Although we enjoyed our 18 days on the island of Bali, I have to confess that we departed with some feelings of disappointment. We knew Bali would have tourists, but we still pictured a relatively untouched part of the world where a unique and unadulterated culture awaited us. We envisioned beaches that you only find on postcards. But in our case, we struggled to find a place on Bali that represented the unique culture of the Balinese without masses of souvenir vendors, touristy boutiques, and poorly dressed tourists (sorry, but cut-off jeans shorts and a tank top that says “It’s Happy Hour
Somewhere in the World” is not exactly what I would wear to tour sacred Hindu temples). And the beaches we visited, although very quiet during the low season, I can only characterize as forgettable and not very clean. Even in Seminyak, an upscale resort area, there is clearly an issue with keeping trash off the beaches.
Don’t get me wrong, Bali is still an exotic and beautiful place to experience, and the Balinese are truly beautiful, friendly, and gracious people. But you have to work pretty hard to get away from the commercialism that pervades the popular drags of the bigger villages. A walk well outside of Ubud or a drive
through the central villages were the fleeting glances we managed to take in of what most of Bali must have been like decades ago. In hindsight, we probably need to manage our expectations better, or make it to the Gili Islands, post cards of which appear to be more like the kind of beaches we had envisioned.
Nevertheless, we’re leaving with some unique memories of Bali that I know we will enjoy for years to come, and we’ve left the Lonely Planet Bali/Lombok guide in hopes that a future traveller can get more out of it than we were able to. I’m sure back in 1972 when the original guide which started Lonely Planet was written, Bali must have seemed very much a lonely part of the world. Some 40 years later, Bali is unfortunately a victim of its own success as a tourist destination. You can still find the wonderful culture, crafts, and artistry that Bali is known for, but you may want to venture beyond Bali to other islands of Indonesia to find a more “Lonely Planet” experience.
Bali in Pictures (Click for larger view)