It was such a relief to return from Bali. Years of hearing nothing but good things
about the island, my husband and I eagerly anticipated our two month trip
there. From the beginning, it was a disappointment. Arriving on the Eve of
Nyepi Day (the Balinese New Year), we were confined to our hotel for the full
following day, under penalty of fine and/or imprisonment.
Surely, we had
the wrong impression of the island, so days later, we fled to the mountain town of Ubud, one and a half hour's drive from Kuta Beach. This is the cultural
capital of Bali, and we expected an unhasseled week in lush green
Again, we were thrown off balance by what we encountered.
Walking around Ubud proved to be somewhat of an obstacle course, as the
sidewalks themselves seemed to be in various states of disrepair. Every
few feet they dipped drastically eighteen inches only to abruptly rise
again. Far too often, whole squares of the sidewalks were missing
altogether, exposing the town's stinking open drains, filled with
garbage. One had to be careful not to step on the numerous street dogs who
were sleeping the full breadth of the sidewalk. These dogs were so
desperately ill that many walked with flopping broken legs or had large,
Hindu statue in lily pond
Monkey Forest Road in the center of the town of Ubud was
jam packed with traffic that barely moved. Street side restaurants had the
constant smell of diesel or garbage, and the sound of dog fights or
pinging motorbikes. In the nine days we spent there it was raining,
fixing to rain, or it had just rained, and everything was drenched and
Getting out of town for a tour of the rice paddies also
pressed our patience. Averaging six miles per hour for four hours behind
belching diesel trucks, these narrow roads groaned under the their current
usage. The infrastructure just cannot support the traffic here. On our
short trip out of town we saw chickens and pigs in the back of trucks
going to market. These animals were shoved and cramped into the
tiniest of cages imaginable. Where the chickens stuck their heads out to
get air, the feathers were all rubbed off their necks (how long were they
IN there?) and some were even dead, hanging out the side of the
cage... I wonder, were those chickens sold for food
in town proved to be unrewarding as well.
Bargaining, of course, is common
in many cultures. However, in the asking price, usually there is some
semblance of reason. Here we found the beginning price of many items
(shirts, watches, paintings) to be five to seven times what we paid in
Thailand. Prices would also vary depending on whether I carried my camera or
If we did not purchase, we were often harassed, with vendors following us
down the street shouting at us. In quieter conversations with local Balinese, I found
that they seemed to have an exaggerated impression of our financial
situation. I wear no wedding rings, no jewelry at all, and only glass
earrings. My clothes are quite simple. Yet these Balinese would ask me
questions such as "do I spend a million dollars in one year?"
Outside influences seemed to have given them the wrong impression of life
outside of Bali.
We found many hotel prices listed in U.S. dollars instead of
the local Rupiah. These prices varied wildly from $4 U.S. to $140 U.S. per
night. Often if we showed disinterest in the room due to its rate,
immediately the price was reduced, sometimes in half! Many times we felt
"sized up" and then a price was stated. It was an unpleasant
feeling, and I caution others to not accept the first price given, even by
After nine uncomfortable, rainy days in Ubud, we headed
for Kuta with the ultimate plan of leaving as soon as possible. Kuta was
more developed than Ubud. Though there was still garbage in standing water
breeding mosquitoes, and used syringes, plastic bottles and bags on the
beach, it was much cleaner overall than Ubud.
Traffic was unbelievably congested with cars, trucks and motorbikes
going two directions in alleys eight feet wide. Vendors continued to
harass us, and offer their outrageous starting prices. But the weather had
at least turned sunny. It took us four days to arrange our leaving plans,
and we were looking forward to our early return to
Speaking for me, I was saddened. Rarely
am I not able to adjust to new places and enjoy where I am. Bali seemed to
be in an identity crisis, a temperamental teenager in a tantrum, refusing to
clean up her room. Certainly she is experiencing growing pains, and she
flatly refused to show us her charms.
Yes, the people there are quite poor.
That was not the problem so much as the filth being everywhere. One
can be poor and still wash their hands (fingernails were uniformly black),
and pick up garbage in front of their store or home.
If you still want to visit Bali, I would
recommend finding a decent Resort Hotel with a swimming pool, and order
Recommended Places to Stay
(Prices quoted in U.S. dollars.)
hotels in Bali include breakfast with the room rate. Be sure to ask.
Sri Ratu Cottages, Kuta Beach firstname.lastname@example.org Cottages and
single rooms. Clean. Swimming pool, air con, restaurant. Weekly discount.
Rates $13.50-$35 per night. Ask for Lilis
Suji Bungalow, Kuta Beach Sujibglw@sujibglw.co.id Single rooms and
bungalows. Clean. Swimming pool, air con, restaurant. Rates $17-$35 per
Oka Wati, Ubud Okawati@dps.centrin.net.id Single rooms, suites.
Balinese art in the rooms. Clean. Swimming pool, air con, restaurant.
Rates $25-$100 per night. Weekly and monthly discount available. Ask for
Lotus Bungalows, Candi Dasa Beach (These are a chain, and a travel
agent would be able to locate them easily.) Single rooms, cottages. Clean.
Swimming pool, air con, restaurant. Rates $25-$50 per night.
Editor's note: These
prices are quoted from a decade ago, so things could easily have changed.