Ah Bali. Some dislike it, many love it, and at just a few hours from Perth it’s undeniably a convenient spot for a tropical escape.
Personally it wasn’t really on my list of places to visit any time soon, but with my workplace flying us all over for the annual Christmas party (who does that? Bam Creative does that) I wasn’t going to say no. The common criticism is authenticity, with Western influence and the dominating tourist trade leaving many places almost devoid of locals or establishments that they would actually frequent. Even the relatively calmer and less developed town Ubud, where we stayed for the weekend, was full of fellow Australians and other holiday-makers (albeit dressed in yoga clothes and batik rather than a bikini or hot pants). Balinese culture and food are easily avoided, if that’s what you’re determined to do.
I found that aspect to Bali a bit perplexing, but who am I to say that doing a very touristy tour of local temples, mountains and kopi luak plantations is any better for the island, or even vaguely off the beaten track? It is definitely more my kind of thing than partying and relaxing by the pool though, and I loved the monkeys, the lush green landscapes, the intricate temples, the tropical fruits, the colourful Hindu offerings and the scent of incense. When my colleagues asked what my best moment was, all I could think of was a happy moment heading back from the tour, tired and sweaty but feasting on rambutan and mangosteens bought from a roadside stall.
Getting home was a nightmare thanks to our middle-of-the-night flight being cancelled, but seeing each other tired, cranky and running out of clean clothes probably worked better as a team bonding exercise than downing cheap cocktails and getting our nails painted. That’s my positive spin on it anyway!
I don’t think Bali is for everyone, but you can have a completely different experience to the Kuta stereotype with a bit of planning. Be respectful and eat heaps of tropical fruit – those are my main pieces of advice.