Photo: Chilling out at the beach.


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Popular Kuta is Bali’s most (in)famous destination. Streetside and beachside, Kuta is a cacophony of brash over-developed commercialism. Cheek-by-jowl stalls and incessant hawkers peddle all manner of tourist tat, and along with the traffic-clogged streets there’s cheap food, cheap booze and all night partying side-by-side an arc of golden sand with barrelling surf and gobsmacking sunsets.

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Bali’s first (and only) stop for many travellers, Kuta ticks all the boxes for folks wanting an undemanding and relatively cheap holiday by the beach while enjoying a bit of nightlife. For others, a barge pole away is way too close—Kuta is not everyone’s cup of Bintang. Whichever way you swing, Kuta is far from dull. Travellers may well look down their noses, eschewing Kuta for being “un-Balinese”, yet step into any back lane and the culture is alive and healthy. You’ll see offering-filled shrines, temples and may even encounter some genuine Balinese hospitality.

Catch a wave. Photo taken in or around Kuta, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Catch a wave. Photo: Sally Arnold

Before tourism, Kuta was one of Bali’s poorest villages, home to farmers and fishermen and in its early history known as a slave market. The 19th century saw Danish entrepreneur Mads Lange grow Kuta’s reputation as an international trading port. Kuta’s first hotel was opened in the 1930s by American surfers Bob and Louise Koke. Their story is recounted in Louise’s book Our Hotel in Bali, although some (likely inaccurate) accounts dispute that there may have been an earlier hotel run by Glasgow-born Muriel Walker, known as K’tut Tantri, later nicknamed “Surabaya Sue” and accused of collaborating with the Japanese during World War II. Her book Revolt in Paradise mentions the hotel. It’s possible K’tut Tantri and the Kokes were partners and had a fallout; Bali’s first ... Travelfish members only (Around 1,600 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Kuta.
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