How is life in Bali ?

I wrote this article after living in Bali for nearly two months, while being in Kuala Lumpur.

The beaches

The beaches are great and not very crowded. They are perfect places to take photos for Instagram, but unfortunately some are full of human made garbage, mostly plastic. It’s sad to actually be here and see it.

The rice fields

The rice fields are the second attraction when it comes to visiting and taking pictures. I just loved them and living next to them. But, beware of the mosquitoes in the house. This is no joke, but many homestays provide mosquito net for the bed, which is nice.

The waterfalls

The waterfalls are visually stunning, but one can see waterfalls in other places of the world, so I wouldn’t go to Bali just for them. Still, when you are in Bali, you should visit some.

The places

There’s a mix between local architecture and what has been built for tourism with the support of foreigners and foreign investment. One can clearly see the difference in the looks, in the people living and working there.

The people

All Balinese people are kind, polite and willing to help. 

Some are poor, doing their jobs, living their lives. I see these people in local warungs, laundries and very small local shops. On the streets where the tourists do not go. The men work as cleaning personnel in homestays and repair motorbikes. The women work in massage, beauty salons and as waitresses.

Some other people are doing better. They run homestays (rent rooms in their house) and often own a car. These people run small businesses by themselves or larger ones in partnership with foreigners.

The transport

In Bali you can go around by using the local drivers, taxis, Grab or Go-Jek (Uber equivalents) and by renting motorbikes or cars.

The local drivers are present all day long on the streets. They will ask you if you need taxi or transport and will show you around. They will sell you trips and are your best option when it comes to getting to know Bali. I advise you to negotiate the fees and agree on half or a bit more that what you were asked.

The cheapest way to move is by using Go-Jek. One can pay in cash and recharge their account balance by asking the drivers or through local banks. I had a bad experience with the only driver I called. I gave him some money to recharge my account, he did not do it and did not return my call. So I can’t recommend Go-Jek.

Grab is also cheap, very similar to Uber. I payed with the credit card. I had had more than 10 trips and I totally recommend it. I found Grab everywhere I went, with one problem.

The online transport (Grab and Go-Jek) is banned in many places. They can drop you, but are not allowed to pick you up. Fortunately, they did pick me up, although I had to walk a bit. Why? Foreigners are encouraged to use local transport and taxis.

The famous Blue Bird Taxi is twice as expensive compared to Grab. The local transport can be three-four times more expensive. But there is one thing you can always do: negotiate.

Lastly, I clearly see a difference between the drivers’ attitude. The local drivers and taxi drivers are always on the streets waiting for customers. The Grab drivers are always busy. I even had an experience with a taxi driver. I booked a Grab trip and the car which picked me up was a taxi. The driver first asked me for gas money, then he asked me to pay double the amount I booked the Grab for, because „Grab is cheap”. He did not want to take us to the destination for the booked amount, so we got out of the car and he went back to sitting on the sidewalk, waiting for customers.

The traffic

The narrow streets are crowded with cars and scooters and with parked vehicles. There are just a few street signs and drivers often do not stop at red lights. Sometimes if the lane is occupied, they go on the opposite lane and sidewalks, blocking everything.

Many scooter drivers do not have a driver’s license. Foreigners are not allowed to drive (without an international driver’s license issued in Indonesia), but local businesses will still rent them scooters anyway.

The food

The food is very good. The locals, although Hindu, are not vegetarians as one might expect. The prices are all over the place. There are three types of places to eat at: the local warungs, the tourists warungs plus some restaurants and the luxury restaurants. At the local warungs one meal costs around 1$. I ate once for 50 cents. The places are shabby, but the food is good. The locals eat here.

The same food in a tourist friendly place would cost three to five times the amount. At a tourist warung, one meal costs 2$ to 4$. It all depends on how nice the place looks, if it has live music and where it is located.

On the beach, a meal costs 5$ to 10$.

The accommodation

The accommodation is probably the most expensive service in Bali. If one meal costs 50 cents to 5$, one 1.5L bottle of water 20 cents to 1$, 1 kg of laundry 50 cents to 2$, the accommodation costs much more. One can’t pay less than 8$ per night. I paid in average 14$ per night, with 3$ breakfast included. A total of 420$ per month or 373 Euro. This is very much compared to the life of an Indonesian. But accommodation can go up to 200$ (or even 400$) a night, in a luxury place, with an incredible view and all services included.

Religion and spirituality

The Balinese people keep their religious life private so don’t expect it to find it on the streets.

You can visit temples, but don’t expect to find monks or local people praying there. You won’t find any. The temples have long visiting hours (eg. 9:00 to 17:00), but there is nothing going on inside. The fee is about 1$, including the appropriate dressing.

In the evening, (dance) shows take place in temples. While these are part of the Balinese culture, they are not representative of the local religious life. In my opinion, they are just nice to watch shows, properly advertised by locals. One ticket costs between 5$ and 7$.

You will neither find people on the streets inviting you to their (private) ceremonies, nor you will be able to attend yourself. If you do want to attend, you best bet would be to speak with your hosts. Each Balinese family has a temple and might invite you to their ceremonies, after they get to know you a bit. Many of them take place early in the morning, during specific days. I wrote about the Balinese calendars here. It’s easy to remember that some ceremonies take place at full and new moons.

While exploring the area around Ubud, I underwent a Water purification and blessing ceremony which was quiet and great at the same time. I found this place by chance and it’s a place where locals go. For me it was the temple where something was going on inside. It was exactly what I wanted to find.

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