Bali Travel Tips & Advice

Dec 17th, 2007, in IM Posts, Opinion, Travel, by

Tips and advice for travelling in Bali, by Dewaratugedeanom.

Travel Warnings

Following the suggestion of iamisaid (another commenter in this blog) in his opinion piece "Travel Horrors" I would like to submit a surat pembaca published in the Bali Post of April 11, 2006 by a Balinese individual whom I suppose to be a member of the Indonesian police force.

As the letter was published in Bahasa Indonesia I took the liberty to translate it into English for those who are less familiar with our national idiom. Coming from an Indonesian citizen with a public function I consider the message ample food for thought. Therefore I will refrain from adding my own comments except for some advice for the benefit of visitors to our beautiful island.

Experiences from accompanying visitors in Penelokan.

Last March 29, 2006 around 14.30h I came to the 'obyek wisata' (officially recognized tourist site) of Penelokan, Kintamani, Bangli accompanying a group of 4 guests from South Korea, 1 adult woman with 3 small children of less than 10 years of age, to enjoy the beauty of the Gunung Batur volcano and its Batur lake.

As soon as she stepped out of the car tens of hawkers surrounded my guest, offering their merchandise in a rather obtrusive manner so that my guest felt disturbed and didn't have a chance to enjoy the beauty of the scenery. Hoping not to be bothered any longer, my guest bought several goods that were offered for sale. But after buying these items the hawkers did not go away but on the contrary came in even greater numbers.

The problems started when a hawker came who offered a chessboard for sale.

In order to attract the attention of my guest the salesman in question offered a chessboard that he wanted to sell to my guest at the price of $1. However, when my guest paid the price that was offered she wasn't given the chessboard but only one of its pawns. Thinking that she was fooled by the merchant, my guest felt disappointed and quickly wanted to get into the car.

The chessboard hawker followed us to our car and prevented her from closing the door while he kept on forcing her to buy his merchandise for the price of $30. My guest said she didn't have this amount of money, but our hawker ordered her to withdraw the money while he pointed at an ATM terminal on the other side of the road.

This situation caused my guest, who is a woman, and the children to become increasingly afraid. Then I asked the hawker to let us close the door and leave, so we could continue our scheduled tour program for fear of being late because that day coincided with 'pengerupukan' (the evening before Nyepi, the Balinese New Year).

It wasn't an answer that I got, but blows on my face and my body from more than three men, friends of the chessboard hawker. One of them took me by the collar of my shirt while he threatened me with a knife and told me that he was going to take out my bowels. This situation was witnessed directly by my guests. They were extremely frightened and cried all the way back. Unfortunately there was not one security guard on the premises, not even in the guard house at the entrance gate.

I hope that the government of Kabupaten Bangli and all parties concerned will undertake the necessary improvements and redress the situation in respect to the hawkers who operate in the Kintamini tourist area. If they leave it like it is now it's not impossible that the Kintamani obyek wisata will undergo the same fate as Besakih or Trunyan, beautiful but uninteresting.

I Nyoman Gatot Wiradnya
Asrama Polri Kreneng,
Denpasar

Some advice for travellers to Bali.

  • Try to avoid official obyek wisata and all places listed in the Lonely Planet, unless you are in a big enough party to withstand the hassle. Bear in mind that the only thing that counts in those places is your money. Train at home in running the gauntlet.
  • Don't expect too much of scenic beauty in downtrodden places. Most of the beauty has already been obscured and hidden by shacks and concrete (e.g. the Ceking rice terraces). Like the Balinese turn your gaze upwards and don't look down too often; rubbish usually collects downstairs in ditches and ravines.
  • Be prepared to pay for everything that bears the title "holy". While it is true that temples need money for upkeeping, monkey forests don't.
  • If a Balinese tries to cajole you into buying real estate (and believe me, they will), put plugs in your ears, run away or punch him in the nose because every deal ends up in making him rich and you having bought only a piece of paper.
  • When doing business bear in mind that many Balinese have been spoilt by easy tourist dollars and sometimes lack any sense of proportion when making offers. Javanese and other Indonesians usually take on a more realistic approach.
  • For those who are not adventurous, stay in your hotel, sip at a mojito or have a massage by the pool and enjoy the sunset. Sunsets are still for free, mojitos and massages are not.
  • For the intrepid and those with enough time, try to get acquainted with genuine Balinese families. If you find one that besides your money has also an interest in your persona, stick with them. They will show you places and let you experience events beyond your wildest imagination.
  • If by chance you discover "pearls" of dreamland beauty, shut up, enjoy the view and never mention it to anybody. Next time you visit, the place might be swarmed with thong-clad Aussies, hawkers and tukang ojek, or fenced in by developers and investment brokers for villas and condominiums.

