A brutally honest review of Bali

I’m fairly confident that almost all of my readers will have heard of the holiday destination Bali. It’s become one of the biggest holiday destinations for both Europeans and Australians, with millions upon millions of people flooding there every year. As I sat in the chair at my hairdressers before I came away, I told her about my trip and how I would be traveling South East Asia, she immediately replied ‘does that mean you’ll be going to Bali then?’ Besides thinking, ‘yeah Bali and a hundred other amazing places’ it made me realise that Bali really has become the holiday destination that everyone wants to go to, the place on everyone’s bucket list and no doubt the honeymoon plans for many. It took me by surprise that considering how huge south east Asia is and how many places I’ll be visiting, that Bali is the place that most people get excited about.

Today I wanted to talk about my experience of Bali, because I think I have a less common and maybe somewhat controversial opinion of the tiny Indonesian island. May I add that this is going to be a long one today, so buckle in, get a cup of tea and enjoy my raw and truthfully honest review of Bali.

Let me start by asking you a couple of questions you can answer to yourself… do you yourself see Bali as ‘the dream holiday destination’? If you answered yes then now let me ask you this, what do you actually know about Bali? And do you think you answered yes to the first question because of things you may have seen online aka bloggers and Instagram. If you answered yes to that question too, then please read on.

Whilst I’m not saying that Bali isn’t a lovely destination for holidays, I can’t help but wonder why so many people want to go to a place they know little about besides the fact that lots of celebrities and influencers go there. Whilst my experience of Bali was by no means unenjoyable, it certainly didn’t live up to expectations. Especially after considering how far you have to travel to get there (as well as how much that costs) and how many other options there are around us.

We live in a time where instagram and social media literally control our lives, our beliefs and our desires. We formulate our desires from things we see and hear, which generally come from artificial sources or exaggerated/edited accounts of experiences. A couple of examples of this are influencers talking or blogging about wanting to go to or being in Bali. One example that made me laugh was that one youtuber tagged themselves as being in Bali when they were infact not in Bali at all, but Lombok, the home of the Gillis. Influencers are really out there blogging about Bali, posting pictures of sunsets and beaches, that are actually in Lombok, a totally separate island! Another being a young girl on her families YouTube channel talking about how badly she wanted to go to Bali and giving her reasons (I’ll insert a clip)

Clip taken from this video: https://youtu.be/ilO4EEdbl6E

What’s comical for me is that she generally just says she wants to go based on what she has seen on Instagram. Highly edited and unrealistic photos, where people wake up before sunrise to get pictures without all the thousands of other people being there.

But what’s worse is that I immediately thought of the influence this girl saying that would have on their viewers… who are most likely other young children, who are so influential at their age. I can imagine them watching the video, being influenced and wanting to go where a YouTube family go on holiday purely because they’ve said it’s nice. Them then telling their parents they want to go and it being totally out of their families price range simply because of how far it is (most of the cost of going to Bali would be your flight) and then their Canary Island holiday seeming totally underwhelming…without even knowing anything about Bali or knowing for definite that it would even be better than a ‘normal’ holiday.

Anyway that’s enough of that, I think now I’ll walk you through our Bali trip and give you my opinions of each places.

