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kuta Bar As the clock strikes midnight, I find myself sitting upstairs in the legendary Made's Warung, oldest and most famous of Kuta's inany street-side cafes. Nursing a gin and tonic, I slip into a near trance as the "beautiful people" of Kuta swirl about me.

On the table to my left, a sensuous lady proudly announces that she shared a glass of champagne with David Bowie the night before at the Oberoi. "Sting is coming soon, too - he's having a concert atop Gunung Agung to save the forests." Just beyond her a corpulent businessman grins with delight, surrounded by a bevy of Jakartan beauties. A bald-headed chap cruises the floor below in T-shirt and black knickers.

Soon, Made's begins to close up. Last drinks down the hatch and a final scan of the crowd to see who's about and what's happening. It's disco night tonight, but they start up late, so for the next hour or so it's on to Legian's Goa 2001 for further "warming up."

Unlike upscale Sanur and Nusa Dua, Kuta's clubs are freewheeling places with no dress code. There is Peanuts, the Sari Club and Paddy's-all on the JI. Legian strip. While a little further up the beach, follow the late night crowds up to Double Six Disco, where you can dance until the wee hours with the moon and palms overhead.

The day after

Mornings start late in Kuta - especially if You went to bed with a hangover at 5 am. Fortunately, strong cappuccinos and aspirin are always available at Benny's. If you're a people-watcher, keep your eyes open at all times. One favorite game is to guess where all the people come from and what they're doing in Bali. It's easy to distinguish the leathery-skinned old timers from pale-faced tenderfoots, and with experience one develops a sixth sense for more subtle differences.

The first order of business is to go shopping. Considering the number and variety of shops in Kuta, this is a daunting task. You can start with the street vendors and small shops if you dare but don't be surprised if you later find what you've just bought for half the price in a fancy shop. Batik shirts, rattan bags, and other treasures from around the archipelago should be tops on your list.

When you're broke or have had enough of the street life, take a stroll to the beach. If you feel lithe and beautiful, you might want to join the g-string crowd at the Blue Ocean, where the revelers you met the previous night will be playing paddle-ball. The surfing is great here and the sunsets magnificent. As for the hawkers - don't let them get you uptight. A little humor and a firm "NO" is all you need. Before getting a massage, make sure you fix the price. Tell her to lay off the coconut oil unless you want to feel like greasy fried rice garnished with sand afterwards.

After a shower and a change, it's time to eat. There's at least one restaurant in Kuta specializing in every major cuisine in the world. Then it's back to Made's and the clubs for another nocturnal round. If you love it enough, you may decide to contract a house, start a business, and become a confirmed Kuta expatriate.


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