What I Love (and Hate) About Bali

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about Bali – rumored to be the favorite holiday destination for Aussies and Kiwis. Would I fall in love with the beaches and the street food, or would I be turned off by the commercial catering to foreigners?

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I’m happy to report that it was absolutely the former.

I could have sipped mango smoothies, wandered through rice paddies, and explored underwater for much longer than a month.

However, there were still a few things that I could have done without... Here’s what I loved and hated about Bali.

Things I Love About Bali

1. The Daily Offerings

A beautiful splash of color on every road and in every home, and a constant reminder of the devotion of Balinese people to their beliefs.

Offerings. Photo credit: Christine Amorose

2. Delicious Indonesian Food

The range of great cuisine, from super cheap to super trendy.

3. Under the Sea

If you want to get up close with the sea turtles and fluorescent fish, Bali has no shortage of places to strap on your snorkel mask.

Dive deep in Tulamben for an incredible underwater wreck, or snorkel in Amed for beautiful coral gardens in crystal clear waters. 

4. Stand Up On the Surf

There are surfing opportunities for all levels in Bali. Novices can learn how to stand up at Quicksilver Surf School in Legian, while more experienced surfers will find killer waves in Medewi. 

5. The Smiles

The Balinese people are exceptionally beautiful and friendly. It’s impossible to travel here without being won over by the locals. 

6. The Green of the Rice Paddies

When you see the men working, wearing those cone-shaped hats, with the palm trees towering ahead, you know you’re somewhere very beautiful – yet very far away from home.

7. Riding a Motorbike

“Road rules” seems to be a bit of an oxymoron here. Every ride is a thrilling rush to not, you know, fall off and die — but it’s also incredibly liberating and satisfying to ditch the trapped feeling of being stuck in a taxi, jammed in incessant traffic. 

8. Outdoor Yoga

There’s nothing better than stretching into a sun salutation while staring out at a sea of green rice paddies, and listening to monkeys screech in the distance.

Yoga Barn in Ubud is a hub for culturally hip and flexible travelers and expats. Try flying yoga for something different, or unwind after a long flight with restorative yoga. 

9. You Won’t Leave Hungry

From super trendy restaurants in Seminyak, to hippie vegan joints in Ubud and cheap (yet delicious) food wrapped in banana leaves on the street — Balinese food is spicy, fresh and scrumptious.

Join a cooking class to learn how to re-create your favorites back home.

Things I Hate About Bali

1. Miss! Transport! 

There are touts everywhere, but it’s particularly bad in Ubud.

It’s impossible to walk down the street without being asked to hop on a motorbike, into a taxi, or rent a bicycle.

In the Kuta/Seminyak area, taxis announce their availability by honking their horn while driving down the street. Needless to say, a quiet walk down the street is not possible in Indonesia.

2. The Mosquitoes

The humidity leaves you drenched in sweat and covered in mosquito bites, particularly if you’re out in the late afternoon.

Pick up a bottle of Utama Spice mosquito repellent at Bali Buddha. It’s organic, smells amazing and keeps all the bugs away. 

3. Rainy Season is No Lie

If you’re visiting between the months of November and March, be prepared to spend your afternoons indoors, as thunderstorms sweep through the region. Pack an umbrella!  

Wet season in Indonesia. Photo credit: Christine Amorose

4. Trash in the River

The Balinese used to eat on banana leaves and then toss the leaves in the river when they were done.

It seems like the “toss it in the river” mentality has prevailed – but now with plastic bottles and paper products.

It’s a shame to see how much trash piles up in the rushing creeks and on the streets. 

5. Riding a Motorbike 

It’s not uncommon to see young Westerners walking around on crutches or covered in bandages – the likely result of a motorbike crash.

Road rules aren’t taken too seriously here, and the streets can be a bit dangerous as a result.

Always wear a helmet, and only drive if you have a license back home, and if you feel comfortable navigating the streets. 

Motorbike traffic in Indonesia. Photo credit: Christine Amorose

About the Author

Christine Amorose has backpacked through Europe, bartended on the French Riviera, worked in Australia and explored Southeast Asia. Follow her adventures at C’est Christine, or catch her on Twitter and Facebook

What did you love or hate about Bali? Share your stories in the comments below!

