I arrived in Kuta, Lombok full of expectations, after hearing so many tales of unspoiled paradise from friends and trusted acquaintances. When I go somewhere I’m this hyped up about, reality doesn’t always match the expectations: it happened in the Perhentian Islands, it happened in Hawaii and it nearly happened in Koh Phangan. Unfortunately, it also happened in Kuta. I stuck around for a few days to explore the surrounding areas with a scooter, in search of the magic we’d heard so much about.
But the magic was nowhere for me to be found. Kuta town is a dusty affair with not much else than a few warungs (to be fair, there was some great food around) and goats and children roaming the busted roads incessantly trying to sell you bracelets (the children, that is). It reminded me of the road in Otres Beach, a place where you only wander in case of strict necessity, either to get a ride into town or buy some sunscreen. Except that’s mostly what Kuta is made of. It’s where the hotels, restaurants, shops and spas are, so if you’re not a surfer, you end up spending an awful lot of time in this rather soulless dusty place. The roads west and east of Kuta afford great views of the sea, but the land on the hills itself is arid and barren, presenting little of interest than more dust for the motorbiker to eat, and the occasional sparse patch of palm trees in the hollows of the valleys. In comparison, I found the hills on either side of Senggigi so much more beautiful and a real treat to ride a scooter around.
Of course there are the beaches. They really are beautiful. I loved Mawun beach, despite the crazy rip current and the fact that you have to come to terms with being the sole livelihood of the Sasak people selling fruits to the tourists. I was happy to oblige and the spicy corn on the cob was excellent, but after two days of sampling the beaches and riding a scooter around, dodging the buffaloes and potholes, I felt ready to move on to a place that suited me better.
One thing that really didn’t help my enjoyment of Kuta, however, was my choice of accommodation, which I selected based on rave Tripadvisor reviews. Imagine this: a set of cute little rooms, recently built, with large comfortable beds and little porches. Imagine the rooms are set around a beautiful little garden, with a gorgeous mango tree at its centre. Imagine being away from the call to prayer and street noise of Kuta town, with just the gentle croaking of the geckos for company. Imagine that?
Now imagine that, except the owner is strutting around wearing just a towel, a towel so short that I caught a glimpse of his balls on more than one occasion. He is constantly and noisily clearing his nose, sucking on his teeth, spitting, burping and farting. The TV is blaring some terrible Indonesian jingle from the house. The women of the family are busy conversing among themselves, or with their neighbours across the way. Oh wait… Did I say conversing? I meant screaming. If they’re not screaming at each other, they’re screaming at the many children, who run around in various states of undress while shouting, screaming, crying or playing with noisy toys. Like, incredibly noisy. The roaring of a plastic motorbike outside your window at 6am is a far worse wakeup than the usual Indonesian rooster crows. Not forgetting the one little delight that simply unzips and pees wherever he feels like it: one day, he steps out of his front door, flops it out and pees directly onto our porch, not 4 feet from where we are sitting.
I really wanted to love it there, as much as I wanted to love Kuta, and it had all the ingredients to be amazing. But it just felt too much that I was living with the worst, noisiest, most dysfunctional neighbours in the world, in a town that hasn’t got much to offer to the non-surfing crowd.
After not enjoying the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia and now Kuta, Lombok, I am wondering if there is something wrong with me? People are all different, and sometimes the slightest of detail can make or break a place, and I am not calling having a prime view on an old man’s testies a slight detail. To each their own, I guess, but I thought Kuta Lombok had no character. You just have to check places out for yourself and make your own opinion sometimes. Also acknowledge that lone, terrible Tripadvisor review in a sea of excellents, because, hey, you never know, that one weirdo who didn’t like it might just be you.
Has any travel destination ever let you down?