We already know about the things that shouldn’t happen in Bali: excessive drinking, tourists exposing way too much flesh on the beach and blatant ignorance of the island’s culture. But that’s not the real Bali. Beyond Kuta there is plenty that will surprise, and delight, the first-time visitor to the Island of the Gods.
1. They know it’s your first time
The first time I visited Bali my then-boyfriend was chased down the street by around 30 vendors after we went for our first walk outside our hotel.
One brazen Javanese woman tied a leather bracelet around his wrist and demanded payment. You’re pale, you stop to look at what they’re selling and you mistakenly ask how much. They know.
2. You’ll sweat like there’s no tomorrow
Forget your jeans, or that heavy jacket; Bali is hot year-round with an average temperature of 32 degrees. Pack cotton fabrics, kaftans and open-toe shoes. You will live in your swimmers. May to July is considered the best time to visit Bali. You may even be able to walk down the street without leaving a puddle of sweat – but then again, don’t count on it.
3. Bali’s beaches are nothing on Australia’s
It shouldn’t really come as a surprise given Australia has some of the best beaches on the planet, but the first time you take a dip in Bali it can be disappointing. The water at many popular beaches is generally not clear, and you mightn’t see anything of note while snorkelling. There are exceptions.
The beaches of Ungasun, where many hip beach clubs are located, look like the Amalfi Coast, but beware of strong currents and dumping waves. What the beaches lack in aesthetics they more than make up for with happening beachfront clubs and incredible sunsets.
4. Culture is everywhere you look
The true Bali, with its rituals, festivals and ancient culture, is everywhere you look from small offerings sitting outside shops to thousands of temples that reside everywhere from hotels and resorts to by the roadside. Everywhere you look, you will see ceremony, ritual and sacred offerings. The Balinese carry out their religious obligations with pride and everyone takes part from the youngest child, through to grandparents, all dressed immaculately for the temple.
5. You’ll need to pack a sarong
Speaking of temples, if you plan to visit one you are required to wear a sarong and a sash. You can hire them if you forgot to pack one, or buy them relatively cheaply. Both men and women need to cover their legs below the knee with a sarong, while the sash should be worn around the waist.
6. The drinks are incredible, and cheap
Bali sure knows how to make a fab cocktail. Some of the best can be found in bars, beach clubs and restaurants in Seminyak and Legian but I’ve had delicious lychee martinis in the middle of nowhere. Beer is also cheap. Be wary of inexpensive and nasty bootlegged alcohol and avoid drinks that appear too cheap even by Bali standards. Avoid drinks labelled as arak. Wine, compared to spirits, is extremely expensive.