Well for summer vacation this year Tomoko and I decided to travel outside of Japan and so we headed to Bali, Indonesia. Overall the trip was wonderful, great food, plenty of relaxing, no dishes to wash and an absolutely wonderful beach with pretty much perfect waves.
So Tomoko and I spent six days there and all in all it was pretty damn good. Basically Bali is the same as any other beach resort tourist area so I am not going to talk about that aspect of our trip. Essentially the vacation aspect of it was pretty much the same as going to any other beach area for a week, lots of people, drinking, swimming, sunburn, etc. For this article I am going to try and focus on the specifics that make Bali different and also anything unique about our particular trip.
The first thing I would like to mention is that JAL (Japan Airlines) is really god damn sweet! First off the food on the flight was actually quite tasty, better then some meals I've eaten at your standard resturaunts. I personally ate the italian meal they had available and I would argue that it is comparable to Olive Garden or a similarly priced resturaunt, I truly enjoyed the meal, complete with red wine. (see photo below)
The next aspect of JAL which makes it superior to all other airlines is that directly in front of you is a small screen complete with a movie list, video games and other interactive software to mess around with. Each person is able to watch their own video whenever they would like, or they can play a myriad of video games including mario, tetris and about 40 other games. The movie list as well was quite extensive containing roughly 50 titles, including, "Iron Man", Spider-man trilogy, Lord of the Rings, Batman, "Kung-fu Panda", and obviously many many others.
As far as JAL goes, I dont ever want to fly on another airlines again and NorthWest can suck a big fat one because they fail so badly in comparison it amazes me their still in business. If JAL were to open shop in the US, it would absolutely be the end of the U.S. airlines industry.
In conclusion, JAL: 1, Everyone Else: Kill yourselves, you're an embarrassment to the airlines industry, you should be ashamed of yourselves. With that being said, lets get on with it and discuss Bali, it is the reason why you clicked this link after all.
Bali is an amazing place but I must admit it isn't quite as good as I expected and its not because I saw all of Bali and was disappointed, but more like, I wanted to see all of Bali but couldn't. The parts of Bali we did see were great and you can check them all out in the Bali photo album. So the real question is, why couldn't we see the real Bali and sadly its mainly because of the Balinese people, or atleast their general persception of tourists. Of course its not ALL Balinese people (as is the case with Jering) but most treat foreigners/tourists not as people but as bank accounts.
Inside the hotel we were more or less considered within a sanctuary or safe zone, merchants weren't allowed to enter those areas since its private property and you could enjoy a relaxing, quiet atmosphere with the other guests. Naturally however you don't visit a foreign country to spend a week in your hotel, so of course we wanted to venture out and see real Balinese people, easier said then done.
As soon as you depart from the hotel it doesn't take long before merchants are shouting for you to come see their shop and purchase cheap tourist junk that you couldn't care less about. In all honesty their isn't a moments rest from the on-slaught of "buy this, buy that, 5$, 3$, $2.50, fine 1$". It's literally never ending.
Tomoko and I were given two seperate tours as part of the package deal for setting up vacation through a travel agent (Tomoko's friend works there). So we went on the first tour which allowed us to see the Barong Dance which was pretty damn cool and a great display of Balinese culture. Afterwards however the good experience was tainted when the bus stops at its final destination, a shopping mall for tourists. Granted this is expected for a travel agency and it didn't really bother me at first. So from the Duty Free shop - mall, you have to sign up to get on a different bus to ride back to your hotel. Well Tomoko and I don't really shop so we could careless about buying shit we don't need and just decided to roll back to the hotel and swim. The bus runs every hour on the hour and the current time was 12:50pm. Perfect we thought, we can catch the 1:00 and be back to the hotel in no time. However the women at the desk said, oh sorry the next bus isn't till 2:00pm so please spend an hour here. Well here is the bullshit, the next bus was at 1:00 and it was by no means full. We could have easily rode that bus but they want you to spend an hour bored doing nothing at the DFS so that eventually you'll buy something. Annoyed and not wanting to waste time doing shit we didn't care to (shopping), we took our name off the bus list and decided to get a taxi. A taxi from the DFS to the hotel was 2$ and we got there in less than 10 minutes. The women at the shop wasn't at all interested in making our stay enjoyable, helping us return to the hotel, or in our interests. She wanted to spend an hour in the god damn mall, wasting our time, in hopes that we'd become bored sooner or later and breakdown and buy some stupid shit. Dammit that pissed me off, and still does.
