|Our Really Big Adventure|
Surf and People in Kuta, Bali
| In Kuta, morning
breaks at the same time as it does everywhere else in Bali. But it isn't
until much later that it is reluctantly acknowledged, with a flick of all
too thin curtains in a vain effort to keep the tropical sun from sore heads.
Outside, the few tourists enjoying Kuta's streets free from touts and bumper
to bumper traffic have either the wrinkled face of those past partying or
the perfectly clear skin and bloodshot-free eyes of bodies bathed only in
Evian and dabbed dry with 100% organically grown cotton wool.
Kuta is Bali's answer to Ibiza or New Orleans. It is just a matter of time before Kuta Uncovered is the next sex and alcohol fuelled docu-drama. It has all the ingredients of a frat boy's wet dream: cheap beer, sun, sea, surf and tropical sunshine almost tailor designed to keep what the girls wear to a minimum. If the girls play too hard to get there is even a cadre of professional nymphs eager to get their hands into rich western trousers.
Back on the street the trickle of hardcore surfers who rose early to catch the highest waves becomes a flood as the journeymen and rank amateurs surface. Muscular blokes adorned with last decade's tribal tattoes, now disfigured like their hands by the rapid growth of steroid use and abuse, flex their 'ceps and avoid public conversation in case sand gets metapaphorically kicked in their face. Both Miss Right and Miss Wrong have their shoulders awkwardly flung back to accentuate their barely covered breasts, sarong just off the hips, blowing hot or cold depending on whose eyes are tracking them.
Touts soon join the mass of hawkers, and life as a tourist becomes an endless procession of refusals. Some retain their dignity, gritting their teeth as they say "No thank you" to the eighth query of "Transport? You want transport? Maybe tomorrow?" on the same street corner. Others explode with rage as yet another hawker nudges them from their slumber on the beach hopeful they'll want an ice cream, a beer or a peg to hold their beach towel down.
At some point or another the sun's glare penetrates even the most tightly shut eyes and the Irish, Scottish and English rise, puckered lips cracked and tongue swollen from dehydration. A few streaks of carelessly applied Factor 6 combined with the scorching midday sun give the perfect recipe for broiled red lobster. It is easy to pick out these individuals among the bronzed Aussies on the beach; aside from the different colouration they display atrophied legs, knobbly knees and a complete lack of physical confidence. The day, to this sorry group, is defined as the painful period between waking and the moment it is socially acceptable to start drinking again.
The last of Kuta's residents to appear in public are the single or temporarily single older men. Gradually the bars that cater exclusively to them fill. At first glance they seem like normal pubs, though dimly lit and unusually full of couples. As your eyes adjust to the gloom, it becomes obvious that all the men are white and all the women Asian ... these are working girls, and by the look of them they've been working a long time. Other more discerning customers take their younger products out to dine with like-minded companions. They boast of their prize's complexion and youthful beauty, forcibly turning the girl's face to best catch the light like a vet examining a dog's teeth.
Other bars start to fill soon after dinner. Large groups on their first or last night in "paradise" rush through their alcohol bloom, far too soon at the limboland stagger of the senselessly drunk. The experienced, defined by the paleness of their skin, stay well away from the two-for-one luminous orange cocktails served by the pint. They cite hard won wisdom about knowing where you stand and not drinking anything that looks like the wrong end of the night. Bar slowly turns to market. Ungelled male hair is soon in the minority. Drinking eyes no longer have to turn to find raised hems. The normal cast of characters is here: bare chested muscle men in love with their ripples, self conscious virgins, nubile lovelies gone mad with their sexual power and couples pushing 30 wondering if they're still up for this.
One day tips into another and incredibly sexy girls hit the floor. These girls are fresh, make up unrun, co-ordination unfetttered by drink. They know the look, they know the moves and they know exactly what they want. Money isn't enough for these girls; they are so good they can choose. Soon some of the best masculine talent is tempted away from the nice girl he's been making eyes at. A couple of teasing dances and pouting lips and his wallet is out, in what is to be a very expensive night.