Kuta: Tourist Portal to Bali
Kuta is one of a collection of small villages in the vicinity of the international airport in Bali. Kuta serves as the portal to Bali for many of the 2.5 million tourists who visit the island every year. Kuta often resembles a carnival with tourists wandering through the streets clutching open bottles of beer and loudly retelling their nightly adventures to their buddies. Young women in skimpy bikinis pull up chairs in local restaurants to enjoy their lunch. Families of tourists wander in a daze through the throngs of hawkers trying to make a sale.While many visitors think that Kuta is an artificial area developed especially for tourists, Kuta has a long history and is a legitimate Balinese village.
Kuta was once a slave-trading area and a sleepy fishing village. The village hit the tourist map in the 1930s when the first tourist hotel on the island was built in Kuta by an American couple and their British partner. During the 1970s Kuta became part of the hippie trail. Kuta today has developed into a popular destination for tourists from around the world, but most especially Australian tourists with many bars, restaurants and hotels catering to the large Australian trade.
Kuta is about 10 minutes by taxi from the international airport. The village of Kuta is surrounded by several other small villages which are often lumped together with Kuta and popularly referred to as Kuta. These villages are Tuban, Legian and sometimes Seminyak, although Seminyak has developed its own identity recently as a high end playground for the international jet set. The tiny back streets, known locally as gangs, are home to hotels, restaurants, bars and a multitude of small shops.
Kuta may be best known for the famous Kuta Beach. While it is not the best surfing beach in Bali, it is perhaps the best known to the casual surfer. The white sand beach is also popular with tourists looking for some sun and a splash in the waves. Kuta might be summed up as fun, sun, shop and eat. From the many small stalls along the streets selling pirated DVDs, inexpensive t-shirts, and a variety of tourist bric-a-brac to the higher end shops found in Kuta Square, Kuta is a shopper's dream. Most restaurants sell a mix of Indonesian and Western food so you'll see nasi goreng on the menu along with a double cheeseburger. Bars run from the raucous Aussie-oriented sports bars to music bars to surfer hangouts. The Hard Rock Cafe is still a popular stop for many tourists.
Waterbom Bali is a huge, 3.8 hectare, water park has become one of the main activities for tourists and locals in the Kuta area. While technically located in Tuban, Waterbom is an easy walk from many of the hotels in Kuta and is just down the street from the popular Kuta Square shopping area. Waterbom is packed with water slides, pools, food courts, and gazebos that can be rent for the day. Other tourist attractions include bowling alleys, cinemas, bungy jumps and the massive Discovery Shopping Mall also located in Tuban.
Kuta has attracted a number of unsavory types from around the country. Pickpocketing and purse-snatching have become more common in recent years. Young male tourists are often targeted by drug pushers who sometimes are working in conjunction with the police. Drink-spiking has been reported by some visitors to the island who wake up the next morning to find all of their valuables gone. And of course, Kuta was the site of the two Bali bombings in 2002 and 2005 that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of tourists and local residents. Security is now a key concern of the Balinese government and police. Many of the large hotels have improved their security measures, and the police presence during the Christmas holiday season is highly visible in the Kuta area.
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