Ahh Bali the final stop in our Asian adventure. You might have heard of Bali “land of the Gods.” Prior to my trip the word Bali had evoked powerful exotic feelings in my mind. Maybe I had read a bit too much Elizabeth Gilbert. But I was expecting the island to bring on a full force spiritual soul quenching renewal. Of all the places we went in Asia, I was most excited about visiting Bali and while I could write all day about how it was not at all what I expected, I won’t. I think the sad truth is I don’t really love islands. I get bored relaxing on a beach and I need more activity to stimulate me. So take everything I say with a HUGE grain of salt.
Bali is a strange place to visit. Like many pacific islands it is beautiful, I mean really beautiful with temples and tropical foliage. Created out of volcanic islands, the black and white sand beaches offset lush mountainous terrain speckles with rice paddies. This beauty is no world secret so tourists from Australia to America love to visit. The primary economy in Bali is tourism subsequently the whole country revolves around serving the visitors. You decide if that’s good or bad. Cities and beaches are overflowing with souvenir stalls selling the same sarongs, jewelry, and oils. Most of the food is either yogi veganism or westernized versions of Balinese. The lush remote countryside I had imagined from Eat, Pray, Love is truthfully not so remote.
So should you visit Bali? Thanks to my husbands “get off the beaten path plan” I experienced Bali far away from the throngs of tourists in their beautiful villas with swimming pools. We stayed with a family in the small northern fishing village of Amed. This came with its own set of difficulties. We struggled instead with the climate-the hot, sticky, humidity of the air; the never ending desire for air-conditioning. The wake up from the local roosters, which provide entertainment for locals in the form of cock-fighting. Much to my disappointment, I was forbidden by husband from attending a match. I am not really into animal cruelty but after two mornings of the roosters rousing me at 4am I was ready to watch at least one meet an untimely death.
The one large pro of this lodging choice was meeting the locals. It allowed for a one on one connection with the family and a chance to really learn about the Balinese. We experienced Balinese healthcare (one of their children was very ill), Balinese education, or lack of- the children were learning their father’s trade, neighborly relations, and basic life.
In all honesty I spent most of my six days fighting with Bali’s terrible internet while researching the Viceroy but in the intermediary I learned that the Balinese are the most welcoming and hospital people I have ever met. I made friends with a local chef Luh, from WarungOle, who allowed me to observe her kitchen and learn cooking techniques. Luh trained in one of the fancy resort kitchens and realized that people want true Balinese food. Every day she procures the local catch and cooks in a tiny kitchen on a two burner. This shamed me to no end as in my fancy kitchen I can not nearly create the bounty of food she was able to.
Additionally the heat drove me to do things I never would have considered. After four days of snorkeling scuba diving began to look more and more viable as it was guaranteed to be a reprieve from the heat. Having been told by many how difficult and dangerous scuba is I had avoided it. The combination of boredom and overheating will drive you to push many mental bounds and on a split second decision I was headed off to the USS Liberty wreckage with Dream Divers Bali. Turns out scuba is fairly straight forward and beautiful. Being obsessed with Planet Earth, the experience to see it first hand is worth it. If you ever get a chance to dive do give it a try!
It is easy to love the tiny offerings left everywhere, religious ceremonies in temples, and of course monkeys. But would I return, I am not sure. The flight from America is incredibly long and I hate to say it but a resort is a resort is a resort and I am most likely not roughing it in Bali again. Asia was incredible and I cannot wait until next March when we head to Myanmar and India!
Oh on a side note one of my favorite things about Bali is the Naming system:
Balinese names are determined by birth order and with a very limited number of names to choose from most people have the same name.
First born names : Wayan, Putu, Gede, Ni Luh(female only)
Second born names : Made, Kadek, Nengah
Third born names : Nyoman, Komang
Fourth born names : Ketut
Then fifth born goes back to one of the first born names and adds “again”. But I was told number six would be something different otherwise there would be to many “agains.” I loved this practicality!