Bali, Indonesia

Is Bali a Shithole?

Is Bali worth visiting? The answer is more complex than “yes” or “no,” even if you can probably guess which of those I’m leaning toward without reading this article. Bali is the most hyped destination in Southeast Asia (and maybe the world), but it’s not just because it doesn’t live up to this hype that I find being there so unpleasant.

On the other hand, I do want to paint a comprehensive picture of the many problems I have with Bali, shithole or not. I believe it’s important for travelers to be decisive but not dismissive—and I gave Bali plenty of chances before coming to the conclusions I lay out for you here.

I won’t go so far as to say I hate Bali, though I doubt I would ever return there, even if someone paid me. Continue reading to learn more about the reasons I feel this way, as well as red flags you should watch out for should you ignore my advice and travel to Bali anyway.

Need help planning your trip to Indonesia? Hire me as your Travel Coach!

My Disastrous First Impression of Bali

Seven years ago before my first trip to Bali, I never stopped to consider the question “is Bali worth visiting?”, let alone to Google it. I’d just watched the movie “Eat, Pray, Love” with my then-partner, and boarded a flight from Singapore with a gleeful indifference that makes me cringe, in retrospect.

I quickly paid for having been so open-minded. After spending nearly two hours navigating the nightmarish maze of Ngruah Rai International Airport, I arrived in Seminyak, whose silvery sands and dark waters were the farther thing from paradise I could imagine, to say nothing of the fact that 3 out of every 4 people I encountered were Australian (and the very worst kind of Australian, at that.)

The next few days weren’t much better, whether it was my morning at Tegallalang Rice Terrace, where scams are as plentiful as paddies, an afternoon with the depraved primates of Ubud Monkey Forest (one was literally huffing an aerosol can) or sunset on Kuta Beach, which was littered in equal measure with white trash and actual trash, to say nothing of the shopping mall and fast food restaurants that extended nearly onto the sand. “Bali is a shithole,” I remember saying to my partner, who hated the island so much he took the next day’s first flight out.

The Worst Things About Bali

Bali is Polluted AF

 

When I think of Bali, dirty beaches are the first thing that come to mind. Even outside of crowded Kuta and shitty Seminyak, Bali’s beaches are littered with plastic (though to be fair, I’m not sure if it’s locally strewn or brought in due to sea currents). This is in addition to the fact the most of Bali’s fresh water and salt water is less than appealing in its color, and the streets of towns like Denpasar and Ubud are also covered in rubbish.

Even Clean Bali Beaches Suck

 

Where are the best beaches in Bali? Not anywhere in the Lonely Planet guidebook you wasted your money. Beaches like Nusa Dua and Uluwatu are more more beautiful than Kuta and Seminyak, but even those have major issues: Nusa Dua isn’t really swimmable; Uluwatu sits more than a hundred meters beneath a jagged cliff face, which makes it difficult to access. Even objectively beautiful beaches like the Manggis Beach “Blue Lagoon” are so few in number they’re practically superfluous.

Balinese Culture? What Balinese Culture?

 

Is Bali worth visiting? Not if authentic culture is something you want to experience. While you can enjoy ostensibly Balinese experiences like bathing at Tirta Empul water temple or watching a “traditional” performance at Tanah Lot temple, most of what little Balinese culture remains (at least in areas of the island where you’re likely to be) is put-on, to say nothing of how low the percentage of actual Balinese people can be in a given location on the island.

All Hail the Almighty Dudebro

 

Southeast Asia in general has a a problem with white worshipping, but it’s especially bad in Bali. It’s not just the fact that white people have largely colonized places like Canggu, as well as the aforementioned Seminyak and Ubud—being a white person myself, it would be hypocritical to complain about this alone. Rather it’s due the type of white people (dudebros and their yoga babe girlfriends) that those who don’t adhere to these basic bro/bitch identity can feel as unwelcome in Bali as actual Balinese.

Bali is Not Cheap Anymore

 

Is Bali expensive? Surprisingly the answer is yes, especially compared with the rest of Indonesia (which is dirt-cheap). You’re unlikely, for example, to find even a very simple villa in Ubud for under 100 USD per night, to say nothing of how much it can cost to eat anywhere but the most simple local warung spots. Transportation can cost a lot too, since Bali has no public transportation to speak of, and since rides via Grab (the Southeast Asian version of Uber) offer little savings compared with taxis.