The bullshit doesn't really end there, on the 2nd bus tour which took us to the rice terrace (see Bali-Album) we were scheduled to stop at a "rest location" where we could use the restroom before heading back. Naturally the "rest location" is a god damn jewelry store, and as soon as you step into the building an employee shadows your every move constantly informing you of prices and "package deals" he can work for you. Not for one second can you have a moment of quiet and converse with your friend, husband or wife about purchases you might be interested without being bombarded by a salesman entirely too eager to make a sell. The assault of "buy buy buy" is just so god damn annoying, even when I wanted to buy something I wouldn't just because the experience was too un-fucking pleasant, I don't want to support such behavior by the clerks.
The last example has to do with a shopping experience in the Ubud martket which is quite far from the beach. We went there twice, once on Tuesday and again on Friday - for the cooking class. On Tuesday we bought Nutmeg for something like 5$ for 10 nuts. On Friday when we went with the Balinese woman (our teacher chef) we were able to buy 20 nuts for less than 1$. Which brings me to my point, that nearly everyone in Bali is out to rip off the foriegn guests. Especially annoying if you're like me and you don't care for shopping in the first place.
Left - Bikes are popular, Center - 3 Person bike, Right - Fruit Breakfast!
The dishonest nature and continuous onslaught to buy displayed by the merchants is a real turn off to visiting the country. Sadly those aren't the only examples either, even taxi drivers can be guilty. Tomoko and I took a taxi from some place back to our hotel and the ride was about $2.50, I gave the driver a 5$ (my smallest bill at the time) and the I n c r e d i b l y slow rate at which he returned my change was no mistake. Compounded by the fact that he started with the smallest bills. Fuck was it ever annoying. Furthermore if there is ever a moment of free time a driver won't hesitate to offer to take you to a "good place" which inevitibly is some bullshit shop which most certainly sells "hand made" goods fresh from the machine factories in China.
Thankfully however not everyone is like this and two examples include the guy who runs the climbing wall in a rather deserted shopping mall, and Jering who we heard about from a friend. The climbing wall guy, runs a climbing school for school students which operates in the afternoon after the kids finish class. He offered us to climb for free since he could see our interest in climbing and also invited to go climbing with him that weekend, although we couldn't since it was the day we were leaving. He was both genuine, and kind and a real pleasure to talk with. We later discovered why the mall area was so empty of people, it turns out that, that place is rather close to the location of the 2005 terroist bombing by a militant Islamic group. Religion ruins it for everyone, yet agian.
Jering was another wonderful individual we got to meet on our trip. We were told he does day tours for about 40$ for tourists. So we hired him to take us to our cooking class and back and show us whatever other sites he would recommend. He was awesome, when he found out how much we were paying to do cooking class, he told us next time we come to Bali to stay with him and we can cook with his wife at his house. He also said he could find us a place nearby to stay at so we could easily hang out with him and his family for a week. He took us to the only temple we were able to see and was a real joy to spend time with. Furthermore he also explained about many aspects of Balinese culture and lifestyle. I absolutely recommend contacting him if you intend to go to Bali, because he can get you much better deals on anything, than you can yourself and he's also an incredibly wonderful person. He is the most genuine person I met in Bali and I intend to go back there, solely because we met him.
His contact information is as follows:
Mobile: 081 558099330
If you do go to Bali let him know you got his information from me and he'll be sure to show you the best parts of Bali. His picture is in the Bali album, he's the guy with his arm around me, the other gentleman is his brother.
A few miscellanous notes about the trip. Wherever you go, there are a lot of guards, which I guess could be good considering it would be safer than if there were no guards but I must admit it does make one feel a bit uneasy. Everytime a car enters the hotel area the passanger's bags are checked, they open the doors of the car and check inside, and walk around the outside with a mirror to check under the car. Furthermore in any public area there is bound to be a guard walking around. (see pictures below).
The next miscellanous aspect were kites. Giant kites, some of which were 10 meters long were flying in the sky pretty much everywhere. It turns out they are used to celebrate the independence of Indonesia. And the last misc. aspect is statues. Bali has no resources and pretty much no way of making money other than tourism so nearly every shop that isn't for tourism makes statues, either for family temples, public temples, or hotels. Dammit were there a lot of statues.
Center - Kites, Bottom - Statue
Bali is great, I'm glad I went and Tomoko and I had a good time, people always do on vacation. However if we hadn't met Jering I couldn't say that I would be happy to go back again. Overall the trip was much like any other beach area and I could have had just as much at a beach in Japan or in the U.S. It was a good trip because I had never been to Bali so it was a first for me but outside a rather small population of Balinese, Bali has just been overcome with tourism and if it wasn't for the anxiety of going somewhere for the first time or having met good people through friends, it would have been a rather frustrating journey. Overall I'd say if you are going to go to Bali, go and visit someone you know, if you don't know anyone Jering is a great guy and will make you feel at home and welcomed very well. If you just go and leave it up to chance you might find the trip more stressful than relaxing.