Bali was never high on my list of places to visit, as I had shared the same feelings about it that many others do: it’s very touristy. I’d seen so many photos and advertisements for beach clubs, resorts, and yoga retreats, and though it all looks fun, Bali didn’t appeal to me much as an exotic destination.
Boy was I wrong.
I committed to spending January there when Joanna got an internship at a hospital in the main city Denpasar for a part of the winter. We found a place to stay for a couple weeks in the area, and right away I knew we were in for something good. It was a perfect mix of hustle and bustle: the usual organized chaos of any Asian city, along with unique visuals and personalities that had us happy to go on extended walks wandering into different neighborhoods. Once we got out and explored more around the island, we felt totally comfortable everywhere. Walking around I’d get a few weird looks, but right away was followed with a smile and wave “Hello!”. The Balinese are some of the nicest people I’ve ever come across abroad.
If you tell people Bali is all spoiled and touristy, please also tell them where you spent your time, especially if it was in the Kuta / Seminyak / Canngu / Sanur / Ubud combination. Describing it in such a way is like spending a night on Bourbon Street then saying how all of New Orleans is a disgusting shitshow and not worth it. Yes, certain parts feel like you’d be in a predominantly white country, full of shops and cafes and all the amenities that westerners are used to. But in my experience the tourism was concentrated enough to the obvious areas that with just a little effort, you can find some hidden gems all to yourself that will really capture your heart and make you realize why it became such a popular destination in the first place.
My good friend Adam Berg’s dad described it best: “There are many different Balis. There’s touristy Bali, quiet mountains Bali, city hustling Bali, etc”. And I’d say if you didn’t like your Bali, you just have to try and immerse yourself into another one. Here’s a look into mine.