited for the day ahead.