There’s more to Bali than just shopping and tourists.
Bali, Australia’s answer to England’s Blackpool – or is it? Hotter, cheaper, better swimming and surfing, rich in culture and tradition, colourful friendly and entertaining. Yet people still are wary of travelling out there thanks to the idiots that blew up the Irish pub.
Yes it can be full on in the main towns in season, yes there are a large amount of obese people from Perth hauling their body weight around the streets, yes there are hawkers, yes there are raves and discos pounding out music at night. But there are still a few pockets where one can kick back and not be pestered, accosted or deafened. Just walk out into the rice fields or get away from the main stream tourist areas and experience village life and meet friendly Balinese locals.
Bali was first on the list of islands we intended to visit during our trip to Indonesia. Splashing out on a hotel just outside Kuta but within walking distance to the main shopping centre and beach we found ourselves in a cool shady room with a huge breakfast and pool (that we had to ourselves) included in the price.
Wandering down the beach road and into town and we found markets, eateries, modern chain stores and traditional clothing and jewellery shops. Dodging the flowerl offerings placed carefully on the street in front of shops was not easy as pavements were narrow and the traffic heavy. Taking buses out from Kuta to Jimbaran proved to be harder but eventually we managed to catch one and found a beach that was deserted – apart from the fishermen living in the village at the end of the bay.
Ceremonies are a way of life in Bali and where ever we travelled we found colourful processions with locals in traditional dress, carrying woven offering baskets or towering concoctions of fruit and flowers.
To get away from the traffic we walked down the pedestrian only beach road towards Legian and Seminyak where the pace is less frenetic. There are plenty of places to eat international and local cuisine and great places to settle in with a drink and watch the sunset.
We moved onto Ubud focal point for Balinese culture, cuisine and dance. Surrounding Ubud are villages that specialise in different handicrafts, lush green rice fields, temples and ancient sites.
Not ten minutes walk from the main town one can sit in small cafe in the middle of a rice field, drink coffee and look out over emerald rice filled paddies. Venture further and encounter villages harvesting and drying rice by traditional methods.
Take time out to explore further afield as Monkey Road and its resident light-fingered namesakes, the chic shops, Javanese bike riders and shop sellers refusing to leave you alone,and the bus loads of day trippers can, at times, can be very trying. We found accommodation in the older part of the town up a cobbled street and used this as our base for a few days.
Having enough of the main Island we headed out to Nusa Lembongan. Simple rooms overlooking the beach, stunning sunsets, quiet lanes (no cars). One thing the books don’t really tell you about is that the main industry on this island is seaweed farming which makes it difficult to swim on the main beach and the smell at times is a little high. However, a short walk/ride away are great beaches and accommodating hotels that will let you use their pool for the price of a cocktail.
Unfortunately I didn’t get to spend enough time in Bali to explore it fully but what I did take away from the experience was the grace and beauty of the Balinese people – I will be returning to complete the tour.