More to come with "jual-beli ekor" (cattle marketing).

Om santi santi santi om.


38 Comments on “Bali Travel Tips & Advice”

  1. avatar timdog says:

    That’s it Dewa! Thank you!

  2. avatar Shloka says:

    What a coincidence!
    My aunt’s (father’s youngest sister) name also happens to be Mahendradatta. She’s a gynaecologist and still lives in Bangladesh.Her husband’s name is Uday, which is similar to Udayan and means the same. So the Bangladeshi Hindus have some similarity with the Balinese Hindus after all, at least in names.

    Their son isn’t called Airlangga however(never heard of that name) and they’re very happily married.

  3. avatar kotagede says:

    Bali is the most popular tourist destination in Indonesia. It is a place where, despite the influx of thousands of tourists every year, the culture and the people haven’t changed.
    And the most important is I love so much this beutiful island… :)

  4. avatar Trisha Sertori says:

    This one for klinch – awful awful little man aren’t you. As to the hawkers stuff – I live here (in Bali) and never get hassled – not even on Kuta beach. A polite but definate tidak mau, maaf or similar and a smile guarantee a stress free, hawker free rest on the beach. I think the writer who points out these are just people trying to make enough in a day to eat is absolutely correct. Treat these people as equal humans, with respect and honesty and you won’t have a problem. What I have found is that the word soon goes around around and instead of making difficulties you make friends who let everyone else know you are not buying, chilling only – frankly if I spoke to someone and they did not recognise my existence I would get pretty pushy too – imagine that moment by moment – day in day out. Thick skins grow, cheers T

  5. avatar GoJo says:

    Trisha,

    Very Humble view point. You find them everywhere. A simple wave or maaf is sufficient. I am going to be in Bali in 2 days. Cant wait.

    Important points are noted.

    Thanks.

    G

  6. avatar Kay says:

    Sorry for your loss.But its just the people why it happens,one tends to be extra carefree at vacations,and thus this happens,I personally feel its unavoidable unless one takes care.

  7. avatar andre says:

    We went on a honeymoon trip to Bali, we stay in nusa dua. When we booked tour, I was taken aback by the very low price of the hotel, and I was afraid that he would disappoint me, but no, the hotel was amazing … very cozy, clean, spacious rooms .. beautiful garden with pond, and in it are teeming with “mad” fish, near which were stopped by the tourists to feed them with bread, a green area, and I would not call it a small, all matches hotel.. The people at the pool is not so much, and I will refute the rumors that have to get up at 7 am, to take a lounger on the beach, free lager can be found at any time. Guide services world without limite, we have not used, because had time to get acquainted with a woman who gave us the contacts of the local English speaking driver, he told me many interesting things, very cheerful, a wonderful man and a tour takes twice as cheaper.he give us various gifts and tell details, where to go, where good and reasonable prices. In general, Bali is very beautiful and exotic place, there are very friendly people! entertainment very much, enough for all, both for youth and adults. We are pleased to be back there and I advise everyone to go there to fly … it’s unforgettable!

  8. avatar belimade says:

    Firstly i want to apologize about my next words, because i am not too well in English, but i want to say something here.

    Thank you for this great post, i feel a little bit knocked after reading this article, currently i building some site for my friend, a traveling site. All of my idea has gone after reading this but thank-god now i know.
    I am working at the airpot ngurah rai and those kind of people are everywhere, pushy people i mean.

    But there is something i don’t like in this post:

    “# Be prepared to pay for everything that bears the title “holy”. While it is true that temples need money for upkeeping, monkey forests don’t.
    # If a Balinese tries to cajole you into buying real estate (and believe me, they will), put plugs in your ears, run away or punch him in the nose because every deal ends up in making him rich and you having bought only a piece of paper.
    # When doing business bear in mind that many Balinese have been spoilt by easy tourist dollars and sometimes lack any sense of proportion when making offers. Javanese and other Indonesians usually take on a more realistic approach.”

    I don’t know why, but i just don’t like the words.
    Thankyou

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