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Summary – Bali, Indonesia

By on September 2, 2015 in Indonesia

Fantastic place. Beautiful island with a real laid back feel. I can see why it has the reputation it does for being one of the relaxation destinations of the world. However, it isn’t all relaxation because if you want to get from point A to point B, you will feel your stress levels rise.

Roads

The roads in Bali are narrow once you get out of the main city of Denpasar. In most places, the roads are barely wide enough for two cars to pass, and in a lot of places, they are so narrow as to make it impossible to overtake a motorbike if a car is coming in the opposite direction.

Two other points to keep in mind about the roads on Bali. First, the state of repair of some roads means they are very bumpy, and on one occasion we had to turn around and find an alternative route as the road surface was so broken it was impossible to go on. Second, fields and villages came first, so as a result a lot of roads tend for have straight sections, followed by a 90-degree corner, followed by another straight section, as the road skirts around a field. That is, the roads are following the old boundaries of the rice fields. Hence, if you are driving at night (and street lighting tends to be very poor or non-existent) then watch out for those sudden blind corners.

Driving

Driving is fairly crazy, particularly if you are not used to sharing the road with a lot of motorbikes/scooters. My advice, hire a taxi for a day of exploring at a fixed price, which depending on what you want to do, will be from 300,000 – 800,000 Indonesian rupiah (£15 – £40 UK; $22-$60 US), as it will mean you will get to see the countryside, and you will get a driver that knows how to get to where you want to go.

Taxi

Every other local you pass in the street seems to be a taxi driver. I have never encountered so many taxi drivers in one place.  I had pre-booked my taxi before I arrived – Ubud Taxi – and so I was all set for the airport pick-up and drop-off. I also used Ubud Taxis for all my trips around Bali.  We had agreed a pickup times, itinerary, and price before I had arrived on the island. Ubud Taxis were at pains to point out that they were not a guide and just a driver. Ubud Taxi can be reached on info@ubudtaxi.com, and I can recommend them.

Scooters, mopeds, and Motorbikes

These are everywhere. And I mean everywhere.

The best drivers are the locals who seem to take to the road around the age of 14 (although the law says 17), and the worst drivers are the visitors who seem to get to the island, hire a bike, and then go mad on the roads. I had more close calls with foreigners whipping around corners and down alleyways than I did with the locals. There are a lot of companies around hiring scooters and mopeds to visitors.

Helmets should be worn by law, but appear to be optional, the maximum number of people per scooter/moped/motorbike is two, although 3 per bike are regularly seen, four often seen, and I saw one 5 per bike.

If you do hire a scooter or moped and are running low on petrol, then you will find that most shops seem to sell it by the litre bottle.

Petrol for sale in bottles

Petrol for sale in bottles

Food

Fantastic and cheap. Great range of food available from vegan to meat eater. All the food I had was very good, and very cheap. Lots of lovely fresh fruits and vegetables available at small road side stands, and in local shops.

Breakfast in the hotel was good, and as I was leaving early for my flight before breakfast was served, they insisted on sending me on my way with a breakfast box…

My packed breakfast

My packed breakfast

Culture

I am still coming to terms with the culture as it was a real mix, and not really anything else I had experienced in SE Asia.

I was struck by the importance of religion, and I don’t think I have ever been anywhere with so many temples and small shrines. In fact, in some villages I drove through nearly every house seemed to have a shrine, and most villages seemed to have one or two temple complexes. Even the hotel I stayed at had two shrines.

Interestingly some of the temples seem to have fallen into disuse, and in my drives around the island, I saw some temples where the internal structures seem to be collapsing, and the steps and walkways over-grown with weeds.

Countryside

Beautiful. The major crop in Bali seems to be rice, and everywhere I went in the countryside there were acres of rice fields with new green shoots. This gave the fields a most amazing fresh green look, which just added to the beauty of the countryside.

Temples

Temples face South. Different coloured clothes are placed on the east and west pillars.

Summary

I enjoyed my stay in Bali, and it was far too short, and I am already thinking about how I can go back one day for a longer stay and a more in-depth exploration of the island.

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Nick's continued wanderings can be followed on Twitter: @nickswanderings.
 

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