Bali is one of the most popular places to visit nowadays, especially if you are visiting Australia or a nearby country. It's considered as a paradise for tourists from all over the world. Indeed, as a foreigner you will have everything you need for a very cheap price and most of the locals speak basic English. However, Bali is not a paradise for everyone.
In this article, we wanted to share with you our thoughts on being a traveler in this country. From the beauty of it to the less paradisiacal aspects.
These are some information you need to know before visiting Bali:
➳ For us, being a tourist and being a traveler isn't the same thing and it isn't the same way of traveling or the same mindset. In Indonesia, however, if you are a stranger, you are a tourist. And if you are a tourist, you are a walking wallet for most of the locals. This means that when they see you walking down the street, they don't see your beautiful, harmonious face. Instead, they see a wallet. A strange talking, walking, taking up a lot of space wallet.
This means that you will often be sollicited (especially in big cities) for various reasons : to take a cab, to buy this, to have this massage, to buy that, to have a guide, to buy this other thing...
In Ubud, taxi drivers were often sitting down at every corner calling out "Taxi ! Taxi !" to any tourist that passed by. If it looked like you were a bit lost, 10 seconds later somebody would come up to ask you if you needed a cab. It can be very exhausting and irritating on the days where you aren't really in the mood to begin with. However, you'll quickly notice that they always have a big smile and if you smile back at them, decline politely and joke around with them, most of the time you feel the good vibes instantly.
➳ This leads to another aspect of being a traveler in Bali. You will have to learn how to bargain. For taxis, at markets, for activities, to rent a scooter... For everything. While Vianney loved bargaining with locals and had a lot of fun doing it, I was completely at a loss regarding this aspect. Without Vianney, I would have spent so. much. more. money, it's unbelievable!
When you bargain, you have to be firm with the seller and at the same time be polite and smiling. Most of the sellers we joked around with lowered their price easily (but still tried to sell us their objects five times the normal price at the beginning) compared to the sellers we didn't have patience with.
• A few tips to learn how to bargain (I was better at it at the end of our trip, you can be to!): Be kind, polite, funny, friendly, be firm on your price, don't hesitate to lower A LOT to compromise a bit after and be as insistent as they are, tell them another seller has offered you a lower price for the same object, something that worked quite well for us was to pretend to go away because you are unsatisfied of the price they told you after trying to bargain. Most of the time, they call you out or chase you to come back and lower the price a bit more. And finally, don't be too hard on them, if they have already lowered their price quite a lot and don't want to lower it any more and it's already quite cheap for you, don't forget that 30 000 Rp means so much more for them than for you. Balinese people do not have the same life as you and a few more Rupiahs could help them a lot.
As an example, at the Ubud market - a market that we went to multiple times - we wanted to buy penis shaped-like key-chains (not very beautiful or useful but actually very popular here) for our friends. A couple of friends just before us bought one key-chain for 90 000 Rp (about 5€/9$AUS at the time) without bargaining. And of course, they left happy because it is so cheap ! However, it's usually at least three times the price the market seller bought it. After talking to her and bargaining a bit, we left with three key-chains for 30 000 Rp (2€/3$AUS) and I'm sure that we could've lowered even more if we wanted to. Since we had seen how much she sold it to the previous people, she even winked at us and said "shhhh" with a big smile !
We even had to be careful at an official phone store, to buy a sim card at the beginning of our trip. The lady that took care of us tried to deceive us by increasing the price at the last moment by pretending to calculate something on her calculator when the price was already written on it, maybe hoping that we wouldn't notice ? She must've thought that we wouldn't see the change of price since we had already waited a while before and were quite in a hurry. When we told her that it wasn't the right price, she tried to convince us that it was and then quickly dropped down the price again.
➳ You have to understand that places like Bali depend on tourism to live. A lot of locals have been obligated to adapt to tourism and have found a way to earn a bit of money that way. When we traveled throughout Bali, we felt like a prince.ss as we could buy anything, spend our nights in beautiful and cheap hotels, eat to death for 5€... And at the same time, we felt very uneasy.
Poor countries and tourism.. All around the island, there were beautiful hotels and restaurants, full of tourists just next to houses with no rooftops. We met a local in Amed, that lived right next to our hotel. He invited us to have dinner at his house one evening, with his kind wife and two kids. We had a beautiful evening with this family. He was the only one who spoke a bit of English so to communicate with his wife, we wrote down symbols. They lived in a small house, with one room, where they all slept on the floor (it was the room where we had dinner together, sitting on the floor as well). There were just the walls but no doors and his rooftop was leaking (imagine during rainy season!), like an unfinished house. Meanwhile, we slept in a place where we had a pool, huge bungalows as a room and a beautiful garden...
More and more hotels are built everywhere to gain profit thanks to tourism without always thinking about social or environmental consequences on the country. A lot of foreign people invest in building a hotel or a restaurant in Bali as the workforce is very very cheap and the prospects are amazing. But while travelers live and eat in luxurious places, you have to remember that in most places (not all) the employers aren't paid a lot and the owner of the place (often not Indonesian (but not always, of course)) gets all the money.
What I mean is that, Bali is a beautiful destination to go to but there are huge inequalities there. Yes, locals will insist a bit to much to sell you something sometimes and will try to earn money easily in any way they can. But, they are just trying to do what they can with what they have. And tourism, is sometimes a good opportunity to try and earn money (anywhere in the world really and on internet as well).
What can you do, then, when you feel this huge and unfair gap ? You can't just give a huge amount of money to every person you meet that needs it or you'll go bankrupt (well, you can and you are amazing if you do that but we aren't that perfect yet, sorry guys :( ). So we just tried to give happiness to the people we met and gave big tips to people that we liked a lot (speaking of which, we like you a lot, thank you for reading this, really!). It's not much, but it's a beginning. We also preferred to go to local shops and restaurants.
➳ Which brings me to my next point.
It is such a blast when you do things your way, when you get off beaten tracks. By this, I mean that if you take your scooter and drive a few kilometers with no destination in mind, you see incredible things and have good opportunities as well ! Visiting a well-known temple is good, of course, yeah, wow, beautiful, so impressive, blablabla but it's not authentic anymore. You have a huge crowd around you and you have to wait the perfect moment to take this picture that will make it look like there is nobody around you when really you are thousands of sardines visiting the temple. Anywaaaay. Coming across a temple in the middle of nowhere with grass that has grown all over the statues because few people go to it, that's impressive! Of course, it's always interesting and beautiful to visit the well-known places of a country but don't forget to lose yourself in every city, every mountain, every forest (not too much or you will never find your way again and die of hunger eaten by bugs yuck that's not good).
By driving without a goal, we came across a small hair salon with one chair in it, a broken mirror, a half-working light, basic hairdresser instruments and a young man that couldn't understand English. That's why Vianney decided to have a hair cut here! So that you can have a bit of a comparison, this man did a hair cut for 15 000 Rp (1€/3$AUS) while in the center of Ubud, a touristic hairdresser asked us for 100 000 (6€/10$AUS) for the same haircut. Going out of your way just brings you surprises in every aspect!
There are so many other things to tell you on Bali that we won't be able to cover everything in just one article. Be prepared, it's just the beginning. So many other posts on this island are coming ! A few points that we didn't bring up yet and that we will talk about in the next article are the scooter rentals, petrol, sarongs and massages.
We hoped that you enjoyed reading this blog post, don't hesitate to tell us about your opinion, share something or ask questions! :)
In the meantime, don't forget to always be bold and travel on the least taken paths! ꧂