Kuta seems to be one of those mystical places that people either love or hate. Reading about it as I decided whether or not we wanted to spend time here, I pictured a whirl of McDonalds restaurants and cheap bars frequented by skin cancer tanned white people with tattoos and braids. I did not envision seeing any Balinese people, with the exception of those who would be constantly hounding me to take their taxi or buy their phallic bottle opener souvenir. It read as a kind of hyper-Westernised, alcohol-fuelled Thai marketplace.

Maybe we’ve missed something or my cognitive dissonance is resolving itself, but that’s really not where we are. There are an above average number of the unique aforementioned kind of foreign (read Australian) tourist, but there are lots of Indonesian and Japanese folks at the beach and the mall too. We haven’t visited the very heart of Kuta yet, so I’m sure this may change, but I have also experienced the less hounding or harassment of anywhere I’ve visited in South East Asia. Which brings me to my main observation from our first days in Bali – this place is RELAXED. Everyone is the just chilling the hell out. ‘Yes, taxi?’ ‘No thanks.’ ‘Okay, maybe tomorrow.’ No worries! Given my aim on this trip is to calm down from a year of doing and thinking about 12 things at once seven days a week, this is perfect!

Yesterday we got up early (my body clock is still set to Australian psychology clinic time) and ate an excessive, delicious breakfast at the hotel. I always enjoy the bizarre breakfast foods at Asian hotels, the weirdest yesterday being tiny green jelly type puddings. Just want you want at 7AM. Something this one had that most don’t was a fabulous variety of brown grainy bread – bliss! Then we read our novels for a bit before toddling down to the nearby spa to book facials and massages for the afternoon. It’s a tough life, but someone’s gotta do it. We had a quick swim in the pool, then headed off to check out the surrounding neighbourhood and the Discovery Shopping Mall. It was 32 degrees so the prospect of air conditioning was highly motivating. Nothing too amazing there, although I got some cheap DVDs. We had lunch at a pretty nice restaurant near the Mall, across the road from the Waterbom Water Park. First cocktails of the day were a strawberry daiquiri and a Long Island iced tea. We had Indonesian food, a type of chicken satay and another chicken dish with kaffir leaves, and rice. Yum.

Our massages and my facial in the afternoon at the Green Garden spa were lovely. You can get a massage for anywhere from $5 to $50 an hour, and we wanted somewhere cheap but not gross. I got a back massage and a facial (1.5 hours) for about $19. It was wonderful, with the exception of the girl leaving me to my own devices for like ten minutes in between the two treatments. Lying naked on a table in a strange place is stops being fun pretty quick. Anyway, it was good, we left feeling rather relaxed and have booked to return tomorrow.

Happy hour and dinner were at the Hard Rock Cafe, as I have vowed to visit them everywhere we travel and collect a bear. The one I picked up will be I think the ninth in my collection (would be the tenth but HRC New Delhi didn’t have bears!).  She’s a little different to the others, more of a mouse really, and she sings if you squeeze her belly.  When we go to these restaurants and I buy the bears I always have this moment, particularly in countries like Bali, when I think to myself “Okay, you’re about to spend the equivalent of half a night’s accommodation on a child’s toy”, but we just go with it, eat an amazing burger and spend a little less the following day.  That is the plan this time!  Cocktails were two for one and positively delightful so we weren’t too worried really, with the exception of the fact we accidentally bought an EIGHT DOLLAR BOTTLE OF WATER.  To put this in perspective, the cocktails were five dollars and a bottle of water at a convenience store is about forty cents.  Might take a little while to let that one go.  Still, we have checked another Hard Rock off the list. 🙂