Bali - Paradise Island or Tourist Hell

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June 11th 2015
Published: June 11th 2015
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One thing that you learn from backpacking and staying in hostels is that you usually stay in areas away from the resorts, hotels and are on back streets of areas, so you find out about the real city or town. Bali was an exception, I was staying at my first destination in a hostel right slap bang in the middle of the town next to the Bali bombing memorial. I had heard so much about the place from other family members and friends as one of the best places they’ve been to.

Anyways I arrived at the airport on a glorious morning and coming outside I was surrounded by taxi drivers wanting my business but when they quoted 100,000 rupees (£5) I knew enough about Indonesia that I knew this was a rip off, so continued walking and a bloke stopped me and said he could give me a lift on his motorbike for 50,000 rupees, which was a fair deal until I found out it was actually a scooter. So 2 backpacks and me balancing on the back while driving in and out of traffic was an adventure, as I keep calling it.

Without booking a hostel and not knowing where they all were, I got him to drop me off at Kuta centre at Burger King for brunch and to steal their wifi while I searched for somewhere to go. It took a while as there was a lot of bad reviews so I went with cost and to one of the cheapest with air con! A mile and a half walk through the heat into the main street of Kuta where all the shops, clubs and pubs were and I found out how tourists are treat. I was harassed from the start of the street to the hostel by a load of locals shouting massage sir, taxi sir, scooter sir, souvenir sir. I’m sure they could all tell by my face that I wasn’t interested and headphones was shoved into my ears to let them know that I couldn’t hear them. Getting to the hostel and it looked okay, the rooms were divided into pods so a bit of privacy with curtains that you could shut. As in all hostels, I said hello to the other people in the room and was given a frosty welcome, especially when I asked when I asked where they had been. Unfortunately they weren’t backpackers but a bunch of Australians on a weekend break. Not sure if they didn’t like backpackers, Brits or my shorts but realised that it wasn’t the friendly place like most hostels I had been to. So I dropped my bags off and thought best to investigate the town. Kuta is the place where most tourists head to as it has the best beaches, the surf and the pubs. Its also the place where a hell of a lot of Australians head for as its cheap to fly to, cheap to spend their money and perfect for the surfers. The one thing you need to learn while in Kuta is to totally ignore the street people hassling you as you walk by, as I said headphones in the ears work, they are everywhere even on the beach. i understand that they are trying to make a living but when you walk past one woman saying “Massage?” and you ignore her, the next woman 3 steps later shouldn’t really have to say the same thing.

I had no idea how long I was going to stay in Kuta but the signs were already showing that it wasn’t going to be long ha ha and I was determined that I was going to enjoy myself as I hadn’t been in a party town for a long time.The night life however is awesome, the bars are open 24 hours, the clubs are wild and there is music everywhere. My first night was spent in a bar where I bought a ticket for 100,000 rupee and you got free drink till midnight. It was 9 o’clock at night and I had 3 hours to drink as much lager as I could for £5. Heaven! There were a lot of Australians in groups of either family members or friends so a bit hard to start talking to them, but by midnight as my ticket ran out it was time for bed. The next day I decided to hire a scooter and brave the crazy traffic and head off out of Kuta, I ended up on the south of the island and to a place where it is resort after resort and nothing much else. Obviously all these expensive resorts are the size of a small country so they usually have everything that holiday makers want inside. I’m not jealous at all, these people aren’t seeing the real Indonesia like me! 5 hours on the bike and it was time to grab some food and get partying. It was the night of the FA Cup final and although most bars were showing Australian football on their screens I found a bar that had both the match on and English people in! At last some sensible conversation and decent accents to feel at home but just my luck I was sat next to a Birmingham boy with the strongest accent ever! But he was there to support Aston Villa so I went with his team and had an awesome night even though the match didn’t kick off till half past midnight and I managed to crawl to bed at half 4! So you can imagine the next day was not the best to be hassled by street vendors, even though a massage would have been worth it! But I did have a walk along the beach to chill and relax and see a bit more of the town but I had decided that it was time to go. but where? A good friend on facebook had gave me advice on different places so took her up on it. so after 3 nights in Kuta I went to the east of the island to Sanur.

Getting dropped off at the hostel that I had booked for 2 nights I was in awe of the swimming pool that it had, it was a place that backpackers were in and most of them had left Kuta early like myself as it was a bit too full on. Checking trip advisor on what was around the area, number one thing to do was the beach. Not much then! But decided to go to see if it was as good as they said and unfortunately it was not. It was black sand and full of rocks, I was told that the current was too strong to go snorkelling so back to the hostel and chat to the other backpackers. After 3 nights of drinking in Kuta it was time to be sensible and give up the drinking for a couple of nights. But was surprised to see Kristen who I last saw in China so a good catch up was had with all our adventures we had experienced. The next day was spent doing a bit of admin, which included laundry, emptying both backpacks and getting rid of the junk I had accumulated and relaxing by the pool. A lot of relaxing is being done lately and I’m getting a bit bored of it, so I decided that I should go to the next place that had been recommended which was the harbour area of Bali. Although I spent 2 nights in Sanur, there isn’t much to write about the place, it’s nice enough and not as touristy as Kuta but a little bit too quiet and not enough to do there.

A bus the next day picked me up and dropped me off at Padang Pai which was the place where all ferries coming to Bali arrive. The hostel was set up high above the town and had some of the best views that I’ve seen from any hostel I’ve been to and the owner was the happiest I’ve seen anyone. It was only a small place and although no air con was cool enough to sleep. After dropping off my bags onto the bed I went to find a restaurant and found out that there was a major Hindu festival happening in town. Lots of people all dressed up and dancing in the streets, this is not really a tourist place either but at least I’m seeing the proper Bali with the people doing their own thing. On getting back to the hostel I met up with a Dutch couple and they dragged me out for a ‘couple’ of beers to the best bar in town. It wasn’t the best in how it looked, in fact basic would be the best way to describe it but the atmosphere was brilliant. We ended up talking to a Balinese guy who was in his mid 20’s and he was proud to tell us that he worked on a cruise ship as a cleaner. His english was really impressive and the way he told of his way of seeing the world and getting off Bali was impressive, even though he was way down on the pecking order on his ship he was proud of his job and that he was working ‘abroad’.

The next day was another sore head and thought it best if I booked one more night at the hostel but the happy owner explained that he was fully booked for that night. What to do!!!! It was the first time where I had to make a quick decision and after asking the owner, he recommended that I go to the Gili Islands.A quick check on google and although I had it mentioned a few times whilst in Bali, I hadn’t really thought about going but I booked a ferry ticket and off I went.

All in all, Bali was a nice Indonesian experience after Jakarta and Yogyakarta but not the paradise that I thought it be. Kuta obviously has been overdeveloped for the tourist market, leaving the rest of the island to catch up. I understand when people who have stayed there, when they say its a place they want to go back to, but staying in overpriced resorts where you are pampered is not the proper balinese experience.


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