The Main Reason Bali is Not Worth Visiting

Whenever I’ve told fellow travelers about my feelings on the question “is Bali worth visiting?” they tend to condescend and patronize me, especially the dudebro types who never traveler anywhere else. “You just went to the wrong places,” they insist, before rattling off names of places that are either as awful as Seminyak, Canggu or Kuta, or so far away from the main drag that it makes you wonder why you would fly to Bali in the first place.

And that’s the thing: Whether because of Bali Australians, pollution, high prices or overcrowding, it is literally impossible to enjoy Bali in any destination or having any experience that is traditionally associated with Bali. Bali’s a huge island, and truly remote spots (especially along its north coast) are still very authentic, but if I’m going to have to spend three hours in a car after flying halfway around the world, I’d rather fly just a bit farther to a place where there are fewer awful things to escape.

Alternatives to Bali (Inside and Outside of Indonesia)

Is Bali worth visiting? No, but many similar places in Indonesia (and elsewhere in Southeast Asia) are. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Raja Ampat: Probably the best beaches in Indonesia, and expensive/far enough away from even Jakarta that they stay quiet.
  • Lombok: Bali’s neighbor island offers many of the same attractions as it does, and though it’s becoming more popular by the year (particularly the Gili Islands, which are like an Instagram parody now), it’s much more enjoyable than Bali.
  • Mentawai Islands: An excursion even if you’re already on the island of Sumatra, this archipelago eludes most visitors to Indonesia.
  • Penang, Malaysia: Although its beaches are even worse than Bali’s, the balance of local charm and Western convenience is better struck here.
  • Mergui Archipelago: Located off the southeastern coast of Myanmar not far from the border with Thailand, these paradise islands are impeccable, especially if you travel through them by yacht.
  • Sulawesi: This star-shaped Indonesian island is much larger than Bali (and thus requires more time and energy to explore), but also features better beaches and more intact local culture.

Even when you compare the best places in Bali to the worst places of any of these islands, I think they all make better choices than it does.

The Bottom Line

Is Bali worth visiting? Not really, as unfortunate as it is to admit that. From environmental and cultural degradation, to the fact that Bali probably wasn’t very special even before legions of Australian dudebros and their yoga babe girlfriends annexed it, Bali simply doesn’t live up to the hype about it. Worst yet, Bali is expensive, especially when compared to Indonesia and much of the rest of Southeast Asia. The good news is that I’ve shared other nearby destinations that are much more worthy of your time and energy. Still not sure where to go on your trip to Southeast Asia? Hire me as your Travel Coach!

About The Author

is the author of 1039 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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{ 38 comments }

MrBiggs May 3, 2015 at 9:32 pm

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

MrBiggs May 4, 2015 at 10:08 am

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 June 22, 2015 at 6:35 am

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.

Robert Schrader June 22, 2015 at 8:02 am

Thanks for your insight!

Patricia Digby August 17, 2015 at 6:33 pm

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 September 7, 2015 at 7:55 am

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.

Robert Schrader September 7, 2015 at 8:25 am

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

Taz September 16, 2015 at 4:43 pm

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!

Robert Schrader September 21, 2015 at 5:19 pm

Here here!

nasrudin ansori December 29, 2015 at 5:50 pm

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

Stephen March 3, 2016 at 6:09 am

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.

Travel Lushes March 8, 2016 at 5:43 pm

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!

Robert Schrader March 8, 2016 at 5:45 pm

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

andrew koln March 14, 2016 at 9:45 pm

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 March 31, 2016 at 6:38 am

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.

Robert Schrader April 3, 2016 at 5:58 pm

Here, here!

erdi yanta June 18, 2016 at 9:38 am

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

Luma Jochims June 23, 2016 at 2:54 pm

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.

Louise June 30, 2016 at 12:46 am

Bali is one of those places of which there are many in the world where the expectation does not match the reality at least on the surface. We are here now for our first visit, a quick getaway from the cold Melbourne winter. Australians don’t go to a Bali for beaches as we have the most beautiful beaches in the world so that is no reason to go to Bali. Australians tend to visit because it’s close, cheap and with guaranteed heat year round. Same as the Brits who go to Spain or Americans that go to Mexico. If you want beautiful, pristine beaches, thousands of miles of them then a couple more hours you would have been in Australia.

