I have a love-hate relationship with Uber. I love it when it works and I really hate it when it doesn’t. To make the hour and a half trip from Kuta Beach to Balian Beach we had planned on taking an Uber. At this stage we didn’t realize how much of a history there was with Uber in Indonesia. The short story is that there were violent protests by taxi drivers against Uber drivers in Jakarta. Uber drivers are now scared to pick people up for fear of being assaulted by taxi drivers. There have been cases of attacks reported. Not only that, but many taxi drivers sign up as Uber drivers and then proceed to accept rides and not go to the pick-up location. The worse the reputation, the less likely it will be to succeed.

For us, we were unaware of the history and booked an Uber to pick us up. When our driver arrived he was a taxi driver in a different car and plate number from what was registered as our Uber pick up. We had begun to get suspicious. Before we even made it to the car he demanded an extra $15NZD to take us to Balian Beach (the total ride was only $35NZD in the first place). At this point we had had enough and told him to go along on his merry way. He seemed unaffected by the experience. I can only assume this is because he was hoping to give Uber a bad name, which it has. The only way forward here is for Uber’s CEO Bro (a term heard on National Public Radio, or NPR) to step up and sort it out, because I won’t be using Uber in Indonesia again.

It was easy enough to arrange another ride (ironically at the same price we refused from the dodgy taxi/Uber driver) and we braved the unbelievable traffic to get to Balian Beach. As it was a public holiday, everyone was on the move. Let’s not forget the three day traffic jam in Java, Indonesia this time last year where 12 people died of fatigue and other traffic jam related problems. The hour and a half trip turned into two and a half hours, but I feel I shouldn’t complain after mentioning the above incident.

Balian Beach

Balian Beach was sublime. It bore a close resemblance to Raglan, NZ, with a laid back surfer vibe and few other people in sight. It was an unbelievable contrast to Kuta beach. The beach had soft black sand that felt like carpet. The waves rolling in were large, jumbled, and only the most intense looking surfers were heading into the white wash. This is an odd sight, as most surfers don’t have the ability to look intense (unless they’re camping, sorry).

Our accommodation was the Surya Homestay, as recommended by The Lonely Planet. The bungalow was cheap, but it had everything we needed. Plus, the hosts were so sweet and kept asking us if everything was okay. There were only a handful of restaurants in the area and each was made of roughly tied together bamboo with old surfboards used as load-bearing elements. The restaurants all sat seaside with views over the bay. It was a perfect location for relaxing. So much so that a number of yoga retreats had opened in the area. Each had a vegan friendly restaurant and guests with dreadlocks and the obligatory tie-die uniform. However, even the vegans were chilled out here.

We went on an adventure one evening to find the “secret beach”. This involved a scramble down the side of a resort, running through a field with a bull in it, jumping a creek and passing a bat cave. It was all worth it in the end, as we found the secret beach. The beach had no one on it and stretched some 30km into the distance. It had a rugged, abandoned feel. Along the way we passed a small local family that lived in a shack on the beach. Their children ran around playing with a kite naked. These two kids were the happiest I have seen. Although, I’m not sure I could use their method without getting into trouble.

Balian Beach

After two days we were on the move again. We were catching another ride (obviously not Uber) to the East Coast of Bali and then a boat to the Gili Islands.

Click here for the next in the series.