Bali, you know what it is. A country that is known for being a favourite travel destination for Australians. Over the times I’ve been there personally, I’ve seen every kind of expat, tourist, explorer, hippie combos. That being so, the beautiful tropical island has in many ways been destroyed by some of the unfortunate stigmas of a hard-core ‘tourist destination’. Cheap souvenirs have taken precedence over much of the traditional arts and crafts, and riding past the workshops seeing things made in the hundreds (and even thousands) shows you how much the tourist trade influences all aspects of the Balinese lifestyle.
All of that being said, it’s still a beautiful country and well worth the measly six hour plane trip. Once you first arrive at check in you’ll start to see a micro selection of ‘typical characters’ you’ll find on a trip to Bali. So screw being a cliche and avoid falling into the touristy tropes. It’s impossible to completely avoid touristy places, but it’s essential to avoid the touro mindset to get the most out of it.
#1 Choose Your Mindset And Pick Your Places
The way you take in a country is up to you. Especially a place like Bali. Are you going to relax? To explore? To party? If you know why you’re going, then it’s easy to work out where to go and where to avoid. Kuta, known for its nightclubs and all that go with it is one place I’ve never been and will always avoid. If you want to enjoy some nightlife but avoid Kings Cross circa 2011 then Seminyak might be more your style.
With shopping and great restaurants Seminyak has the vibe without the other stuff. That being said, if you’re more like me and enjoy a quiet pace of life head for the hills, literally, and find somewhere to go around Ubud. There are a number of beautiful villas you can relax at. But that really only scratches the surface of what’s available. Looking for sandy beaches and a resort? Try Nusa Dua. Want a bit of beach and a bit of jungle? Changuu might be more for you. And this is exactly why you need the next piece of timely advice.
#2 Get A Map And Explore Like Crazy
Especially if you or your travel buddies can ride scooters. Make sure you have an international licence (from the RMS) and ALWAYS wear your helmet. Yes, it’s a novelty to be able to ride the roads freely without a helmet, but they’re also still real roads with real people and the potential for real accidents, so don’t risk your head. Other than the mum lecture, this is the best way to discover Bali. Take a backpack, a big bottle of Aqua, some cash and just start riding.
Go down side streets and see where it takes you. Make sure you have a map or your GPS so you can find your way back (even if you don’t use it.) There are so many rice paddies and villages that are unknown because they’re off the main tracks. Even if you’re just riding yourself up to the volcano out of Ubud – go on your own scooter, stop and buy fruit off the side of the road (be smart of course), take a detour and see a farming village. It won’t ever be a waste of time, and you just don’t know what you might find.
#3 Avoid Shopping
Stay with me here. There are other things at play when it comes to markets and shop. The cost you’re being sold to versus the cost the person who actually made the goods got paid. Trust me, if they can afford to sell you a Sarong for $2.50 then they’re still making some kind of profit so where does that leave the person who made the sarong? On top of that, if you want souvenirs from Bali, just go to Vinnies or the Salvos, half the trinkets and knick-knacks in there are old Bali souvenirs. Why? Because it’s stuff you don’t need and no one really wants.
Yes, it’s cheap…ish. Yes, it’s different to what’s at home but run through my three shopping gatekeepers first: Do you need it? Do you really want it? Will you still want it tomorrow if you don’t buy it now? If in doubt, don’t buy it. That being so, there are some cool shops, designers trying out new things etc, etc, that are genuinely nice things and good quality. I don’t think they’re any cheaper than home but hey, you’re on holidays so live a little. Just don’t get bogged down in the ‘cheap, cheap for you’ market frenzy.
#4 Don’t Be A Bogan
This one is simple, because if you’re reading this the chances are you’re already in the clear. That being said, to avoid any possible confusion there are a couple of golden rules you should probably go by to avoid mass embarrassment for yourself (and all us other Australian travellers in Bali.) Firstly, please please please don’t wear Bintang. That includes, but is not limited to; singlets, t-shirts, beach bags or towels, even ironically. In fact, forget ironic, it’s just moronic. Secondly, never say anything remotely along the lines of ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!’ Yes you’re proud, we get it. So am I, but like people should be, go with the solidarity of silence, doesn’t matter if everyone around you is from Down Under – preserve your dignity.
#5 Just Do You
Now hop on the plane, do up you seat belt and stay hydrated. After all, this is your holiday. If you want to take a photo holding Tana Lot in the palm of your hand? Do it. If you want to have a cultural dinner explosion at a fancy restaurant? Why not? And I guess if you want to buy a Bintang shirt – think twice, but do it for the memories if you have already sold yourself.
No matter where you go it’s important to remember not to become who you think you should be. Rather, just be you, because I’m sure that you’ll have the best time anywhere you go, by being your fab self.