Let’s start with saying that buying a ticket to Bali was a spur-of-the-moment thing: the company I was working for, was about to close down, I already had my one way ticket to go back to London to start a new life BUT, I wanted to give myself a bit of time between the “old” and the “new”, to distress and relax.
And so I went online and for some reasons that I cannot explain, picked Bali for my break and It turned out to be the best decision I could even make as it has changed completely my view of life.
I booked my tickets in economy class with Thai Airways , pre-booked the accommodations in 4 different towns on Booking.com and started my journey in May 2016, by train from the closest station to my hometown (Desenzano del Garda) to Milano Centrale and from there to Milano Malpensa, flying for 17 hours to Bangkok, stopping there for 3 hours and getting into another flight for other 4 hours.
As soon as I landed at Denpasar, I promised to my self not to hang out with European people, to live this experience with myself and to try to learn as much as possible from the Balinese culture.
My first stop, for the first 4 days, was Kuta, apparently capital of surfing and tattoos!
It has been the first place where I understood how much religion means to the people of Bali.
In front of every house and every shop, you would see people burning offering to the Hindu Gods 3 times a day (morning, afternoon and evening)”asking” protection, well being and good business.
I brought with me a Lonely Planet guide that I used only to have an idea of what to visit and to find unique gems, like the Vihara Dharmayana Buddhist Temple, so hidden and unknown that not many locals actually knew about it! I had to walk for 1 hour under the sun with 40 degrees, asking for information every 10 minutes to find it but finally there it was, an amazing Buddhist masterpiece (apparently only 5%-7% of the people follow the Buddhist religion here in Bali, 90% are Hindu and only few of them are Muslim or Catholic).
This temple is quite famous in the world for the intact lying Buddha (the most iconic image of Buddhism representing Buddha in his illness, almost ready to enter the Nirvana after death) and a small temple dedicated to the four faced Buddha, considered the creator of the universe.
Kuta is generally very cheap, the local food is quite good so there is no need to waste time in “western fast food”. The majority of tourists here are from Australia, USA and UK so you would find “tailor made burger, fish and cheap restaurants” pretty much everywhere: well, avoid them if you can and eat in the small local family run restaurants in hidden private houses or in the small open bars that use only local fresh products, it is plenty of them, especially next to the markets.
The meals are usually between 1.80 and 3 euros and the portion are quite big.
Here I have tried a fruit that I have never seen before, the Dragon Fruit, is purple, its taste is something in between a melon, a watermelon and a kiwi, apparently is a miracle fruit as it is very high in calcium, protein, carotene and several B vitamins.
If you are a fan of surfing or you fancy trying, a usual 2 hours lesson costs around 20/25 euros.
- Local people are expert in bargain BUT they don’t know the European lifestyle and they are more used to Australians and Americans so it is not unusual to find prices higher than the European countries. Negotiation is rule number one and you can actually buy for half of the initial price if you are determined and firm. Of course, it depends on the season as well, in high season (June, July and August) is probably more difficult to get away with super cheap bargains but in May or September is definitely more likely.
- you are asked to pay for the accommodation right at the check in and most of the time in cash
- do not bring too many clothes with you as it is plenty of launderettes and service washes where they wash and iron your stuff for super cheap prices as everything is measured by kilos.
- if you need a taxi if you have got 2 choices: bargain a price with anyone offering you his services before you get into the taxi or use only the official taxis as they are the only one with taximeter, the BlueBird ones (they are blue and they have got on the back on the side, the official BlueBird logo).
- Bali is super safe even for women travelling alone BUT male prostitution is common as much as the female one so don’t be surprised if you are approached by Balinese men asking you “what Can I do for you?”.
The use of drugs and alcohol among the youngest generation is quite high so I would suggest avoiding anything that it is offered to you on the street by strangers.
- Motorbikes are the transport number one. You can rent one pretty much everywhere or you can accept rides from strangers as well paying a little tip.
- To move from a town a to another one, you can share a car or a small truck with other people. It is usually a lot easier to find a good price straight away for people travelling in small groups of 2 or more but even as a solo traveller, this is probably the best and cheapest option, you just need to be a little bit more patience, ask around and pick the best service and price. Ah, they are always late so don’t be surprised if you have to wait for your ride for an hour!
- Balinese people are usually super nice and ready to help you, always up for a laugh and very welcoming but some of them, are so used to consider tourists as bank accounts, that actually don’t have any manners and they just try to take advantage.
Do not give them the satisfaction, just say NO and walk away.
- Stay hydrated, drink a lot of water or freshly made fruit juices, the hit and the humidity are quite high.
- Pamper yourself as much as you can, you can get 1-hour massage for 8 euros or less pretty much everywhere! The staff people working in the spas don’t usually expect tips but it would be nice to give even a small one to them as their salary is around 100-150 euros a month to share with their families.
- Change your money only from the official changers as the commission on the other ones can get up to 15-20%!
- Vihara Dharmayana Buddhist Temple: Jl. Padma No. 10, Kuta, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80237, Indonesia
- Lucy’s Best Bar in Town: JL Benesari, Kuta
- Benesaya Beach Inn 2: Jalan Poppies II, Gang Benesari, Kuta, Kabupaten Badung, Bali, Indonesia (I stayed here and for the price is a very good deal!)
- Carla Spa New Poppies: Jl. Popies II, Kuta, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia
- Warung Indonesia: Jl. Poppies Lane II, Gg. Ronta, Kuta, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia
- Central Kuta Money Changer: Jalan Raya Kuta No.168, Kuta, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia
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