The sun was out, the temperature was a balmy 32°C, and it was Saturday although that didn't really matter because to the 1.6 million yearly visitors to Indonesia's most alluring tropical paradise, every day is a Saturday and every night a freewheeling Saturday night. The surf was up too, which did matter to Chris Beirne, a 47-year-old nursing-home worker on holiday from Mermaid Beach, Queensland. Beirne loves Bali so much he overstayed his visa on his first visit in 1974 and was deported after four blissful months. He has returned more than a dozen times.
That day, Beirne rode the morning swells at Nusa Dua, where the hard-core surfers go. He went with his pal Cooper from Hawaii, and a new acquaintance from Zimbabwe named Pat. On the beach, the guys met two girls from the Canary Islands, and arranged to hook up later that night at Paddy's Irish Pub in Kuta. "I caught one really nice wave that made me happy," Beirne recalls. "But I came in after a couple more. I didn't have much energy, and I thought, 'Oh, I'm going out tonight.'"
For businessman Kadek Wiranatha, Saturday was just another workday, although an important one. Kadek, 47, is the king of Kuta, the owner of many of the hotels and restaurants that cater to Bali's foreign guests, including Paddy's, a bar known for its straight-to-the-beer attitude. He employs 3,000 and works late into the night. So on Oct. 12, Kadek woke at his customary 11:00 a.m., in time for a lunch meeting to discuss his newest venture: Air Paradise, an airline dedicated to bringing tourists to Bali. "The planes were arriving in a few days," he recalls. "The mood was very upbeat and exciting. We knew that Bali's first international airline was going to be a success."
When the sun is up, Kuta's narrow lanes wear a ramshackle, hungover look. But that disappears at sunset, when the music starts pounding again from the tile- or thatch-roofed bars and discos and the backpackers and surfers start careening from bar to bar, beer bottles in hand. The main action is on Jalan Legian, lined with bars, restaurants and hawkers shilling knockoff clothes.
Paddy's is popular, but there's more action across the road at the Sari Club, which has three bars, a dance floor and a younger crowd. Cashier Putu Ayu Sila Prihanadewi, 21, was working the night shift on Saturday at the half-moon-shaped bar on the club's north side. She was so busy ringing up VBs and Jell-O shots and fish bowls that she didn't realize the evening was getting on. By 10 p.m., the joint was already packed. A rugby tournament, the Bali Tens, was being held that weekend, and players from Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Jakarta were converging on the Sari Club. The Kingsley Football Club from Perth had just arrived. Corey Paltridge, a 20-year-old glazier and livewire, had cleared the dance floor for his favorite party trick: an air-guitar impression of Angus Young, lead guitarist of Australia's AC/DC.
A kilometer away, Haji Agus Bambang Priyanto, the head of Kuta's traffic and transport department, was concerned that it was getting late. It was 10:30, and his 15-year-old son Wisnu, who worked at a restaurant near the Sari Club, wasn't home. His wife reminded him that Wisnu was getting old enough to stay out later, but Haji Bambang had her send Wisnu a text message: "Wisnu go home. Daddy is very mad." The son obeyed and was home by 11.