A Sober Look at Bali: The Unsightly Truth Behind The Instagram Filter

I can’t recall how and when, but all of a sudden, posts about Bali was everywhere online. After many domestic flights, long bus rides, and bumpy boat rides in the Philippines, I hopped off a plane at our neighboring country’s Eat, Pray, Love, famous place and to which they call the land of the gods that is Bali.

The way Elizabeth Gilbert wrote and described it made my own version of a love affair with the island. I envisioned living in a traditional Balinese hut with a rustic equatorial garden surrounded by lush terraces of rice plantations and which also just a bike away from crystal clear beaches. Sounds exquisite, isn’t it?

Went on a secret and abandoned lighthouse in Uluwatu

Bali is no doubt the most visited place in Southeast Asia as of today – appreciation for the badass hashtags and travel blogs! Curious with what the devil’s fuzz was all about, I kind of went on a soul-searching journey to see it myself. And I come to the conclusion that sometimes, what we see that is serene and peaceful from the internet doesn’t quite look like the same when they are already happening in front of our eyes.


The following list is just a two-cent of my personal understanding but here’s why:

1. MASS TOURISM

To sum it all up, it’s way too touristy. Leading us to the question of: is Bali overrated? With its sheer amount of tourism, the answer is heck yeah.

I heard a story once that the Balinese were taught by the gods that Bali is the center of the Earth – and Ubud is the center of Bali. So one exhilarating 9 AM on their anguished version of cloudy skies, me and my new found Balinese friends drove up to the uplands of Ubud.

A part of Ubud market that was less populous by the time I went there

After a thrilling motorcycle ride passing through the different views of this lush corner of Indonesia, I was greeted with a flock of tourists all wearing colored toned fishing hats and round rattan bags. This place is known to be Bali’s art and culture capital perhaps that was the reason why it was jam-packed. Not only in Ubud, I say, but also with other big cities such as Kuta, Denpasar, and Canggu.

After some research, I discovered that this island alone has welcomed 13.7 million overseas tourists in 2017. Americans, Europeans, and probably a staggering number of Strayans somehow managed to decide to come altogether when I went there in July of 2019.

My Canadian friend even decided that Bali is pretty much the Bahamas of North America for the Aussies. At least that’s how he explained it.

2. THOSE WHO TRAVELED THE BALI ROAD ARE OFTEN TROUBLED BY THE BALI TRAFFIC

Thank god I was just sitting at the back of my friend’s motorcycle and I wasn’t the one driving because, with all these narrow streets, I don’t think I have the balls to be courageous enough to do it. You know, driving on the left side of the road, which I am not used to, was also the major reason why.

A photo that I took while we were driving up Ubud

On my 3rd day in Bali after spending the whole afternoon in Kuta beach with my Dutch and Canadian friend, I remember walking somewhere near Skygarden with my ears closed to being deaf from all the honkers of cars and motorcycles slowly rolling making the road packed as hell. And I swear to you guys, due to the heavy tourism demand, traffic is most real in the main cities of Bali.

One simple rule of driving on Bali’s roads: don’t have an accident. Ever.

3. SLAMMING DUNK THE JUNK

One of the things that I hate the most is people littering everywhere. Seriously, I think if we are just visiting a place then we should be respectful enough to not just throw garbage anywhere; the same goes to the community we are living in because it is our home. Correction: the world is our home so do not litter at all.

Watching the sunset in Kuta Beach w/ a good friend Lucinda

One of my disappointments that I can remember was in Kuta Beach. Absolutely horrible. I don’t know if my friends saw it too, but there was a part along the long stretch of the beach where it was just full of trash (there are Youtube videos about it) and I wish the government, the people and the tourists can do something about it.

4. EXPENSIVE BEER FOR A POOR BOOZE

Probably the major heart-wrenching let down for me is the alcohol. Bintang beer is a locally made beer and is everywhere when you’re on the islands of the gods. With its name translating to the word ‘star’ in English, it is no doubt that Bintang is Bali’s favorite superstar.

Another local beer that I grabbed from a convenient store last minute because sunset was about to happen in 40 minutes.

I’ll say I loved it when I was backpacking in Indonesia; only that it was new to my taste buds. The taste is similar to pale lager, it’s a refreshing beer, but weak to some – including me. So when there’s another beer option, like the time when we went to a party in Motel Mexicola and found out they were selling San Miguel Pilsen, dude that was the death of Bintang for me.


