I lived in Bali for 6 months.
That’s so cool! Is the response I get most of the time. “You are so lucky, you got to live in paradise!” something like that. Which yes, they are right. I am lucky, I am SO lucky, I am privileged. I found a way to make money online, that is, reviewing and managing content over at supboardguide. I get to play around on inflatable SUP’s. Though when I was in Bali that didn’t happen because of their 50% tax laws. Not even our cheap SUP review is financially viable with those rates.
The difference between visiting/ traveling and living in foreign countries is HUGE. You start to see the foundations on which everything was built when you get past the culture shock. You stop spending the days in hyper tourist mode looking at all the things. You stop walking around like a nervous deer ready to run at the noise of a twig snapping.
You start to REALLY see.
And it’s amazing and beautiful and chaotic and terrible..all at the same time.
This is how I feel about Bali.
I don’t hate it nor do I love it. I just feel like I know it now. I know what’s good and what’s bad. I know about the amazing system of the Subak that has been around since the first Balinese planted their rice. I know about their generosity and kindness. I also know about how they suffer from harsh judgments about how they are all out to rip people off. Though most of those people ripping people off aren’t traditionally Balinese.
It’s hard to navigate stereotypes and warnings when you are only visiting. It’s also understandable that you do believe a stereotype rather than take risks with your safety.
Some Things People are Wrong About
You’re destined to have a motorbike accident. Think about this for a moment. 90% of the traffic is on bikes and scooters, the traffic moves and work in accordance with bikes. Sure it’s like navigating quantum physics but once you become okay with the chaos, you’ll find it’s actually pretty safe to drive. (Just don’t drink drive!!)
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Bahasa is the language. It’s “Indonesian”, the generic tongue for all islands to speak to each other. Bali has its own language you’ll only find remotely. Tip: The word for “Full” in Bahasa means “horny” in Balinese. Yes, I told some grandmas I was horny.
1 – The Outskirts. The small towns outside of the busy hubs. You can’t google them – they don’t have a listing! You just have to get on a bike and explore. Take roads out from Ubud. Always take sweets with you, Balinese LOVE and I mean LOVE sugar. If you are passing into a town, stop, get some fuel, buy some snacks and share some sweets.
2 – Food. Okay, so it’s tricky to find the good places but mmmm the food. Canggu has some amazing restaurants. Tip the waiters privately and them personally, their monthly wage is the same as what you just spent on a meal.
3 – Surf. Of course, the surf is just insane.
4 – The scenery. Though the rubbish is a real problem, you need only to go for a drive to the hills and it’s not as bad. Tourist operators won’t take you remote areas for the most of it. It’s not really their way nor is there as many places for you to spend more money!
The Bad & Ugly
1 – The rubbish. It’s hectic. Before you judge though, there is no government system to clean up. Have a moment of gratitude that you’ve never had to worry about what to do with your years worth of waste after it’s in the bin. There are tips and landfill, but you have to pay. Pay money out of the last few dollars being spent to feed the family. Burn the rubbish or not feed the family? What would you pick?
2 – The taxi mafia. Most of these guys are not Balinese. It’s an incredibly tricky and finicky business navigating transport. Get on an FB page for the area you’ll be staying in and ask for a recommendation for a driver. You’ll save yourself a massive amount of hassle and probably get a legit driver who runs his own business to care for his family. Not the mafia ring.
3 – Scammy ATM’s. Find ones with guards at them or the big banks that have theirs inside. The inconvenience of having to travel to get money out is better than losing your holidays spending money on an ATM hacker.
I could go on forever! Though part of why we all travel is to experience new things. So, best to not be too prepared right ;)
Hope some of these tips help you get immersed in some of the cultures that are struggling to keep alive amongst the western tourism influence. It’s a truly unique and beautiful place in its own chaotic and crazy way.
For a good read: Here are some things you didn’t know about Indonesia.
Please share your experiences!
This is a guest article written by Sarah “Sacky” Sackville for Always Wanderlust. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position or opinions of Always Wanderlust.