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First impression: Bali

Honestly, I did not know what to expect of Bali.

So many inviting pictures of rustic charm, clear blue sea and mythic temples from friends, family and around the web. So many articles written of this top destination in Southeast Asia, although it appears the focus in the media of late has been largely unflattering (overcrowding, excessive drinking parties, uncontrolled development, pollution, the lost of Balinese soul, etc). So many advices and tips enough to make one’s head spins.



I had to clear the board in order to start creating my own version of Bali. I tacked on solid advices – usually financial (use the ATM and avoid money changers, have sufficient cash in local currency to pay the exit/departure tax, keep small denomination notes to pay for all kind of little things, etc), identified what we wanted to get out of Bali (a relaxing break), listed out our favourite activities (snorkelling for F, cultural visits for me, eating local food for both of us), and most importantly, we knew what we didn’t want: stay in South Bali and run around 14 hours a day.

We decided to focus on East Bali for this trip. With only four full days on schedule, it is unrealistic to try to cover larger area, nor did we want to. Relaxing sojourn, remember?



There is no avoiding South Bali completely, given the airport lies between Kuta and Jimbaran. We saw Kuta, Jimbaran, Legian, Seminyak and Denpasar as briefly as possible – when passing them en route to somewhere else. The chaotic traffic and seemingly endless jams, the throng of people everywhere, about a gazillion generic souvenir shops, none of these appealled to us.

The deeper into the countryside we got, the more interested we became. We looked (well, F did) at the sea longingly when we were travelling along the coast, peered out the window curiously at the changing landscape in the mountaineous inland, noted the presence of religious shrines and temple compounds just about everywhere, pondered about the plastic bottles of some pale golden liquid on sale by the road side, tried to identified some trees and their fruits that came into view, marvelled at the efficiency people and goods were being transported, and felt inexplicably intrusive into the daily life of the locals in sleepy villages.



The most prominent economic activities we’d observed can be categorised as follows: food and beverages, art and craft, motor repairs, tourism, water-based recreations, prayer goods, and agriculture (in particular, rice). I wonder what else might we had missed by not touring other parts of the island?

We were very aware of the fact that we travelled in maximum comfort. We had hired a car with a driver to take the stress off having to handle the poorly-signed roads ourselves, not to mention saving some time from not getting lost (and imagine the argument that could have come!). Our luggage may be light (about 17kg between the two of us) but we were glad to not have to carry it in person and instead, it was safely stowed away in the car as we moved from one place to another. We dictated our route fully, aided by discussions with our driver on the most practical options.



Our days were idyllic. Most morning, we had our driver met us around 10am to go out and about, and usually by about 4.30pm we have checked in to our next lodging and he was good to go. (I can hear in my head right now of Asian friends and family pondering why we “wasted” the unbargained fee we paid for the car hire that’s usually good for at least 8 hours, if not 10 or 12 hours a day…) There were always time – preferably once in the morning and once in the evening – for snorkelling, and we also visited one thing cultural every day.

Some day we came to pass religious processions, often on foot but on one occasion, it consisted for a few open-back trucks with musicians and other participants. We ate only local food, even if it means walking in the dark to goodness-knows-where because we were told “go up that way and walk and you’ll see a Balinese restaurant after maybe 1km”. We were rubbish at bargaining, and probably ended up paying too much (it’s all relative) for many things. That’s ok too. We did turn away from things when we felt the price quoted was outrageous. A little less sucker-ish here ;)



We must admit it was slightly hillarious trying to deal with a currency that comes in terms of thousands, tens of thousand, and hundreds of thousand. In celebrating my birthday, we had a fancy meal and then emailed our family “just dropped a cool half million for lunch” which in reality, is about the price of an average 3-course meal in good Parisian restaurant.

This is perhaps not the kind of Bali you are expecting, but this was how we experienced it. Stick around – I have many more photos and stories from Bali to share!


All posts in this series:
Bali: First impression
Bali: Postcards: Tirta Gangga
Bali: A feast at Bali Asli
Bali: Postcards: Masceti and Candidasa
Bali: Pura Lempuyang
Bali: Postcards: Amed and Tulamben
Bali: Pura Besakih
Bali: Pura Tirta Empul
Bali: Postcards: Inlands of Bali

Category: Asia, Indonesia, Travel

Tagged: , , , , ,

6 scribbles & notes

  1. Ah, you never went to Italy pre-Euro, so! The Lire used to be in the thousands and tens of thousands! :)

    • Lil says:

      I’ve quite forgotten about that! I was only in Italy once pre-Euro, I think, and I remember the thousands but not hundreds of thousand though… plus, as a poor student, anything in the hundreds of thousand of lire would be too expensive for me ;)

  2. med says:

    Hehehehe….like a millionaire in Bali…looking forward to read the other entries…havent been to Bali myself ;)

    • Lil says:

      Totally a millionaire in Bali, if only it actually meant something :p

      You have not been to Bali? Now that, I’m shocked. I thought you’ve been everywhere in SEA :p

  3. med says:

    Nope…limited SEA alright except for malaysian islands hehehe

  4. […] as well as writing in her clean, informative prose on all sorts of travel – most recently Bali, but in the past Greece, Dubai (where she worked), Dublin (her former home), Paris (her current […]

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