Right after my trip to Australia, I went to Bali. I chose Bali primarily because it was an inexpensive flight from Perth, where I was at the time (you can see my blog post about Australia here). I had considered New Zealand and SE Asia, but Bali is so nearby, it seemed the easiest. It is part of the Indonesian archipelago, just north of Australia.
I flew in to Denpassar and the spent the first night in Kuta. It was very touristy and I quickly left for Ubud. I met some nice fellow travelers on the bus and found a nice room there quickly. Locally run guesthouse rooms ranged about $15 to $25 US and you get something quite nice for $25. Ubud was fine, although also a little touristy. It’s famous as the final stop of the “Eat Pray, Love book and movie. It doesn’t really look like what was portrayed in the movie. It was very busy with traffic and constantly on the street people ask you to buy various things (this is the case In Kuta as well). The only way to get rid of them is to completely ignore them. Even a polite no seems to encourage them.
I found a couple nice temples to paint nearby by. Amarsarta was a small temple with some nice animal carvings and I rented a Motorcycle one day and drove out to Tampakseering temple to paint. I also went to a great art museum, the Neka, in Ubud. A highlight of my visit in Ubud was meeting Pascal and Gavin for dinner one night, a couple I had met in Perth, who were coincidentally vacationing in Bali as well.
After Ubud I went out to the east coast to Candidasa, where I had a nice beach front room. It was quieter and less touristy here. I rented a motorcycle and took a trip into the mountains to see the Besakih Temple. One thing that was confusing was the guides who tried to tell you that you could not go in to the temple without a guide unless you are a Hindu. Yes, There are certain areas of limits, but that is not true. I was confused and so basically did not go in, even though I had paid an admission. Later I found out the guides were lying. You do need long pants or dresses though and sleeves or you’ll have to rent a sarong.
In order to get to the Besakih Temple, I used a small motorcycle. I have to say riding on narrow windy roads in the hills on a tiny little motorcycle is more fun than a roller coaster! I liked having the bike, but once I started thinking about it, since they do not come with any kind of insurance, I got spooked about liability (how western of me!) and decided to stop with the motorcycles. Next time I’ll try to arrange something in advance with a western insurance company, which is apparently the way to do it. It’s something like $5 -10 a day to rent a bike.
I was still to hot, so next I considered going to the Gili Islands, but instead chose to head to the mountains, hoping for cool weather. And I got it, except it was raining torrentially. I stayed only one night in Candikunning, but did find a sheltered spot to paint the beautifully situated Ulun Danu Beratan Temple.
After Candikunning I took a bus to Kalibukbuk on the northern coast. I was hoping for nice beaches, but there had been storms and the beaches were a little wrecked. But the weather was good while I was there. I basically just stayed in Kalibukbuk. I met some great expats to drink with and the restaurants were cheap and delicious. I did a few paintings and had a relaxing time. I met a fun Belgium named Wim Vansteenbergen who was opening a guesthouse in the hills, and he would be a good contact if one finds oneself in Kalibukbuk. It was much more low key then the south of Bali, and definitely where I would recommend to head if one was going to Bali.
I then headed back down to Kuta, where I was hoping to lie on the beach for my last two days in Bali, but alas the rain came back (it was the end of the rainy season when I traveled) apparently there is excellent surfing in and near Kuta, and some people were doing it, despite the weather. The day after I left was the Balinese New Year and I got to see a nice parade and just wandered around. Apparently on the Balinese New Year, they actually close down the entire Island (including planes and ferries) and nobody is allowed on the street. And this is police enforced. Lucky I missed that day! I also tried a few nightclubs. Kuta is a party place, mainly aimed at young Australians, but I hate to say it, it was all just to loud.
The goal of my visit to Bali was really to paint, but I mostly was lackadaisical about my opportunities. I think that was really because of the heat, this northern bred body just can’t get much done when it is humid and in the 90’sF. You do adjust to this after a few weeks, though, as I found in Thailand. I didn’t have a great time in Bali, but this may have been that was just bored traveling alone, this time. Certainly I met a lot of people who were having great trips.
Bali is inexpensive, and the food can be wonderful. One could do it for $30 day, even less if you wanted to. There is a definite difference between what the locals eat and pay and what the tourists get. On my return bus ride to Denpasar, the driver wanted to stop and have lunch. I was the only passenger at this point, and we went into the restaurant where we had a simple meal of rice and gristly meat. The price was about 20 cents US. Normally I had been paying $2 to $4 US for meals, although they were much better.
I think Bali is changing from an agricultural economy into a tourist economy, and they definitely have issues with things like traffic and garbage disposal. This is of course an issue anywhere in second or third world Asia.
Art materials were easily available on Bali. There are also a lot of skillful craftsman on Bali. Of particular note to me were the wood-carvers. If I was to go back to Bali, I would try to take a course in wood-carving, and there seemed to be some available.
And then I made the grueling 24-hour flight back to Chicago, via Perth and Hong Kong, arriving safely in Chicago, where I had missed an almost spring-like winter.