Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Bali ... a beginner's experience

As Lela mentioned the welcome post, this blog was conceived on our recent trip to Bali. We will blog later on prices and tips and actual links to places, but this post is a quick snapshot to Bali through the eyes of a first-timer.  

This trip was my first time to Bali, and my second time to Asia. My other Asian experience was Cambodia, so my perception of Bali was very much based on that earlier experience. Cambodia, when I went there, was still very untouched by tourism, and the extreme poverty and effects of the Khmar Rouge was still very evident. I went to Bali mentally prepared for the same level of poverty, and it was very different from that aspect.

If I had to pick one word to sum up Bali it would be “beautiful”. The scenery is beautiful, the people are beautiful, and the atmosphere is lovely and cruisey. As we were only there for a few days, we didn’t do anything along the lines of tourist attractions. We wandered around and lazed at the hotel. It very much catered for the tourist market. Most of the poverty, including the begging, that you would expect from a developing country is hidden from the tourist view. The upside to this, of course, is that the tourist dollar is a big part of the economy. There was comparatively little litter and the restaurants were clean. We did see a cat with kittens in one, but no mice so this has to be a good thing.

Lazing by the pool

The money totally did my head in! So many zeros. However the Balinese people were lovely when I made mistakes and tried to pay them the equivilent of 20 cents rather than 20 dollars. I also totally admit that I was a little lazy when it came to converting, because Lela  was there to do it for me. I may have to take a cheat sheet next time! I did work out by the end that if I said “dollar” amounts, I could usually barter with that and then convert to rupiah for actual payment. 

While we are on the topic, I struggle with bartering. I know it is part of the culture, but it still gets to me when you know you are in a comparatively privileged position. That said, no-one seems to mind, and if you can’t get something for a price you are happy to pay you know someone else will be selling it just around the corner. Just don’t make eye contact if you don’t want to seriously look, and smile, say thank you, walk past and don’t engage if you're not planning on stopping.
The locals were lovely. We discovered that the men “like chubby women” and some were very persistent in telling us this. I don’t think the Australian ad with Rhonda did us any favours (or did us lots if you want to look at it as a bonus). I am quite fair and blonde, and I was a little sick of being touched by the time we left. Not inappropriately! But still a bit of invasion of personal space.

I love my rainbow Bali hat!
Tip: if you want to make some local people happy, take some Australian gold coins. It wasn’t something that occurred to me, but it is something I will do next time as we were asked quite a lot.
The food was divine. The bonus to it being in small servings, and cheap was that  it was a great excuse for long meals with more than one course which is something I wouldn’t do at home. I very much recommend going to a nice restaurant and having a three or four course meal. We had three courses plus cocktails for less that A$30 each. So very worth it. We were so full that we had to go back and sleep, but was a lovely night. Also try some traditional Balinese food. The one meal that I had was so good. Next time I will definitely be expanding my cuisine selections to include some more.

The beginning of each day ....

Tip: Order water at the beginning and end of every meal. As you can only drink bottled water there it is a good way of getting at least two bottles in each time you eat.

One of the bonuses to going with Lela was going to see the wholesale craft places. So much prettiness. I left wanting to start some sort of business just so I had an excuse to wholesale shop. Ribbons, bells, buttons, lace, materials and so much more. My favourite purchases were spiderman-monkey-bells and green ribbon purple cows. I have no need for either of these things, but they were fun.

Allow nap time. To either sleep or laze by the pool. So if you forget a book, do not fear! Firstly because it is a holiday, and secondly it is hot, and thirdly time just seems to move slower in Bali. Except the traffic. The traffic moves fast, unless you walk in front of it, then it stops. Which is quite convenient really, because no-one wants to spend their holiday in a hospital. (If you are looking for books in English, we found at least three second hand book shops. Full of lots of holiday type reading.)

I also highly recommend getting a massage on your first day. If you don’t like it, it is cheap. If you do like it, it  means you can get one every day. Biggest mistake we made I think was waiting until the second day to get a massage! Definitely a mistake I wouldn’t make a second time. (I should also note here that this was something people told me and I didn't pay attention! Learn from my mistakes). 

There will be a next time. I am planning a family holiday there next year and doing some more of the touristy things then. I have definitely been bitten by the travel bug.

Stay tuned for some more posts as I research that trip. Until next post …. Happy dreaming, and happy planning.

Cath xx

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