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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!