“You need to get out of Kuta”

The English bloke frequently found drinking Bintang at J.J.’s behind the Quest Hotel told us, “Ubud is beautiful. It is just like what you see in the movies and read in the books, but better. It is one of the most beautiful places you will ever see.” We had a few days left in Kuta when he and his friend urged us, “Do the things you have to do here, but get out, go see the rest of Bali. You need to get out of Kuta.” We were excited to see the rest of Bali, but first, we explored a bit of the south.

We spent a few hours idling away the time at the beach in Sanur, a beautiful white sand beach with calm, clear, and warm water. It was a perfect way to spend the afternoon, especially for couples with little ones, as the surf just lightly pokes at the shore before retreating back onto the abyss. When you walk down the boardwalk, where the red bricks stretch on and on past shops and beachside restaurants, pick up an ear of grilled corn. It is sweet, crisp, and perfectly charred. Then sit, drink, eat fresh seafood and produce, and watch the blue waves flow back and forth from Lembongan to Bali.

A couple of days later we went to another beach up the way from Sanur. There were many tourists there, and lots of touristy things to do. People from all over put on wetsuits and oxygen tanks to check out the reef, and people donned life jackets to ride the waves on jet skis and banana boats. We decided to go on the banana boat. I was very excited, and couldn’t stop myself from repeating, “Get on de boat, de banana boat!” With a few Bintangs in our system, we straddled the banana, so to speak, and yelled to the driver, “Fast! Fast!” He quickly sped the boat far out into the water, and then sharply turned the boat. Into the water we went, and I struggled to get back on the banana. Once we were all safely back on, he sped off once more. Two minutes later, another sharp turn, and then into the water we went, ever so ungracefully. “Sit far on the back!” the boat driver yelled. Now he tells us. We spent the rest of the time bobbing and turning on top of the banana boat. It was a fun experience, but not one I will likely repeat.

On one warm yet overcast day, we went on a horseback ride along a mysterious black sand beach that sparkled like the milky way, and was dotted with fishermen in straw hats. My horse was named Brother. He was a bit feisty, but a beautiful beast. We rode past a small waterfall, through a shallow river, and then we hit the end of the cliff. There was a bat cave, it smelled like heaps of guano, but I was fascinated by the squeaky black bats, so I braved the stench to take a look. We hiked up a small trail, and at the top a temple was nestled in the tall grass, surrounded by doe eyed cows and volcanoes. It was breathtaking.

A couple of days later it was off to the animal safari park, which I highly recommend. It is great for children and adult animal lovers alike. There was an elephant education show, which was so well done that it brought tears to my eyes. It told the story of the struggle over land being fought between the Sumatran elephants and villagers, and ended on a hopeful note of understanding and respect. Throughout the day we saw amazing things: a white tiger feeding, an orangoutang close up, an animal education show featuring all sorts of animals (including trained guinea pigs and cats), and a safari through an amazing array of animals. We stayed for hours, and I felt like a child, so excited to be so close to the beautiful and alluring creatures of this world.

On our last night in Kuta we ended up back at the Legian Pub. I won’t go into details here, but let’s just say that the next morning, our friend from J.J.’s words rung in my head, “You need to get out of Kuta.” I couldn’t have agreed more. As I shoved my clothes in my bag, head throbbing, stomach reeling, I tried to think of the beauty of Ubud, and it got me through. I said goodbye to Kuta as we drove into the green mountains toward Ubud. I closed my eyes as I dreamt of rice fields.