22 Comments

  • tracie said

    Hi Christine, I'm glad to hear you had a mainly positive experience of Bali. I agree - always wear a helmet on the motorbikes! I find that Indonesia makes me love it ad hate it at the same time too. I explored through writing a post called 'Why Indonesia, Why' at http://traciepascoe.blog.com/ if you would like to check it out-I'm sure you will relate to a lot of it! Selamat jalan.

  • Dave said

    You hot the mail on the head. I lived in Bali and east East Timor for 5 years and both loved and hated it. Mostly loved. Smile

  • Betty Wittels said

    I've traveled quite a bit. There's only three places in the world that haunt my thoughts as reluctantly I live in America: Antarctica, Bali, and Barcelona.

  • Guillermo Marzoratti said

    I just came back from a three week trip through the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. Amazingly (or maybe not) it seems to me that the love / hate things are very similar to what are mentioned in this article.

  • Teresa Gieschen said

    I just returned from 16 days in Indonesia and Bali was our least favorite. It is over run with tourists and while there was the occasional moment of beauty and solitude - I felt like it isn't a place for people like me who are seeking the off the beaten path destination. Wish I had gone there 20--30 years ago.

  • Giovanni said

    Respectfully, but where are you from? Food in Bali sucks. Eapeciallly compared to other Asian countries. Or you have to go to the European owned restaurants. Beaches in Bali are, mostly, very dirthy. Far from paradise. And diving at the wreck at Amed is like a tourist excursion, with lots of other divers. Like most of Bali, ruined. That said, places such as Penestanan still have some charm. For now.

  • Katherine said

    What I love about Bali are the Balinese, their smiles, their culture, their traditional crafts, and, yes, even their food. What I hate about Bali are the hordes of noisy Western and American tourists and the many junky shops and services for them... and even Italian restaurants!, especially in Ubud, once a lovely home of Balinese art and culture.

  • Judith said

    As a diver the only place I could recommend is Amed but not for the coral; it is a great place for muck diving. Bali is cheap(it) and. let's face it, this and the fact it is easy to follow the herd around, has become a place for those who want to do things cheaply, not have to think much and con themselves that they are imbibing culture. It reminds me of Thailand 30 years ago: transients stopping for a few days and thinking they were experts on the place and travelling in general. I spent more than a month there last summer and I was really , really disappointed. Having been to 97 countries I think I am entitled to say it is a busted flush, overrun by hordes and rapidly running out of charm as it rushes headlong to meet the demands of young and fickle tourists. As for the coral: it is seriously bleached out above 18m.

  • Elliot said

    I was in Bali in '72 and again in '82. I don't want to go back!

  • David said

    @Judith, would you recommend anywhere else in Indonesia instead?

  • temajin khan said

    read comments & like "a------s" everyone has one. Bali is a great island. having spent little to no time in Kuta et al, my time is spent tranversing this island by motorbike, making Medewi my base. I & I stress I, have had many amazing adventures, the people, the food, the land, it is my recommendation to get out & about, far from the crowds & see & experience the real Bali.

  • John Seccombe said

    I liked the friendly people always a smile.
    Interesting unlike Thailand, with woman running most thing, Bali men and woman running business
    Food is pleasent with heaps of fruit, no complaints.
    Im long past ( 67) surfing, which must be the worlds best in Bali, including windsurfing. Diving was great but currents extreemly dangerous, two were drowned when I was there.
    I found the food offerings to their gods gets out of hand and it all ends up being thousands of little rubbish heaps and food piles for insects and sick cats.
    I race motorbikes, and traveled all over Phuket on Scooter, and that was fantastic, but found the Bali people agressive, in their driving and riding, and business ways and would only recomend scooter travel for the very experianced (Defensive driving big time, makes it unpleasent)
    Im sorry Bali ladies, but Thailand Ladies are so beautiful, coupled with their budhist ways, I wouldn't go back to Bali.

