So in December I visited Bali for the second time with my family – exactly a year after the first time we had been. I’m well aware that many people view Bali in Indonesia as a place for ‘bogan’ Australians to go and get loose, however it is much more than that.
Bali is a destination close to Australia that has a bit of everything, for everyone. While staying in the hustle and bustle of Kuta may not be everyone’s cup of tea, that’s where my family decided to stay. There are much less busy, less touristy places than Kuta, such as Ubud, Seminyak or Nusa Dua. There are also lovely surrounding islands such as Gili Trawangan or Nusa Lembongan, which I have not visited, but hope to visit in the future.
I have also not yet experienced the nightlife of Bali, which I hope to do with my friends one day.
While I believe there are many great things about Bali, there are also some things that are not so appealing, so I am going to tell you what I think about both.
Everything is so cheap!
I am not exaggerating here. From food to transport to accommodation, everything is just a fraction of the price that you would pay back home. However, it does depend on where you go. Some places you may find are expensive, but there are definitely many cheap options. While I mainly ate in the tourist areas, I never had a meal that was over about $12AUD. My cheapest meal was about $4 or $5, however I’m sure you can find cheaper. Traditional Indonesian dishes are also generally cheaper than western food.
Alcohol is also quite cheap, about $2 for a Smirnoff ice if you buy it from a mini mart (they are everywhere). I don’t drink beer, but I know the beers (such as bintang) are super cheap also. You can pick up many cheap items at the markets and shops such as clothing, bags or souvenirs at a very small price, as long as you are willing to barter of course! And don’t get me started on how much I love the massages! I only got them at the Febris Hotel and Spa, which are a lot more expensive than you would pay from a street massage parlour. However, the massages were still only about $20 for a whole hour in a lovely, clean and proper spa environment.
Things you can’t find at home
A lot of the things I have bought are things you can’t buy in stores here in Melbourne. From little beaded purses, to crochet tops, I love that I am one of the only people to have it (and got it very cheaply of course!). Some of the things I have bought include dream catchers, sunglasses (hello 20 pairs of fake ray bans I do not need), jewellery, bags and clothing. Even if it is not unique, it is sure to be a hell of a lot cheaper than the price you would pay back at home. Just be aware that you may come home with a hell of a lot more things than you will actually put to use.
Relaxing by the pool or at the beach
The weather is almost always hot in Bali, even if it sometimes rains. It so relaxing to just chill by the pool or at the beach with a good book, and then be able to go for a swim when you can no longer handle the heat. If you haven’t brought a book from home, I’ve found that books at the bookstore such as the one at Discovery mall are about half the price of the books in bookstores in Melbourne.
Just be aware that you may get hassled on the beach to buy bracelets etc. even whilst you’re trying to relax.
For every person who tries to rip you off, there will be someone super friendly who wants to chat and ask you where you are from, etc. Don’t be surprised if they remember your name when you walk past them another day in the street. Many people are genuinely interested in where you are from and what you do back home.
The Balinese are mostly Hindu and very religious. They believe in Karma, and give up daily offerings, which are a little square basket filled with colourful flowers and a small bit of food. During both of my visits, we saw the Balinese participating in special ceremonies, where they walk through the streets in white traditional outfit. In many places there are temples for the Balinese to pray, which have strict rules for entry. In fact, many hotels even have one for their staff.
As soon as you leave your hotel and walk down the street you will get people hassling you to buy their things. Not only this, but many men have said things to me such as ‘hello darling’ (in a creepy way), or yelled out ‘I love youuu.’ I seemed to get this a lot more when I walked ahead of my family and they thought I was by myself, especially at night. They will say almost anything to get your attention, which at times can be uncomfortable and make you want to get the hell out of there.
Even whilst sitting on an empty beach, I had a man come up to me and try to sell me pearls. While I wasn’t interested he kept persisting, as there was no one else around to sell them to. This got a little awkward as I could not just walk away like you do in the street. You may also experience people trying to sell you things like bracelets while you are sitting in a restaurant!
My first experience of bartering was that it was fun. I thought it was great that they could start off at a price so high and then I could proceed to barter them down to a third of the price. I was a natural at it. Or so I thought. After a couple of days I quickly realized a few of the things I first bought I could get for even cheaper if I hadn’t been so eager. Also after a few days it just got downright annoying to barter with someone whilst standing in the humid air with sweat dripping down your back. Not to mention that you will begin to know what prices you should be paying for things, so when they won’t budge on price, this is even more agitating. One thing I find funny/ makes me crazy is when I want to buy one top for example. I will ask them how much and they will respond with ‘how many you want?’ No matter how many times you tell them you ONLY want one, they will always try to get you to buy more. ‘You take 2, cheaper price’ they will tell you.
‘Morning price’ or ‘special price for you’ are a couple of things they will say to make you think they are doing you a good deal. I could talk about the funny things they say all day long! Often when you begin to walk off they will yell at you a cheaper price, as they are desperate for a sale.
Yes the dreaded Bali belly is real and both my family and myself experienced it, although I didn’t get the worst of it. This can range from diarrhea to vomiting or just feeling uneasy in the stomach. Bali belly may be caused by a change in diet, drinking tap water or bacteria. To lessen the possibility of getting any symptoms associated with Bali belly I suggest always only drinking bottled water, including using bottled water to brush your teeth with. While it is frustrating and sometimes you may be forgetful, I’m sure you would rather enjoy your holiday than spend half of it in the bathroom. I also suggest using hand sanitizer before eating, after shaking hands with someone or touching things such as door handles. You can get small bottles to carry in your bag and this may help prevent the spread of bacteria that can make you sick.
Be aware that there will be people who will try and rip you off. Some people in Bali will try to make any money that they can, including taking advantage of unsuspecting tourists.
Many of these scammers come from Java or Jakarta, and these are the ones to watch out for (or so I’ve been told.) Generally these people have different beliefs, as they are not Balinese, so they may not give offerings to the gods or believe in karma.
Many people at the markets will try to get extra money from you by pretending they don’t owe you change if it is only a dollar or two, so just make sure you are on the ball as the notes can be a little confusing over there with so many 0’s on the end. Another scam I have not personally experienced is the massage parlours. Apparently while you are lying down to get a massage another person may take money from your wallet, so just be aware.
While in any foreign country you are bound to encounter different things than you would see back home, there were a couple of weird things I saw in Bali. The first time I went to Bali I was walking around at night with my family and encountered a Balinese woman in the street with a massive snake around her. I am extremely afraid of snakes so I immediately ran away (probably screaming). Safe to say every time I walked passed that area after that I was alert!
Another weird thing is that they seem to sell a lot of things in the shape of penis’. While these are mainly key rings which would make for a funny souvenir, I did find a mirrored penis lamp in one shop, as you can see in the picture below.