Bali Bali // Oxen Free!
My friend and I went on a girl’s trip to Bali for spring break. Bali is renowned for its sultry weather, sandy beaches, and fine fabrics – with swimwear and apparel designers sourcing their patterns, a bustling artisan industry, a strong surf culture, and a hip place for pop culture icons to vacation or dwell.
If you’re looking for an *easy* beach vacation, Bali is probably not for you. If you’re looking for some adventure and exploring, book your ticket stat.
Ten things to know before you go to Bali:
- It’s hot. Really hot and really humid. 8 degrees south of the equator, this is how it is pretty much year round. Make sure that your hotel has air conditioning. Expect to sweat profusely even when walking short distances. Consider going up into the grassy rice paddied hills for a respite from the blazing coastal humidity to hike, shop, and catch a breeze (Ubud is a visual feast, see below).
- It’s giant. Bali is a giant island. Sometimes the size of an island can be misleading on a map, but this one is a doozy. It’s 1900 square miles; so don’t expect to be able to explore it all on one trip or to be able to drive the perimeter in a day.
- It’s lush. Bali is part of the Coral Triangle, which is also known as the ‘Amazon of the Seas’ for its biodiversity, with 76% of the known coral species in the world, mangrove forests of record-breaking vastness, and the most species of coral reef fishes. As such, it is also the source for a three billion dollar annual fishing industry and a priority for conservation to sustain the unique marine ecosystem. The land animals are similarly profound. Do your research when visiting nature preserves to make sure they are helping animals and not hurting them.
- It’s love. By that I mean the love in Eat, Pray, Love. Tourism specific to this bestseller book and movie abounds particularly in Ubud. If you’re into the kitsch, go for it. If not, don’t. Regardless, there’s also a great eat and pray scene in Bali, so enjoy the cuisine and get your namaste on.
- David Bowie is here. David Bowie requested in his will that his ashes be scattered in Bali in accordance with Buddhist rituals. He had performed in several southeast Asian cities, although I am unclear if this will be his first, albeit posthumous, trip to Bali.
- Rent a Scooter or Hire a Car. Unless you grew up navigating highways of motorbikes, mini cars, and chickens, all moving at over umpteen-too-fast kilometers per hour and weaving in and out of one another without lanes, then do not rent a car. Pay a driver and close your eyes. Really, it’s worth it to have someone who knows the roads show you around. You will get the added benefits of some tour guiding and you will relish the air conditioning. There are different taxi companies, so make sure you see the recognizable logo and make sure to either agree on a flat price beforehand or see that the meter starts when you get in. We hired a driver from our hotel for the day for longer excursions, super reasonable and comparable to your average Uber or Lyft-ing in the U.S. Book a taxi in advance for late night or remote excursions to avoid having to pay extravagant taxi fare.
- It’s not Hawai`i. You may be expecting white sandy beaches out the steps of your beachfront resort. This will not be the case if you are staying in several other spots, i.e. Seminyak. While Seminyak is a great jumping off point for exploring the island – and has picturesque pools, lots of amazing restaurants, and Potato Head Beach club – the beach is dark sand and full of peddlers. Watch a soccer game, enjoy the sunset, buy a kite, but swimming can be dangerous so spend your beach time elsewhere. (Seminyak, Sanur, and Kuta are three of the most popular places to stay on the island on the beach, with Ubud of abundant popularity inland. Venture outside of these areas for a more off the beaten path experience.)
- 10,000 Temples. Bali is teeming full of scenic temples. Be sure to bring your manners and a sense of wonder when exploring these ancient religious sites. Fun Fact: All of Bali’s temples face towards either the mountains, the sea, or the sunrise. The predominant religious influence in Bali is Hinduism, which has been combined with its own Bali-specific unique flavor for local beliefs and practices. Be sure to pack a cute maxi dress or maxi skirt for your temple visits, where you will be provided with a ‘temple scarf’ to tie like a sash around your waist. If your legs, midriff, and/or chest need covering, they will provide a sarong. (Sometime the providers request a donation.) Amidst the sacred ambience at Pura Uluwatu (“Temple on the edge of the cliff”) there was a large family of monkeys who were interested in food or anything shiny; keep your sunglasses and cameras close. At Pura Tanah Lot (“Land [in the] Sea”) temple, the view changes with the tide, turning it into moat encircled castle by high tide, shifting to sandy surroundings as the tide subsides. One of seven sea temples on Bali, Tanah Lot is seeped in Balinese mythology. It is believed that venomous sea snakes guard the temple from intruders and evil spirits.
- Bring cash. You can purchase a 30-day entrance VISA for $35 (US dollars) after you land. There used to be an exit fee as well (airport tax) but it has now been baked into the airfare for your departing flight. Other tips, make sure your U.S. Passport does not expire within 6 months and has space for a few stamps before you depart.
- The real estate market is blowin up. The Indonesian Rupiah has dropped significantly compared to the US dollar, so many people are taking advantage of the opportunity to invest. Get in now if you want your own personal piece of Bali.