Robert Schrader June 30, 2016 at 7:25 am

I appreciate your perspective.

Robert Schrader June 30, 2016 at 7:26 am

Right?

Dankrez Blitz July 26, 2016 at 3:43 am

i I visited Bali a week ago. the beach is not the only place that can be enjoyed. unique and exciting culture can become a visitor attraction. For example, the barong dance on a video I uploaded the following: https://youtu.be/oBAl2kmWsdg

GusD November 24, 2016 at 5:41 pm

You aren’t paying attention. There’s a difference between tourist trap and complete shit hole

GusD November 24, 2016 at 5:43 pm

I would go further and say it is a shit hole that nobody should visit unless they like wasting money and dealing with corruption and being surrounded by mountains of shit and trash

Robert Schrader December 4, 2016 at 8:55 pm

That’s a nice way to put it 🙂

Phase Nonapp December 24, 2016 at 9:09 am

I hate the place. It really is a vile cesspool. I have been to other parts of the island such as Lovina and Candidasa and they were just depressing mini versions of kuta. Kuta wannabes. Just as dirty and touts still agressively harrassing people. The tourists are really lowest common denominator. They sit there in their artificial high end environments which they pay $500 and up per night for a room, watching the sunset while sipping on cocktails that may be cheap but are weak as piss all while overlooking the filthy cesspool in front of the hotel or bar. It has to be seen to be believed. Never going back. It is literally hell on earth.

Phase Nonapp December 24, 2016 at 9:15 am

What a load of bollocks. It’s a filthy polluted dump. Where is the fucking beauty? Tell me and I’ll go take a look. I have been from one side to the other and every single water way is clogged with garbage and filth. Having to drink from plastic water bottles because the water is polluted only worsens the situation. I ended up staying in my villa a lot because the amount of energy required to go anywhere was too exhausting. The traffic and the touts make life hell to go further than 20 metres. Awful awful place. Warning to anyone wanting to go – just don’t even bother.

Wayan Bagus Nanda Pratama June 3, 2017 at 10:05 pm

i partly agree with you, if you know im from bali and i dont blame your review about beach in bali. i know too much people come to Kuta or Seminyak beach that is not a place to find serenity. people come there because that place is famous, you can find in internet “The best beach in bali is Kuta beach, Seminyak beach, and maybe Nusa Dua beach” so you will be found a awesome photos with the calmness and white sand of course. if you need a calmness without crowds of people or romantic beach, you have to go to unfamous beach like Gunung Payung Beach, Nyang-Nyang Beach, Bias Tugel Beach, At there you can enjoy the beach without crowds of people. So im sorry if my written is bad : ) thank you have a nice day.

Astika Tosa Yogiswara June 4, 2017 at 3:48 am

Poor of you who only enjoyed a little part of Bali. You need to explore the whole part of the island. Bali had a lot of nice place to see. I suggest you, don’t holiday to an island only in a few days. And don’t visit the place where so touristy like Kuta in Bali.
You can try an adventure trip, mountain cycling to feel the nature or maybe you can enjoy Barong and Kecak Dance, then you won’t regret your holiday in Bali.

Astika Tosa Yogiswara June 4, 2017 at 8:54 am

Poor of you who only enjoyed a little part of Bali. I’m from Bali and you need to explore more of the island. Bali had a lot of nice places to see and nature to enjoy. I suggest you, don’t holiday to an island only in a few days. And don’t visit the place that too crowded like Kuta in Bali.
You can try an adventure trip, trekking and mountain cycling to feel the nature or maybe you can watch a Barong and Kecak Dance, then you won’t regret your holiday in Bali.

Shivani in Singapore August 10, 2017 at 9:22 pm

I have just returned from a few days from Seminyak and although I had braced myself for Seminyak, I was in utter amazement of what a shithole it is. In fairness, I only stayed in Seminyak to go furniture shopping (was enticed by the beautiful Balinese craftwork a few years ago in Ubud), and I have never visited the similar likes of Marbella or Benidorm despite visiting Andalusia and Spain innumerable times. Sure we didn’t get past the Gado Gado beachfront restaurant, as the walk down the road to the beach was bad enough and there was rubbish strewn all over the back of the beach and though the sand itself was clean, it wasn’t enticing to see past the faded sun umbrellas to stroll along the strip. I don’t even want to think about what Kuta looks like.

