Things That Will Surprise First-time Visitors in Bali

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.

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The true Bali, with its rituals, festivals and ancient culture, is everywhere you look. Picture source: kabardewata.com

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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 home ware stores, silver jewellery and antiques can al be found.  Many of the items cost what they do back home, so hunt around for sales.

6. 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. It’d be like visiting Surfers Paradise during schoolies and writing off the whole of Australia. Some Balinese who’ve had the dubious pleasure of mixing it with Australians on holiday in Kuta think we’re all like that. Show them it’s not true.

7. Have cash ready when you land in Bali
You’ll need $US35 for a visa on arrival in Bali (at least for a little longer). They say they don’t take credit card, but last time I played ignorant and they processed my MasterCard. At least your country included in the list 168 countries that receive a 30 day Indonesia free visa upon arrival.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. There’s truly gob-smacking scenery
Get out of the main tourist areas, and see Bali’s World Heritage-listed rice terraces, 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.

11. You will feel like a millionaire
The exchange rate means $AU100 is equivalent to about 1 million Rupiah, 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.

12. 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.

13. There’s truly gob-smacking scenery
Get out of the main tourist areas, and see Bali’s World Heritage-listed rice terraces, 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.

14. You will be back
Once Bali gets under your skin, don’t be surprised to find yourself returning again and again. Some Australians holiday there annually: others never come back home (Bali is full of Australian ex pats). There’s something magical, ethereal and beautiful about Bali. Be sure to get out beyond your hotel and find it.

15. 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.

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Source: traveller.com.au / Author:

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