  • matt said

    young men- stay home and get drunk. Travelers...travelers- if there is big rave music scene, go the other way. Druggies, and sex freaks- get a life !! Remember , you are a guest in their country, and really know next to zero . I suppose none of this really needs to be said, but Bali was paradise before you got there. matt

  • Roy nirschel said

    A superficial view of a complex place. It appears the writer gravitated to places chock full of tourists, e.g. ubud, and covered little or none of the off the beaten path parts of the island.
    Bali has a long history and is nuanced, not a bi-modal distribution of Aussie tourists vs. "authentic"; too simplistic.

  • Suzette | TrySomethingFun.com said

    One's experience depends on which areas you spend your time in. Indeed, people in Ubud will try to sell you things constantly—I eventually I realized their sense of humor and managed to turn those interactions into laughs.

  • Carl said

    @Roy, I was thinking along the same lines as you.

    I have lived in Bali for over 9 years now. I have also lived in the past in Australia, USA, Europe, UK and the Middle East and traveled to over 50 countries. Bali is like every other place on the planet. There are great things and there are less than pleasant things. Including great people and unpleasant people (foreigners and locals). The food in Bali is excellent (in range, quality and cost). Take a trip into Denpasar and there are a plethora of great local options at the low and high end of the spectrum. Take a drive around the island to experience amazing people, environments, and experiences. Skip Kuta. Spend less time in Ubud. Visit Canggu for a day or two. Wear a helmet. Keep an open mind. Do yoga. Practice patience. Find unique places to stay using Airbnb. Take a side trip to Jogjakarta or Lombok. And remember to smile.

  • rick be said

    The taxis are cheap and the drivers try to be helpful. But the very little bus service between towns makes that difficult or expensive. The little local restaurants are cheap and the food fascinating.
    Tourism moves the world today and I am very happy to be in that movement.

  • Karen said

    I just returned from a yoga retreat in Ubud. Because it was the Balinese New Year (Nyepi) we participated in the ogoh-ogoh festivities and in 3 religious rituals. My experiences with Bali and the Balinese people were all positive - the smiles, the warmth, the extra acts of kindness. I am particularly impressed with the awareness they have of climate change and the efforts that they make to help alleviate that. Yes, people are hawking their wares and their taxi services, but I did not find any of them to be overly aggressive and sometimes saying "yes" led to nice surprises. Bali-YES

  • Kathy said

    I spent 6 months in Bali in 1979 and some time again in 1980. I found it to be a magical place. I'm happy some of the things I loved then, are still things you loved we. I stayed in losmens in Legian each time but traveled by bemos (are they still there? There weren't taxis then.) extensively around the island. There were areas where tourists rarely went and white folks were an oddity to stare at and Balinese wanted to touch your skin and my blond hair. On my first visit in '79 Westerners who had been living there or coming there regularly for 5 years or more were lamenting the changes that had already happened.
    On my visit in '80 I was surprised at changes that may seem minor but were a big impact on me and had already begun to change the feeling of Bali - a traffic light in Kuta, a grocery store and a highway instead of the barely paved road to Ubud. It was still magical and it was still easy to escape the tourists with a short trip out of Kuta. Has the north side of the island remained at all remote? Black sand beaches, night markets with few if any tourists, and little English spoken.
    I'm afraid to go back. I think I want to remember it as it was.

  • Maya Taufiek said

    Dear Christine,
    Thank you to describe your opinion about Bali.
    Yeah as same as with you, i am really hate traffic and motorbike. But as economics laws there is demand and supply, so the rise of motorcycle in 5 years cause demand for it.
    But for me Bali always amazing if you can skip little thing like bug, motorcycle or the hard rain. I always love the dolphin beside my boat or hiking in mt Batur, and yes, stay with Balinesse people who always amaze me. Absolutely some food always be my favorite like Ayam Betutu (Chikcen Satay without nut ketchup).
    Another place to dive is East Nusa Tenggara and Wakatobi. Another place to hike is Rinjani Mountain

  • Normb said

    Hi christine... I'm normb from indonesia too, i like this cause this is what i felt to be indonesian. I suggest you going to lombok. Thank you

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