Friday, August 26, 2016

[Bali, Indonesia 2014] Kuta Beach

Photo By: Elin Chow

I was told that a trip to Bali is not complete without visiting the famed Kuta Beach. Located just a 15 minutes drive away from Ngurah Rai International Airport. the five-miles long stretch of Kuta Beach is the tourist mecca of Bali, particularly popular among the young and adventurous Australians due to its proximity to Perth in Australia.

Kuta Beach is located in the heart of Kuta, a prosperous resort town dominated by a wide range of restaurants, open-air pubs and bars, shops, massage centers, convenience stores, hotels providing different accommodation options and other amenities specifically targeted to tourists.

Once a simple and quiet fishing village, Kuta has transformed to a thriving tourist town where all the shopping, eating and partying take place. It has become a place of expensive restaurants, luxurious hotels and wild nightlife - great for people who enjoy endless parties and drinking.

For our trip, we have decided to use Kuta as a base to travel around Bali. Its central location allowed us to access to many of the attractions in Bali easily. Furthermore, Kuta also offers a wide range of accommodation options that suit different needs and budgets.From modest home stay costing only a few dollars a night to luxurious five-star international hotels costing a few hundreds to a few thousand dollars a night. So it was not difficult for us to find a decent hotel in a convenient location that was within our budget.

Kuta is not the real Bali. In fact, Kuta might spoil your Bali experience greatly and leave you utterly disappointed. Traffic in Kuta is crazy and chaotic. The road is constantly busy with motor scooters, metered taxis and private cars. Due to slow moving traffic and traffic congestion, it took us 45 minutes to get from Ngurah Rai International Airport to Kuta area.  Instead of signals, most drivers tend to honk their vehicles when they are overtaking or driving around blind spots or intersections. As a result, the roads are usually very noisy from all the honking vehicles.

Bali, or in particular, the Kuta area, has become too overly commercialized in the recent years due to its popularity. Arriving at Kuta, most people would be surprised that this is not the beautiful paradise that they were somehow expecting. It is constantly overrun with tourists, motor vehicles and shops. Venturing out of Kuta, you will be able to experience the authentic and peaceful side of Bali. The holiday paradise that you will want to return again and again. 

The streets around Kuta area are lined with shops and market stalls selling everything from beachwear, handicrafts, jewelries, surfing accessories, sunglasses and typical tourists souvenirs.

Once a holiday paradise, Kuta is now ruined by over-development and mass tourism. Kuta has lost much of its authenticity, character and uniqueness. It is apparent that Balinese are "forced" to change and adapt to the western culture. We were surprised that there was even McDonalds, KFC, Starbucks and Pizza available on the island.

Kuta beach is located just a mere walk across the road, facing rows of dining outlets and open-air bars and pubs which blast loud music all day and night. The entire street is well known for being a center of nightlife action where excessive drinking and dancing take place.This was definitely not the place for non party-goers like us.

A two-meter tall, Balinese-style white sandstone wall was built along the road to block the sand from blowing to the cafes and restaurants. While the beach-goers think that the wall has helped to dampen the noises from the congested traffic, the non beach-goers actually dislike it because it blocks the beach view completely.

Kuta beach is certainly not the most beautiful beach in Bali, but it is the biggest. busiest and most touristy beach that you will probably find on the island. It is the center of tourist activities in Kuta where both locals and tourists visit everyday for swimming, surfing and other recreation activities. The sand was soft and fine, but unfortunately not powdery white, and the waters was not crystal clear.

You might be surprised and wonder why such a massive group of tourists still swarm to the beach every single day. Well, its popularity is largely due to its strategic location, which makes it easily accessible to the crowds. In fact, we have noticed that most people who visited Kuta beach were mainly either party travelers, first-timer travelers or budget travelers.

There were plentiful of beach chairs, sun loungers and umbrella available for rent for you to stay cool at the beach.

Being the center of tourism, Kuta Beach is always crowded with tourists and local people. The beach is huge, so the crowds are usually widely spread out. Some parts of the beach were quite empty while others were constantly packed. It was not difficult for us to find a spot at the beach to sit and relax. But this is certainly not a place where you can relax in peace and quiet.

