A couple of weeks ago I left my home for the last three months in Seoul and headed for Bali, complete with a new head cold. On the way to the airport, an Asian man, that wasn’t Korean, tried to talk to me at 5:45 am. The conversation, that early in the morning, was very one sided, and I can’t remember what he talked about. With little sleep the night before, I was ready to snooze the 7 hour plane ride away.
I made it to the airport in Jakarta, Indonesia for a layover eventually. The flight was pretty uneventful except for the ginormous lady who took my isle seat because she is too plump to fit in the middle, literally. Needless to say, I was sandwiched in a middle seat between this lady’s rolls that spilled over and under the arm rest and with the person to my left. Luckily, the extra cushion wasn’t too bothersome because I slept, a lot.
The Jakarta airport is an unorganized mess but is cozy. In this airport, apparently I looked lost as I wandered around aimlessly, so an Indonesian lady helped me find my transfer plane which was not labeled on any of the electronic boards. She was coming back from Singapore and lives in Jakarta, very nice lady.
Upon entrance in Bali, I got an on-arrival visa and took a motorcycle ride with my big bag to a hotel for 90,000 rupiah. Sure, it was a rip-off, but at the airport, taxis don't go by meter, and this motorcycle driver was cheaper than the taxis. The least rip-offish if you will. The ride was surprisingly not terrifying, and I stayed a few nights in the Next Tuban Hotel near the airport which I would hardly recommend. It is a nice hotel itself, but the staff aren't very helpful, and they tried to downgrade my room on arrival. I refused without making a fuss which seemed to confuse the staff. They also didn't have me down for staying the correct number of paid nights, my room key stopped working each day, and the electricity kept going out on my last morning there. Bali has its ish together, but this hotel does not.
From the first day in Bali, I noticed that compared to Seoul, The Balinese people are much louder and aggressive, the visitors are much less conservative, and there is a huge Hindu population and a significant Muslim one as compared to Seoul’s large Christian population. Hearing the Arabic calls to prayer in the airports was very reminiscent of Sharjah. Bali, especially Kuta, Bali, is also chalk full of foreign holiday goers. The whole place is like Seoul’s Itewon, but here, it was strange to hear so many languages at once instead of Korean and the occasional English. Also, Korea is so safe that it came as no surprise to me that Bali is not as secure. I was a little too paranoid the first couple of days after reading the consulate suggestions, but Bali still pretty safe as long as one acts logically.
On the bike ride part, I happened to pick a craptastic bike. The gears didn't work well, and the chain kept falling off, but the nice tour guide kindly traded his bike with mine. It was smooth sailing from thereafter to a coffee plantation, through some villages, some temples, and by plenty of rice workers. The ride was nearly all downhill and not too tiring, so I and the older French guy (past his biking prime) opted to go on the extra 8 K uphill. The 60 something French guy, with a young wife and 6 year old kid, still believed that he is the same young cross country biker he was once was, but ended up holding the guide and me up quite a bit. He looked like he was going to pass out or go into cardiac arrest from panting so hard, but I enjoyed the leisurely pace staying behind him.
On the third day, I switched from that not so fantastic hotel to a peppy Eco-friendly hostel in the same area. Instead of going to another beach and the PASIFICA Museum as I had planned, I walked around the area and stumbled upon Carrefour, the best everything store out there! I love Carrefours (one of the only French words I know) and hadn’t been to one since studying in UAE. The big one I went to in Kuta is like a mall with an A&W that I hit up for a root beer float after grocery shopping. I wandered around the store for a while and bought three bags of fruit and souvenirs for about 25$.
Some More Differences and Similarities as Compared to Korea:
-One has to be careful with the faucet water. Like India, the regular water is OK for showers and teeth brushing, but buying drinkable bottled water is a must to avoid massive diarrhea.
-Higher education isn’t as affordable to the general population, but English is more widely spoken than in Korea possibly because tourism is such a large proportion of the area’s income. Many of the taxi drivers I spoke with and guides said that they picked up English and other tidbits of languages throughout the years without formally learning it in school.
