I’ve got something controversial to say…
I didn’t like Bali.
It was the kind of place I imagine was absolutely stunning 10 years ago before everyone else discovered it.
I felt exactly the same about Thailand when I visited 3 years ago, and I think Bali is the new Thailand. It seems to be the place everyone is visiting, which I’ve found has negative effects on the environment, the beauty and the customer service.
The tourism industry is so huge there now, it’s almost as if staff and business owners think they don’t need to make an effort. My Dad and I have the same conversation about popular restaurants back home – once they become famous, it doesn’t matter about the quality of the service or produce, as people will keep coming back and spending their money anyway and they aren’t bothered about repeat custom from the same customers.
Because of the ‘tourist effect’, I felt a lot of the culture and spiritual beliefs that I had been so looking forward to had been lost, and the temples had turned into money-making schemes rather than places to immerse yourself in local traditions.
Kuta and Seminyak were effectively just Benidorm in a far-flung location – they were so tacky and touristy, with market stalls selling vile t-shirts with homophobic and sexist slurs. I hate this kind of stuff.
Ubud was much nicer than these two places, but it still felt incredibly touristy and everything was super expensive. Elsewhere in Indonesia we were paying £1-1.50 a meal. In Bali we were paying £7+.
There were opportunities to do nice things in and around Ubud, but the activities were definitely tourist traps – we even got charged to pass through a village which overlooked the volcanic mountains. We visited the beautiful rice terraces and had rides on the big swings and went to the Bali Cat Poo Chino coffee plantation (where the Luwak cat eats coffee beans, poos them out and then the excreted beans are used to make coffee). Alex tried some and I made him laugh as he was about to sip his first taste of cat poo coffee by saying in a menacing voice; “Eat Shit.”
We also visited two temples – the Tirta Empul and Goa Garjah. At Tirta Empul, I had a beautiful spiritual cleansing bath, which involved meditating, making an offering of flowers and incense and expressing gratitude, before immersing myself in a pool of holy water and showering beneath several falls. It was an energising experience which I thoroughly enjoyed.
I also managed to get bitten by a monkey at Monkey Forest as I was letting them climb all over me and play with my jewellery.
Our trip to Bali was also somewhat ruined by me taking two falls on the uneven floors and badly spraining my ankle. I was on crutches for almost a week, in absolute agony. Two weeks later my ankle has still not fully healed and it still hurts to walk long distances, especially on uneven paths or stairs. It meant we weren’t able to do as much as we probably would have, but perhaps this was a blessing in disguise, taking into account my feelings towards the destination.
I think Bali will probably be beautiful again one day, but for now I wouldn’t recommend it as a travel destination as it’s just too touristy and it’s being ruined by the people who seem to visit just to ‘party’ constantly and start fights with anyone they come across after a couple of drinks.
There are thousands of absolutely stunning Indonesian islands and I would highly recommend researching some of the more beautiful, traditional places in Indonesia over visiting Bali.
I’m writing this from our next destination, Hong Kong, en route to Disneyland. I’m so excited!
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Catch up with you after Disneyland Hong Kong!