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Sunday, 25 July 2010

Bali: A Love/Hate Affair

I have tried to sum up all that's good and all that's bad about Bali in a few paragraphs, here it is, as I see it......

  • Beaches - I'm sure this a reason why most of you came in the first place - not all the beaches in Bali are as serene as you might think but I would recommend
    Kuta, Padang Padang, Balangan the beaches of Nusa Lembongan - all have golden sand and are fine for swimming (some not so great on low tide).
A view looking from the cliff above Bingin down to Dreamland with Kuta in the distance

  • Surf - think Padang Padang, Uluwatu, Bingin, Keramas, the list goes on. Bali is known as the 'Land of Lefts' but in reality it has waves for everybody - learn in the Kuta closeouts,...
    have fun at Canggu, get barrelled at Ulus or Bingin and charge at Padang Padang. It's all out there and you will find great surf no matter what time of year you come!

  • People - the local people are among the nicest and friendliest people you will find anywhere and, despite the rampant development due to tourism, they treat foreigners with genuine kindness.  They are also guaranteed to ask 1) 'What your name?' 2) 'Where you from?' and 3) 'Where you stay in Bali?.  Some of the more adventurous might even ask 'Married, Mister?'.  They are very chilled out (except when they get on their motorbikes!) and will make you feel welcome wherever in Bali you go.

A couple of the local boys chilling out on a Sunday afternoon

  • Food - there is, in South Bali at least, every kind of restaurant imaginable, from local Indonesian cuisine, to Mexican, Persian, Italian, Greek, you name it - it's here! And all for a very decent price. You can choose to suit your budget as the range is so good.

I highly recommend trying the 'Nasi Kuning' (meaning 'Yellow Rice') from Ketupat Restaurant!

Menu 10

  • Prices - the price of just about everything you will ever want to buy as a tourist is cheaper than you can find it at home (except perhaps surf stuff!). Also, you can barter your way to a bargain or simply stumble on something dirt cheap.


  • Traffic - over-crowded, badly maintained roads lead to nightmarish traffic jams and stressful trips.  Best ways to avoid getting stressed about the traffic is to either hire a driver or find yourself a place to stay from where you will have to do very little travelling.  For surfers, from April - late October, there's no place like the Bukit Peninsular!

  • Police - they are out there and, as far as I can see, are glorified traffic wardens who spend their days directing traffic and taking money off tourists.  This said, you can avoid their hassles by wearing a helmet, not driving over the line at the traffic light (they love that one!), having an international driving licence, or simply not stopping when they try to flag you down (I have heard this works but am yet to try it....I'm assured that things won't get any worse if you ignore them and carry on driving!)
  • Prices - 'Again?!' I can hear you say - yes, the prices go both ways - with nothing having a real 'price' on display, it is hard to know if you are really getting a bargain or paying over the odds, especially if you have just arrived! Also, it can be annoying with people always trying to rip you off just because you're a tourist and having to barter can be tiring.
  • Rubbish - it is a big problem and it is everywhere.  It's sad to see but, with many other developing nations, the people here are used to only using natural products and throwing them away without a second thought, yet they still apply the same idea to plastics, glass, metal, etc.  Bali is without a refuse collection system to further compound the problem.  Private areas are usually kept very clean, however.

Double Whammy - 'sacred' cows are left to graze on a rubbish tip.....go figure!

  • Treatment of Animals - you will see roaming dogs treated as if they were rats, with many people on the roads just going full-steam at them as if they weren't there, chickens carted around on the backs of pick-up trucks in cages a couple of centimetres high and cockerels primed ready for fighting (and that means to the death).  Even 'sacred' cows aren't spared as they are often seen left to graze on rubbish heaps.  Another thing you will see are the horse & carriages that give tourists lifts around Kuta - the poor horses are pushed through heavy traffic all day, sucking in all the fumes in the heat and are often seen foaming at the mouth - my personal advice would be not to take any of these as it is not something that should be encouraged.  Also, if you see a stray dog that needs help, call / text BAWA and they will come to attend to the dog - 0811389004 (

A man selling chicks that have been dyed to sell to kids - they are kept in these cages, peddled around the streets through the traffic in the sun - not nice.

I should say that this list is in no way exhaustive! I'm sure you will find a thousand and one other things that you will love about the old saying goes, 'you never know until you go!'




  1. Also, for me as an Indonesian, its very difficult to find a decent job in Bali. I have found that its very difficult to find a company with the real professionalism. I stayed less than 3 months only at one company for almost 1 year live in Bali and I questioned myself why I could not stay longer? is there something wrong with me? Then I answered to my self, No there is not ... Because I have worked for 2 companies previously, 1 for 5 years and another 1 for 4 years.


  2. Sorry to post as anon but I am not a member here. I have lived in Indonesia (Jakarta)as an expat almost 20 years and have seen Bali go through some very unwelcome changes. I have allways visited Bali as an escape from the stress of living in Jakarta and have seen Bali transform from a quiet (relatively), serene and spiritual place to what it is now - almost a mirror of Jakarta! Be careful of the "mafia" now dominating the streets of Kuta, drug pushers offering their wares in full view of the traffic wardens (sorry, I meant "police", and money changers offering unrealistically high exchange rates to entice unwary tourists and rip them off (more on this scam in the post below).

  3. The money exchange scam: be aware that only officially registered money changers are offering the correct rates. The unlicenced ones offer rates up to 10% higher. Enticing isn't it?

    But be aware you WILL be ripped off! First they will ask a few questions to qualify whether you are a candidate to be ripped off - they want to know if you are a tourist or a local expat. If you are a local expat they will immediately let you know they have to take a "commission" (which usually results in their rates being worse than the licenced money changers).

    The most common scams are as follows:

    1. The money changer counts the Indonesian money and hands it to you to check the count. Then he asks for it back so he can "re-check" the count again. While doing this he very cleverly drops one or two notes back into his still open drawer. He gives it back to you and you don't think to re-count because you already counted it before, right?

    2. Sometimes they just short change you - most tourists are confused by the local currency - you change US$100 and you get almost IDR1 million! They will give you notes of low denomination so the number of notes is more. Counting such a large amount of notes is usually difficult and more often than not the money given will just be accepted without counting it properly.

    So avoid them - change at licenced money changers, ask for high denomination notes (IDR50,000 or 100,000) and count carefully. Do NOT change at the airport (except for just a little - say US$20 - upon arriving so you have enough local currency to get to your accomodation).

    Hope this little bit of informations will help the unwary.


  4. Thanks for your input Geoff! All info is welcome!

  5. Geoff! Are you still in Bali! I know you from Blackstone my names Zach. Could you email me at I am thinking of coming to bali for the winter, I could use some advice about the best places to find housing.




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