The steets full over-priced ‘high end’ tat was depressing enough though I’m not surprised as Australians (Bali’s main tourists) are well-used to paying over the odds for rubbish. At least the $150 dresses and shirts are cotton and not the ‘Made in China’ nylon stuff that is sold for insane prices in Austalia. Sure the ‘ Pan Asian’ trendy restaurants served up fab food, but as my husband pointed out, they felt like we were sitting in Melbourne. And that’s the problem, Seminyak and even Ubud to a point, has become an awful Australian suburb with the worst of the singlet-clad bogans and a dash of pretentious hipsters. By the fourth day after a search in Ubud, I was tired of all the bland ‘chic’ western-run restaurants and noted that these ‘Asian Street Food’ places were pretty lacking in Indonesian and regional dishes, and local specialities. Of course, white Australians’ interpretation of ‘Asian’ naturally leans towards Vietnamese and Japanese influences (as they make up ‘Asian Australisans’), nevermind the fact that you are in Bali, Indonesia!

Bali’s problems are the western tourists, the Aussies being the worst. Not only as they dominate, but because they certainlty do not and would never, behave like that at home. Aside from Bondi where the main drag is across the road, it is pretty rare to ever come across Aussies drinking or eating on the very beautiful beaches and beach shacks are not a thing. The locals get apocalyptic when there are NYE parties in Bondi and taking a beer onto the beachfront is a social no-no. Sydney’s beach surburbs aren’t called names like ‘Glamourama’ for nothing. Even the Gold Coast though cheesy, does not have run down bars actually near the beach. So yes, they behave extremely badly abroad. Though Seminyak and Kutas problems are only going to get worse now there are direct flights from Europe.

The most depressing point of the holiday is when I spotted an obviously British ‘Manc’ fledgling in the heat, in his discount store luminous nylon sports shorts, accessorised by socks and plimsols. He was so pasty and sweaty, I momentarily thought he was a heroin addict. Though it fell into place when I saw the bright pink fat bloke next to him in a football shirt. I’m sure the booze-fuelled ‘Bogan’ vs ‘Chav’ charades will come soon in Kuta, if not already.

Yes what snob I am. But should these beautiful faraway places like Bali should become accessible to all and affordable to those who can’t afford and dont aspire past anything cheap and tacky? People laugh at Americans not having passports, though honestly many Westerners really ought not to be permitted to travel. The hipster crowd are no better with their overhang back-packer mentality – now setting the bar even lower, as they seek-out AirBnBs in developing economy destinations like Bali. Of course, they need to scrape their coins for ther obligatory skinny lattes and to be seen with ha glass of French Chardonnay in that latest trendy hangout with whatever Aussie chef no-one’s heard of. So not much wonder that trashy skinflint tourists will attract and be readily serviced by greedy annoying local touts. I doubt the locals ever generated that amount of trash before the Westerners came along.

Monkey Forest (which was rubbish-free and well patrolled though what can you do with stupid tourists?) and my $220/night hotel were the highlights. Even Ubud’s charm has faded somewhat with the endless cafes – I couldn’t find any of the shops that had inspired me to go furniture/homeware shopping in Bali in the first place. I noticed most of the international guests spent a lot of time in the hotel too. The French guests look dazed and slightly bemused, I guess from jetlag and wondering if Seminyak was supposed to be the ‘paradise’ they had been sold. Of course, the Balinese service was no less than exemplary and the staff really frendly, from the young apprentice trainee to the managers.

Indonesians are truly wonderful people (I visit a lot) and I know Bali has plenty of wonderous beauty. Though getting to it is now becoming more difficult as the narrow roads are clogged to a standstill (as many tourists on scooters as locals) and local taxi-drivers enact their revenge with extortinate fares. The trick is, like any amazing destination, you have to be prepared to pay for that amazing memorable experience.

