Is Bali Worth A Visit?
 
Bali Nice Beach

Is Bali Worth A Visit?

I’m not supposed to be in Bali right now. Just one week ago, in fact, I had a booked-and-paid-for flight to Sri Lanka — which, you might remember, is one of my top 7 places I still need to visit. I changed my plans in the 11th hour, to appease a picky Brazilian man who is no longer my boyfriend.

Bali’s reputation varies, depending on who you ask. Party animals from Australia and Europe list Bali as their top destination; “real” travelers check it off their list early in the game, if they come at all. (Until last week, I didn’t think I would.)

But I did in fact deplane at Ngurah Rai International Airport five days ago and, in spite of the how unappealing everything I saw around me during the taxi ride to my all-male, clothing-optional hotel was, made a vow to enjoy Bali to the fullest extent possible.

Unfortunately, enjoying Bali is easier vowed than done.

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My now-ex boyfriend and I arrived in Bali’s Seminyak area rather late Sunday night, so it wasn’t until Monday morning that I got a chance to judge Bali in daylight. While Henrique popped into a local massage parlor, I made a beeline for the beach.

Or at least I tried to.

“Sorry,” said the un-armed guard standing three-quarters of the way down a nondescript dirt road leading in the direction of the ocean. “No beach access.”

I half-laughed. “Why not?”

“Private road,” he replied, without giving further elaboration.

“So how do I get to the beach?”

He pointed northward. “W Hotel.”

I laughed louder, but more cynically. “But I’m not staying at the W Hotel.”

“That’s OK,” he smiled. “You white.”

White skin, it turns out, is something of an all-access pass in Bali: The guard at the W didn’t so much as ask what room I was staying in as I trespassed on to the hotel’s property, nor did any of the dozen or so staff I encountered en route to the sea.

This is a good thing. What currently exists along the shores of Seminyak is not worth going to jail or even paying a fine for — steel-grey sand, bruise-colored water and clear-cut vegetation do not an island paradise make.

The silver lining of my hour-long stroll? Putty-faced people building cheap-looking sandcastles, with construction cranes in the background. Cosmic irony!

 
 
 
 
 

Does Bali Have Nice Beaches?

Shockingly, Seminyak is not the worst of Bali’s beaches. That honor goes to Kuta Beach, where Henrique and I watched sunset with Fido, an Indonesian friend of mine I knew from Shanghai.

Nature-wise, Kuta Beach isn’t much more disgusting than Seminyak; it just has larger crowds of largely pale-skinned people, whose palor draws extra attention to the metallic hue of the sand and water.

Not wanting to offend my local friend, Henrique had kept his mouth shut on the beach. But once we were in the Blue Bird taxi on the way back to Spartacvs, he let loose.

“I’m flying to Phuket tomorrow,” he announced. “I fucking hate Bali. I didn’t fly all the way across the world for this!”

I’ll spare you the gory details of the argument that ensued (My defense: I was under the impression that my boyfriend flew “all the way across the world” to be with his boyfriend), except to say that I talked him into staying one more day: Fido had agreed to show us Bali’s most beautiful beaches on Tuesday.

The good news? Bali’s most beautiful beaches, from high-class Nusa Dua, to surfer-infested Padang-Padang beach, are among the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. (Disclaimer: The most beautiful Bali beach I saw, located near the Uluwatu Monkey Temple, sits no less than 1,000 feet beneath a sheer cliff, i.e. totally inaccessible).

The bad news? Bali’s beaches weren’t beautiful enough for Henrique, who was packing the last of his things when I came back into our hotel room Wednesday morning, after having blogged outside to avoid waking him.

“I’m leaving!” He answered, after I asked him what the fuck he was doing.

As the door slammed, I had no idea where Henrique was off to (I have a feeling, based on his earlier outburst, that it was Phuket), or to what extent Bali’s suckitude influenced his decision. But I did know one thing: The only thing worse than coming to Bali with someone you love is being left in Bali by someone who no longer loves you.

 
 
 
 
 

The Bali From “Eat, Pray, Love”

Henrique hatched the idea to travel to Bali with me after we watched the abortion known as “Eat, Pray, Love” together, so it is ironic that he peaced out when he did: Wednesday was the day we’d set aside to see Julia Roberts’ Bali.

But I didn’t want to sulk in my hotel room (or, worse, sulk outside amid the stark-white ass cheeks of the mostly-older guests at Spartacvs), so I traveled to Ubud, the Bali portrayed in the film, alone.

My first stop was Ubud’s Monkey Forest. I’m not sure what’s worse: That I saw a monkey playing with an aerosol can; or that most of the others tourists who saw it seemed amused by it. Suffice it to say, it was difficult to tell the difference between tourists and monkeys.

