We've been in Bali for about five days now and have been mostly in the so called cultural center of Ubud and one night in some horrific beach town in the south filled with middle aged Australians dancing frenetically to Bob Marley covers delivered in slurred English. There is a lot to say about Bali, not all good, but I think Ariel puts it best in his email to family back in Miami:

"Hey guys, 

Bali is great but too damn expensive and touristy.  There's a lot of things that I hate about it, but it's so damn pretty at times that you really want to stay for years.  On the other hand, the locals are cash fiends and most people want nothing from you except for money, and that obviously leaves a bad taste in your mouth.  Bali is best if you're an indulgent, naive person willing to spend at least a hundred dollars US a day.  Backpackers it seems, deserted this bitch a long time ago and won't be coming back anytime soon.  

Out of all the places we've been to in Southeast Asia, Bali is the least friendly to it's tourists, (especially those who aren't desperately and stupidly throwing away money) and that's not a great feeling when you're on vacation and genuinely interested in the culture you've come to explore.  Bali is best it seems, for rich old ladies who think "Eat Pray Love" is the greatest story ever told, or people who've never been to asia before and never want to come back after.  Sometimes it feels about as hokey and removed from any reality as the World Showcase in Epcot center.  At present, I sit somewhere between moderately happy and terribly underwhelmed.  And nearly broke."

I'd also like to add: where is this money going?  Every single tourist facility in Bali overcharges (and occasionally just cheats tourists) dramatically, but the basic infrastructure here is below that of anywhere in Java, more comparable to Sumatra.  My father told me that the Balinese say that beggars on the island are from Java, but that is total nonsense.  Outside of tourist zones, the Balinese use poor roads, throw trash literally everywhere, have sidewalks with gaping holes and have large amounts of dogs with mange and disease wandering around.  Besides hostility, what lasting effects has tourism actually brought?

More on this later, as I formulate a more fair assessment of the place.  On a positive note, the temples, culture, babi guleng (roast pork) and especially music are magnificent.


ArielĂ­simo said...

ross altered a few minor details in my email for politeness' sake. the fourth sentence in my email actually reads "bali is best if your an indulgent, self obsessed, faux spiritual, vapid and naive person willing to spend at least $100US a day." but he found that too mean to post. i stand by my observation full heartedly.

Silvia Elena said...


that's what i suspected, but it's horrible to know that it's true:( I swear, rich white people ruin everything.

ArielĂ­simo said...

it's not that rich white poeple ruin everything, it's that white poeple on vacation don't care about overpaying for absolutely everything when they're on vacation. bali is undeniably beautiful, but the toursits suck. it seems to me that bali gets two kinds of toursits, once is the neo-colonialists who think they can relate to "native cultures" and in reality just relish being served bu shorter, poorer people. the second type is the party-goer who loves prices just slightly cheaper than their native country and spend all their time and energy pretending they're somewhere other than where they actually are.
what are three curious, underfunded backpackers to do?

ross said...

Three curious, underfunded backpackers can go back to Java.

Anonymous said...

Here are some travel-related quotes I thought you and your traveling companions might enjoy:

"You perceive I generalize with intrepidity from single instances. It is the tourist's custom. " -Mark Twain

"Travelers are like poets. They are mostly an angry race." -Sir Richard Burton

"To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries." -A. Huxley

"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one's own country as a foreign land." -Gilbert Chesterton


Anonymous said...


It really sounds like you're having a memorable vacation!
I'm enjoying reading about your experiences.

On this day of my summer vacation I traveled to the exotic West Village and had my teeth cleaned...not quite as exciting as your Indonesian experience, but I DID see a street vendor with a table full of carved Bali crap.

Last week I travelled with Tracey, Mom and Dad to see Thomas Jefferson's Montecello. It's a very American place, full of dichotomies and optimism. The house felt smaller and simpler than I'd expected. If contemporary Americans were to build what we thought a founding fathers home should look like the result would be three times larger and not nearly as subtle as the real thing.