Kuta is chaos. There is no way around it. The maze of alleys will suck you in like a black hole. Always staying longer than you planned, you will leave having consumed more alcohol than you ever thought possible, be wearing cheap knock-offs, and have at least one injury from a motorcycle accident. However, on the positive, you will feel a freedom like never before. Kuta doesn’t judge. Here, the crazier the better. I see people arrive wearing their hesitation on their sleeve, and within days, they are different, or moreso, they are no longer afraid to be themselves. With parents and friends on the other side of the world, it is a place to find yourself, or reinvent yourself… and if you don’t like what you find, you can then be whatever you want… whomever you want.
But in the end, it is chaos, and after a time, it must be escaped. The exhaust, the noise, the partying, the constant harassment from vendors… I start to crave the real Indonesia… the one of black sand beaches and rice paddies, of jungles and small villages. So in my search for authenticity, I walked Kuta at sunrise, and to my surprise, was able to find simplicity in her chaos, patches of beauty among the tourist façade.