If I am honest I have never had a burning desire to visit Indonesia, perhaps due to its proximity to Australia it just always seemed accessible and therefore one of those countries I planned on visiting later in life. However, to celebrate my acceptance to university and the start of a new chapter in my life, Mum and I took a quick mother daughter trip to Bali in January of 2009.
Bali proved to be a different style of holiday for me. First of all I am typically someone who likes to be on the go all the time so I found it challenging to unwind and just relax by the pool day in and day out. Not to worry though, by the end I had found my groove. Also because of my colouring I avoid beach based holidays as I just don’t enjoy exposing myself to the sun, feeling self conscious and having to deal with the freckly and burnt aftermath. But sometimes you just have to get over yourself and live a little.
I highly recommend everyone to include Indonesia when traveling through Asia. The locals are absolutely lovely, it is highly cost effective and the country has more to offer than the rowdy streets of Kuta. In order to experience traditional Indonesia, Ubud is the place to venture to. The area’s network of villages offer beautiful Balinese home furnishings, local art and artisan products. Every community specialises in a particular craft and the children are instructed from a young age in the particular craft pertaining to their village i.e. art, sewing, pottery etc. I was highly impressed with the level of talent and inspired at the same time to get back into drawing.
Where is the best place to stay?
Selecting accommodation in Bali is entirely influenced by the type of vacation experience you are after. For tourists wanting to enjoy the party lifestyle, nightlife and surf, Kuta is the venue for you. Without a doubt it is Indonesia’s primary tourist hot spot but by no means is it a quiet or clean paradise. If I am frank, I found the area quite confronting and upsetting due to the behaviour of holiday makers. The level of disrespect I saw exhibited towards the local culture and Balinese people was just down right shameful and racist. I understand we all want to have fun when we are abroad, but there is a fine line between fun and debauchery.
On the contrary for tourists wanting to experience a more tranquil scene, Seminyak offers a range of waterfront hotels and villas. Having stayed at the Royal Beach Seminyak which is right on the oceans doorstep I truly felt transported to paradise. It was the best hotel I have ever had the pleasure of staying at and is worth considering for honeymooners or couples looking for a romantic weekend away. For the single ladies like me, it doesn’t get any better then sipping on delicious cocktails by the pool buried in a good book and soaking up life’s peaceful moments. I cannot commend the staff enough at Royal Beach Seminyak for their friendliness, professionalism and warm welcome.
Do I need a visa to enter Indonesia?
Foreign nationals from select countries are able to remain in Indonesia on a 30 day visa which is effective from your day of entry into Indonesia. The Visa on Arrival is organized in the customs hall and the waiting time can be substantial. The VOA costs US $35.00 but upon my entry to Indonesia I was able to settle the amount in Australian currency. However, I would advise always having this mandated amount on your person as authorities are within their rights to deny other forms of currency, particularly if the US dollar is strong at that point in time.
What measures should I take to protect my luggage?
Like most people, I always lock my back when I travel and have never felt the need to professionally wrap my luggage in plastic for extra security. Unfortunately after entering Indonesia, I advise every tourist to take this precautionary measure. My reason for this is not to be controversial or cause offense, this conclusion is purely observational. As we were waiting in line to have our VOA issued, which took roughly close to an hour, I could see all our luggage coming through on the conveyor belt directly behind the immigration officials.
Passenger bags were exposed to the locals who are permitted to wait in the arrivals hall, who not only move the bags to permit more luggage to come through but they hold onto it and demand to be paid for ‘acting’ as a porter or just simply for returning your luggage to you. Now I am not a stranger to this system and though it frustrates me, it is just one of those things.
What concerned me was that we still had to pass through security and customs where luggage is checked for the importation of illegal goods. I was incredibly uncomfortable that for an hour as we waited for our visas, our bags were vulnerable to be tampered with. As such, wrap your bags in plastic for peace of mind. You can’t change the system but you can look out for yourself. In addition, I advise before traveling anywhere, especially in countries where there are severe penalties for drug offenses, to research if the airport operates in this manner. Again I do not mean to come across as disrespectful as locals are only trying to make a living, I have no issue with that and it is up to the individual how they handle the situation. However, not everyone can be trusted and my safety at the end of the day is my priority and responsibility.
Lastly, as I have Hashimotos’s disease, an autoimmune condition I have to be medicated daily in order to function correctly. So for those like me who also take prescribed medication, I advise you carry a medical certificate with you in your carry on luggage to present to officials.
The good, the bad and the ugly?
The primary issue I would like to discuss here is an activity that Indonesia offers tourists and I am very embarrassed now to say I took part in this… elephant riding. Please just don’t, they aren’t toys, but living creatures who are forced into this way of life for financial gain. It was of interest to me because it is something I wanted to do, so I could show everyone what I did in Bali and how cool and adventurous I was…
As you can there are too many ‘I’s’ in that sentence.
We are all wise in hindsight, now I find the activity to be both cruel and selfish. Elephants are one of my favourite animals which also fueled my decision to participate in this. But Abibi, the beautiful creature that had to lug me around on her back and who knows how many other tourists that day shouldn’t have to be put to work to meet my needs or to make me feel more fulfilled. So please just don’t. I don’t mean to preach, especially given my participation but it’s important to give a voice to those who don’t have one. If you love animals and want to have a personal encounter with these magnificent creatures, many volunteer projects are held in Thailand and South Africa where conservation is the focus, not profit.
Best place to enjoy the surf?
For those looking to learn to surf, Kuta Beach is continually recommended for beginners as the surf is amateur friendly. Also, due to the area’s popularity there are plenty of lifeguards out and about. However, be warned that from Kuta to Seminyak litter not only covers the sand in vast amounts, but the water is filled with rubbish. The more experienced surfer might enjoy looking elsewhere, but keep in mind the presence of life guards might be lacking.
For my fellow equestrians, riding along the black sands of Saba Beach was highly memorable. Yet, this is not an activity I would recommend for riding novices as helmets are not always provided. Usually school horses of this nature are quite placid as they are used to being ridden by various people. Nonetheless, some horses spook easily and being thrown off or forced into a canter when you don’t have the experience to control the horse is highly dangerous and should not be underestimated.
In conclusion, I have long heard that Bali is a place that you will either love or dislike. However, after my own experience I realise it is just a matter of knowing what sort of holiday you are after before venturing to this little paradise and ensuring that the places you stay, the areas you visit and the activities you partake in meet your expectations. Bali is what you make it and if you stay true to what represents your tastes you will love it.