Bali is one of those places you read about in books and magazines. You see it on TV and on YouTube but never think you'll actually end up there.... challenge accepted!
When we planned our trip to Indonesia, I pictured being on an island that's isolated from the modern world where we can just kick back and relax. In reality, it was almost nothing like that. Indonesia is the 4th most populous country in the world and almost the whole island of Bali is filled with people. There are small patches of nature and isolation, but they are really small, and that's where you see all of those famous Bali photos. We took a drive up north through the majority of the island and I pictured us being on an empty road in the middle of nowhere for most of that ride. That never happened. We were side by side with other bikes and cars the whole way.
We started off in Seminyak and then ended up spending most of our time in Ubud. Seminyak had more of a beach vibe and Ubud was in the rice fields where we had a villa with our own private pool! As you can see from the next aerial photo, we were literally in the middle of a rice field which is one of the few isolated places we went while in Bali.
When most Instagramers think of Bali, they think of those famous gates in the mountains. Naturally, we had to go check it out. This was a true realization for me of what Bali is becoming. Everything I read about these gates said that it's essentially the entrance to a golf club and sometimes people try to ask for money for tourists to see it, but its actually free. By the time we went, there was a tent set up outside with people charging 2,000 Rupiah to park your bike there. It's only about 15 cents American, but it's the principle of the direction this place seems to be going. The boost of visitors on this island is making the locals take advantage of tourists, which in my book is a turn off.
My favorite thing about Bali was all the waterfalls. After seeing how touristy and crowded places have become, we decided to trek up north to Banyumala Waterfall. The harder a place is to get to, the more likely you are to have it to yourself. This place was no joke. After a 2.5 hour ride from Ubud, there is the sketchiest 10-15 minute ride on a super hilly and narrow trail that partly cement and part dirt. If we didn't ride the 2.5hrs to get there, we probably would've just turned around. It was no joke. However, after that ride plus the 15 minute hike to the falls, it was totally worth it! There were a handful of people there at most and it was easily one of the most epic waterfalls we've ever been to.
After renting motorbikes in Thailand last year, I knew we had to do it again in Bali. It's by far the best way to get around, it's a great way to feel like a local. We paid around $6 a day for a bike, so it's one of the less expensive options for commuting as well. Be sure to have some biking experience since they could be dangerous if you don't know how to ride, and be sure to ride with long sleeves and sun block. I made the mistake in Phuket last year of not doing so and on the second day of our trip I had a pretty bad case of sun poisoning on my arms from being out in the sun all day unprotected.
Even though I complained about how touristy Bali has become, it's still a must see island to visit. It's super cheap, full of culture, and totally an experience worth the 24 hour flight from New York. I would highly recommend Bali to a "beginner" traveler or someone maybe heading out of the country for their first time. I only say this because it's hard to be lost or unsafe since its easy to find yourself with other tourists.
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