Bali – Island of The Gods
Flying back to the Island of the Gods for the fifth time after a 3 year stint, I expected Linda’s first time to be as ecstatic as how I experienced it the first 4 times i went to Bali. Unfortunately, I was disappointed and so was she. Maybe it was the high expectations I had or maybe it was my widened perspective of what travelling and exploring was all about after going to rugged and adventurous India.
Losing its rustic charm to an exponential growth of urbanization, the overabundance of positive aura that used to surround Bali is as good as gone. It has now ‘evolved’ to a luxurious vacation destination rather than a place to explore or get lost and then rediscover.
We were picked up from the airport thanks to the complimentary free transfer from our hotel. Most hotels and guest houses in Bali have this but you have to insist on it being free when making your reservations.
We checked into our budget hotel in Kuta, the heart of the tourist area, hidden somewhere in the continuous inventions of new lanes squeezed in between older ones.
If Minotaurs were to take a vacation, they would feel very much at home here in Kuta.
The hotel looked decent for the price we paid but we regretted opting for a non air-conditioned room. If there is any advice I would give to Bali goers, it is to take an air-conditioned room. With the insane rate of urbanization going on, the massive amount of concrete that absorbs the sun rays will make your room feel like a sauna. Couple that up with terrible humidity, clustered buildings and never-ending crowds, tempers are easily agitated.
On the second day, we rented a scooter to scoot around Kuta, Legian and Seminyak, the touristy areas where it is safer to ride in the traffic as a foreigner, though I wouldn’t quite describe the roads as safe at all. All the beaches looked the same with small waves which makes you underestimate their strength. No doubt swimming in the beach was heavenly but it is easy to get caught up in the fun and not realizing you’re being gradually swept away by the strong current.
Fortunately, the lifeguards are always on the lookout and they have designated flags to show where swimming is safe. But then again, humans being humans, are having problems following simple rules that are for their own good.There were a couple of topless ladies. Yes, good news for our male readers. In short the beaches are excellent except for the pushy touts.
On the third day we chartered a driver together with his van to bring us around Bali outside of the Kuta-Legian-Seminyak area. First destination was a long drive through the countryside to go up an extinct volcano called Mount Batur. We reached there in 2.5 hours for an early lunch by the balcony facing the deep open valley and the volcano. It was a really nice place to have lunch and just chill out but not really worth it if you have to travel a total of 5 hours for a round trip.
Fortunately for us, we were going in a circle rather than u-turning back straight to Kuta. Next stop was Ketut Liyer’s house. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because his character was portrayed in Elizabeth Gilberts’s Eat, Pray, Love movie, featuring Julia Roberts. We took pictures with him and he was happy to obliged for free. We can see that he was very much used to throngs of people asking him for autographs, pictures or maybe to be told of their fate just like Julia Robert’s character.
Fourth day was white water rafting. They took us up a small mountain somewhere in the midstream of the water source. There are only two main routes for white water rafting in Bali. Ayung River and Telaga Waja which is the more challenging one. Of course, we chose the more challenging one and before we knew, we were on our way rolling down the stream merrily.
This was my second time and right from the start the adrenaline wasn’t as fantastic as i had experienced it years back. I asked the guide whether anything has changed and he admitted that the authorities has made the rafting experience safer (thus more boring and dull) due to frequent injuries from foreigners. The raft ended with a 10-minute climb up some neverending steps where we were greeted with unlimited rice and fried chicken wings. Overall the raft was fun but nothing out of this world except for only one huge vertical drop near the ending.
On the fifth day onwards its about lazing by the beach until the idea of picking up surfing lessons occured to me. I signed up with a random local doing his daily tout and hardselling skills but I decided to go with him because I will receive personalized coaching and pay only half price of what I had to if I were to sign up with official surf schools in that area. He was pissed initially for me shortchanging him but I told him its either he accepts my price or continue to hardsell other tourists. He sobered up and gave in to me. From then onwards, I would say he was very genuine and sincere when it came to teaching the art of the surf.
Initial first 2 days were fun because we were playing near the shore and catching easy waves but as we progressed further to catch the bigger waves it became a boring game of patience. When the wave finally comes, you are so excited that you will most likely to screw up your launch before even having the chance to stand up. And then you’d have to wait another 15 minutes for the next wave to come and the cycle repeats leaving you frustrated at the end of the day. Overall I had no regrets with the 5 day surfing class but would not bother to try pick up surfing ever again unless it’s free.
So to summarize our trip to Bali, we would have to say we were disappointed due to the high expectations we had of the Island of The Gods. But if you’re looking for a vacation at luxurious villas to get pampered like royalty, then I would have to say this is the perfect getaway though you’ll get bored of it after the fifth day.
For backpackers and travellers, I feel that the neighbouring Lombok island which is a 30 minute ride from the east coast of Bali is the current ‘Island of The Gods’. And never forget the bargaining rule in Bali or Indonesia as a whole, always ask for a third of the initial asking price and never settle for more than half of the initial asking price.