bali

Things You Should Know About Bali Before Going

Remember, when you’re in a different country, you’re essentially in someone else’s house. Sometimes their house rules don’t make sense. For example, let's say a young guy by the name of Jimmy goes to stay with his uncle Jarvis in a town somewhere between Portland, OR and Landing, MI. He hasn't seen his uncle in a few years but needs a place to stay because he's looking for a job in that approximate area. 

So, in the same way, though I don’t agree with all the laws of Indonesia, I gotta respect them because it ain’t my house. This is not to say I would obey a law if I thought it was morally reprehensible to do so, e.g. treat others like shit because of the color of their skin, gender, sexual preference, etc. But just like there have been asinine rules in the past in the U.S. (and today I assume) so there are similar asinine rules in other countries.

It's kind of amazing how much we let those no more intelligent, or rather, much less intelligent, dictate what we can or cannot do with our lives. Why? Because they are confident to a fault and not afraid to tell people how they should behave in life in all aspects? Because it's easier to let someone else be the master and us the puppets or sheep? I suppose that's a diatribe for another day.

Before I go down a cavernous rabbit hole, here are some things you should definitely avoid while you’re in Indonesia.

Things to Avoid in Bali

  • Avoid trying to score, smoke, or even think about marijuana, or any drug (the current perception of what a “drug” is) for that matter. They DO NOT play around when it comes to this shit, so don’t do it. I’m not being facetious when I say that people have been executed here because of attempted drug smuggling. See: http://mashable.com/2015/04/28/indonesia-bali-nine-australians/#8tuWssW.IPq1 
    • Ironically, Gusti number 1 told me that while pot is a huge NO-NO it’s okay to drink and drive. I don’t know if this is true, but to me, this conjures up an image of someone taking a baseball bat and bludgeoning Logic to the point where it isn't recognizable. It also made a couple fuses totally blow the fuck up inside my head, so I tried to tactfully give my opinion that “WTF THAT’S FUCKING ASS-BACKWARDS DUDE.” 
  • Try and avoid getting “Bali Belly,” as an English dude put it. Don’t drink that tap water. Try and eat at places where it’s fairly obvious that things are prepared hygienically. How the fuck do you do this? Don’t ask me. I had Bali Belly for about half my time there. 
  • Don’t have your debit card information stolen. I did. Cover your debit cards when you pull cash out. I got robbed again, but it was just my two debit card numbers. Luckily I’m not rich and have fraud protection. 
  • Don’t get killed and don’t kill anyone else. This one can be applied anywhere you are. 

I found an interesting article on About.com about the Indonesia drug laws in case you're curious: Drug Laws in Bali and the Rest of Indonesia

Things That are Good to Know

  • The yellow liquid you see in yellow jars at convenience stores contain gasoline for your motorbike, not pee. So if you don’t see a gas station for a while, if you see jars that look like they have pee or mountain dew (or a weird mixture of both), know that it’s gasoline and you can buy some on the cheap for your motorbike (obviously not for cars). 
  • Use these guys for your transportation needs if you want a safe and air-conditioned ride. 
    • Gusti #1: +628123927711
    • Wayan’s contact info:  +6281337834230 or +6281933032268
        • These guys are completely trustworthy, and make sure you don’t lose your stuff. The prices are reasonable, though not exactly cheap (expect to pay 300,000 Rupiah to get from point A to point B) or $30. 
  • Navigating the Roads
    • Drive on the left side yo
    • Maps.me is awesome. Throw in an earbud while you’re motorbiking if you don’t feel like getting lost
    • Wear a mask, because there is a whole hell of a lot of exhaust. 
  • If you are from a wealthy country where the currency is high, be grateful. We can travel. We get weekends off. I’m pretty sure Europeans get half of their lives off for holidays on top of parental leave on top of who knows what else. 
    • Allow yourself to feel humbled by the experience. 

A Nickel For Your Thoughts:

  • Times I was offered a taxi: 1,548
  • Everyone I talked to in Bali knows:
    • That Barack Obama is the current president (I had no idea that Obama spent some time in his youth in Indonesia, which my driver Wayan educated me on).
    • That Trump is an idiotic sociopath (most of the world knows this, how is it that so many people in America don't get it?) Check out The Oatmeal's #DONMOJIS
  • I didn’t go to Mt. Agung, but you probably should because it looks awesome
  • Bali has a day of silence. Every business is closed, no-one drives anywhere, and shit is just kept chill, silent, and reflective. I, unfortunately, missed this by a day or two, but I think EVERY country should practice this. 

Best quote from my time in Bali:

“In Bali we are religious, but we are not extreme, and accept everybody. You wanna dress sexy? If you are ok with that I am ok with that. Okay if I just look?”

Places in Bali That Are Not Ubud

Bali is rad, and there are obviously some great places outside of Ubud. Though I didn't see everything, I've put together some notes on places I did get to experience. 

