Indonesia is made up of many islands, each with its own distinct differences. Bali is the most famous and driven by tourism. It’s not quite what I had imagined but it has a charm that grows on you. A land of parties, surf and motorbikes. A destination for vacationers, surfers and people working remotely. It’s home to many expats and local Indonesians making a living. The combination gives the island a sense of diversity. Almost like neighborhoods, each area is little different from the next. There is something for everyone. It often feels like a big busy city with busy people in a beautiful setting. It’s easy to see how many come for a vacation and end up living the island life, but the path is beyond beaten.
Bali is no secret and is crowded. With crowds come traffic, noise and pollution. The traffic is inevitable as there really is no getting around without a motorbike. Driving a motorbike can be a giant hassle, forcing you to ride on sidewalks and swerve in and around bumper to scooter traffic. If you get far away enough however, it can be a fun, freeing way of riding fast through scenic rolling hills and sharp curves. Bicycles are available but riding on the roads, even walking is inconvenient and dangerous. The island is big and beaches, accommodations and shopping are far enough apart that pedaling around might take hours in the beating sun and some of the roads hardly offer enough space for the motorbikes and cars that pack them. There are no buses and few taxis. So grab helmet and try not to fall.
The beaches while not always perfectly clean or pristine are still plenty beautiful. The black sand that lines many of the shores glitter and sparkle with gold specks in the reflection of the sun. Heavy waves crash as if seeking to escape through the ground creating pretty foamy white wash against black grains. It’s easy to get lost in the sound of the ocean and the sight of the surfers. Calmer beaches are lined with umbrella shaded chairs for those seeking to leisurely recline, enjoy a book or fly kites with the kids. Hawkers armed with cold drinks, hats and jewelry parade the stretch of sand looking for sales. Everything you might need is just at your fingertips.
Western style restaurants and shops are the norm but spots for Indonesian food and friendly local culture can easily be found. Western food comes with western prices but not the same standards. I tend to prefer Indonesian warung restaurants. They are serve yourself from a buffet of choices. The food is fresh and homemade, full of vegetables, meats and fish covered in flavorful sauces and spicy peppers, served with simple white rice. The cost of a huge plate of food is usually between $1-$3. Filling, healthy and delicious.
Bali, though busy, will insist you slow down. Trying to do too much too fast will be met with resistance. It’s best to just go with the flow around these parts. Days are made of tropical fruit and coconut drinks, open air cafes and meditation inducing waves. It’s a happy balance of the buzzing energy of many people, never ending parties and a collective easy-going way of life. Kick back, relax and enjoy.