Booking a multi-flight through Qatar Airways was a good idea in theory, and also cheaper. But going back on myself to get to Bali from Bangladesh, via Doha, meant I arrived in the early hours extremely tired. My friend Farhan was also joining me, but arriving a day later. A day alone would allow me to relax and acclimatise. I just wanted to get into bed.
In the baggage hall I heard a loud scream. I’d only landed for 15 minutes and the enemy was in range – a disgustingly big rat. It charged towards a woman EEEEK-ing and repeatedly ran into her feet. Yes, this was inside the airport! I collected my luggage and booked an Uber to the Lokal Bali Hostel in Kuta. I waited at the pick-up point and was approached by many chancers offering taxis. In a bizarre few minutes my Uber driver thought I’d cancelled my trip and had gone home. Annoyingly this meant I was momentarily stranded, so I cancelled the trip to avoid a charge. He called me back strangely asking why I’d cancelled. Confused? I was too. I took a chance on Tony, a burly bloke who wore a fanny pack swallowed up by his belly button. Thankfully my journey to the hostel was short. I checked in and made my way upstairs. I hate disturbing people’s sleep as the new arrival after midnight. But it’s difficult when lights are off and you have to climb a ladder to your bed!
After freshening up early doors I needed a proper brunch. The plane food, Deshi dishes and broken roads nearly haemorrhaged my stomach. So I Googled the best breakfast spots nearby and took a reliable Uber to Crumb & Coaster, a stone’s throw from Kuta Beach. The interior and exterior is an Instagrammer’s delight, as is the food. Filled with fellow backpackers down a broken side road, the menu is packed with goodness, geared for surfers and yogis. I opted for some coffee toast and a refreshing fruit smoothie. The vibe was chilled and the music was so good that I took my time leaving. I can see why it’s highly rated on TripAdvisor.
Nearby, I came across a cool barber shop (the name escaped me) and opted for fresh beard trim, before strolling along Kuta Beach. Travelling solo at this stage, I’m an easy target for street sellers. The strangest pitch I heard was from a policeman offering me a scooter…
I walked until just before sunset. I pulled out maps.me – an offline map – which hasn’t failed me (recommended by Gavin Greene – READ HIS BLOG) till now. Although, it was quite nervy when it was taking me down alleyways, where I met some friendly locals. I waved, they laughed…stray dogs and I kept walking.
I reached the hostel before it was pitch black and opted for a snack at the hostel. I spent the next few hours watching Stranger Things with a Chinese girl in the hostel reception, awaiting Farhan’s arrival. He was landing at midnight. I asked the two hostel receptionists if they could arrange for a cab to pick him up. Somehow this was misinterpreted for booking a driver to take me to the airport instead. It became clear that they didn’t really understand what I was asking. After a brief delay on his connecting flight, Farhan arrived with his own taxi. Hooray!!
Given the language barrier with the hostel staff, we were faced with the late night challenge of negotiating a fast boat to Gili Islands. Most of the boats were fully booked, but luckily we managed to nab a pair for the Patagonia Xpress from Padang Bai in the morning. It was a risk booking on a local site, but we had little option.
We got caught in traffic and starting to sweat it. We arrived at the port and a couple of random men blocked our car’s path. They suggested that our boat had already departed and that we needed to pay them a fee to catch a later boat. I told the driver to continue driving towards a group of tourists, in hope that we hadn’t missed our boat. Lucky for us, we just made it on time. Disturbingly in the distance we could see a volcano. Not the soon to erupt Mount Agung, but a pretty big fella nonetheless.
A smooth 90-minute boat journey saw us arrive into Gili Trawangan. Upon arrival, could see bunting, taxi horse carriages and lots of people cycling around the island. It reminded me a lot of the Phi Phi Islands in Thailand, probably because I’d been warned that this was the ’party island.’ I knew things were about to escalate.