What comes to mind when you think of Bali? Emerald rice terraces, untouched beaches, volcanoes, and luxury retreats? While Bali has all that and then some, it’s not always the idyllic destination that travelers assume it to be. Whenever I meet someone who hated their trip Bali, it’s usually because of one or a combination of these five reasons.
1. They think they can hang with the party crowds in Kuta
Kuta is essentially a cesspool of drunk bogans (Australia’s version of a redneck) who stay out all night slinging back beers, arak, and cocktails named “The G-String Sling” or “Sex on My Face.” Smashed bottles, Bintang tank tops, boisterous crowds, and tacky souvenirs are all part of the scene. When the sun is shining, you’ll be harassed to buy things. When night comes, you’ll be harassed by fellow tourists. If this doesn’t sound like your type of scene, it’s best to stay away from Kuta.
2. They visit the most famous Bali landmarks too late in the day
Most travelers in Bali sleep in until 8am, have breakfast, then lounge before heading out for the day. If you venture out past noon, the main tourist sites (that are certainly worth seeing) will be packed with selfie stick wielding tourists. Instead, wake up before sunrise and head to the temples, rice terraces, and beaches to enjoy the sight to yourself. You’ll have cooler weather, untainted views, and the rest of they day to relax. Some of Bali’s sights have become popular for good reason–rather than skip them, just get there before the crowds do.
3. They skip through the small towns of Bali
If you explore outside of Kuta, Ubud, Uluwatu, Sanur, and Lovina, you’ll find a slower pace of life. Farmers tend to their coffee, rice, strawberry, and clove farms. Women craft beautiful baskets of Hindu offerings. Roads turn to dirt paths, leading to walking trails and panoramic vistas. Small towns like Amed, Pemuteran, and Munduk all have a variety of accommodation options without the crowds and overdevelopment. If you’re chasing authenticity, you’ll find it in between the big towns of Bali.
4. They expect perfect beaches
It’s somewhat of a myth that Bali has incredible beaches–and I expect some backlash from saying this. Unfortunately, Indonesia as a whole has a massive trash problem. There is no efficient large scale recycling or trash removal system. A lot of the waste created by tourists and locals is thrown into rivers and streams. When it rains, the trash flows from Bali’s interior onto the shores of Bali’s beaches, smothering them in plastic waste. Currents also bring some of the trash from other islands in the archipelago, piling on even further. Most of the sandy beaches around Bali are also black, grey, or brown. There are only a handful of postcard tan sand beaches–found in Padangbai, Sanur, the Nusa Islands, and the Bukit Peninsula. If beaches are what you crave, hop over to Lombok instead.
5. They don’t take time to learn about Balinese Hinduism
The temples of Bali are beautiful–that’s obvious even if you know nothing about the Hindu gods that reside in them. If you look at many of the statues of deities closely, you’ll see clues that give away what they are. Some temples tell stories of death and demons, like that inside of Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud. Outside of that temple, you’ll find a statue of Rangda. Rangda is the queen of demons in Bali, who leads an army of devils made of flying heads attached to a string of entrails. She has bulging eyes, sagging breasts, a long tongue, and you’ll know a statue is her if you see a child screaming out from between her teeth. Almost all temples are dedicated to Hindu gods who have tales behind them that make Game of Thrones seem like a children’s bedtime story.