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Bali - A travel report by Alexander
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Bali,  Indonesia - flag Indonesia
3492 readers

alexsbg's travel reports

A journey to the gods and back

  26 votes
„Where you from?“ she asks. She is approximately sixteen but looks considerably younger and lives with her husband and her son in the house in the background. report of the month contest
Apr 2006

Where you from?
Where you from?
My answer: „Austria.“ „Wow! Where Austria?“ „This is in Europe“ I reply. „Wooooooooooowwww! Europe... no see.“ (big sigh) „No money…“ (shrug) Then, a sudden graceful smile lights her face: „Drink?“ And we buy bottles of lukewarm drinking water and chips that nobody will ever eat. We would have bought the entire booth to make her smile again. ...
Despite beeing on the touristic maps for decades, Bali seems widely untouched by the western culture. Except Kuta, the capital of night life on Bali, most areas are rather quiet and very original. We went to Sanur which is really only an accumulation of small hotels, restaurants and shops nearby a nice beach. And still it’s one of the busier spots, spoiled with too many taxis and too few customers. But that’s the case in all areas where tourism is vital. However, vital it isn’t. After a second bombing series last fall, tourism on Bali has dropped by at least two thirds in early 2006. And everybody is concerned, when it will rivive. If nobody wants the bombs, why do they do it? Is this a muslim country? Yes it is, but! Most people on Bali confess to the Hindu religion, but are actually a minority. More than 80% of the Indonesian population is Muslim. So, is it Jihad that’s going on here? Edward, the owner of the english pub who has been living in Indonesia for more than 35 years, explains: „They hit Bali, for it is a symbol. A symbol for open-mindedness, for beeing pro-western and beeing successful. They are kind of jealous. Bali is envied for its flourishing tourism business. It’s not that they don’t want tourism at all – they try to develop other areas as well. But Bali has this magic that works on its own and they cannot copy it.“

Favourite spots:
Near Tamblingan lake, view from altitude 6000 ft
Near Tamblingan lake, view from altitude 6000 ft
Interesting idea… at least as plausible as those tales from the clash of cultures. But I don’t pretend to solve this puzzle… we are here to meet with the gods. The gods live in the rural areas and meeting them works best with motorbikes. Literally! Driving on Bali is hazardous, in spite of the currently low traffic. I recommend to put an oblation tray on your bike, to be blessed by Shiva. They not only drive on the left which is the right side. They get ahead of each other left AND right, wherever there is a narrow gap on the road. Safe driving means to become a ruthless, hard-nosed biker and outdistance everyone around you whenever you can. If you do, the other drivers adapt. If you don’t, they’ll do that with you. Blow the horn, pray, and move on.

What's really great:
Besakih Temple, Mount Agung - an active volcano - in the background
Besakih Temple, Mount Agung - an active volcano - in the background
So did we. One of our first trips was into the north of the island, to the Tambligan lake. There are actually three lakes next to each other – Bratan, Buyan and Tamblingan - all embedded into mountains, 5000 feet above sea level and in theory a one or two hours drive from Kuta. In reality, you have to double that forecast, since there is too much to see. If you follow the street that leads to Singaraja, the former capitol of Bali, you can’t go wrong. We eventually reached Pura Gubug Tamblingan, the temple at the shore of the lake. The temple itself is rather small. We removed our helmets and the world stood still. A whistling from a cool breeze mixed with the ripples on the water was the only noise, one could hear. So peaceful, so beautiful, that one holds ones breath. When we went back, we drove very slowly, grasping every view a second time to take it with us and never let it go.

Inauguration of a temple
Inauguration of a temple
Religion is an integral part of everyday life on Bali. There is not a single day when no ceremony is going one somewhere and most of them are very gaudy festivals, huge gatherings with everyone really dressed up. You cannot always tell if a festival has a religious purpose, but this one had: they reinaugurated a renovated temple, about 10 km from the beach. For that reason, a procession went to the sea, helping the gods take a bath. When they’re done, they bring them back into the temple. Depending on how far the temple is from the shore, the procedure may take a while… It was cloudy all day long. But right on time, at the culmination of the ceremony, sunbeams broke through the clouds and made our day. Bali comes up with such things like that.

