I made it to Bali. It’s not quite what I was expecting, except for the heat and humidity. I guess I had this image of it being similar to Fiji because it’s a honeymoon destination—very romantic, very tropical, very remote. But in reality, it’s quite over developed. I’m in the town of Sanur, which is where the first Westerners settled over 100 years ago (aside from the colonists). I’m staying at a place called Sativa Cottages off a little side street. It’s nice enough, but a bit outdated with its yellowed sheets and dishes and worn furniture. The food in the restaurant sucks. But I have AC, hot water, and electricity, which is more than I can say for a lot of the places I’ve been. There is a nice beach in front of the sprawling Hyatt about 5 minutes from my cottage. I came here to dive mostly, so wanted a budget place. My whole 3 nights here, including transport to/from the airport (which picked me up an hour late), and a full day of diving, was $350. I’m not quite doing the hostel route, but definitely not 5-star, which is okay.
But what surprises me most is how dirty Bali is. There are paved roads and McDonald’s/KFC/Pizza Hut/Dunkin’ Donuts, but there is a lot trash around. Even today when I came up from my second dive near the shore, there was quite a bit of trash floating in the water. And a lot of the beach is covered in trash. This is all because it is a developing country and does not have a proper waste management system, but it’s not very appealing for tourists. I’m sure the 4 and 5 star resorts are pristine (the Hyatt beach was spotless), but all around it you see trash.
I’m also disappointed by how built up it is. Someone warned me of that before I arrived, but it’s still disappointing. It’s not high-rise hotels and skyscrapers, at least not in Sanur, but there are so many cars and businesses and Western food chains. There are also tons of little craft/souvenir shops, but I really don’t need a t-shirt that says “2 in the front 1 in the back” with the hand symbol. Maybe I am just spoiled after seeing places like Fiji and Belize and Zanzibar, which are not top tourist destinations but are tropical destinations still considered hidden gems. Places you cannot find a McDonald’s, or even imported beer in some places.
But what is fascinating about Bali is the abundance of temples (gopas). They are everywhere you turn and are these elaborate stone structures with little archways and corners revealing more elaborate designs. Buddhas sit or recline on every mantle. It reminds me of Nepal or Bangkok in that way. And everywhere you go, someone is making an offering outside their shop of flowers and incense and fruits inside little baskets made of palm leaves in order to bring good luck to their business.
I had a nice day of diving. I was supposed to go to Tulamben Bay, but stormy weather the past few days made it too rough a dive. So we went to a place called the Blue Lagoon. It was an okay dive. The first one was rather boring, actually, compared to most of the places Ken and I have been diving. But I saw 5 stingrays and plenty of colorful fish. But the second dive was along a beautiful coral wall. Nothing that took my breath away like in Fiji, until my guide pointed out an octopus. It was only about a foot long, but he kept changing colors out of fear, and then took off, still changing. It was amazing and made the whole day worth it. First time I saw one of those. Also first time I saw a small squid (which they like to eat here).
On the boat were just me and a sweet American couple from New York on their honeymoon. They were snorkeling, so it was just my guide (Gede) and me diving. He had some of the most beautiful tattoos on his chest and back. He was laid back and not all that talkative, but a fine guide. There were also three other Indonesians on the boat, who also did not say much to us Americans.
After 2 dives, we came back to shore for a BBQ lunch of barracuda and tuna and Bintang beer. I’ve pretty much lost my appetite here. Not sure it it’s the heat or the lousy food ever since I left Jakarta, but I have to force myself to eat. The fish tasted good though. I didn’t touch any of the fresh vegetable salads.
After the hour and a half drive back to my cottage, I sat by the pool until the sun started to fade. There are a lot of Brits and Australians here, which is typical, or so I read. I then showered, put on a sundress, and headed out into Sanur to find dinner and a place to write. I didn’t even get to the end of my road before some shop owner grabbed my hand and did not let go. He asked my name (his was Charly), where I am from, and if I wanted to buy any cheap sunglasses or sandals from his shop, all the while holding onto my hand. I finally wriggled myself free, politely declined, and kept walking.
Now I am sitting at a tiny open air restaurant watching the traffic go by, eating bad pizza, and watching old white guys sitting in the two bars across the street blow kisses at and hug Balinese girls that walk by. Seriously. It’s disgusting. But it’s so easy to purchase a woman here in Indonesia, whether it’s a massage with a happy ending or renting a girlfriend for a weekend…you can have anything you want. Anything.
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