My Impressions About Bali, Indonesia

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I’ll bet almost everyone has heard of Bali, the island described by many writers as the “pearl of Indonesia.” Propelled to fame by Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ book and adapted film starring Julia Roberts, Bali attracted me with its beautiful scenery and nice beaches. Of course, I just had to check this magical place out for myself.

While researching activities to do in Bali, I stumbled upon a lot of reviews claiming that Bali had lost it’s charm and become a place for either party people or yoga fanatics.

I think Bali can be anything you want it to be, depending on how lucky you get. In my case, I experienced many sides of Bali – the good, the bad, and the ugly.


My Impressions About Bali: What did I like about it?

Architecture

As a cultural historian, I really enjoyed driving or walking around Bali and simply looking around. The island has incredible architecture wherever you look, especially in Ubud. Even a simple fence in Bali looks like a work of art, especially when it is surrounded by statues of animals. Balinese people also sell some amazing wooden sculptures, but the cost of shipping them back home is probably enormous.impressions about Bali


Fashion

Bali is famous for its traditional clothing for women. Almost every woman wears the same outfit in different colors and they look absolutely stunning! I tried to find it for sale all over the island but failed miserably so I can’t give any advice on where to go shopping for this traditional outfit.5429balinese_dress


Amazing rituals

The first time I saw a Balinese procession was on my way to downtown Ubud. The street was completely blocked by at least 50 people heading to a temple. As a result, the entire street was blocked. While the traffic jam was enormous, the kindness of the locals and their understanding was incredible. Everyone just waited patiently and smiled to each other while the procession passed.DSC00563


Welcoming locals

Bali definitely relies on tourism, but the local people aren’t pushy when it comes to tipping and don’t seem to rip you off. When we rented a driver to take us on a tour around southern Bali, I asked to see Balinese jewelry being made. While the driver didn’t know any shops that could show me, he had a cousin who just happened to be a jewelry maker. He made a few phone calls, took us to meet him and his friends, and they showed us everything. So nice of them!


Monkeys

If you’ve been following my blog you know I’m crazy about wildlife and I definitely like monkeys, even if one monkey actually bit me. In Bali, monkeys live everywhere, not only in the Monkey Forest, but pretty much around any temple. Some of them might hiss at you if you don’t give them any food, but they’re still adorable.DSC00448


What I didn’t like about Bali?

Departure fee

Paying for a visa to enter a country seems fair for many travelers, but a departure tax only annoys them. In Bali you have to pay both – an entry fee ($25) and a departure fee. I saw a lot of people in trouble because they didn’t save enough money to pay it and only the local currency was accepted. Save 150,000 rupiah (approx. $17) for when you leave the country to pay this tax.


Kuta and southern Bali

Kuta and the surrounding area is not the place to go for a relaxing holiday. It’s overcrowded, very commercialized, and full of young people who want to party. If that’s something you’re looking for then you’re going to have a great time, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. The beach there also didn’t impress me very much.kuta


Corruption

If you’re visiting Bali, you need to have either a car or a motor scooter in order to get around. I chose to rent a scooter as it was cheap (only $6 a day) and seemed easier to drive. I was super excited about my scooter, but instead we got into an accident first and then got robbed by the police. Let me tell you a story here… The first mistake was mine, I drove a scooter into a wall with my ex-boyfriend sitting on the back because I didn’t know that my left hand brake didn’t work. I didn’t do any damage to the scooter, just to myself when I almost completely removed the skin from my right arm and got huge bruises, but no big deal. Aside from this accident,  I had fun driving around Ubud.DSC00611


When I rented a scooter in Sanur and tried to get to Kuta, it was a completely different story. The procedure was the same: pay $6, show your driver’s license, and you’re ready to go. However, we were stopped by the police in a dark corner of the road almost instantly. They claimed I missed a light and demanded an international driver’s license from me. When I said I didn’t have one, they said I would have to pay a fine. I guess any excuse was good enough in order to demand some money from me. When I asked if I could pay this ‘fine’ somewhere at a police station or court with actual documentation, they said it’s not possible because I’d have to wait too long. As it unfortunately turns out, the police are very corrupt. When we told the story to any local, they knew instantly what had happened to us, as the police commonly targets white tourists on scooters.

 


Do I recommend Bali? 

I must say I liked Bali. As you can see, there are way more positive things that I can say about Bali and I’d definitely advise you to check it out. I would recommend going to Ubud over Kuta or Sanur though. But, again it all depends of what do you want to experience.

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20 Comments

  1. rebecca
    Jan 27, 2015 / 12:49 pm

    Sounds like a lot of South East Asia to me. I certainly would love to see Bali to make my own mind up but I bet there is so much more wonder around Indonesia

    • Jan 29, 2015 / 5:54 pm

      I wish I had time to explore more of Indonesia, but i think it’d certainly be way different than Bali!

  2. Jan 28, 2015 / 7:39 am

    Te małpy to gorsze chyba niż gołębie u nas..

