Mention “Bali” to some Australians, and they’ll cringe like it’s a dirty word. That’s because bogans (Australian rednecks) have given it a bad reputation. As the closest and cheapest tropical getaway, they swarm the bars and beaches of the city of Kuta in droves to get wasted and vomit in the streets. Imagine dads covered in tats, moms with beer bellies and their kids with rattails… No thank you! We unquestioningly followed the advice of our friends who visited Bali last year (on their own RTW adventure, in fact) and raced to Lovina on the opposite end of the island. If even half of what we heard of Kuta was true, Lovina must be the complete opposite.
We stayed in a quaint bed and breakfast called Villa Belindo a few kilometers outside of Lovina Central. Our hosts, Wim and Niken, treated us like welcomed friends, and for the first time since our adventure began, we finally got a taste of delicious home-cooked meals–all prepared with fresh, organic ingredients straight from their own kitchen. Wim and Niken even spent a day with us riding on the back of their motorcycles to introduce us to the non-touristic side of Bali. But the great thing about this time of year is it’s the low season anyway, so even at the popular sites we were often the only tourists. It was an amazing cultural immersion exploring religious temples, strolling through small villages and gazing at natural wonders without the distraction of fellow travelers.
When it comes to tropical islands, we can easily see ourselves coming back to Bali, now more than French Polynesia. First of all, it was not as oppressively hot and humid; secondly, there were hardly any mosquitoes; and thirdly, it is brimming with beauty and culture. Something we do worry about with Bali and Indonesia, though, is that they’re economy is going downhill, and their “fix” is to attract ever increasing numbers of tourists. It seems questionable if their current infrastructure can sustainably handle an extra million visitors per year, given that consumer garbage alone is accumulating faster than anyone can clean it up (if there are even attempts to do so). We’ll see when we return in a few years…