Astonishing Bali

Ah Bali, Indonesia. An eclectic mix of local culture and western ideologies. For me: lots of drunken nights, lots of missed opportunities.

It’s been a long time since I’ve traveled with friends. I’ve become so used to traveling alone, it’s funny how what was once familiar and comforting has turned into something peculiar. A couple of months back I agreed to meet up with several friends in Bali for a surfing trip. Some came from the US and just wanted a quick vacation, some were traveling from elsewhere. I did what I usually do. Search for the cheapest flight, no matter how many layovers and transfers, no matter how long it took to reach my desired destination. I booked a couple of nights in a cheap social hostel with mostly favorable reviews and just hope for the best. A couple of my friends booked rooms in a hotel but I said i’d rather not. For one thing, even if we split the cost of the room it would still be a lot more expensive. And the second reason? Part of the fun of traveling is meeting different people from all over the world. And based on my own experience, it’s hard making friends when you stay in a hotel. No big deal, I can just meet up with them during the day and go out with them at night. We can still hang out even if we didn’t  stay in the same place.

Next to Thailand, Indonesia probably gets the bulk of travelers on vacation in Southeast Asia. I guess I need to rephrase that, because people flock to Bali specifically. Now, there are definitely more beautiful places in Indonesia. But compared to the other places in the country, Bali has lots of attractions as well as being incredibly tourist friendly. That’s the same reason why lots of travelers flock to Thailand. There are lots of flights from other countries that fly directly to Bali. There’s no need to pass by the capital city and then take a domestic flight. You can take a flight from another country and your vacation starts the very minute you get off the plane. It’s really cheap traveling in most countries in Southeast Asia. The ease of travel separates certain countries from the rest.

The international airport in Bali is very modern. But the very minute you step outside— utter chaos. That’s the Southeast Asia I know! lol. Lots of private drivers would hound you. If you’re a budget traveler, it’s best to ignore them. They charge anywhere from 200,000- 500,000 Rupiahs to Kuta, which is close to the airport and where most backpackers stay. You can haggle if you want— i managed to bring the price down to 100,000 by telling them it’s not my first time in Bali and i know how much transport should cost, but I doubt it could get lower than that for a private car. To me, that’s still too expensive. The cheapest option is taking a public bus. The bus stop is at the far end of the international arrival terminal, where you can also find airport taxis. It only costs 7,500 Rupiahs per passenger. However, buses only run until 9 PM so i wasn’t able to take this option. Another option is to take a Blue Bird metered taxi. They are not allowed to pick you up from the airport arrival area, but you can find them at the departure areas or in the street outside the airport. it’s gonna cost anywhere from 50,000 – 90,000 Rupiahs to get to Kuta, depending on the traffic situation. Another option if you already bought a local sim card is to take a GrabCar or an Uber. It costs as much as a Bluebird metered taxi, sometimes even cheaper. I took a GrabCar and I only paid 46,000 Rupiahs! (That’s about 3-4 USD)

Once you get over the fact that those airport taxis and private cars charge an arm and a leg, you’d be amazed at how cheap everything is in Bali. You have to wonder why airport taxis charge so much when everything else is very cheap. You can stay at hostels for less than 5 bucks a night even at the town center. Surf lessons are hella cheap. Renting motor bikes and cars are unbelievably cheap. Lots of souvenirs are dirt cheap. Booze is really cheap, no wonder so many people get pissed drunk every night. And even in touristy areas, food is very very cheap! I got a full meal for only 15,000 Rupiahs one time. That’s a little over 1 USD! Just one buck for a full meal! Exercise a little caution when picking places to eat though. The place we had dinner was packed with other travelers so i assumed it was safe. I got a bad case of diarrhea after two hours lol.