    • Jan 28, 2015 / 12:27 pm

      Zdecydowanie Karol 😀

  3. Jan 28, 2015 / 10:13 am

    Bali to miejsce do którego jeszcze nie dotarłem :-(.
    No ale myślę to kiedyś zmienić ! Swoją drogą masz imponującą liczbę osób które lubią Twoje wpisy 🙂
    Pozdrawiam

    • Jan 28, 2015 / 12:27 pm

      Dziekuje 🙂

  4. Jan 29, 2015 / 12:01 am

    Zazdro mi się włączyło… Kiedyś, kiedyś też odwiedzę Bali, a póki co daleko mi… :(((

  5. Jan 29, 2015 / 7:08 am

    I would have gone there even though I recently heard many negative things (especially that it is overcrowded by tourists). But still somehow it is tempting to see.

    • Jan 29, 2015 / 5:55 pm

      Yep, it certainly is overcrowded, but to be fair so does pretty much every place in SEA 😉

    • Vega
      Dec 4, 2015 / 3:43 am

      I would recommend you to visit Lombok. There are still lots of virgin beaches in Lombok though. and the Gili Isles are pretty popular. 🙂

  6. Feb 19, 2015 / 12:57 pm

    I loved the monkeys in Bali <3!!! OMG although they are cheeky and you can't trust them, they are also so adorable!

  7. Maria
    Mar 4, 2015 / 1:40 am

    Hallo Anna! i stumbled upon your blog as i search about review on south east asian trips. I really like your post ♡ as an indonesian i totally love bali..except the Kuta area, which is overcrowded. currently i live in germany with my husband, but i’d love to make some trips next year.. if you ever be back to bali..try snorkeling in Padangbai (Blue Lagoon)..or Candidasa in eastern part of Bali..i was there the last time i visited Bali (2009) with my then-future-in laws and i also had the chance to visit Kintamani and the Batur lake area. another exciting place is Karimun Jawa in northern part of Java Island..next time i’m going there and also Bali and Lombok for my belated honeymoon 🙂
    p.s. if you want to go back to Bali, try avoid the months where the indonesian have long public holidays such as Lebaran (Eid al-Fitr in English), as the islnd will be totally overcrowded with local tourist from all over Indonesia esp. from Java..and avoid the hinduism holiday Nyepi in Bali 🙂

  8. Vega
    Dec 4, 2015 / 3:41 am

    Hi!
    I stumbled upon this blog and I love to read the posts here <3
    I am Indonesian, precisely live in Java.
    I just want to say that I am agree about the 'corrupt police'. It's not just in Bali, but everywhere all around Indonesia. When a driver breaks the traffic rules, they suppose to get the ticket and go to the court to pay the fine. But some police officers will let them pass by paying some amount of money right on the spot. I know that that kind of police is wrong, but it's kinda be a 'culture' here in Indonesia. I'm sorry that you have to experience such unfortunate when you are visiting my home country. But I'm glad that you still like it here!!

    Cheers!

  9. David
    Feb 18, 2016 / 3:39 am

    Anna, you were driving around the island without a proper license. And then you whinge about it when the police caught you doing so. In a lot of countries around the world you’d have to go to Court for such an offense, followed by a huge fine.

    In Bali, normally you only have to pay the local police between $5 and $20. If you went to the police station with them instead, as was your preference, it would have cost you a hell of a lot more.

    That money/small fine you pay the police usually goes back to their local communities to pay off the large debt that the community stumped up to get them a job in the first place. So while technically you may argue that it’s a form of corruption, they see it as a form of repayment, and then once that’s done, spreading the wealth. We’re talking about a few dollars here, not million dollar bribes from a company to a politician – which the average Indonesian despises with a vengeance.

    Apologies for the rant, but the fact you labeled a whole island as corrupt just because you broke the law, and then got off very lightly, really irked me. Yes there is corruption in Bali, as there is anywhere, but it’s not of the Motorbike cop kind.

    • Feb 18, 2016 / 4:18 am

      Well, long story short the rental agent told me it’s fine. I asked them 5 times. Also, to be fair the police stopped me for no reason and took me to a very dark corner on purpose just that I would have to give them money. But as I said at the end of the article I didn’t dislike Bali!

  10. Mar 16, 2016 / 8:23 am

    Eventhough I live next to Indonesia, I dont know about this Ubud. Thanks a lot.

  11. Apr 18, 2016 / 5:59 am

    Thank you for sharing your experience. Indonesia have many different culture for each province, even in one province have 3 or 4 different culture and language. there are so many hotel in bali offers the nuance of the theme of culture.

  12. Kevin
    Oct 16, 2017 / 5:04 pm

    Same Bali experiences/impressions! I loved it. I also rented a scooter, and I was immediately pulled over the police as well. Unlike the other poster, I agree with you! The scooter rental shouldn’t legally be allowed to rent out a scooter, if only an international driver’s license is acceptable.

    If the police aren’t corrupt (and I believe them to be), than the scooter rental agencies are breaking the law by renting out scooters to tourists who legally aren’t supposed to ride them.

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