Bali & Lombok, December 2017

I spent 3 weeks in Bali & Lombok (Indonesia). We traveled by any means possible (taxi, bus, boat) and frequently rented scooters in between to get around.

Itinerary

17-20 Dec – Ubud, Bali

21-26 Dec – Kuta, Lombok

27-29 Dec – Gili Trawagan, Lombok

29-31 Dec – Uluwatu, Bali

31-6 Jan – Canggu and Seminyak, Bali

Observations

  • Friendliest People – Perhaps my favourite thing about Indonesia was the people. They have a friendly, jovial and curious nature that is very endearing. Service is always with a smile and even negotiations for taxis and scooters are friendly and humourous n nature.
  • More Developed – Bali was way more developed in places than I expected. Having been to some undeveloped and remote parts of Europe (my father comes from a small village in the South of Serbia) I was expecting Bali to be less developed. However, in many places, Bali was far more developed and particularly well built for tourism. This re-jigged my mind in terms of the global economy; less a black and white split between west and rest of developed and less developed but rather a latticework of developed and lesser developed places in each and all of these larger continents. (This was solidified by many of the places I saw later in Singapore, Vietnam and Philippines).
  • Entrepreneurial – It put a smile on my face to see entrepreneurship everywhere. Having climbed down about 100 steps from a rice paddy I was greeted by a milkshake stand filled with tourists. It was cool to see someone had spotted the opportunity and made something of it. Entrepreneurship is not limited to the west.
  • Football – Is everywhere. None more so than Indonesia where we saw football pitches and makeshift games everywhere.
  • Super Small Portions – Smaller people, smaller portions. Perhaps income also plays a role here. Either way, the smaller portions were hard to deal with; never quite feeling full.
  • Banana Jam – I tried banana Jam for the first time ever in Lombok, and what a treat it was. It made me wonder why we don’t have banana jam in the UK? It’s lovely.
  • They Look After Tourists – In Bali, they really take care of tourists. It’s clear that they understand strongly the impact tourism is having on the economy and they do what they can to protect that. On one trip to the beach, I left my phone in my scooter and was pleasantly surprised when a young man ran over to me to let me know and gave me the phone back.
  • Distant Parenting / Empowering Their Children – Whether by choice or necessity, it was interesting to see that children were really treated as young adults. We frequently encountered young children, anywhere between the age of 6 to 16, already working and hustling. Parents seemed more than happy to watch from afar and let them get on with it.
  • May As Well Ask Philosophy – The Balinese people had a tendency to smile and ask for just a little bit more. For example, if you had negotiated a price of 150 for a taxi ride, upon completion of the service they would smile and ask for 170. Whilst most of the time you would smile, laugh it off and give them the agreed price, every now and then if you were feeling good you might just give them the extra too. It reminded me of the may as well ask philosophy that a friend of mine used to implement when at University. Before each of our exams, he would ask our lecturers politely with a smile what questions were coming up on the exam. They would never say exactly what, but you’d be surprised at the hints which we got. In both cases, it’s a reminder that sometimes if you ask politely, you might just get what you want. What’s the worst that can happen?
  • World Views – This trip to Indonesia was my first time in Asia. As you can see from the observations above, it opened my eyes to a number of things. It did make me wonder how different my view of the world might be if I had visited Asia as a child? In my youth, I traveled Western Europe a fair bit, but mostly back and forth between Portugal and Serbia (where my parents are from respectively). If I had gone as a child, would I be more informed? More ambitious? More understanding? Or would I have been scared?  Would I have hated it? Who knows.

Recommendations

  • Ubud
    • Monkey Forest: Definitely go see the monkey forest. It’s quite a nice experience to walk through and see them wandering around. Extra fun if you buy bananas and the monkeys come running for you. Warning – don’t hold on to the bananas; those monkeys get violent. They are also theives, so keep a hold on any bags, sunglasses, cameras, etc.
    • Nightlife: Laughing Buddha was a nice bar for coacktails and live music.
  • Kuta
    • Beaches: Are generally 20-30mins ride on scooter.
    • Nightlife: The Bus Bar organise a weekly party which is small but pretty good. When we were there they even had a DJ from Australia playing. Milk bar was also good for a drink and live music.
  • Gili T
  • Canggu/Seminyak
    • Beach Bars: Finns & Potato Head are both great. Can get busy at both so worth getting their early.
    • Restaurant: Barbecoa & La Favela were both fantastic. La Favela has really cool outdoor seating in a courtyard at the back – worth trying to be there.
    • Nightlife: La Favela turns into a good nightclub after dinner. It’s also worth keeping an eye out for posters with one-off nights as Bali is becoming more popular destination for bigger name DJs.

Takeaway

I enjoyed Bali & Lombok, but couldn’t help but feel our stay here was negatively impacted by the poor weather (rainy season). Indonesia is a beautiful place though and it has an endearing quality of warmth and nature that you don’t get in any other countries.

Starting 2018 as I mean to continue; topless and tanned 😎

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