Back from Bali

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Nusa Dua beach at 6am with the tide out.

I have just returned from 10 days in Bali and it is most definitely not the reason why I haven’t been updating this blog much – that’s just sheer laziness! There have been so many interesting Chinese related news articles that I have been meaning to write about, alas!

I would prefer to say that I had just returned from Indonesia, it sounds so much more exotic than Bali. Bali is, like my brother-in-law put it, “the Gold Coast with passports,” and man, is that the truth. For the non-Australian’s, the Gold Coast is long section of beach just south of Brisbane (in the State of Queensland). It is one of Australia’s most popular holiday destinations for Australians – kind of where you go to when you want nothing more than to drink and lie on a beach – two very popular Australian pasttimes – particularly for the typical yobbo. The name Gold Coast is taken from the fact the sand is golden yellow – it’s also known as Surfers Paradise for its waves.

Bali is like taking the above description and mixing it with South East Asia. It’s hot, there’s nice beaches, plenty of drinking, and of course, plenty of Australians. Initially we were looking at going to the Philippines, and then Malaysia, and we thought, we simply want a cheap, hot destination for a pool holiday, and well, Bali is close, so decided to check it out. We figured Bali would be cheaper than the other two options.

It is definitely close, with a direct flight from Melbourne clocking in around the 5 hours 20 minute mark. And it was definitely HOT, with one Balinese local describing the island as having two temperatures: hot and hotter. But it was not cheap. In fact, unless you’re eating all meals in the outside restaurants, and the same with the drinks, you’re looking at very close to Australian prices (ie: expensive).

Of course, this holds true for most countries I have visited. If you eat in your hotel, you’re going to pay for it, but I can say for a fact, Thailand was a lot cheaper than Bali in this regard. In addition, you don’t always want to have to go into the streets for your lunches and dinners. Sometimes it’s nice just to stay by the pool all day, ordering food to you, ordering cocktails and the like. It’s a pool holiday afterall!

We stayed in three different places. First up was the Laguna resort in Nusa Dua. Second was the Seminyak Resort and Spa in Seminyak, and finally we splurged a bit and stayed for two nights at the Anantara, also in Seminyak.

The Laguna was lovely, if not lacking a bit of character. It was one of those resorts designed to be all inclusive, in that once there, you don’t need to leave. This is great if you’re European (which most of the guests were incidentally), but if you want to get out and explore a bit, not so good. There were some shops nearby, and a largish shopping centre named Bali Connection (which I swear was just 5 shops repeated 50 times over), but overall, it was just lacking something, and it was very expensive. Cocktails were $16.00 AUD a pop, and the mojitos were mediocre at best, even at this premium price. The 5 dollar shopping centre mojitos were far tastier.

The beach at Nusa Dua was quiet as there was a coral reef there. Waves would break quite a distance from shore, until high tide when the main beach became quite lovely for swimming. In the distance there was a terrific view of one of Bali’s volcanos.

Seminyak was a very different experience. This bustling area is one of Bali’s new tourism growth spots, with resorts and villas everywhere. When standing on the beach, I counted no less than 7 large cranes behind the palm tree horizon – new resorts were sprouting up everwhere. Across the water, an almost constant stream of planes were taking off and landing – Bali thrives off its tourism.

The Seminyak Resort and Spa was a nice hotel, located right on the beach, with an amazing infinity pool set right above the sand. The beach here was the polar opposite of Nusa Dua, with some seriously large waves crashing against the shore. The sand was volcanic grey and home to a surprisingly number of articles of rubbish. While it was nice bobbing in the ridiculously warm Indian Ocean, the vibe is somewhat killed when you’re constantly picking your way in between chip packets and pieces of plastic.

The Seminyak Resort and Spa had a really nice room, and the grounds were decent enough, but the lack of a proper bar area killed it a bit. It had one of the fabled swim up pool bars – but that was it. There was nowhere to sit around this bar, and by the time it was happy hour (5-7pm), the water was in shade and actually kind of cold. Thailand wins on the bar front – with both places we staying having awesome areas to just hang out, watch the sun go down and sup cocktails. All three places in Bali failed in this regard.

The Seminyak also has this chapel located bang in the middle of its ocean front property. This place could have made an excellent restaurant, bar or effectively anything else – but no, it was just a chapel. Complete waste of space in my opinion.

The final place, the Anantara was what I thought would be the best of the three, but was merely just as good. This is classed as a boutique resort (aka small), occupying a small patch of ground, further down the beach from the Seminyak. The Anantara did have a much better vibe to it however. The main draw here are the jacuzzi’s set into the balcony, which despite taking like 40 minutes to fill, were kind of cool I have to admit. Our first night here was a disaster, with some works in the hotel keeping up awake literally all night – and on complaining the next day, we were moved to a higher level, which thankfully, was quiet.

