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Things that will surprise first-time visitors
We already know about the things that shouldn’t happen in Bali: excessive drinking, tourists exposing way too much flesh on the beach and blatant ignorance of the island’s culture.
But that’s not the real Bali. Beyond Kuta there is plenty that will surprise, and delight, the first-time visitor to the Island of the Gods.
THEY KNOW IT’S YOUR FIRST TIME
The first time I visited Bali my then-boyfriend was chased down the street by around 30 vendors after we went for our first walk outside our hotel. One brazen Javanese woman tied a leather bracelet around his wrist and demanded payment. You’re pale, you stop to look at what they’re selling and you mistakenly ask how much. They know.
YOU’LL SWEAT LIKE THERE’S NO TOMORROW
Forget your jeans, or that heavy jacket; Bali is hot year-round with an average temperature of 32 degrees. Pack cotton fabrics, kaftans and open-toe shoes. You will live in your swimmers. May to July is considered the best time to visit Bali. You may even be able to walk down the street without leaving a puddle of sweat – but then again, don’t count on it.
BALI’S BEACHES ARE NOTHING ON OURS
It shouldn’t really come as a surprise given New Zealand has some great beaches, but the first time you take a dip in Bali it can be disappointing. The water at many popular beaches is generally not clear, and you might not see anything of note while snorkelling. There are exceptions though. The beaches of Ungasun, where many hip beach clubs are located, look like the Amalfi Coast, but beware of strong currents and dumping waves. What the beaches lack in aesthetics they more than make up for with happening beachfront clubs and incredible sunsets.
CULTURE IS EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK
The true Bali, with its rituals, festivals and ancient culture, is everywhere you look from small offerings sitting outside shops to thousands of temples that reside everywhere from hotels and resorts to by the roadside. Everywhere you look, you will see ceremony, ritual and sacred offerings. The Balinese carry out their religious obligations with pride and everyone takes part from the youngest child, through to grandparents, all dressed immaculately for the temple.
YOU’LL NEED TO PACK A SARONG
Speaking of temples, if you plan to visit one you are required to wear a sarong and a sash. You can hire them if you forgot to pack one, or buy them relatively cheaply. Both men and women need to cover their legs below the knee with a sarong, while the sash should be worn around the waist.
THE DRINKS ARE INCREDIBLE, AND CHEAP
Bali sure knows how to make a fab cocktail. Some of the best can be found in bars, beach clubs and restaurants in Seminyak and Legian but I’ve had delicious lychee martinis in the middle of nowhere. Beer is also cheap. Be wary of inexpensive and nasty bootlegged alcohol and avoid drinks that appear too cheap even by Bali standards. Avoid drinks labelled as arak. Wine, compared to spirits, is extremely expensive.
THE SHOPPING’S AMAZING, BUT NOT THE BARGAIN IT ONCE WAS
The markets are fun for first timers, and haggling is expected. However shopping in Bali is now incredibly sophisticated, particularly in Seminyak, Legian, Canggu and Ubud. Amazing boutiques, high-end homeware stores, silver jewellery and antiques can all be found. Many of the items cost what they do back home, so hunt around for sales.
KUTA IS REALLY THAT BAD, BUT IT’S NOT THE REAL BALI
Kuta is seedy, tasteless and full of tourists who find that sort of thing appealing, but don’t judge the whole of Bali on it. Beyond Bali’s most visited beach town, you’ll find an enchanting island where travellers come in their thousands for the sun, the surf and the charming Bali smiles.
YOU CAN GET A DECENT COFFEE
Once upon a time Bali was a desert for caffeine lovers. Not so anymore. Try the two outposts of Revolver in Seminyak, Butter Cake and Coffee Shop in Canggu and Seminen and Anomali in Ubud. With free Wi-Fi at most cafes, you may consider becoming a digital nomad.
YOU DON’T NEED TO WEAR A HELMET, BUT YOU’D BE MAD NOT TO
Lots of tourists hire motorbikes and drive around without helmets, in shorts and thongs – throwing caution to the wind. Don’t do it. Falling off hurts even more when you don’t wear protective gear. There’s no public transport to speak of but Bluebird taxis are metered, super cheap and clean.
THERE ARE A LOT OF KETUTS
All Balinese share the same four names – Wayan, Made, Nyoman or Ketut – whether they’re male or female, and are named by order of birth. If a family has a fifth child, they will start again and call him or her Wayan.
A LOT OF PEOPLE SMOKE, AND CIGARETTES ARE CHEAP
Both the locals (mostly men) and every second tourist smokes, so it’ll be a shock for those who love our tobacco-free public spaces. It’s not surprising to see young boys smoking and small children selling cigarettes either.
YOU WILL GET SICK OF NASI GORENG BUT YOU SHOULD TRY IT
Balinese cuisine is not world-renowned, but it’s tasty and inexpensive. You should at least try the babi guling (suckling pig), nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice) and sate lembat. Double-Six Seminyak room service delivers a knockout nasi goreng. Bali’s restaurant scene is world class, with some of the most incredible food you’ll find anywhere in the world.
YOU CAN’T DRINK THE WATER
Drink bottled water only, and brush your teeth in it too. Bottled water is cheap and many hotels and resorts provide complimentary water. It’s advisable not to have ice in your drinks either, unless it’s a reputable hotel, restaurant or bar. Better be safe than suffer Bali belly, which unfortunately does happen – particularly to first timers.
THERE’S TRULY GOB-SMACKING SCENERY
Get out of the main tourist areas, and marvel at Bali’s World Heritage-listed rice terraces, and water temples that date from the 9th century at Jatiluwah. Hire a car and driver to take you there or book a full-day tour with an English-speaking guide through Bali Res Centre.
Go beyond the hotels and resorts. Watch a farmer herding his flock of ducks, see a woman perched sidesaddle on a motorbike on her way to the temple. Take a walk and meet the locals.
YOU WILL FEEL LIKE A MILLIONAIRE
The exchange rate means NZ$100 is equivalent to just under 1 million Rupiah (923,798.4 currently), so your wallet will be as fat as the local bookmakers. There are money changes everywhere (ask your hotel for a reputable one) and you can get money out at ATMs on your credit card, but be careful. Mine was swallowed up in a local convenience store and when I got home multiple things had been charged to my card.
TIPS ARE NOT EXPECTED, BUT YOU STILL SHOULD
The Balinese people are lowly paid, and yet extremely generous and hospitable. If you receive good service, a small tip goes a long way. If you’re with a group throw in a couple of bucks each, and learn to say thank you: “terima kasih”. The locals appreciate you learning a few Indonesian words.
YOU WILL BE BACK
Once Bali gets under your skin, don’t be surprised to find yourself returning again and again. There’s something magical, ethereal and beautiful about Bali. Be sure to get out beyond your hotel and find it.
Source : Stuff.co.nz
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