As we fall more in love with our traveling, we’ve started to explore different ideas on how to extend our time on the road with various ways of saving money and stretching every dollar. This time we decided to do a work exchange where we would help out at a small guesthouse, putting in a few hours a day doing odd jobs and front of house work in exchange for a free place to stay.
We arrived in the sleepy beach town of Cherating with the idea of spending some time relaxing on the beach, playing in the ocean, and saving a few dollars. Let me start by painting a picture of this small village. Situated on the North Eastern coast of Malaysia, Cherating, with its natural beauty and laid back atmosphere, was selected as the site for the first Club Med to be built in Asia (though we never saw it as it was around the next cove and way out of our budget). When the tide rolls out, the beach extends for almost a hundred meters, exposing all of the sand dollars and shells that were otherwise happily hidden by the shallow waters. There are a few small restaurants and bars dotted along an otherwise barren beachscape. When the swells come, the surfers come, and when the swells go, the town seemingly falls back asleep.
Cherating is a town that appears to be fighting with itself. There are those trying to put it back on the map as a beach front vacation hub, and those who would rather see it remain very much unknown. This little town has the shops and infrastructure to take off, though most of these shops are closed. It seems their proprietors, who own the land so aren’t losing anything by remaining closed, would rather not turn a profit than make this town more inviting than it already is (apparently they don’t like tourists so don’t want to encourage them). This entire town is really quite laid back virtually all the time…except at night…
Once the sun sets, there is one night club that lights up. It can be heard from almost anywhere in the entire town, the cover band wailing all night long. Little Bali, as it is known, is an open air night club right on the river’s edge, allowing the sound to travel on seemingly forever down the waterway. As on many of our quiet nights in trying hard not to spend any money, we were baffled by how such a sleepy village could have this club that could carry on till 4am just about every night. Where were their clientele coming from? As our time in Cherating was coming to an end, we decided we must go explore the mysterious club that often impeded our sleep patterns.
As we walked into the club, it was for some reason nothing what I expected. An open air club filled with an entire group of people I had never seen walking the streets of the town. As we sipped our fairly expensive beer, we took in all the sights and sounds of Little Bali; I was a little in awe about this packed bar. I was having trouble putting my finger on just what it was about all the done up women sitting in large groups on the one side of the bar with no men anywhere near them. As I came out of the unisex stalled bathroom and was washing my hands, it dawned on me. Maybe it was watching one of these women walking out of the stall right after a guy and without a word returning to this group of ladies that tipped me off, but it was then that I realized they were all working girls. It turns out what keeps this bar rocking till all hours of the morning is the guys who have been working off shore looking to let loose and thin out their paychecks, and the prostitutes who are more than willing to help them do that.
With the mystery of Little Bali solved, we finished up our drinks, called it a night.