We are now at the tail end of our two month stay in Bali. We've spent two months here as part of our ongoing quest to find places to spend bigger chunks of time in the future. How has Bali stacked up?
We knew going in that convenient access back to Perth was going to be a big plus. It's a short flight and there are many direct flights every day.
Next up, climate. I was expecting Bali to be more or less the same as the rest of south east Asia. Hot, humid, occasional short bursts of very heavy rain. Hot and humid is certainly accurate. It has however rained a surprisingly large amount. We've spent wet seasons in south east Asia before and have become accustomed to a short burst of torrential rain, often at the same times every day, followed by hours of clear weather before another precisely timed downpour. In Bali however we've had quite a few days where it has rained on and off all day. The only other place we've encountered so much rain was in Taiwan and that was during a typhoon. When it's not raining it is as lovely and warm as you would expect.
As you can probably guess by the volume of food posts on this site, we really enjoy our food. The local food here is cheap, tasty and easy to find. There are more expensive options available but it's relatively easy to feed yourself for a few dollars. However the food just doesn't quite match the spicy sharpness of Thai food or the rich curries of Malaysia. That said, if you want world class international food, that can be found in spades, particularly around Seminyak and Kerobokan. It will cost you a little more but its certainly possible to get yourself really fantastic Japanese, Mexican, organic raw vegan or whatever else takes your fancy.
We spend a lot of time online and reliable access to the Internet is a non-negotiable requirement. Sadly Internet access is not Bali's strong suit. We know some people based here long term and they've been able to resolve this easily enough by paying for a high speed connection. If however you're reliant on guest houses, cafes etc it is a bit of a struggle. Wifi is readily available almost everywhere but everyone's Internet connection seems to go away a lot. In particular every time it rains.
Public transport is non-existent as is typical of anywhere in the region outside of major cities like Bangkok. There are however abundant taxis and renting a scooter is easy and affordable.
Due to the large amount of foreigners living here supermarkets carry a large range of international products. There's a decent chance you'll be able to find whatever products you're missing from home. And yes, Vegemite is easy to find.
Walking anywhere is remarkably unpleasant. In a more walking friendly environment Tanya and I will often cover 5 or 10 kilometres a day. While in Bali we've rarely walked more than a few blocks. Walking wasn't so bad in Candidasa, Legian (pictured above) and Ubud although it was never great. Kerobokan and Sanur away from the beach are like someone is trying to help pedestrians see the error of their ways.
An assumption that no one walks anywhere is unfortunately fairly common throughout south east Asia. Bali seems to have it particularly bad. Frequently footpaths don't exist at all. That's ok if there is a shoulder allowing you to get out of the flow of traffic. In places, zero room has been left between buildings and the space occupied by moving vehicles.
The excitement of walking in the traffic is supplemented by the challenge of avoiding great holes in the ground leading down into storm drains and who knows where else. The combination of holes big enough to consume a person and unlit streets mean that night time strolls require your full concentration. At times, riding a scooter has felt safer than walking which is saying something considering the traffic.
Massages are easily available at very reasonable prices. As always, quality varies enormously but there are some great massages to be had in Bali. All you need to do is slog through the trying process of getting massage after massage. Such an ordeal… 😀
Accommodation certainly isn't difficult to come by. There are thousands of places to stay. Everything from hotels to guesthouses to villas. It's not super cheap particularly for short term accommodation but there are plenty of reasonably priced options available for both short and long stays. There are some real bargains to be had at the long term end of the market.
If you're looking for activities like yoga and meditation then Ubud could very definitely be the place for you. That's not really our speed.
Bali is also blessed with an array of excellent surf beaches. Surfing is also not really our thing.
So, when all is said and done, what do we think? Bali is certainly a workable location. The Internet situation and the difficulty in going for a walk come close but nothing outright rules it out. There are no major deal breakers. Its just that, aside from proximity to Perth, there's nothing that really sets it apart or attracts us to it (maybe it would if we were big on yoga or surfing). The climate is ok. The food is ok. Transport is ok. Accommodation is ok. We could certainly spend a lot of time here and have a pleasant enough life. There's just nothing here that particularly excites us. I've never had a “I'm so glad I'm here” moment in Bali.
Maybe we'll be back to Bali. I certainly don't bear it any ill will. But I wouldn't be surprised if we're not back for quite some time. It's a big world filled with infinite possibilities, why settle for just ok?