One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things. —Henry Miller
Travel won’t always be your friend and after 48 hours in Bali and Ubud, my wife and I started to realize that. Of course, I’m not the only one who’s thought about a place meant to be paradise. Maybe I should’ve expected the town to be very busy from mid-morning to the evening and prices to be higher than warranted.
Had travelers from all walks not heralded Bali and Ubud, maybe I would have come in expecting less. It wasn’t completely terrible but the conflict between happiness and frustration was there while we stayed there. We spent about a week there between other stops in Southeast Asia and in looking back on it; I have to ask—is Bali worth visiting after all?
With heightened expectations, we stepped off the plane from Yogyakarta to a much quieter and relaxed scene than back in Java. Bali’s Denpasar Airport looks really nice on the inside and has tons of space for visitors to casually stroll around. A walk past some duty-free wine reminded me why most people come here–to relax and enjoy paradise.
Cool breezes blew the cool thick air as we moved towards the taxi stands. A ride to our destination—booked via Air BNB—cost considerably more ($10) than back in Jogja. Before we took off from the airport, I stopped to see if the cell phone shops could fit me with a SIM card.
Hustle and Bustle
The younger lady grew very impatient with me when my phone lacked the proper slot, and she scoffed to her friends as I walked away. Welcome to Bali, I say to myself hoping that this wasn’t a sign of things to come. I know that she probably missed out on a sale from someone else but come on! I made a mistake!
As we headed towards Ubud in a taxi, the car takes us through a series of strip malls and touristy-looking attractions. Instead of expecting a quiet, welcoming ride through rice terraces and countryside, I realize that we should’ve brought lower expectations to Bali.
Is Bali Expensive?
Prices in Indonesia—and most of Southeast Asia—are generally cheaper than in the US and even Korea but for the two of us traveling on a budget, things seem expensive in Bali. Cheap hotels are still available unless one prefers something more isolated and with beautiful views of rice paddies.
Once you witness beautiful rice terraces and can see them while eating or from your room, it starts to factor into a hotel’s pros and cons before booking. Finding a quiet place in Bali is crucial because in some spots, construction looms nearly everywhere. As one hotelier mentioned to us, Jakarta has all the money and Bali has all the land for building.
Food in Bali
Since we already knew Bali’s restaurants were stocked with foreign food, we spent the first few meals dabbling in those luxuries as if we were in Seoul’s Itaewon. As with most places in Southeast Asia, the food is generally cheap unless it’s foreign and you want to drink alcohol.
It’s possible to find some of the best sushi, vegan food, pizza, or whatever else one might want when on vacation in Bali. After a couple of dalliances, we stick to the plan and keep it local. Balinese food is good and available but visitors have to adjust their eyes to filter out all the flashy exotic stuff that catches them.
Fun Stuff to Do
A couple of nights after booking our cozy little guesthouse near the main road, Christina and I joined a bike tour that started out near Mount Bromo. That day ended up as our best Bali experience and for many great reasons.
We rode through villages and Balinese rice terraces while guides from Green Bike Tour exposed us to places in Bali that we’d originally hoped to see. Before we moved from Bali to Gili Air and the boat from hell that took us there, we also spent a day walking around Ubud Palace and the famed Ubud Monkey Forest.
One can do just about anything in Ubud and that’s why the crowds continue to flock and see the place. We returned to Bali after a glorious week-plus at Gili and Nusa Lembongan and spent a few nights in much quieter Sanur, not far from the airport. By this time, we decided to continue the relaxed vibe from Gili and do almost as little as possible each day.
Sanur is right on the water and packed with luxury resort hotels offering yoga classes and dinner on the beach. We joined a Balinese cooking class and aside from that gluttonous morning, those last few days in Bali remained uneventful at best.
I Wish We Had More Time…
I wish we had more time for the rest of Bali and maybe that’s where the problem lies. A part of me came out of this experience thinking that more time should’ve been spent in lesser-known places but I still feel like we should go back with more time.
One Week is NOT Enough
Having a week is honestly not enough time to explore Bali. Another major misstep we made was in expecting budget hotels to be on par with the stuff we’d seen in other parts of Asia. If you want that glamorous rice terrace overlook, then prepare more cash for Bali as opposed to other places.
Bukit, Amed, and More
We could’ve gone for other places to see in Bali that fellow bloggers raved about, like the Bukit Peninsula or Amed to name just a couple. It’s so vast that I can’t even think of all the top spots worth visiting in Bali.
Book in Advance
The heart of the answer to the main question is that we could’ve gone in with more realistic expectations and an understanding that Bali is a place where you get what you pay for. Book in advance if you want a deal on a nice hotel and expect luxuries to be available, yet at an added cost.
Is Bali Worth Visiting?
I’m not sure why this is the place I was most afraid to write about, and one that I put off for the longest. Being honest and unhappy with a place makes it hard to write about when lots of dollars get spent in the process. Frankly, I’m happy that it’s taken me so long to write about this because I can honestly say that Bali is worth visiting.
There’s so much to see which can make a trip there overwhelming and easy to mess up. Maybe next time I’ll get it right but until then, I still have some pretty nice memories of our stay in Bali.
Have you ever been to Bali? Which parts did you stay in? Overall, how was your Bali trip? I’d love to read your thoughts about this post in the comments section!
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