After heeding numerous warnings from both the internet and word of mouth about the food conditions in Bali, it left my sister and I a little unsure and uneasy about what Bali would have in store for us (TD;LS: we did not get Bali belly). My knowledge of Bali was (and is still) rather limited. I don’t think I even recognized it as a major travel lust destination until after our trip. Sought after for its lush tropical landscape, affordable luxury and colorful culture, it’s a popular destination for the wandering travel millennials, providing ample Instagram opportunities around every corner. In short, I underestimated the grandeur of this trip until I reflected back.
We had book our tickets to Bali way in advance with little research or expectations. In truth, we booked it based on the cachet of saying we were going to Bali. Therefore, it came as no surprise that we didn’t arrive during the best season. There was plenty of rain during our visit but pockets of hot sun surprised us along the way. We tried all sorts of new foods, visited multiple areas of Bali to get a blend of experiences and genuinely had a wonderful visit.
Unsure of the whole visa process and whether we had our info correct, we were pleasantly surprised at how quickly we were able to process through. The arrival terminal and the room to line up was massive; an indicator of how popular and crazy things must get during peak season in Bali. Upon picking up our suitcases, we exchanged money at the terminal and picked up some sim cards. The paper money had definitely seen its days, sometimes feeling like it might disintegrate in our hands. We had heard/read that it wasn’t the most sanitary thing to hold either (though that can be said of money worldwide – who’s cleaning money?). In the end, we found that the exchange rate to be the best at the airport at the time and the safest, as we also read of incidents of being shortchanged when visit local money exchanges – though that did not happen to us.
The taxi service options feel a little predatory. Advised to haggle, you negotiate terms and cost based on your destination before being taken to the taxi. With no real postings or rates, it feels more like a judgement call that they make upon looking at you. Ultimately you pay what they say and hope you didn’t get cheated out of too much.
We opted to take a private day tour around the island so we were able to maximize our viewing of popular stops. Rice fields, a volcano, lush forests, excellent coffee. Even with the less than perfect weather conditions, we were able to enjoy the wonders that Bali had to offer. In fact, our most lacking experience ended up being the 5 star hotel stay as it felt the most disconnected. I would have eagerly traded it in for a beautiful homestay surrounded by more greenery. The beaches are also often a hot spot for travellers but with the rain and the overall gloominess, we didn’t soak up much sand and sun. No loss though as we had plenty in the weeks earlier in the Philippines and more to come in Australia later on.
Unfortunately the food wasn’t my favorite. Our previous travel stop was the food mecca of Singapore, so Bali just couldn’t live up to it in my mind. We made efforts to try various specialties and well known delicacies but nothing really stood out as a favourite. Bali definitely has a strong coffee and coffee shop culture with many eclectic choices if that’s your sort of thing (my sister was a fan). Expats can be found everywhere, working on their laptops and sipping away on that dark brew. As a non coffee drinker, this did nothing to excite me. We didn’t go hungry but I can’t say we were always satisfied.
Things we learned
There is a lot to learn and appreciate in terms of culture when visiting Bali. Plenty of art, shops, flowers and traditions surround you constantly. It’s hard to wrap that up neatly in a souvenir to bring back home. Something we had to quickly get used to was Canang sari which is one of the daily offerings made by Balinese Hindus to thank the Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa in praise and prayer. Found all over the street, in front of homes and businesses, these beautifully prepared offerings grace the ground. Respectfully one must not step on these so we often found ourselves walking with our heads down at times. But the reverence to this tradition speaks to the humbleness and beauty of the Balinese people.
Oh also, on more than one occasion I was mistake for a local which was humerous as well. Add it to the list of backgrounds I get mistaken for…
For a last minute decision and an unplanned trip, I remember fondly on my Bali experience. Imperfect in some regards, it still lead to a more open understanding of what this region had to offer. It educated me in ways no other destination did during my trip around Asia as I pushed myself to learn about the culture, the attractions, and the food with almost no prior conceptions or influences from others. I embraced it for what it was and was exposed to scenery that still stand out in my mind. On that alone, I’d return someday to explore a little deeper into the other fantastic views that await. Bali has been such a hot spot, with it continuing to pop up on my feeds as friends make their own trips over. I feel very privileged to have been able to visit.