Our first stop was Kuta, mainly because it was the closest place to the airport which was where dad would be flying into. Kuta is known as the Benidorm of Bali, and I have to say I don’t wholeheartedly agree with that, but I can see where people are coming from. It does have a decent beach with good waves for surfing and a few nice things to see and do. However you’re constantly hassled for surfing, day trips, scooter rental, massages, souvenirs, hair cuts, pedicures, drinks, food and just about anything else a vendor can sell. I sat and watched Mat surf one morning and I saw an Australian family of about 6 totally surrounded by vendors, and they were using every service! One person was having their nails done, another buying drinks, another having a massage, another haggling the prices of wooden statues of elephants and one man having his nose hairs trimmed! It was honestly something out of a comedy sketch. Whilst it’s entertaining to watch, it can be irritating when you just want to relax on the beach and you’re constantly being disturbed by people wanting to sell you things. Secondly, for the duration of Kuta we were just in our nice hotels due to the generosity of my father, surrounded by other nice hotels. Whilst this is inevitably a really comfortable experience, that area of Kuta is really just an area of resort after resort, and around the nice resorts are some not nice parts which we experienced a few weeks later. Skipping forward to our last night in Bali, we booked a budget b&b close to the airport, and my word it has to have been the most disgusting place I’ve ever stayed in my life. It almost made me sad because I imagined the people who like loads of people, will have seen all of the influencers promoting their ‘dream holiday’ online and them themselves feel as if they just have to go there too. They finally realise about the other misconception is that Bali is cheap. Whilst in comparison to back home, food is cheap, and you can get some cheap guest houses …people seem to think that you can get five star luxury accommodation for ten pounds a night…you couldn’t be more wrong. The prices of luxury hotels are just as extortionate over here as they are anywhere else. People therefore have to book cheaper accommodation and then end up spending their ‘holiday of a lifetime’ that instagram promised, in a disgusting b&b just to say they’ve been to Bali. Seems quite sad in my opinion.

We started our actual Bali trip by heading to Nusa Lembongan, because my bestie Bea happened to be there with her friend Alex and it was stupid not to head there when we finally happened to be in the same part of the world. Nusa was fairly pretty, with some nice lunch spots and views. But it was expensive food wise considering what we were used to in Java and even Kuta Bali. The waves were absolutely huge, way too huge to swim in and even being by the waters edge I was having to use Bea to keep myself standing up! It’s also really reefy and not sand so you can’t just walk into the water.

We generally just chilled out here, dad was getting over his jet lag and I just wanted to enjoy as much time as possible with Bea and Alex. It was a nice stop in our trip but getting there was fairly expensive, the boat was about twenty pounds for a return journey, which might not seem to bad to those back home, but for just a one hour trip in Indonesia, it’s quite a lot.

From here we went to Canggu. The famous surfer town. Infinite options for breakfast lunch and dinner, big waves, good nightlife, and full of beautiful cool young people, sounds amazing right? Unfortunately this has to be my least favourite stop of Bali altogether. All there is to do in Canggu is go to the beach, which, may I add has huge waves meaning that you can’t just relax on the waters edge, although it was a good source of entertainment watching people get knocked over by water. It also has black sand which obviously doesn’t take away from the fact it’s a beach, but for somewhere that people describe as having amazingly beautiful beaches…that wasn’t it. Besides the beach it’s cafes upon cafes upon cafes ….I could go on. I hate to say it but Canggu literally offers nothing but tattoo parlours, cool hangout breakfast spots and instagramable shopfronts and nicely presented food. It really is an influencers dream for getting pictures for the gram…but a holiday of a lifetime destination it is not. I can see why it attracts the crowd it does, but for me I’m just not excited by overpriced food in cafes with lots of plants and a pink wall with a quote on it. Canggu doesn’t boast any nice nature or history, it just seems like a man made destination for digital nomads.

The traffic is also absolutely awful in Canggu. A mere ten mile drive from Kuta to Canggu takes over an hour because of the sheer number of busses, cars, lorries, vans and bikes heading into Canggu, for what? It’s crazy to me. The roads just aren’t designed for the amount of traffic it gets everyday. What I also found with Canggu was that in the spaces between all the bars and beaches and cafes etc, was land with loads of litter. I can imagine that the amount of waste and litter that such a small place produces is astronomical and they literally don’t have anywhere to put it..it’s worth bearing in mind.

