Balinese backpacking on a Bintang beach-break budget



– price at the time of writing from US$15 a double (B&B)

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I’d been through the same scenario so many times. I’d been scouring the guidebook on the plane but once again I was met with the same old story from a taxi driver: “The hostel burned down…but I know another.”

If you believe the stories, hostels are always burning down or closing and taxi drivers are always quick to suggest somewhere else (probably owned by a second-cousin or at least somewhere where they will get a commission).

This time I decided to call his bluff:   “Ok,” I said, “show me the smoldering ashes and then we’ll go to the hostel you know…”

I was still apologizing as he made the 3-point-turn amid the smoking rubble in the car-park and turned down the road to the Berlian Inn. That was more than a decade ago and the simple, no-frills, back-to-basics backpacker style of the Berlian Inn has drawn me back on a score of fleeting visits through Kuta since then. In an interesting décor decision the ornate Balinese gateway was recently destroyed but the life-size statue of two fornicating pigs that stood just inside it was spared. There have been a lot of renovations to the air-con suites at the back (a minimal upgrade…but I prefer fans anyway) but, happily, the shady tropical garden is growing back now.

I’ve worked on more stories than I care to count, sitting with my feet up on the coffee tables on the little private terraces and I’ve often rented cars from the guys that hang out around the reception. There’s a sweet old lady called Nyoman who makes a living selling crocheted woolen hats across the road from the reception. They’re not the obvious Balinese souvenir but she’s such a nice person that I must have bought more than a dozen hats from her over the years. On a recent five-hour layover in Bali en-route to an assignment in Maluku I left my kitbag at Berlian while I went surfing. The chance to see so many old friends made the trip from the airport worthwhile even if the waves were lame. (Oh and I bought four more crocheted hats.)

Sometimes you come across a place that you know you’ll always return to simply because the people are so friendly. This could be your home from home in Kuta.

PROS: It’s just a little over 100 metres from the reception down to Kuta Beach, making Berlian Inn perhaps the cheapest accommodation option this close to the water.

CONS: Breakfast is very basic – just egg, toast and coffee – but get into the habit of ordering breakfast on a tray and carrying it back to the comfort of your own terrace and it’s a more restful experience.

TIP: Call the hotel in advance and get one of their drivers to come and pick you up at the airport (you’ll pay about the same as the airport taxis but if this is your first time in Bali you might appreciate a friendly face when you step out of the airport.

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