Jatiluwih Rice Terraces

Simply put: do this if you're in Bali. I highly recommend taking a motorbike out there. Even if it rains (like it did for me), it was well worth it. I'm pretty sure the restaurant I went to gave me a good case of "Bali Belly" while I was waiting for the rain to subside and my clothing to dry a bit. Again, totally worth it. 

Kawi Temple

This place is cool, mainly because it’s so damn old, 11th century old. Otherwise ya know, it’s just ok cool.

*Tip: when you arrive at the parking lot where the taxi drivers park, and where (everyone?) pays 2000 Rp for parking, there may be a couple ladies that will wrap a sarong around you saying that you absolutely need a sarong to enter into the temple.

I was thinking, hmmm, I guess I need one and this is what happens right here in this part of Bali. 

That was the wrong thought process.

They were just hard-core pushy sales ladies. I bargained them down a few hundred thousand Rp, though I'm pretty sure I still overpaid by Bali standards. I wonder if it was just sheer laziness why I didn’t just take the thing off and move on. Or maybe I was "Assertive-Deficient" at that moment. 

In any case, when I got to the temple itself I found that they provided sarongs for free to wear while you’re in the temple. Shiiiiiiiit. 

Btw, if you want to enter into sacred places you gotta wear a sarong. Don't worry guys, though it's a bit like a dress you'll still feel beautiful and masculine. Maybe we can get that asshole Trump to come to Bali and wear sarongs, take a few yoga classes, and become a semi-rational human being. Yeah, I know, there's a better chance that the planet Mars will turn into a huge floating supermarket with advertisements that we can see but can't comprehend here on earth. Hell, that guy probably practices torture methods on the revived Sauron eye, sticking tiny Trump needles in them.

Mount Batur

Driving up and around Mount Batur made me feel like a part of my brain destroyed by alcohol in earlier years was suddenly restored. I could remember my full name and where I'd been for the past 48 hours! It definitely afforded incredible views of the Batur lake and then some. Once again I totally recommend taking a motorbike through it and going on toward the coast.

Fyi: it’s pretty steep and windy for a while, so if you’re not comfortable on a motorbike, maybe sit that part out. I would also make sure that you have plenty of gas. I was speaking with an English dude before I embarked on the journey who turned back because he didn't have enough fuel, and it sounded as though his motorbike had horrible gas efficiency. I ended up riding through a cloud on the way up and over the small mountain/big hill, then when I emerged on the other side there was a wide open view of the sea. 

Also, be careful when you're riding up that mountain. It's beautiful, but you need to pay attention to the incredibly windy roads that have no guard rail. If you fell off the road, well, the outlook wouldn't be good (you'd probably die or be very very mangled).

Padang Padang

This is a very small beach with amazing views. You have to walk down a number of steps to get to it, and will in all likelihood encounter some macaque monkeys along the way. The surf is good there too, and you have to swim out a ways to get to where the waves are.

FYI, there is an abundance of trash that you have to swim through. It’s pretty disgusting, but you could probably find things you may need like:

  • toothpaste
  • used underwear
  • half used aerosol cans
  • oil filters
  • every candy wrapper known to man and alien
  • the full wardrobe as you may have imagined it in Chronicles of Narnia

Tanahlot Temple and Norman

I went to this temple during the Kuningam ceremony, so this place was filled with both traditionally dressed Balinese and tourists. We couldn’t go into the temple, but it didn’t matter. It was well worth going. I met Norman and his family there who are pictured in the black and white photo below. They were super cool and kind. Though I had Bali Belly, I accepted some of the fruit that they offered. 

Despensar

So, Denpensar to me wasn’t much of a place I wanted to stick around in, however, you do fly into the city, so you'll likely see it unless you are in a coma or something on the way out of the city to Ubud.

Thoughts on Dispenser:

  • If you need electronic stuff you can go to Rimo. It's a pretty nondescript place, and when you walk in you'll be wondering if you're walking into an asylum where they'll rename you and tell you your whole life has been a lie and that you've always been there. Luckily that didn't happen. If your iPhone needs to be fixed, there is a dude there who is supposedly the best of the best. Sorry, I don’t remember the name of the store. This is what it actually looks like:
  • You know how in those travel show scenes where you see a ton of people on scooters, bikes, motorbikes, weaving between cars, trucks, people, etc., and you think, “geesh, that looks a bit hellish.” Well, it’s not sooooo bad, though it can be pretty bad at times. We’re talking all of us on scooters hopping up on sidewalks and god-knows-what-else to get through the packed-sardine traffic. I really wish I had mounted my camera for some of it. You get really close to fast moving heavy things while your a fast moving lighter thing.

Canggu

Canggu is a hip little beach town with great surfing and yoga. It’s beautiful, not rushed like other places, and has some great places to eat. It also seems like it could win the award for being the hipster capital of the world (you have competition Austin). Check this place out, it’s worth it. The beaches are pretty dirty here too, unfortunately. 