All along the beach, there were vendors offering either massages or hair braiding services and touts trying to sell you their wares. But luckily, they were generally not aggressive or rude. Most of them usually would not pester you once you said you are not interested.

It is without a doubt that mass tourism has a negative impact on the environment. The beach is suffering from beach erosion and coastal pollution. There were trashes all along the coast, especially during the rainy season. But tourists were not entirely to blame for the piles of garbage found along the coast.

Locals are known to dump their trashes into the river, which flows out to the sea and get washed up to the shores during the rainy season, transforming the tropical paradise into a trash centre. Although locals are putting in the effort to clean up the beach, unfortunately they are unable to keep up with the volume of waste. It is so much that bulldozers have to be used to collect the trashes.

The beach can be clean or an absolute dump, depending whether you are lucky or not. I guess we were really lucky because the trash problem was not as bad when we visited the beach in September. It is important to educate the locals not to dump their trashes into the rivers because it does not only pollute the environment but also affect the tourism industry.

But that does not mean that you have to avoid visiting Kuta Beach completely. Kuta Beach is still great holiday beach for relaxing or simply take a walk.Vendors are prohibited to sell food at the beach in order to keep it clean. But they are allowed to sell beverages and souvenirs.

Kuta beach is alive and full of action at any time of the day. You can either enjoy relaxing on a sun lounger under the shade of an umbrella or put your towels or beach mat down on the sand, lie down and soak up some sun while time drifts away.

Other than that, you can also spend your day at the beach swimming, surfing, playing beach volleyball or simply take a romantic stroll along the long sandy beach with your loved ones at sunset. Children will also enjoy building sandcastles on the beach under adult supervision and care.

Offering consistent magnificent surf waves throughout the year, the beach is a surfer's paradise. The waves are high and currents are strong - great for both beginners and intermediate surfers.Numerous international surfing competitions are also held at the beach every year.

Although the beach is a great spot for surfing, it is unfortunately, not suitable for swimming. The beach has strong rips, even close to the shore that often catch people off the guards.

There were yellow and red flags placed all along the beach to warn tourists of big and powerful waves. Make sure you swim in between the yellow and red flags only. Do not swim too far off the shores as the undercurrents are strong and inconsistent. Even though the waters might look deceptively tame, dangerous rip currents can still sweep you out to the sea before anyone can rescue you. Even shallow waters can still drown you when the sand suddenly fall away, when knee-deep waters instantly become head high.

Kuta Beach is famous for its spectacular sunset. The beach is also known as the Sunset Beach simply because you can see sunset every evening. 

Every evening, hundreds and thousands of people flock and gather at the beach to watch the sun disappear over the horizon. That was also when the beach is the most crowded with people carrying cameras and tripods, eager to capture that beautiful moment.

We spent our every of our evening at the beach, waiting for the sun to disappear beyond the horizon. Amazingly, the Sunset Beach really lives up to its name because we get to enjoy a wonderful sunset every evening.

It was fascinating to watch the crimson sun gradually descend behind the clouds, into the sea. 

Kuta is probably a great place to start and end your Bali trip due to its proximity of the airport. True, mass tourism and over-commecialization have given Kuta a bad reputation over the recent years. But that does not make Kuta not worth visiting at all.

Kuta has an energetic and chaotic vibe. Some people will love it while some will hate it. Kuta is not just about partying, drinking and dancing. There are certainly much more to do in Kuta. Although hectic, Kuta has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. We did not encounter any aggressive or annoying touts during our entire stay in Kuta.  In fact, its convenient location offers easy access to all modes of transportation, cheap food, shopping and entertainment.

Kuta Beach is great - long, wide and sandy, but not rocky. Although far from stunning, it was still decent. Of course, there are much more beautiful and quieter beaches in Bali. As I said earlier, Kuta is not the real Bali. To experience the real Bali, I would recommend anyone to venture out of Kuta. Once you get out of the main tourist drag of Kuta, I can ensure you that you will find the beautiful holiday paradise that you will fall in love with.

If you are interested to know more about our trip, you may want to check out our 6D5N Bali Trip Itinerary + Overview for the list of attractions that we had visited during our 6 days in Bali. Be sure to follow me on Facebook or Twitter  for the latest updates on my 6 days adventures in Bali! You might also want to check My Wanderlust page for some of my other travel adventures.

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