Toll station at a temple -- You've got to buy 4 tickets: you, bike, camera and a tip for Shiva
Toll station at a temple -- You've got to buy 4 tickets: you, bike, camera and a tip for Shiva
The island isn’t really cheap. Well, it is by European standards, but compared to other Asian countries, it’s expensive if you consider what you pay and what you get for. I wrote that we were one of the very few visitors at this time. Tourism has dropped by approximately two thirds at least. This would suggest that prices had dropped as well, but the opposite is true. Just two years ago, fuel prices soared by more than 100% and everything has become more expensive. Fuel is still relatively cheap if you are used to European gas stations and the bikes did not take too much. For a rice farmer, however, half a Dollar per liter is a fortune.
Facing increased costs of living and less tourists to make money with, Balinese people are in a difficult situation and also have a fairly strange understanding of business logic: the fewer tourists are here, the more they charge them to make up the loss of revenues. At least they try. When you negotiate, some stubbornly insist on ridiculous price tag

Breathtaking views wherever you go
Breathtaking views wherever you go
That lasts until you turn around and go away: all of a sudden, you get it for half the requested price, for a third, for even less and the businessman’s peacocky turns into pure desparation. We had one running after us till the end of the street, improving his offer while he was trying to catch us.
Hotels are expensive, too. We found an almost empty 4-star resort requesting $60 per night. Most guest houses, however, offer similar comfort and if you negotiate, you can get along with $10 to $20 per day, depending on whether you need air condition or not. We didn’t need it but got it anyway. The coolest thing, however, was wireless Internet access in our room in the Villa Puri Ayu. The only one in Sanur, as far as I know and by far the best deal we could get in town. For two geeks, fast access and flatrate is everything… It was no budget stay for $30 but we really enjoyed the time there.

"Surfers beach" - a reef near Jimbaran, the very south part of Bali
Food, fun & nightlife… I don’t have a particular recommendation for any restaurant, there are simply too many and too many good ones. Trust your nose and order something exotic! If the restaurant doesn’t offer anything you can’t spell, you are in a tourist trap: leave and look for another one. Nightlife is in Kuta and nowhere, nowhere else! Just go there and don’t try to find it – it will find you. Hippest bars this year are the M-Bargo and the Deja Vu, right in front of the beach on the Double-Six.

No comment
No comment
And if you look too deeply into the eyes of a beautiful and charming girl (believe me, there are plenty of them), take a glance at her shoes: if she’s got flat slippers, she’s here for fun. Have a great time, you two! If the gal is wearing high-heels, you have probably met a working girl. Nothing wrong with that, but you ought to know.

Other recommendations:
The mother of all rice terraces
The mother of all rice terraces
I talked about street vendors running after us. Don’t take them as representative for the Balinese people. The vast majority is overwhelmingly friendly, open-minded and kind. You meet them everywhere, but especially when you visit the rural areas of Bali. This is where I eventually want to point you: where the gods live. There isn’t much to say about it, you’ve got to see it: a landscape of hills and small mountains, cultivated with countless rice fields for more than thousand years, with breathtaking views at every corner. Pedal back, stop, breath and see with all your heart. If you haven’t yet, take a trip now!

Published on Friday April 14th, 2006

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Fri, Apr 09 2010 - 08:25 AM rating by sujoy

Very live presentation and its really good to c the socioeconomic description of the site . Very realistic and readable. Thanks

Fri, May 05 2006 - 02:53 AM rating by mamielle

beautiful report ! congatulations

Tue, May 02 2006 - 04:21 PM rating by rangutan

Brilliant intro and general style of writting. Fresh information very well presented.

Tue, May 02 2006 - 10:37 AM rating by pottendorfer

Very nice report ,well written.Thanks

Tue, Apr 18 2006 - 03:03 PM rating by magsalex

Wonderful report!

Sun, Apr 16 2006 - 08:17 AM rating by gloriajames

Well done Alexander! 5*

Sun, Apr 16 2006 - 07:57 AM rating by christianj.

Hi Alexander,

I think everything is said already - I just want to applaud, too!!


Sun, Apr 16 2006 - 05:59 AM rating by frenchfrog

Really nice report, well done and many thanks for sharing your experience

Sat, Apr 15 2006 - 02:05 PM rating by eirekay

Alexander - you offer some wonderful insights! Great Report!

Sat, Apr 15 2006 - 10:33 AM rating by st.vincent

A very thoughtful report, well written I enjoyed reading it, thanks

Sat, Apr 15 2006 - 10:12 AM rating by davidx

You are the first to make me want to go there, in spite of - or perhaps because of - the sadness of parts of your report. Beautifully illustrated. Thanks.

Sat, Apr 15 2006 - 04:47 AM rating by marianne

6* but the system doesn't allow it. You have painted such an honest picture of Bali after the bombings. It is so sad for the Balinese, that tourists don't come. We visited for the first time in 1998, that was right after the economic recession. It was very quiet and prices soared for the same reason as you mention. This was such a good read.

Sat, Apr 15 2006 - 04:28 AM rating by downundergal

Fantastic report and stupendous pictures on a magical place. I am a great fan of Bali after visiting 3 times in the past and I felt a real sadness reading your report and hearing first hand what terrorism has done to these lovely people. Although as an Aussie I am not ready to return I applaud you for visiting this lovely island.

Fri, Apr 14 2006 - 02:50 PM rating by jorgesanchez

Very beautiful report

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