Finally, Robert – Phuket is no better, in fact unimaginably, it is truly a lot worse! Phuket is Seminayak in another 10years with lots of fat drunk Russians and Brits also thrown in, and disorientated Chinese wandering about. And I am talking about Rawai Beach, one of the nicer areas of Phuket. Their only saving grace is Phuket Old Town which has re-discovered it’s charm as young entrepreneurial Thai’s set up and draw the local Bangkokian weekend crowd and the family-run Thai Muslim eateries.

If Indonesia and Thailand re-orientate towards the burgeoning Chinese travel market, that may be grace that saves them. Uncouth table ettiquette aside, they can’t be any worse.

Shivani in Singapore August 10, 2017 at 9:29 pm

I have just returned from a few days from Seminyak and although I had braced myself for Seminyak, I was in utter amazement of what a shithole it is. In fairness, I only stayed in Seminyak to go furniture shopping (was enticed by the beautiful Balinese craftwork a few years ago in Ubud), and I have never visited the similar likes of Marbella or Benidorm despite visiting Andalusia and Spain innumerable times. Sure we didn’t get past the Gado Gado beachfront restaurant, as the walk down the road to the beach was bad enough and there was rubbish strewn all over the back of the beach and though the sand itself was clean, it wasn’t enticing to see past the faded sun umbrellas to stroll along the strip. I don’t even want to think about what Kuta looks like.

The steets full over-priced ‘high end’ tat was depressing enough though I’m not surprised as Australians (Bali’s main tourists) are well-used to paying over the odds for rubbish. At least the $150 dresses and shirts are cotton and not the ‘Made in China’ nylon stuff that is sold for insane prices in Austalia. Sure the ‘ Pan Asian’ trendy restaurants served up fab food, but as my husband pointed out, they felt like we were sitting in Melbourne. And that’s the problem, Seminyak and even Ubud to a point, has become an awful Australian suburb with the worst of the singlet-clad bogans and a dash of pretentious hipsters. By the fourth day after a search in Ubud, I was tired of all the bland ‘chic’ western-run restaurants and noted that these ‘Asian Street Food’ places were pretty lacking in Indonesian and regional dishes, and local specialities. Of course, white Australians’ interpretation of ‘Asian’ naturally leans towards Vietnamese and Japanese influences (as they make up ‘Asian Australisans’), nevermind the fact that you are in Bali, Indonesia!

Bali’s problems are the western tourists, the Aussies being the worst. Not only as they dominate, but because they certainlty do not and would never, behave like that at home. Aside from Bondi where the main drag is across the road, it is pretty rare to ever come across Aussies drinking or eating on the very beautiful beaches and beach shacks are not a thing. The locals get apocalyptic when there are NYE parties in Bondi and taking a beer onto the beachfront is a social no-no. Sydney’s beach surburbs aren’t called names like ‘Glamourama’ for nothing. Even the Gold Coast though cheesy, does not have run down bars actually near the beach. So yes, they behave extremely badly abroad. Though Seminyak and Kutas problems are only going to get worse now there are direct flights from Europe.

The most depressing point of the holiday is when I spotted an obviously British ‘Manc’ fledgling in the heat, in his discount store luminous nylon sports shorts, accessorised by socks and plimsols. He was so pasty and sweaty, I momentarily thought he was a heroin addict. Though it fell into place when I saw the bright pink fat bloke next to him in a football shirt. I’m sure the booze-fuelled ‘Bogan’ vs ‘Chav’ charades will come soon in Kuta, if not already.

Yes what snob I am. But should these beautiful faraway places like Bali should become accessible to all and affordable to those who can’t afford and dont aspire past anything cheap and tacky? People laugh at Americans not having passports, though honestly many Westerners really ought not to be permitted to travel. The hipster crowd are no better with their overhang back-packer mentality – now setting the bar even lower, as they seek-out AirBnBs in developing economy destinations like Bali. Of course, they need to scrape their coins for ther obligatory skinny lattes and to be seen with ha glass of French Chardonnay in that latest trendy hangout with whatever Aussie chef no-one’s heard of. So not much wonder that trashy skinflint tourists will attract and be readily serviced by greedy annoying local touts.

