Why Bali is Overrated, and Where to Go Instead
Bali is not paradise
Get rid of any preconceived ideas of what Bali is because chances are it’s not. Bali is not a small tropical Indonesian paradise; it’s a massive island to which 4 million people call home, and it has all the complications inherent to a population of that size.
My favorite part of Bali
My favorite part of Bali was the night I spent in the small fishing village of Tulamben in the northeast. I liked Tulamben because it was removed from much of the chaos and commercialization that is present day Bali (at least when I was there in late 2009.)
To be clear, Tulamben is just as trashed as the rest of the island and I’d hardly call it nice. But at least Tulamben didn’t have motorcars revving their engines at all hours of the night, at least in Tulamben I wasn’t grabbed on the street by solicitors advertising their services, and at least in Tulamben I didn’t feel like I was going to get hit by a car every time I set foot outside.
Get ready for the hard sale
Solicitors are everywhere. You can’t leave your accommodation without being asked if you want transport, massages, or drugs. Eye contact of any kind is an express invitation for your solicitor to continue their hard sell. One masseuse grabbed me and held on as I walked passed her – I had made the mistake of acknowledging her existence. I feel no sense of elitism toward solicitors, and ignoring them goes against my very nature. But it’s simply what you have to do in Bali.
The noise rivals that of India
Bali was the loudest place I went until I visited India, and I don’t mean the pleasant sound of waves crashing against the shoreline. There seems to be an unwritten rule that if it doesn’t make noise, it’s not roadworthy. Expect to hear horns and engines revving at all hours of the day and night.
Even the monkeys suck
I don’t mind monkeys, I really don’t. Hell, most of ’em are kind of cute. Not the ones in Bali, though. They’ll walk right up to you and grab you in hopes of food and drink. Not cool.
This fat monkey stole my water right out of my hand:
Is there anything good about Bali?
Sure! The Balinese people primarily practice Hinduism, a stark difference from Indonesia’s overwhelming Muslim majority. As a result the island is home to some fascinating cultural intricacies, not least among them is some of the best suckling pig on earth. You’ll also find the impromptu dances on the streets, the burning of incense, and the deeply moving, carefully choreographed performances of the local people.
Also, Tanah Lot:
Where to go instead
My trip to Indonesia was short, but with 10,000 islands in the archipelago there’s bound to be a better alternative. I greatly preferred oft-maligned Jakarta to Bali. Maybe the problem is one of misguided expectations. I had ZERO hopes for Jakarta, and while I tried to keep my Bali expectations in check, I couldn’t help but feel excited on arrival.
If it’s a beach paradise you’re after, might I suggest the gorgeous islands dotting Thailand’s Andaman Sea?
Along with Buenos Aires, Bali ranks among my most overrated destinations.