We then went to Ubud and this has to be the best place we went to our Bali trip. It had by far the most to do and it’s absolutely beautiful. You can rent bikes which are inexpensive and then ride around to waterfalls, rice terraces, temples, the monkey sanctuary as well as much more. There’s also a great high street which has a daily market to get souvenirs and little bits and bobs, as well as having plenty of food options. Honestly I could see myself living in Ubud, it was beautiful! If you ever find yourself there then you absolutely have to eat at the Sun Sun Warung, a warung being a family run business (generally being food restaurants). It does amazing food and especially a great set menu which is veg friendly, with a main course, a side, a desert and a drink for fifty thousand IDR which is about £2.50! Again, something funny I saw was a blogger who posted a picture of themselves in one of the many swings in Ubud that you can you do over the rice terraces with the caption ‘I dreamt of moments like this’…This is exactly why young girls will want to save and spend so much money on traveling to these places. Because influencers are selling it to be something ten times what it is…it’s just a swing! A swing you have to queue for ages for, spend lots on and lasts a couple of seconds…all for the gram.

We also went to Amed, which was mainly so that my dad and Mat could do some diving, which they said was really impressive. But besides that there wasn’t much to do there besides a nice viewpoint for sunset and snorkelling. The beach was nothing special, a stones/pebble beach which wasn’t wider than about 4 metres so not much room to lie down.

Then we explored Lombok which is infinitely better than Bali. Boasting much more beautiful beaches, being much cheaper and generally having more to do and see. I almost feel like when people say that Bali is an amazing holiday destination, they’re basing that off of pictures they’ve seen of Lombok. Because it’s places like Kuta Lombok, Gilli T and Gilli Gede that boast the beautiful beaches and nature. Please please do not head to Bali and only explore Bali, because you’ll be missing out on the true beauty of Indonesia by not taking advantage of the other islands next door to Bali.

Another popular option in Bali is Seminyak which is meant to have beautiful beaches too. We didn’t travel there as we were limited on time and we were more keen to see Lombok than Bali. Now we may have missed the best part of Bali and my opinion on Bali might have completely changed had we gone here, but it seems highly unlikely.

To conclude, I hope I’ve drawn some awareness to the reality of Bali. It’s so easy to think that going somewhere on holiday will be amazing purely because bloggers and celebrities have been there, but try and remember that you’re seeing the side they’re being paid to show or the extremely luxurious side, which aren’t the sides you’re necessarily going to experience. Next time you’re considering where to book for a holiday, think about why you’re looking to go there, what you truly know about the place and whether you’re going purely because everyone else is going. We’re a society of sheep, following what others are doing to fit in and to not seem like we’re less than others. Whilst Bali might seem like an extremely glamorous place to go, there’s plenty more beautiful places to go that might not have the popularity and exposure that Bali has, places that aren’t as far away or as commercialised.

I’m also sorry if this post has offended some, or made me look negative. I’m really not and I can see the beauty when the beauty is there, but I just know that there is so much fuss about this tiny island and I can’t help but want to express my opinion and show the true side to Bali and to also draw awareness to the fact that there is beauty EVERYWHERE and you don’t need to travel half way across the world for places that are just as nice an hour or two away. I guess it’s gained such popularity because of how close it is to Australia, and I can obviously see why Australians love Bali because it’s close by, an hour or two away on a flight and considerably cheaper for them than holidaying back home. But for them this is sort of like their Canary Islands getaway… and it’s not too dissimilar either! I hope this hasn’t put anyone off their plans, if you’ve researched Bali and you’re confident it’ll be great, then that’s amazing.

This also isn’t a total representation of Indonesia. Indonesia has actually been my favourite country in my whole five months of traveling and I think I owe a lot of that to Java, Lombok, and my dad and Mat for enjoying an amazing three weeks together. I’ll be blogging about Java and Lombok soon, so stay tuned! But if you haven’t already realised, Lombok totally exceeded Bali in my opinion and if I had to choose one to return to, I know which I’d choose in a heartbeat.

As a final note, have you yourself been to Bali? How was your experience and where did you go? I’d love to know.

Until next time,

Megan

x x

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