Monkey Forest (which was rubbish-free and well patrolled though what can you do with stupid tourists?) and my $220/night hotel were the highlights. Even Ubud’s charm has faded somewhat with the endless cafes – I couldn’t find any of the shops that had inspired me to go furniture/homeware shopping in Bali in the first place. I noticed most of the international guests spent a lot of time in the hotel too. The French guests look dazed and slightly bemused, I guess from jetlag and wondering if Seminyak was supposed to be the ‘paradise’ they had been sold. Of course, the Balinese service was no less than exemplary and the staff really frendly, from the young apprentice trainee to the managers.

Indonesians are truly wonderful people (I visit a lot) and I know Bali has plenty of wonderous beauty. Though getting to it is now becoming more difficult as the narrow roads are clogged to a standstill (as many tourists on scooters as locals) and local taxi-drivers enact their revenge with extortinate fares. The trick is, like any amazing destination, you have to be prepared to pay for that amazing memorable experience.

Finally, Robert – Phuket is no better, in fact unimaginably, it is truly a lot worse! Phuket is Seminayak in another 10years with lots of fat drunk Russians and Brits also thrown in, and disorientated Chinese wandering about. And I am talking about Rawai Beach, one of the nicer areas of Phuket. Their only saving grace is Phuket Old Town which has re-discovered it’s charm as young entrepreneurial Thai’s set up and draw the local Bangkokian weekend crowd and the family-run Thai Muslim eateries.
If Indonesia and Thailand re-orientate towards the burgeoning Chinese travel market, that may be grace that saves them. Uncouth table etiquette aside, they can’t be any worse.

James A August 11, 2017 at 9:35 am

We went to Bali in 1983 – we stayed at Legian because our Son had brought his surfboard with him. Our Hotel was only 1 year old & it was right on the Beach. I was paranoid about Bali Belly. I did everything I was told to avoid Bali Belly – I got so sick third day after we arrived – I have no idea what it was.
The smells in the streets the rotting food/flower offering to the Hindu Gods was thrown in the street. The smell of the rotting food lying in the gutters blended with the incredible humidity made us want to throw up.
Blend the sickly smell of rotting Fruit & flowers with Diesel from Scooters it is head throbbing stench.
We went to a Bali Opera…singer whipped out a live young chicken & bit its head off. I got up & walked out….we were harassed everywhere we went by street sellers.
They will not take No for an answer…..
We didn’t know at the time that Balinese eat Dogs…I’m a Vegan, I was shocked when I saw the sick, scrawny street Dogs they are not friendly because they are frightened of humans. Cats come out at night meowing for food….do not touch them they seem friendly but will turn into little Tigers if you get to close. My young Son would go to the beach & was constantly harassed by people wanting to sell him Drugs. The clothing we bought was rubbish – they fell apart after about 3 months.
We were told by an Australian in 1983 that we had gone to Bali too late we should have gone there 20 years prior because the place is now corrupt & dirty. The Indonesians have taken over just about everything they will tell you they are Balinese they are lying..
We would never never return to Bali horrible place….definitely not a Tropical Island!
Such a disappointing holidays we were there for 2 weeks…

Robert Schrader August 13, 2017 at 6:16 pm

Your comment made me laugh! I like that we can turn our less-than-amazing experiences into humor for others.

Rob F September 24, 2017 at 9:50 pm

I’ve been looking at discounted business class tickets to Bail from the US for the past month ($3k is going rate). I have an invitation to rent a ‘villa’ in Ubud belonging to the father of an Australian friend. I’ve been agonizing about whether to go or not. I was wanting a place to relax, ‘get away’ et al. The friend suggested this. So, tonight, I sat at my computer and typed in the Google search bar, “Should I go to Bali?” Good god, what I found!! Including this blog. You couldn’t force me to buy a $3k air ticket now. If true, and no doubt they are, these comments describe a place that I would absolutely hate. I live in the gorgeous SW US, where things are clean and relatively civilized. I would be utterly disgusted if I found the place most posters here are describing. Thanks everyone.

Robert Schrader September 25, 2017 at 12:38 am

There are other places in Indonesia worth visiting, however!

Tonkin - Travel Vietnam November 8, 2017 at 8:40 am

Very nice post! Indonesia is always in the top of my bucket list. I want to know whether Bali has beaches for swimming or not because it is famous for surfing.

Robert Schrader November 8, 2017 at 5:29 pm

Honestly, the swimming beaches are pretty few and far between here. The coast is quite rocky!

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