Contemplating If I should try the ever famous ‘Bali Swing’ in Tegallalang Rice Terraces

CONCLUSION

Above are just my personal and honest takeaway thinking that mass tourism and a lack of authentic experience are the reason why I think Bali is overrated. But chances are, it might be different for you when you travel to Bali! So please do not think of this as a discouraging blog, alright?

On the other hand, I cannot deny the fact that I had a delightful stay in Bali and it would be so unfair if I wouldn’t list down the things that made myself charmed by its magic:

  • The spiritually consistent smell of burning incense
  • The Balinese for always talking to me in Bahasa Indonesia because they said I looked like someone from Jakarta
  • The look on their faces after finding out that I’m actually Filipino
  • My go-to Nasi Goreng at any time of the day
  • The beautiful discovery of Babi Guling
  • The hospitality that makes you feel at home
  • Rich and interesting culture of Hinduism
  • Being a millionaire!
  • JFC Fried Chicken
  • Sweeping and jaw-dropping landscapes
  • Walking outside with no particular destination A.K.A. just planning to get lost
  • Stunning Villas
  • The super convenient and cheap gojek rides to wherever I well damn please
  • Meeting like-minded strangers from all over the world
  • The Bali state of mind

Full story: My solo travel to Indonesia: Bali, Lombok and Nusa Penida

I was about to list down all the things that I wished I’ve done when I was in Bali as well but I’d rather just keep it to myself for now because if I do, say, continue writing about it, I think I will probably break down and wish teleportation is a reality.

One day, I will follow my heart again and I will wake up in Bali.


What did you love and hate about Bali? Share your story on the comment below!

25 Comments Add yours

  1. Mainstream tourist spots (including the ones in the Philippines) always have a downside. I always try to, at least, avoid the high season when I travel. Never tried Bali but next time I come to the Philippines I might consider visiting some neighboring country like Malaysia or Indonesia

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think by far, Indonesia offers all! Such an exciting archipelago in the Southeast of Asia.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Susubukan ko balang araw…. dadaan muna ako sa Pilipinas para kumuha ng supply ng Red Horse

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Haha! That’s a good choice, tito! Red Horse ks always a good idea.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. punjetry says:

    Ito talaga, lumaki ang mata ko nung nabasa ko: JFC Fried Chicken

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha I mean what can I say, it’s phenomenal!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Monch Weller says:

    Truth be told, seeing that Bali became a sort of quintessential tourist destination for basic white girls (a lot of ’em have the obligatory IG posts from there) made me dislike going there altogether.

    Like

    1. Indeed! Everything that must be done for the gram.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. markbierman says:

    I’ve never been there. My occupation has driven me to dislike and avoid crowds as much as possible. Even without current restrictions to travel, it’s highly inlikely that I’d set foot there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bali is for tourists, that’a my personal takeaway. And me too, Mark! I really am not a fan of crowded places. That was the reason why I left Bali and went to Lombok (will be blogging about it next) I bet you’ll like it there 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. markbierman says:

        Looking forward to reading about Lombok.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. zankpacker says:

    Bali is good… Right? That’s Indonesian……..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! Bali is good and I love Indonesia.

      Like

  6. Eris says:

    The last time I was in Bali was in 2014. It seems like the place has become even more touristy. I love the culture there though, and would love to revisit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would definitely go back. I still have so many things that I wasn’t able to do when I was in Bali.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Never been to Bali but surely looking forward to visit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You should! Bali is not just a summer destination in Southeast Asia, it is a state of mind!

      Like

  8. Bali was becoming overrun back in 1998 when I passed through on the way to Lombok.
    I’ve nominated you for the Liebster Award and hope you’ll join in…no pressure though and a bit of fun. 😉
    https://imageearthtravel.com/2020/05/10/liebster-award-nomination-4/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am currently writing a few bits of my Lombok journey at the moment. And wow! That’s totally amazing! I’ll check it out now. Thank you, Nilla!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m yet to start my 1998 travel journals! My pleasure – really enjoy your blog!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m looking forward to reading it! Thank you so much, Nilla. And likewise!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. kachaiweb says:

    I love Bali, its one of the best places to surf. I didn’t do much else there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t surf in Bali! I regret that. I was about to meet a friend in Uluwatu because he told me the waves there are good but I stayed in Lombok a little bit longer I ran out of time! So glad you took the time to share your thoughts. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. kachaiweb says:

        I was planning to go to Lombok but I stayed with the waves 🙂
        You just need to revisit then!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m planning on it!! Bali is always a good idea! You SHOULD visit Lombok too! The waves are as right as rain.

        Liked by 1 person

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