Bali was always in my head as the incarnation of paradise – so even before I moved to Melbourne for my semester abroad I knew I wanted to go there while I’m in the southern hemisphere. As soon as I knew the dates for mid-semester break from uni I booked a flight and started to be very exited. But my joy about the upcoming vacation was a bit dampened… suddenly a lot of people started to run down Bali as uber-touristy party place (especially popular with Aussies) and they kept on telling me that Bali is overrated, overcrowded and artificial – generally not as nice as other places in Indonsia or Southeast-Asia…
I have to admit, that made me a bit confused – but I try to not to be biased and just go to places to make up my own opinion – and besides the flights were booked anyway.
My flight was on a Saturday night and my first impressions after I landed at Denpasar Airport were:
1. YAY – I don’t have to pay for the visa on arrival (since June 2015 Germany belongs to the countries that do not need a visa for up to 30 days stay in Indonesia/Bali)
2. WOW – What a beautiful and unusual airport – great architecture and little statues and sacrificial altars everywhere
3. WTF – why are all these people screaming and assailing me and the other passengers? Ahh, they only want to offer a transport – but in a very harsh and overwhelming way. And that was just the beginning…
I decided to stay in a hostel in nearby Kuta and together with an Australian guy who wanted to stay in the same place I found a driver to take us there. We paid 100,000 Rupiah (which is in retrospect 100% too much… on my way back to the airport from nearly the same place in Kuta I just paid 50,000). After arriving there I had itchy feet and wanted to go for a first quick stroll around the area.
Starting your Bali trip on a Saturday night in Kuta is probably not the most suitable way of getting the right feeling for the island – I landed in the crazy party street Jl. Legian – an area with hammering party music, flickering strobo lights, half-naked dancers, drunken tourists (not only Aussies…) and pushy locals who want to offer you a ride with their scooter, souvenirs, tattoos, entrance to their bars/clubs, etc… it was a bit much for the first hours in Bali.
The next day was as much as a culture shock for me as the night before – just in a different way. I was up early and went to see the beach – and on a Sunday morning at 7.30am I was most likely the only tourist out and about (ok, there were some surfers catching early waves but I didn’t see other girls at least). And I can’t pretend to be a local – with my shimmering white skin I would be detected as tourist from afar. So I got a lot of attention – and again, I wasn’t sure how to deal with it as I just arrived. It was my first time in south-east-asia in general and when people talked to me I didn’t want to be rude so I always replied something, but I also didn’t want to be pulled… I couldn’t take one picture without a comment from the local guys or walk ten meters without getting asked for my name or where I’m going. They were friendly but I got annoyed very quickly. I know they don’t mean any harm and just want to earn some money, but I just didn’t fell comfortable in that situation. Suddenly I also sensed that it was too misty, the beach looks bleak and that the streets are very shabby and dirty. I was bothered by the loud noise and smelly fumes from the motorbikes. I was upset that the ways are so chaotic and that there are no signs anywhere…. These feelings surprised me myself, because normally I like walking around in a new place on my own to absorb all the things around me, I even like ‘getting lost’ normally – but that was just a bit much for the beginning. And I didn’t have breakfast yet.
As my trip continued and I got more comfortable with the local conditions, traveled to different places and met more people I could exchange and hang out with, my perception changed. And what I saw then was truly a very versatile and beautiful Bali. With lonely beaches, stunning sunsets, creative handicrafts, fancy open-air clubs, chilled bars, delicious fruit juices and asian food, impressive landscape (riceterraces, bays, volcanos,…)and a lot of friendly people.
So is Bali the paradise I imagined? I think I can say at the end, you can have a paradise everywhere – it is what you make out of it. And overall I had a wonderful time!