Funky Monkey Kuta
Funky Monkey Hostel in Kuta

I rarely mention where I stay anymore, so when I mention where i stay that means it’s really special LOL. So I stayed at Funky Monkey in Kuta. I expected the worst because of how cheap it was. A dorm bed only costs about 5 USD a night. I actually got more than i paid for. Beds were really comfy, the place was clean, there’s a pool and it’s really easy to meet people since everyone hangs out there and all rooms face it. Couldn’t complain about the location. It’s located along the side streets near Legian so it’s near all the bars and clubs, yet it’s far enough from all the noise if you need a good night’s sleep. it’s close to the beach too, about a 10 minute walk. there’s free Wi-Fi and it’s reliable. And there’s free pancakes all day! Well they just supply the pancake mix and you have to make the pancakes yourself, but it’s free! And you can make them anytime! I can’t count the number of pancakes I’ve eaten after a night out drinking! lol.

I stayed in Kuta because that’s where all my friends were staying. It’s also the closest to the airport so you don’t have to pay much for airport transfers. Kuta gets such a bad rep from other travelers though, and I understand their sentiments. Most of the bars and clubs are found here, and as a result, the place attracts a certain kind of crowd. Backpackers who are looking to party stay in Kuta. Drunken boisterous backpackers are a common sight every night. Souvenir shops sell stuff that cater to those types of travelers. Sure there are some shops selling cultural ornaments and figurines, but a lot of the shops i saw were selling shirts with profanities, many shops were selling replicas of dicks. You also get a lot of locals trying to sell you drugs. I could no longer count the number of times a local approached me and asked if i wanted mushrooms or weed. Drugs are illegal in Indonesia by the way and this crime is punishable by death so I advise travelers who are interested not to take the risk. I saw a lot of prostitutes as well, so Kuta also attracts their type of clientele. It’s also very crowded compared to other places on the island, as a result a lot of places are dirty. It’s not all bad though. If you wanna learn how to surf, arguably Kuta is the best place to start since the waves here are ideal for beginners. And it’s not so bad during the daytime, you can find a somewhat secluded place on the beach where you can relax. So the bottom line is: if you want to party, Kuta is the place to stay in Bali. A lot of travelers go to Bali just to party and Kuta is where they stay. If you want to party, you’re gonna find many like minded travelers here.

If you want some peace and quiet or if you want a taste of Balinese culture, you should stay at other parts of the island. For culture, Ubud is tops. It is often referred to as the real Bali. Here you’ll find lots of temples. Tirta Empul is a must visit. here you’ll find freshwater pools where you can bathe for “spiritual purification“. Doesn’t matter if you’re religious or not. If you want to experience local culture, it doesn’t get any better than this. The best part? it only costs 15,000 Rupiahs to get in! Well you have to pay an additional 10,000 if you want to bathe in the pools (you have to rent some robes cause you have to wear them in the pool). That’s still very cheap! Another good temple in the area is the Pura Taman Saraswati. There’s also a monkey forest in Ubud. It’s not a huge place, but there are lots of monkeys. It’s not really a must visit, but a lot of people get a kick out of interacting with them. Watch your stuff though! Those monkeys are really sneaky. If you have food inside your bags you can bet those monkeys can smell em and they will make every effort to grab em. Also nearby is the famed rice terraces. It’s a bit underwhelming if you’ve seen other rice terraces in Southeast Asia though.

Seminyak is a good alternative to Kuta. it’s less crowded, probably because the accommodations are noticeably more expensive. You can clearly see why. The hotels and villas look like they are catered to a more affluent crowd. Since most backpackers don’t stay here, you won’t find much of those rowdy young backpacker types. The beach is better too, though it may not be good for swimming because of the waves. Further north is Canggu, a haven for surfers. The vibe is remarkably different from Kuta. Though there are also lots of backpackers here, these aren’t those who are just looking to party. it seems that most people go here to surf, and the surfing culture is prevalent— the vibe is laid back with a bit of a hipster feel. it’s a good option if you want a bit of peace and quiet. There are bars in the area so it’s not boring at night, but it doesn’t get as rowdy as Kuta. A Piece of advice if you’re on a tight budget and you plan to stay in these areas. If you’re taking a cab or an Uber from Kuta, it’s quite easy to get there. Getting back is a problem. Taxis are rare. You have no choice but to rent a private car which can be expensive. A cheaper option would be to rent a motor bike from Kuta if you plan to head back there. it only costs around 50,000 Rupiahs per day. it’s very cheap, so it’s no wonder that this is the primary mode of transport for most backpackers. A word of caution though: apparently one should have an international driver’s license to rent a motor bike. The driver’s license that you have from your home country would not suffice. Those people who rent out motor bikes do not mention this.  One of my friends got caught and he was given a ticket and charged 500,000 lol. One of my room mates told me there’s a way around this. Once a cop asks you to stop, just ignore them. They won’t bother chasing you. That doesn’t really sound like good advice, but he was in Bali for three weeks and he could no longer count the number of  times that cops tried to stop him. He always drove past them. he said other travelers were doing this too so i guess it works. just don’t take my word for it. 😛