The tourists who visit Bali are the very worst types of tourists in the world:

They viciously argue, without removing their Prada sunglasses, over 20 or 30 cents, without realizing that employees in even Bali’s most posh resorts are lucky to earn this amount in exchange for an hour of extremely hard work

They lament the muddiness of their feet after tromping through the Tegalalang rice terraces that feed thousands of local people, and resent the thought of tipping the young boys and girls who accompany them on their treks so that they don’t accidentally fall 10 (or more) feet down the hillside

They are thankful for, and not devastated by, the destruction of Bali’s natural habitat — it is, after all, so that a higher-end artificial habitat, designed especially for them, might be created

The sad truth is that Bali, at least the Bali you’re likely to see on a short- to medium-length vacation, is a cesspool; it is damaged beyond repair, save for a sudden pandemic that keeps tourists out for a decade or more.

I hear Phuket is better.

About The Author

is the author of 654 posts on Leave Your Daily Hell. Robert founded Leave Your Daily Hell in 2010 so that other travelers would have an entertaining, reliable source of information, advice and inspiration at their fingertips. Want to travel more often? Subscribe to email updates today!

 
 

  informs, inspires, entertains and empowers travelers like you. My name is Robert and I'm happy you're here!

 
 
 

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  • MrBiggs

    Lol. I’m a good swimmer. Never would have happened.

  • MrBiggs

    Sorry what I said to you in the other post. I took it down but I guess you saw it before it was taken down. I was wrong for saying that to you.

  • factgasm

    For anyone looking for paradise Lombok is by far the better of the two islands. Bali became famous because its a Hindu island in a largely Muslim archipelago but that’s not a good enough reason to single it out anymore. The Balinese have already severely damaged their own island and not content with that they are now going to build a second airport at the north end of the island.

  • Thanks for your insight!

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  • Patricia Digby

    Bali has beauty but the smells and traffic and pollution and people desperate to make money and street dogs and cats in Ubud were too much for me. I would never go back.

  • Natalie

    I totally agree. The worst. A cess pool is a compliment. and Kuta…absolutely awful. Was so glad to have left. This is from someone who has travelled india, japan, almost all of europe and most of the usa. Awful place.

  • 🙁 I wish I could go back in time and see it 30-40 years ago…

  • Taz

    I always get annoyed by the locals who crawl out to complain about how you didn’t see everyone or meet everyone when you visited their city/town/country. Why not clean up the shitty areas instead of blaming the visitor. The more travel blogs I read I see that no one wants to fix things in their own country and I find that frustrating. We have a Labor Day where I’m from and people get out and clean up beaches, fix roads etc maybe instead of blaming tourists for not liking garbage paved beaches you guys could clean the darn beaches!

  • Here here!

  • nasrudin ansori

    Poor of you both. Visiting Bali beaches just only for Kuta, Seminyak and Nusa Dua. You need to explore the whole part of the island. Bali had a lot of nice place to see. I went to Dreamland beach and Pandawa Beach, both of this have a white sand, blue ocean, and not really touristy. Kuta and seminyak is not for seeing white sand beach, you are wrong.

    To see a lot of dolphin you can visit Lovina beach, dive? Please visit Menjangan island, trekking ? Please visit Mount Agung, small island where have a lot of highest beach cliff please visit Nusa Penida, and more more nice place in Bali.

    I suggest you, dont holiday to the island only in few days. And dont visit the place where so touristy like Kuta Bali, Copacabana Brazil, Sibhuya Cross in Japan etc if you want to see quite and peacefull place . its wrong..

    Regard

    Anas – indonesia

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  • Stephen

    I just spent 3 months in Bali traveling Seminyak, Kuta, Ubud and Sanur and I would agree that it is a pile of shit!! I would not recommend anyone to visit this place. I could go on a rant and fill in gapes left out of this post but I wont waste anymore time on that dump. And if you live there and call it home it’s probably because you’re a D-Bag because decent people and travelers don’t want anything to do with that place.

    Sorry for your break up but that really did make Bali a dump…it just is a dump.

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  • Travel Lushes

    Hi! I clicked on the link you left on my Huff Post article, because I was so curious to see what your experience was like…and WOW! What a great post! You captured the disappointing truth about Bali so well in your writing. It really was sad to see – and someone told me it’s easy to blame tourists, but in this case, I think it’s well-deserved. Tourists ARE a big part of the problem in Bali. There were nice moments and places, but the bad ones were immensely heartbreaking to see….I couldn’t agree with you more about the Monkey Sanctuary. The tourists annoyed me SO much! They were not following any of the rules!

  • Great to make your digital acquaintance. Can’t wait to check out more of your writing!