-In Bali, pirated movies and music are publically available everywhere with whole shops full of it. Maybe it isn’t all that illegal here or the officials don’t care all that much.
-The air is fresh without a noticeable lining of smog in the sky!
-Motorcycle drivers still drive on the sidewalk during traffic jams.
-Hiking is not an elderly pastime, but more of a tourist thing to do in Bali. The mountains are not quite as high as well, but some are active volcanoes with monkeys at the top ready to steal your food.
On days four, five, and six, I took surf lessons, through another green company. It is nice to see all of the conservation and eco-friendly aspects in Bali tourism similar to the eco-tourism in Costa Rica (minus all the national park reserves). Because I already know how to snowboard, surfing was easy to pick up.
While in Ubud, I checked out a couple of evening cultural dance shows. One was a 50 men singing reenactment of part of the Hindu epic, Mahabharata when Rama loses track of Sita who went out of a circle boundary in the forest. The other was more of a hodgepodge of different small dances including a Legong Trance Dance about the Hindu gods showing humans mercy. To anyone traveling to Bali, the night dances are a must see at least once. They cost between 75,000 and 80,000 rupiah and tickets are sold by individuals on the streets in the hours beforehand by the dance areas (in Ubud, around Ubud Palace at 7:30 every night with different performances throughout the week).
Besides the nightlife, I also checked out the Puri Lukisan and Antonio Blanco museums of Balinese art. The Antonio one is very nicely set up, but expensive for the area and amount of art shown at 80,000 rupiah as compared to the 20,000 rupiah price on its outdated website. Antonio was from Spain, and in the mid twentieth century, he came to Bali. About 90% of his artwork on display is naked ladies and a whole lot of boob. Now, his son, Mario, is taking over the family business of painting. If choosing between museums, I would recommend the Puri Lukisan Museum. It is a little cheaper at 75,000 for a normal ticket and there is more art to see along with little explanations next to most art works. Also, at this place, for a few bucks more, you can get a high quality lunch which I also highly recommend. I had some tofu medley dish with black rice pudding for dessert upon the waiter’s recommendation, and it was delicious!
On my last days in Bali, I climbed Mount Batur, checked out the small artisan shops, and had a spa day. The mountain climb was fantastic and quite a breeze after trekking Mt. Hallasan in Jeju, Korea. I woke up at 1:00 am to catch the sunrise from the top of the peak (had to use a flashlight to climb up the sandy mountain in the dark which I may have accidentally stolen). I went through the same Eco-cycling organization that I used before and was paired this time with a middle aged couple from Italy (with a bit of Spanish, Italian is not a hard language to understand) and a young couple and from around the Goa area of India. India is my favorite country that I have been to and Goa is my favorite state there, so I tried to talk with them, but they weren't having it. As my mom would say, “They must have a stick up there A.” And they did. They refused to climb the whole mountain and sat in the van after the climb when the rest of us went to a coffee plantation. Mt. Batur, is actually an active volcano with jets of steam used to cook eggs, and the view at the top of the mountain was spectacular. Lake Batur (a very original name) was visible from the top along with the early to rise town below which glowed as the sun rose.
Now, I have never done a spa type thing before, but who would reject one for about $12 dollars for a few hours, apparently not me. So, I tried a Balinese message and had a head bath. It was very relaxing for the most part and “tickly” as my masseuse said, but modesty was suggestedly thrown out the window. Actually, there were no windows to throw it out of, but only a measly bed sheet on one of four open walls. I may have been creeped-out if other customers weren’t there acting normally, and to top it off, there were children running around the area of mostly naked people. It sounds like a pedophile-like mixture to me as I tried to stay covered up, but it is not a cultural taboo here I guess. Women here didn’t start wearing tops until after Antonio Blanco came through and made a mark, maybe by the 50s or 60s.
Closing Remarks: I am very excited to hopefully never blog again! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, blogging just isn’t my thing. The thought slowly sucks out my S/e/oul, but I did this last one to appease my parents (I am alive, well, and not dead in a ditch somewhere) and also in hopes that some of the tips will be helpful to other travelers.
Also, what we really came here for, some food shots