Before I went to Bali, I never wanted to go to Bali. For many people, the fear of being robbed, of having their drink spiked, or being blown up by a suicide bomber has prevented them from travelling to the island. For me, I was scared of the tourists. Not much else would turn me off wanting to visit a place than the thought of being a tourist and being in the majority, not the minority. Of walking along streets crowded with tourists wearing singlets and thongs, speaking in long drawn out sentences to taxi drivers and yelling abuse at street sellers. The tourists who only really want to tour the short strip between their hotel and the best restaurant in town, again and again. In short, Kuta.
So I guess I’m a travel snob.
It had been suggested to me to holiday in Bali before, and I’d always said no, it’s not a place I want to travel to. So when friends and co-workers asked me where I was spending my upcoming holiday, I hesitatingly mentioned Bali. I was embarrassed to be travelling to such a popular Australian destination. I didn’t want people to think I would be spending my whole time lying next to a pool getting drunk (only half of my time).
I now type this after arriving home from a month in Bali, wondering when I’ll return next. My time there has undeniably changed my idea of Bali and made me realise there’s much more to the island than the stereotypes and stories of What really happens in Bali.
If you’re even a little bit clever (unlike me) you know it only takes a small Google maps search to realise that Kuta, the place I dreaded going within a drunken stumble of, takes up a very small part of the island of Bali. Although small itself, there is a tremendous amount more to Bali than just the “bogan tourists” who never leave the 30-minute-taxi-ride-radius from the airport.
Outside of Denpasar, Kuta, and the increasingly high end tourist district of Seminyak, there is a whole other world. Of course there are still tourists – but there are locals too. And it is more likely that these locals are not trying to make a living by selling brightly coloured, wooden penis-shaped bottle-openers to giggling teenage boys and overweight middle-aged men.
The Balinese people are incredibly welcoming. They’re funny, polite and smile at you because they want to, not just because it’s socially acceptable to. They will make an effort to talk with you, often to practice their English, but always to make a new friend. Many of them will go out of their way to make sure you’re welcomed and looked after in their homes and country – an aspect of Bali I’d heard little about.
Sure there are plenty of beautiful resorts, spas and restaurants around the areas of Kuta and Seminyak, but outside of these places, there is so much beauty in nature. There are beaches for every activity, whether it be surfing, swimming or just sun-baking. There are luscious rainforests to explore and epic volcanoes to hike. There are roads that wind between rice paddies of the brightest green I have ever seen and giant, tumbling waterfalls to play in. It’s about as close to the idyllic tropical paradise as I’ve ever come across.
The number of stories and stereotypes that are thrown around about Bali are difficult to keep track of. Drugs, alcohol poisoning, Bali belly, terrorists, scams, disease and the one I feared most, bogan tourists. Of course there is reason behind all of these stories, but for stereotypes to be the only thing people judge a place on before they even visit it themselves, is incredibly naive. Naivety I’ve been guilty of.
I’m so glad I gave Bali a chance because I had one of the best months of my life. I even succumbed to one of the dreaded Bali stereotypes. Now I’m just a typical Aussie tourist who got a tattoo in Bali.