  • andrew koln

    Take a brief moment
    to think of all the billions of dollars that pour into
    Bali each year as a result of their tourism business,
    and also the millions collected as tax and service charges.
    Now ask yourself why are children in certain areas of
    Bali malnourished? Why are the roads, schools and hospitals
    so under funded? Why is the refuse system so antiquated
    and over-stretched to the point of being a major health
    hazard? Bali should be an island of plenty for all,
    including the Balinese. OK, so some money goes to the
    Indonesian Archipelago as a whole, but where does the
    real money go?

    From Cradle to Grave, the Balinese are robbed
    blind.

    Due to the lack of role models in government
    and an effective police force that serves the community,
    not their pockets, the Balinese have many problems.
    Their teachers often rob them (by taking food from them
    and demanding they buy their school books from them
    at inflated prices). Their neighbours steal from them
    (during hard times, chickens and worse are routinely
    stolen for cigarette, etc. money). Their employers steal
    from them (by not paying them their fair / legal share
    of the service charge they collect from tourists in
    their name). Their government steals from them (by grabbing
    private and public land, and selling it for individual
    ministers personal gain, and by pocketing taxes, etc.).
    The police steal from them (big time – the police are
    probably the biggest crooks in Indonesia).

    It is not just theft, but abuse the Balinese
    have to suffer.

    They are virtually ignored in matters of health,
    they are certainly not taught effective health education.
    Men abuse women, wholesale, in and out of marriage,
    e.g. low class youths will insult or even stone girls
    they want to sleep with but are refused, or sometimes
    rape them). If you are a Balinese girl and date a foreigner,
    locals will openly call you a prostitute in the street.
    And if you are a western woman dating a Balinese man,
    you too will be declared a prostitute. Many men routinely
    cheat on their wives with other women, including true
    prostitutes. Neighbours inflict abuse and even violence
    against each other as calling the police is not an option.
    Neighboring islanders simply arrive in Bali, cut down
    trees on other people’s land, build houses and then
    claim the land as their own. Greedy property developers
    with the help of corrupt building officials and the
    mafia police of Bali build where they should not, and
    destroy Bali’s precious heritage.

    It is amazing how the Balinese still manage
    to smile.

    But take a close look. Watch many of the Balinese
    faces when they are not aware you are there or watching.
    You will see the strain, stress and unhappiness show
    itself. The Balinese are naturally gracious people,
    but it is surprising they are able to be under such
    circumstances. And you will only make their lot worse
    if you support, consciously or inadvertently, the fuglies
    in Bali. If you support those that steal from and /
    or oppress the Balinese, you are guilty of their demise
    yourself. Plain and simple.

    If you visit Bali, you owe the Balinese.

    The Balinese, like you, want a better life
    for themselves and their children. That means having
    a proper education in a well funded school to help them
    leave the tourism poverty trap. That means a public
    health service that serves the people, not the politician’s
    pockets and which simply adds to the Balinese people’s
    problems. Is there any doubt, if you stay at a fugly
    hotel or allow the nasty corrupt Balinese police to
    get your money (don’t forget, that means money you pay
    to a hotel, restaurant or driver – if the police take
    it from them, as they do, they are taking from you)
    and not do something about it. You are a part of the
    problem yourself.

  • Christina Kottmann

    Totally agree. I was in Bali in July 2015 and it was the most depressing location I’ve been to. It didn’t help that I was having existential moments based on being in Bali alone and was somewhat depressed. The monkey forest was crowded, icky, and not very pleasant. After a monkey tried to steal the sunglasses off my head, I was pretty done. The best beach I went to was Echo Beach, the famous surfer spot, since I was staying in Canguu. The Airbnb site was nice, rice paddies all around, and pretty local setting, but it certainly wasn’t the idea of Bali that I’d had in my head or from that infamous film. Basically, I’d also recommend skipping Bali, there are much better spots in Indonesia and around the world. For instance, (and reader you need to promise you won’t destroy this island like Bali has been destroyed) the Belitung Islands were beautiful in my opinion, and much more suited to the intrepid, cultured backpacker or traveler. But don’t make them the new Bali. Just enjoy the pristine beauty that is still found in this part of Indonesia, and avoid yucky Bali.

  • Here, here!

  • erdi yanta

    bali have different character that you have only this island http://baliindotour.com/

  • Luma Jochims

    Just got back from Bali after 3 weeks and with absolutely no wish to come back at all. Extremely touristic place but ironically with all the characteristics to push tourists away (at least the good ones): very dirty, disorganised, poor communication and service, chaotic, poor cleanliness, lack of authenticity and boring food. I’ve tried the Gili Islands, even worse. Nice landscapes but definitely not worth the 24 hour journey and hassle. Wish I had saved the money and went to a more civilised and authentic place. All my friends got food poisoned and one of them even being sexually harassed by the hotel’s OWNER. That’s the mentality.

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