As any Study Abroad Ambassador would correctly tell you, it is important to engage with your host country’s culture to understand and appreciate their way of doing things. Naturally, in the Australian case this includes replicating a visit to one of the top holiday destinations for the average Aussie: the island of Bali in Indonesia.
It soon struck me that most of what I had been told was true – Kuta was full of (drunk) Australians, Australian themed restaurants, Australian themed pubs and Australian themed clubs. It became pretty obvious that the beachside town was geared towards tourists and, judging by the uninterrupted presence of construction sites throughout the area, there were no plans to fabricate or restore an atmosphere of Balinese culture anytime in the near future.
Therefore, after having spent a day in the narrow and busy streets of Kuta, travelling on to Ubud was a welcome change. This was the first destination where you really got a feel of Hindu Indonesian culture. After visiting temples and rice fields, a visit to the Sacred Monkey Forest is must do in Ubud. As Europeans we rarely get a chance to watch and interact with monkeys in such proximity which probably explains why my excitement much exceeded my Indian friend’s one.
From there onwards we took the less travelled path to Kintamani where you can hike up a volcano in the dark to watch the sunrise over the ocean. Even though it’s a tough start to the morning (some would say disastrous), it is manageable and gives you some pretty good views.
On our way to the Gili Islands we stopped by in Sidemen, a little village from which to explore the vast rice fields by bike, overnighting in the most luxurious accommodation of our trip.
The most exciting part of the journey was the boat journey from Bali to Gili Air which undoubtedly would have been cancelled in similar conditions in other parts of the world. Given the waves we encountered and the fact that the number of passengers far exceeded the maximum capacity of the boat, it was a tiny miracle that we all arrived on the island unharmed.
Gili Air seemed quite spectacular at first but soon enough my vision of sunny days on white beaches was replaced by the harsh reality of South-East Asia’s tropical climate compromising of very, very wet seasons with huge volumes of precipitation.
Overall, Bali was a great experience and taught me a lot about Balinese and Australian holiday culture. If you have seen enough of Australia then you should really visit the tiny villages outside of Kuta as they reveal the true essence of Indonesia’s Hindu traditions. The food is amazing, the hotels are cheap and you will undoubtedly see some spectacular things along your travels.
Top things to do:
Monkey Forest, Volcano hike, Rice fields on bike
Top things not to do:
spend too much time in Kuta