Potato Head Beach Club
Potato Head Beach Club in Seminyak

Now I can’t give a detailed guide about Bali because I didn’t get to explore much of the island. If i was traveling alone, no doubt about it, I could. But I was traveling with friends and we all had to adjust to each other’s schedules. I could have toured the island on my own, but what kind of friend would i be if i did that? lol. They wanted to meet up so we could catch up and bond, it would be one hell of a dick move if i did my own thing. So basically we drank and partied until the wee hours of the morning. I scheduled a tour for the next day and i kept telling them that we had to wake up early. Hiring private cars is very cheap in Bali by the way. You can hire a car with a private driver for 9 hours and you only have to pay 500,000 -600,000 Rupiahs for 5 people. More people can join if the vehicle can accommodate them, you just have to pay extra (about 100,000 -150,000 for every additional person). The best part? they can take you anywhere you want for 9 hours.  So that trip was set. We can party all night but we had to wake up early so we can see other places in Bali besides the clubs in Kuta. End result: as predicted, my friends weren’t abler to wake up early. We managed to leave at 12 noon lol. Not enough time to see a lot of places obviously. Consider the horrendous traffic in Bali. Getting from Kuta to Ubud takes more than 2 hours. And from Ubud we planned to check out Tanah Lot at sunset. No such luck. We left Ubud at 4:30 PM. The sun was already setting past 6PM and we were still near Ubud. Lol. Bali is really becoming overly congested and the traffic situation proves this. Most roads are narrow, and they can’t accommodate the volume of vehicles. Again you can work your way around this with motorbikes, but riding in a motorbike for more than 2 hours could prove to be difficult for a lot of people.

Sky Garden Bali

Regarding party places in Kuta, everyone seems to go to Sky Garden at least once. It’s hella expensive compared to other bars and clubs along Legian, that’s why i wonder why this place is always packed. Maybe because compared to other places, Sky Garden is the most modern. It looks like any club you see in any big city. Familiarity brings in the foreigners I guess. Other bars and clubs are a hit or miss. We usually checked out the places that seemed to be full of people and stayed there if we liked it. Paddy’s Pub seems to be another place that’s consistently full of people. Compared to Sky Garden it seems to attract more locals, probably because drinks are cheaper and there’s no cover charge. The place seems to offer a more authentic Bali Clubbing experience compared to Sky Garden. The music in Sky Garden was mostly techno and EDM. I heard local music being played in Paddy’s. It’s all up to one’s preference I guess. it’s just that when i go out while traveling I prefer a place that gives me a taste of the local culture while I’m getting drunk lol. The buffet dinner at Sky Garden is something i would highly recommend if you’re hungry. It only costs 115,000 Rupiahs, and the food selection is varied. Lots of western food for those who aren’t into local cuisine. And this buffet includes unlimited beer! I know lots of people who started drinking at this buffet. By the time the buffet closes they’re already pissed drunk and ready to go clubbing haha.

Looking back, I really had so much fun in Bali. I only wish I could have explored more of the island. Before arriving, I’ve been seeing a lot of pictures from friends— pictures of temples and natural wonders like mountains and waterfalls that i never got to see. Normally I am able to do most the of the things i planned to do in a certain place, giving me little reason to go back… there’s so much more of the world to explore after all. And there are nearby islands that I could’ve visited but I didn’t get a chance. Gili Trawangan in particular looks spectacular and it’s a very popular option for travelers in Bali— just an hour boat ride and you’re there. I have no regrets though since i did have a lot of fun. Bali is a beautiful and amazing place. And since there’s so much left to see and do, I would probably see myself back on the island sometime in the future.

 

 

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