Bali is in right now. It’s hip. It’s cool. You can’t scroll through a travel feed on Instagram without seeing ten shots of Bali. I can understand the hype. It’s a tropical paradise in a foreign land with a unique culture and absolutely stunning beaches. But I have a hot take; I didn’t love it there. Don’t get me wrong, I had a good time, but I didn’t love it. I spent about ten days total on the Island, and I’ll sum up the good and the bad for you.
Ubud- This hub in the center of the island is actually awesome. Tucked away in a lush jungle, Ubud has a lot to offer. From a bustling modern downtown to a community of wild monkeys, there’s something for everyone in Ubud. One highlight is the Sacred Monkey Forest. This ecological reserve is home to more than 600 long tail macaques. It’s not a huge space so the animals are extremely interactive with the guests. They will jump on you and they will absolutely try to steal your things. I found one little guy elbow deep in my pocket at one point trying to rob me blind. It’s not uncommon for Abu and his pals to run off with someones sun glasses or water bottle.
Mt Batur- Another awesome part of Bali (and Ubud especially) is it’s plethora of outdoor adventures. One of the highlights of my time on the island was the sunrise trek up the volcano, Mr Batur. After a 2am breakfast I caught a jeep ride to the base of the mountain. From here I was led by my 17 year old local guide up the steep mountain path. I arrived at the summit after about 2 hours of trekking, the last 30min of which is spent trudging up a steep grade of volcanic sands. The reward at the top was worth the early wake up. After enjoying a beautiful sunrise the group trekked back down, avoiding some thieving monkeys along the way. We stopped off at the famous Tegalalang rice fields on the way back to the hostel. The green terraced hillsides really are strikingly beautiful. The trip ended at a local coffee plantation where we were given some much needed samples. The most famous coffee is the Luwak java. The beans are digested by these little animals and then are plucked from the stool. It sounds and looks gross, but the coffee is an island specialty and extremely expensive. Overall Bali is filled with beauty. From hidden waterfalls, to secret beaches, to the green rice terraces, you’re sure to find something to please the eye.
It’s not really an issue of Bali being ‘bad’. It just happens to be very westernized. Bali is an extremely popular vacation destination for Australians, Europeans, and Americans alike who are looking for a unique experience. There’s been rapid growth, which is good for the people of Bali and its economy. I just wonder if that growth has been great for the identity of the island. The areas of Kuta and Seminyak feature plenty of pubs, clubs, and outlet malls. There are beach clubs and resorts that rival those in the Caribbean. The western tourists are certainly catered to, and it wasn’t something I loved. That doesn’t mean Bali didn’t have plenty to offer. Its the only predominantly Hindu island in the Muslim dominant Indonesia. The locals are extremely spiritual and this energy can be felt almost everywhere. Before hiking Batur the guides will fall to their knees to light incense and pray to their gods. They’re also extremely friendly and welcoming. I guess what I didn’t like about Bali was that it felt too close to home. It was as though people are bringing Western culture to the island more and more rather than experiencing the beauty of what is already is there. It’s a personal preference for me. I had a nice time, but the next 2 islands I visited in Indonesia had a larger impact on me…