Party like it’s 1998

The travel diary continues. Day 3 sees us boogie-boarding at Kuta beach and partying with fellow travellers. My husband’s words from his travel diary in 1998 are interspersed with my comments from now in italics and brackets. Enjoy!

Tuesday 31-3-99 Kuta

Had Breakfast at 7:30. The complimentary breakfast was only a couple of pieces of toast, coffee, and fruit salad. The breakfast at the other hotel was far better (although we may not have survived the terrible room!) We bought extras for about $1.50. (Typical banker, my husband was constantly fascinated by the price of everything. Or maybe it’s a guy thing?) We went for a long walk through the streets and little laneways. Amazing place. Found Poppies 1, a nice clean lane. (I seem to remember Poppies 1 and 2 were still dirt lanes but I think that’s wrong.) You seem to be able to buy anything for a few dollars. The craftsmanship on furniture and wooden items is very good. Handmade leather jackets are about $50. (I had one made on the way home.) One day, if possible, I would like to buy some furniture and have it sent to Australia. (We had an Australian-made giftware business at the time, but I don’t recall considering buying stuff made in Bali to ship back. There were already people doing that in Australia and the whole attraction of my giftware was that it was handmade in Australia. Little did I know that within a few years my main ‘competitor’ would start making her stuff in China, but by then I had moved on to other ventures. I still see her stuff in the souvenir shops to this day.)

All the shops opened today (after the Nyepi Day closures) and it was hustle and bustle absolutely everywhere. The street-sellers just keep at it.

We went to the beach. The surf is good. Nice learner waves but turn into dumpers on low tide. Met Tony at the beach. He’s staying at the same hotel. He’s going on to London too, but at a different time. We had lunch at the hotel and went for a swim and a nap and were awoken by a loud bang at 1:30, which we were told was an earth tremor. (We’ve experienced a few tremors in Bali now but had completely forgotten about this one all those years ago. The most recent one for us was a couple of long shakes that really rattled us. We were staying on the 5th floor of a hotel at Legian, so while we knew we’d be safe from a tsunami; a proper earthquake may have been quite scary.)

We went back to the beach for a swim in the afternoon with Tony and body surfed and used his boogie-board. (If only we’d known then how synonymous boogie-boards and Bali would become in just a few more years!)

As this is our last night in Bali, we arranged to go out and have a few drinks with Dan, Maryanne, Clair, and Tony. Tony came to dinner with us before we went out. (Neither of us has any recollection of this fine group of upstanding citizens! Who knows, we may have exchanged email addresses but few people had them back them. Like a lot of people, our email address was a joke one, Classic.) We went to a café and had a couple of curries, calamari sauteed in garlic, and drinks, all for under AUD$4.00. Unbelievable prices and really good food. We met the others back at the hotel. I bought a Mambo hat for IDR5,000. The vendor said 5000 but when I picked up the Mambo hat; he said that one was a special one and more expensive. It would be IDR10,000. I just put it back, and he followed us for about 250 metres, trying to up the price. Eventually, he gave in and sold me the hat for IDR5,000. It wasn’t the price, but the principle of the thing. (I’m not sure our opinion of this has changed even if the language used here was condescending. We try to avoid getting into situations where this kind of thing can happen.)

We had a few drinks at the bar in the hotel, then went out at about 11:30. The street vendors were out in full force, as well as a lot of prostitutes, including young boys and girls. (I don’t recall this, but that was probably more to do with the amount I drank that night!) We went to the Bounty Bar, which was similar to any nightclub in Australia, but it was full of prostitutes and not many punters. We moved on to the famous Sari Club. It was pumping with dance music and every young tourist/ backpacker in a 50km radius. We loved it and danced and drank all night. We drank the local brew, Jungle Juice. It was about AUD$1 for a litre. It looked like orange juice. It was very potent. There were no dress rules, and it was hot and lots of guys took off their shirts.

We got back to our hotel at about 4am. There were still lots of street vendors and prostitutes out. I slept like a log after a very good night–we spent less than AUD$15 for the whole night for two. Not in a hurry to do it again. (It was strange to read about going to the Sari Club all these years later. It really was a huge draw card for every young reveller visiting Bali, which makes the attacks there even more horrific, like the Paris attacks in 2015, where terrorists targeted people out enjoying themselves.

Reading back over this diary, I can’t help but smile at how naïve we were about the world and, sadly, how much the world has changed. I wonder sometimes if I will be somewhere in the future, looking back on the simpler times we are ‘enjoying’ right now.)

You can read more about the 2002 Bali bombings here. At about 11pm on 12 October 2002 three bombs were detonated in Bali, two in busy nightspots – the Sari Club and Paddy’s Bar – and one in front of the American consulate.

The explosions killed 202 people, 88 of whom were Australian, and wounded hundreds more.