OK, OK, this really should be called final thoughts on Indonesia. But, since we only visited Bali and Flores, that didn’t really seem fair. So, here goes.
We didn’t initially fall in love with Bali. Honestly, for the first month or so, we were scratching our heads wondering why people love Bali so. Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t hate it and we weren’t seriously considering leaving early. But, Kuta is an absolute hell hole which appears to exist only to provide a place for Australians to get very drunk for not much money. Seminyak is one big traffic jam. Nusa Dua is nice, but could be anywhere in the world. And Ubud, can we talk about Ubud? Everything we read talked about Ubud being quaint and peaceful. We seriously beg to differ. The traffic is a nightmare and you take your life into your hands just by walking on the sidewalk (more on that below). But then we went North to some small towns. And then we finally fell in love with Bali. But what we don’t understand is that (thankfully) most of the tourists never even go to the places we loved.
There is trash EVERYWHERE. Empty lot in town? Filled with trash. Hillside down to the river? Filled with trash. Random spot along the road? Filled with trash. And we don’t see how it is ever going to get better. Almost all of the restaurants insisted on giving us straws with every drink. We don’t need straws to drink a can of soda water or a glass of iced coffee. Really, we don’t. (And some people even seemed to laugh at us when we requested no straws and others just ignored our requests.) And most of the hotels provide bottled water every day (because the tap water is unsafe to drink) instead of just having a refill station. And, although we went to a large grocery store in an attempt to buy a gallon (or metric equivalent) of water so we didn’t use so many small bottles, we couldn’t find anything like that. At least the beaches were clean while we were there (although we understand that varies greatly depending upon weather).
We don’t understand how on earth all the tattoo shops in Bali can stay in business. They are everywhere. Multiple shops on the same block. Who is getting all these tattoos?
Seminyak is full of macrame and Native American headdresses and dream catchers. We really wish someone could explain this to us….
Seminyak is also full of stores selling leather. It is hot here. Why would anyone wear leather?
We also wish someone could explain to us who buys all the cheap crap being sold at the beaches. Cheap sunglasses, cheap kites, cheap knick-knacks, cheap jewelry. I don’t know about you, but we don’t go to the beach to shop. Oh, and what is with the really, really bad art being sold on the beaches? Huge rasta paintings, huge paintings of Native Americans. Weird….
In 2015, we commented that it was almost always women who wear the traditional clothing. In Bali, we finally visited a place where men also wear traditional clothes on a regular basis. It was nice to see.
I would hate to be a teenage girl here. Women are not allowed into temples if they are menstruating. Can you imagine having everyone find out you got your first period because you can’t visit the family temple?
In 2015, we heard Toto’s song Africa everywhere. Here, not so much. In fact, other than when we googled the Weezer cover we had read about, we only heard it once and, even then, it was a cover. Speaking of covers, almost every song we heard here was a cover. It must have to do with licensing costs or the like, but even the radio stations just play covers. Although, I have to confess, I kind of liked the muzak version of Sweet Child O’ Mine…. But I am disappointed that we have no idea what the song of the summer is….
When we checked into our hotel in Ubud, we were a bit concerned about security. Our front door was a sliding door and there were big gaps on either side. Being from Chicago and all, that concerned us because it would have taken no effort at all to break in. Silly us. Bali is so safe. As we were walking down the street in Ubud, we saw a woman opening up her shop for the day. Guess where the key was? Waiting for her on the doorjamb (where it had apparently been all night). We saw a guy leave his tablet and wallet and scooter keys on a table while he went inside a shop to order a coffee. And motorcycle helmets are just balanced precariously on parked scooters all over the island. We were told the lack of theft is because most people are Hindu and believe in karma. No clue if that is correct or not.
The Balinese people are some of nicest people we have ever met. Seriously, always smiling, always helpful. Until they get behind the wheel of a vehicle in Ubud. Then, all the nastiness comes out. We watched a little old lady try to cross the road and nearly get hit because nobody would stop for her. And, the kids in Ubud were celebrating a holiday by walking down the street in costume and the drivers nearly ran them right over.
Bali — and Ubud in particular — really needs to stop advertising “vegan ice cream.” There is no such thing as vegan ice cream. Whatever it is might taste yummy (I will even admit to trying some of the coconut milk stuff), but it is most definitely not ice cream.
Have you ever heard of a Michael Jackson coffee? Black coffee with added cream. I kid you not. Seen in Ubud.
Both Ubud and Flores need to seriously work on their sidewalks. In both cases, we risked death every time we walked somewhere. The sidewalks — to the extent they exist at all — have huge holes in them and there are sewers underneath the sidewalk. Sometimes, someone has tried to fill a hole with rocks or rags or cover it with sheet metal, but most of the time there is just a gaping hole. In Flores, we just walked on the street because we figured the injury from getting hit by a scooter was going to be less severe than the injury from falling into the filthy sewer.
We learned that, in Bali, babies do not touch the ground until they are three months old. Then, they have a ceremony. Can you imagine an American baby never touching the ground for three months?
Bali is the first place ever where I was the cause of high bar bills. Normally, Robert drinks fancy cocktails so he always drives the bar bill, but here the cocktails were so expensive he typically stuck with beer. So, it was the white wine that drove the bar bills. And the different prices for wine were insane. We paid anywhere between 45K IDR and 135K IDR (3-9 USD) for a glass of wine. The low end was typically for local wine (which actually tended to be drinkable) while the high end tended to be for imported wine, but even the local wine prices varied greatly. As did the size of the pours.
Distances are deceiving here. Traffic is so bad that it takes forever to get anywhere. For example, it took us 1 hour to go the 7 km (a little over 4 miles) between our hotel and the airport.
We clearly didn’t pack enough Band-Aids. We have already purchased plasters 5 times. And nothing is as good as a “Band-Aid brand adhesive bandage.” (You haven’t lived until the adhesive on a Indonesian plaster eats away your skin…..)
Cell phone data here is dirt cheap. We paid just over $5 for 9 GB. No monthly fees, no contracts. Just get a sim card and go.
We have perfected the sidewalk stare down with Chinese tourists. For some reason, they expect us to step aside so they can walk two abreast. We weren’t having it. We have found staring them right in the eyes to be quite effective.
Bali is another country where keeping enough small change on hand is always a challenge. Even stores have a problem with it. We were once offered candy for change. And Robert was offered chicken flavored chips for change. Stores routinely round the bill up rather then even bothering with small change. When the smallest coin is worth 0.7 cents, you don’t really worry about it.
The Indonesian word for “water” is “air.” So, I drank quite a bit of “air soda.”
We really regret not calling out the Australian woman in Amed screaming about how she really hoped Mount Agung would erupt so her vacation would get extended. The locals are busy worrying about the safety of their families and their livelihood, and she is wishing for something that would further hurt the local economy while being completely oblivious to those around her. It really was disgusting to hear.
The snorkeling in Amed is amazing. We saw so many fish and were able to snorkel directly from shore. We saw trigger fish and clown fish and cuttlefish and starfish and Nemo fish and angel fish and sweetlips fish and a rock fish and a ton of other fish we cannot name. Plus, I’m pretty sure I saw a sea snake — given they are highly venomous and there is no antivenom, I didn’t stick around long enough to figure out precisely what it was! (Don’t worry mom, they generally don’t bite unless provoked and I sure as heck wasn’t going to provoke it!)
As much as we didn’t like Bali when we first arrived, we are already thinking about when to go back to Indonesia. We will stay out of the main tourist areas and focus instead on the places that are still a bit sleepy.