While each hotel was nice, the common trend was they lacked character – something the Thai hotels had in spades. The one thing that bound them all together however, was the staff – the Balinese (or Indonesians, period) were just like the Thai’s – friendly, helpful and always an absolute pleasure to deal with. While Bali is not the kind of place I could see myself returning to time and time again, if i had to, the Balinese people themselves would be a big part of this.

Overall – I liked Bali. I didn’t love it, but I liked it. As usual, I found it interesting to see the differences between the local culture/people compared to the other parts of Asia that I am familiar with. I love Asia, and being back there was an absolute treat. Once more, I have returned home with pangs of wanting to move back there. And once more, upon returning home, drinking water from the tap feels like wrongtown.

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Sunset on Seminyak beach

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The Seminyak Resort and Spa infinity pool

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Hi!

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7 Responses to “Back from Bali”

  1. Eric Says:

    Hi,dear Marcus
    Long time no hear from you and how are you?
    Just read your article of your Bali trip and actually I’ll have a trip to Bali this July too!!! This will be my first time to visit Bali and I’m so excited about there.Share more interesting things there with you later!!!

  2. Marcus Says:

    Hey Eric! Long time no see!

    That’s great – are you looking forward to it? Where will you be staying?

    I was listening to a Chinese woman speaking to a pair of old American women and she was explaining that it’s very easy for Chinese to get visas for Bali (only the same 25 dollar USD cost as everyone else). She also mentioned Dubai was the same, so easy for Chinese to travel to. I’m not sure if this applies to Taiwanese.

    Did you know about that by the way? It’s something we found out before going – at the airport, you need to purchase a temporary stay visa, and from memory it was $25.00 USD per person – I can confirm that for you if needed.

    We also needed to pay 150,000 rupee each as we left – which was 15 bucks Australian each – another tax thing.

  3. Eric Says:

    Hello, Marcus
    I am looking forward it so much of course πŸ™‚
    Actually my travel is included Singapore and Bali, but most time we will be in Bali. We’ll visit Kuta, Lovina, Ubud, Nusa Dua, Tanah Lot Temple, Uluwatu, Jimbaran, Bedugul, Lake Bratan, Kintamani and go rafting…and so on!! Did you join some activities there??

    Yes, we need a visa on arrival for paying 25 USD to visit Indonesia and Taiwanese are easy and convenient to many major countries without visa actually, such as US, Canada, EU, Japan, New Zerland, South Korea, Singapore….and your country. I’m sure we’re much easier to travel than Chinese in the world.

    How many time have your been to Bali? We know there’re a lot of wonderful islands and beaches in Australia. But I’m interested in why do you or many Australian like to fly to Bali for a vacation? Do do think there’re something different them? Or everything is cheaper in Bali?

    Welcome to Taiwan anyway and it does a different “Chinese place” !!

    All the best and talk soon….Eric

  4. Marcus Says:

    Hey Eric,

    Sounds like you’re going to be busy! Of those places, we got to Ubud and Nusa Dua, but we weren’t really there to explore. We were there to relax – aka sit by a pool and read while drinking cocktails πŸ™‚

    Are you going with your family?

    Bali is popular with Australian’s as it’s not only close, but it’s also cheap. I actually found it quite expensive to be honest – unless you only ate food from the places out of the hotels, which i found quite average to be honest. Other than that, it was enjoyable.

    I read that 60% of Bali’s economy is from tourism, and 50% of that is from Australia alone, pretty nuts eh?

    Hope you have a good trip mate!

  5. Eric Says:

    Yes, we’ll go with my 2 children..so it should be a busy trip for us although I hope we can have a relaxing vacation there as you…but it’s hard with kids I think πŸ˜€

    Have you had a baby? I don’t think it’s a good idea to travel with a baby.

    You’re right that actually Bali is really not cheap..there’re many wonderful villas and resorts with “amazing” rates there.. And I agree with you that Thaliand is usually cheaper and with good quality!! I have been to Koh Samui, Pataya and Bangkok…there’re many other nice places in Thailand still. Did you go to Thailand often?

  6. Marcus Says:

    Ah yes, I think you’ll have your hands full with the kiddies πŸ™‚

    No kid for me yet. It has to be on the horizon, but to be honest, i dont like the thought of being tied down by one. Some people only want to get themselves a house then have kids, but that’s not really what I want at the moment, I have other things I’d rather be doing.

    I have only been to Thailand once so far. I really want to go to Taiwan to be honest, it looks great there.

  7. Paul Walsh Says:

    Great post really wanna see Bali soon

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