I swore I wouldn't go to Bali. At the very start of the trip people kept telling us over and over, "you can't miss it, it's just amazing." All I could picture was middle aged women on journeys of self discovery, thin fingers extended gracefully from the loose sleeves of their flowing kaftans as they pecked away on expensive laptops in the corners of overpriced tourist cafes.
But I keep an open mind.
As the trip progressed we kept running into interesting and genuine travelers, all who had had great experiences on the island. My opinion of Koh Samui and Koh Tao had shifted drastically from our own visits there and as I learned more about Indonesia, Bali started to look more and more intriguing.
Long story short- I caved like a bitch and bought plane tickets. And yes, I'm glad I did.
The beauty of Bali is that it's big. There are plenty of tourists (even plenty "women of a certain age" Eat-Pray-Loving their way through the day) but for the most part they stay locked away in their little tourist cages and leave 95% of the place free and relatively unmolested.
The social structure there is incredibly strong. We were constantly running into impromptu celebrations, concerts, and festivals.
I know I've beaten this drum before, but if you really want to see a place you've got to get out of the tourist bubble. Your own transportation people. It's key.
We rented a scooter and spent hours exploring on our own. As I mentioned, the island is quite large so in 9 days we actually moved guesthouses (and towns) three different times so that we could cover more ground.
The entire island is gorgeous. I can't over stress that.
Here's a quick hit list of some of the wonderful bits about Bali that won me over:
It has stunning beaches (some where people still harvest seaweed).
Temples from fairie tales,
Rice paddies whose terraces go all the way up (if you know what I mean).
Towns where people hang out on stoops and smile and wave to each other.
Towns were they bake the island's iconic roof tiles using piles of old coconut husks.
That stuff burns hot!
Random road side fruit stands,
and inviting roadside diners.
Art is everywhere.
From quirky street art,
to roundabouts with kinda freaky public art (yeah I know it's religious- still freaky though),
intricately crafted offerings,
and hundreds of galleries in every shape and size.
They even decorate their garbage cans.
One thing that became abundantly clear in our time there though, was just how fast things are changing. Urban and agrarian lifestyles are clashing more and more frequently and the tourist impact is on an exponential upswing.
Guesthouses are slowly taking over the rice paddies.
In the next few posts we'll cover some of what we saw, both the magical and the depressing. Also, lots of monkeys and food.
And remember, if your scooter helmet ever wears out on you, it doubles as a kick ass scare crow.