ON BALI - the island where, by law, no building is higher than the tallest palm tree - the suntan seekers of Kuta beach spend their Saturday nights in much the same way they do every other night of the week.

As the sun sets over the pale ocean, the main street in Kuta, which runs parallel to the sea, becomes awash with motorcycles. The small stalls and shops that clutter the road from Kuta to the neighbouring resort of Legian selling everything from sequinned boob tubes to ethnic beads are doing their usual hard sell. So are the dealers or, so rumour has it, the undercover policemen. 'Hash, hash, marijuana, mushrooms,' are the whispers that leap from the dark. Ornate ponies and traps belt up and down the streets, their bells ringing as they ferry the last bathers off the beach. Small boys run along flashing boxes of tarnished silver bracelets into the faces of jaded tourists.

It is early and the Australians are out in force. Pink T-shirts, pink noses, large lager guts that spew over their money belts, they hunt in packs. They storm past the groups of Germans who quietly munch their local fare in their faded grey T-shirts. The Germans rarely venture out, preferring to save their cash for the other 30 or so countries they have yet to visit.

First stop for the Australians is one of the hundreds of restaurants, avoiding the Mama's Own Bavarian designed to make the Germans feel at home. They go into a Balinese fish restaurant and order as close to a Berni as they can; T-bone steaks and chocolate sundaes are wolfed down with lashings of beer. The video screen bar is crammed with fluorescent vests, arm-wrestling, belching and mooning. All beered-up and off to Peanuts, where there is lots of dancing on tables, the occasional breaking of chairs, the obligatory pool of sick in the loo and a touch of frenching during the slows for the lucky scorers.

By 1am it is all over. The lights are turned on and everyone goes home. Winding their way along the hot, dusty alleys to their various hotels, hostels and guest houses, that is it for the Australians.

But at 1am the other scene is just beginning. This lot has been in bed until about nine, or tucking into banana milkshakes and stir-fry noodles before turning up at an out-of-town bar called Goa. In among the floor cushions, below the high bamboo wigwam-shaped roof, there are a few fun vests but mostly tie-dye. Yet as well as plaits, beads and sandals, there are some hard-core clubbers dressed in slashed Lycra and a smattering of baseball caps. Over in the corner is a group of Brazilians who look like they have lost their yacht in Marbella. Teased and tweaked, squeezed into leather, lace and sequins, they seem strangely out of place and yet, because they are en masse, enviably confident. 'Do you want some LSD?' asks Carlos, placing an arm over the back of the chair. 'I've heard it's quite weak so you'll want a whole tab, not a half. I haven't tried it myself, I've lost two years of my life and I've only just got them back.'

Some Balinese are cruising: showered and shaved, immaculate in pressed linen shirts with slicked-back hair, they are buying in the drinks. Tonight they are all going on to Double-6's, a club on the beach where you see in the dawn. They alternate with Gado Gado, another beach club.

It is nearing 2am and the Goa is getting more agitated. Bare-chested boys with ponytails are jumping around swigging their bottles of Evian. Others are beginning to leap in time to the music, mouthing along to the words. Some are snaking their way through the crowds, dishing out High Fives and ruffling the backs of girls' heads - they have obviously been here before.

Outside, the taxis are waiting to take the punters on. As if at a signal, they all leave. Taxis, scooters and jeeps drive in convoy to the club, along the narrow dark road. The night is warm. The music is trance happy-house and the pretty people dance until dawn. Then it is off to bed to sleep until 2pm in preparation for the next night.