Nusa Dua

Nusa Dua is the opposite of Canggu. It’s a resort area, and the kilometers of sandy beach are gated. Every time I ride in there to get to the beach I had to go through a security checkpoint. It was beautiful, though, and had some decent surf while I was there. The beaches were kept pretty immaculate. They oughtta be because other people pay a whole load of cash to stay at some of the places close to it. It’s definitely has more of an upper-class vibe to it, and the surfboard renters seemed to be surprised when I wouldn’t pay their normal exorbitant prices. 

Kuta

Kuta sucks.

Just kidding, it just mostly sucks. I mean, there are great people there as well, but damn it’s just commercialized as hell and the shop people are waaayyyyyy too hungry. The beach is large and trashy. I’ll probably never be back in my lifetime unless I’m part of some beta teleportation machine test that goes awry. It has some cool history to it, though. 

Green Bowl

Green bowl is this very out-of-the-way beach. Contrary to what many claim in blogs, though it may have been true at the time of writing, it's not a hidden beach. Though it certainly wasn't crowded when I went either. 

Balingan Beach

This place is awesome and has some good reef break surfing. The views from atop the hills behind the beach afford some really great serene views. 

15 Initial Impressions of Bali

Where and how do I begin with this stupendous island. It feels like a universe unto itself. Its geography is remarkable, its people beautiful (most of the people I met anyway), its culture rich, its religion ever-present, and its taxi drivers omnipresent. While Indonesia is primarily Muslim, Bali is primarily Hindu. “There is a temple for every household,” Gusti (Gusti number 2) my driver explained. “Every thing has a god. We make offerings everywhere…in the temple, in the street, many places. 

It keeps us busy.” 

Indeed as you walk the streets of Bali you will see offerings on the sidewalk, with incense burning (they have some of the best smelling incense). 

Without further adieu, here are my 15 Initial Impressions:

1. There are incredibly ornate statues EVERYWHERE. It's possible there are more statues here than there are Starbucks in the U.S. The numbers are too high for me to do the math. 

2. Wait, why are we driving on this side of the road and why is the steering wheel over there? Yes, they drive on the left side of the road. You get used to it. 

3. How are all these beautiful people not sweating like crazy wearing their awesome traditional accoutrement?

3. Most people seem to be genuinely rad and happy to talk with you. 

4. This culture embodies excellent customer service in many areas. In restaurants and hotels, you’ll find yourself being treated like a king, queen, prince, or princess, and it feels absolutely genuine in most cases. 

5. Taxi drivers and massage parlors are apparently mass produced and are available every ten seconds of your waking life. To put it another way: Just as there are an infinite number of dogs in the Philippines and Costa Rica, there are an infinite number of massage parlours and taxi drivers in Bali. There are probably more massage parlors and taxi drivers in Bali than there are grains of sand on earth, more than there are planets in the Andromeda Galaxy, more than…ok, I’ll stop with the hyperbole. But for real, a lot. 

6. In my math-deficient estimation, at least 1 million motor vehicles seem to take up a radius approximating a city block in Denpensar. *This is totally an exaggeration as an initial impression, but a reality when going into Denpasar on a scooter.

7. You can find awesome hotels on the cheap (one of the best hotels I’ve stayed in in my entire life of 39 years was Lilacita Inn, which was $18 USD a night). 

8. There are many wooden replicas of male genitalia of varying (I'm talking the difference between a smart car and a yacht) sizes available in gift shops, and these gift shops are almost as ubiquitous as massage parlors and taxi drivers. That means that there is an almost infinite number of wooden replicas of male genitalia in the country. I haven’t looked into why this is, and I don’t mind being ignorant about it either. 

9. There are a lot of people from Europe, Australia, and the states EVERYWHERE. I wouldn’t be surprised if I went to the most remote part of an island and was suddenly in the midst of a “Yoga and Dreadlocks Session for Tourists.” That’s not a thing yet that I know of, but it very well could be someday. 

10. Many locals wear really awesome traditional Balinese accoutrement, especially during funerals and ceremonies. See point 3. 

11. Many of the beaches have a shitload of garbage floating around in the water. Nusa Dusa is an exception, though I’ve heard there are more that are clean. Padang Padang was exceptionally disgusting and rubbish-filled. I swear it was like some very drunk city planner was in charge of creating a new waste site and was like: “fuckit, let’s throw all this shit in Padang Padang, I’m tired and want a taco.”

12. “Where are you from, “Where are you going,” and “Taxi” seem to be the 3 main opening sales lines anywhere on the island where tourists visit.

13. Much like the Philippines and Costa Rica, there are whole families cruising on heavily trafficked roads on nothing more than a small scooter, while wearing their awesome traditional garb. 

14. When I say I’m from the states, after a while they determine I mean American, and say Obama! They know about Barack there, as evidently our Commander in Chief lived in Indonesia for a while when he was younger. This was a fact that I did not know, but Gusti number 2 did. Gusto number 2 was my second driver named Gusti.

15. This is rad...this is just truly rad.