On this province of Indonesia, lies a tiny island called Bali, with its capital Denpasar. It is located on the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands, with Java to the west and Lombok to the east. Bali, a very popular tourist destination, is known for its forested volcanic mountains, iconic rice paddies, beaches and coral reefs. This tiny island draws millions of visitors each year to visit some of the iconic sites includes: cliffside Uluwatu Temple, Sanur, Nusa Dua and Ubud. The tourists not only go there to visit these significant religious sites but most of them choose this tourist destination to relax on Bali’s popular Kuta beach, famous for its sun, sand and sea. It is certainly a place for family friendly holiday destination.
I have not been a great fan of visiting undeveloped populated destinations, where poverty, suffering and social injustice is eminent. However, since moving to Australia from PNG, many years ago, I have decided to visit Bali after having positive recommendations from friends and colleagues who have visited this tiny island many times before.
Like any other holiday destinations and for those travellers that are bold enough to venture to Bali, the rewards are huge. As I mentioned before, it can’t be denied that, it can be an overwhelming place for the first-time visitors. So, with this in mind, I would like to share some of my travel tips to help you survive your first trip through this intoxicating island. The island of Bali is not really an impromptu holiday destination but to get most out of your time in this vivacious island, you need to plan ahead. Health issues are always my one priority wherever I travel, therefore, prior to my trip, I had to get some vaccinations done and then my visa application process. This can take a while so it is wise to prepare yourself months in advance. It is wise to go into a visa information site for full information that you may require. Apart from that, I also make sure that a basic first aid kit is tucked-away in my travelling bag. It contains a usual kit of plasters, antihistamine and paracetamol tablets, rehydration sachets, antiseptic creams and wipes, insect repellant cream or spray, anti-diarrhoea medicine and water purification tablets. I also tend to pack some casual and formal footwear, warm and waterproof jackets and some lightweight clothes for tropical climate. Also, I am prepared to cover myself up from the sun or other versatile accessory that I bring incase I enter a temple.
However, with anticipation, I couldn’t wait to experience and explore this tiny island which I heard so much about. To reach my destination, I boarded my first-leg of the domestic flight from Cairns to Darwin airport where we had 2 hours of international passport processing before boarding my second-leg of the flight to Denpasar, Bali’s international airport. As Indonesia is so close to Australia, the flight time was less than flying from Cairns to Sydney. After arriving in Bali, I was greeted by my private chauffeur who was a local Balinese who had never been outside Bali. He drove me to my private cottage which was right in the heart of Kuta. The cottage where I was to make it my home for the next 14 days was just 20 steps away to the heart of Kuta’s night-life, restaurants and beach. Being surrounded with everything from walking distance away, it even made it cheaper for me to get to places where I thought was worth seeing. However, most of the religious sites like the temples and other major attractions are located outside Kuta area where you have to go on tours or arrange private tours which are endless in Bali.
As always, wherever I am visiting a new area for the first time, I tend to take my time relaxing as well as unpacking, exploring my hotel room, reading any brochures or pamphlets that are on the table and hotel’s very own information folder. This is where they provide and recommend local information from dining, rental and local services, bars to tourist attractions that may suit you depending on your needs and interests. I tend to find, this as a good starting point for any information that may answer any doubts or questions that I may have.
There’s no denying that Bali can be a daunting place – it is home to over 4 million people on this tiny island, with Indonesian’s population of over 260 million people compared to Australia’s population, just 24 million people. However, regardless of this, I must say, life in Bali moves at a frenetic pace; the roads are in perpetual mayhem with everything from buses, scooters, motor-cycles and bicycles etc almost sharing the highways, the honking of horns a discordant soundtrack hard to escape and personal space. Yes, I was ready to be hustled and bustled.
As I stepped out of my cottage, Yes, I realised, the reality of visiting a populated area in a populated country. It was a complete shock and at the same time, very stressing for me. It was nothing, compared to what I was brought up back home in Papua New Guinea. Without further comparing and confusion, I ventured out to the beach and street paths and mingled myself with the locals. I find that it is enticing and fulfilling for me when I bring myself to their level and try to understand their daily way of life. I also find that, this is one of the best and effective way to get local information and knowledge about particular areas from local people’s perspective.
Sounds simple enough, and with a bit of common sense it is. Be conscientious when it comes to hand washing, especially before eating, and keep some antibacterial gel handy in case you are not near any facilities. Visitors should avoid drinking any tap water, or even using it for brushing teeth, and take care not to eat salads, fruit or veg that could have been washed in tap water. And as tempting as it is to order a refreshing icy cool drink, make sure you skip the ice cubes – they will almost certainly be made from tap water. If you’re caught short and absolutely have to purchase bottled water, it is vital you check the seal is not already broken – it’s not that uncommon to find refilled bottles that have been wrapped in PVC being sold as mineral water.
You’ve almost certainly heard the tales of the dreaded ‘Bali belly’, so why not minimise the risk and consider going veggie for the duration of your trip? Don’t panic – you don’t need to forego all that tasty street food that Bali is so famous for. In fact, much of the country is vegetarian so you’ll still face an overwhelming array of mouth-watering specialities. If vegetarianism is a step to far for you, just avoiding higher risk foods like shellfish and eat in well established restaurants.
The sprawling places in Bali may sound like your idea of hell on Earth but there are plenty of places to escape the rat race and experience a sense of solitude. Try heading north into the unspoilt Ubud region up on the hills or, if mountains and trekking boots are not your favourite cup of tea, journey West Bali to Medewi beach or North Bali into tropical Lovina where you can enjoy laid-back life on the beach. These tranquil backwaters are the perfect setting for a relaxing retreat.With a bit of local knowledge and flexibility, there are ways to escape the crowds at key tourist sites and avoid the worst of the heat. Making the effort to get up early is a huge advantage. Not only will you beat the crowds but also the searing midday heat. Likewise, holding off until later in the day or evening can pay dividends.
The Balinese people are generally conservative and you should dress accordingly. For women in particular, it is a good idea to pack (or buy locally) a long scarf and/or a tunic-style top. Always dress modestly when visiting any religious site and remember to remove your shoes before entering any temples.
I must say, Bali is truly an amazing island and a very photogenic place. As you head out of Kuta area, you will truly witness that it is surrounded by stunning mountains and rice fields on the hill-side – perfect for landscape photography. and when your shooting any particular places inside a temple, you should always ask permission before taking pictures to avoid offending them. In some places, don’t be surprised if you’re charged a small fee.
From a personal perspective: As I board my flight back home, I begin to reflect on what I have seen and done. At the same time, I begin to question myself on few things and tried to answer some of the question that I thought seriously worth sharing. It was fascinating and it certainly gave me an insight on why people go to destinations where it is cheap, live like a prince/ss among paupers and meet their demands both in favourable and unfavourable way. For me, I reflect on the experience I had with the locals, they are softly spoken and kind people and the deeply divine culture is what will have you marvelling. These stunning temples perched high on mountain cliff-sides and the simple way of life will have you return home a different person.