My initial perception of Indonesia was just that of great beaches in Bali. Yes, I’d heard of Jakarta as well, but not as a ”must visit” place. Upon landing in Bali, I was offered a cab. “It’s cheap,” the lady told me. It was a $25 USD cab to the hotel. It was late, I was exhausted and when I compared it to back home, given the short distance from the airport to hotel, I knew it was high. I just didn’t know by how much. I hadn’t done enough research. Well, let’s just say that for $20 USD you can hire a driver for 4-5 hours with unlimited miles and in Yogyakarta, I took a bus from the airport to hostel for $.26 USD. That’s right, cents. That first night I thought: “They will try to give me tourist prices everywhere I turn.” But it didn’t actually turn out like that for the rest of my stay.
durian is a fruit with a very strong smell. If one is opened within a 50 foot radius, you’ll wonder where the dead body is that farted
On my first full day and after that, in Bali and especially Yogyakarta, random folks just smiled or said hi to me for no reason. Interactions with local folk requiring transactions actually charged me fair prices on the items I wanted to purchase. Some even wanted to participate in my Walking Indonesia video without being asked. They just joined! One evening, as I was going to get groceries at the supermarket, an employee was packing durian. For those that don’t know, durian is a fruit with a very strong smell. If one is opened within a 50 foot radius, you’ll wonder where the dead body is that farted. I hadn’t had any of the pungent fruit yet—a must when you visit Malaysia or Indonesia—so I asked him how much it was. I clarified I didn’t want a whole one or a full pack of pieces, but just a one piece found in a pack. He offered it to me for 5000 rupiah which is roughly 37 cents USD. Upon seeing how much fun i had overcoming the smell to eat it, and recording video of it, he just let me have it for free. Part of me felt bad not paying for it, but I think part of me understood the moment that he shared with me. He felt good giving it to me and I receiving it. There were many places I went to buy things in which I wasn’t treated like a fat American bank that dispenses dollars. I was treated like a person. I don’t foresee that everyone that visits will get the same treatment. It’ll vary largely on what you do and where. If all you do is go to the popular places that all the tourist and TripAdvisor tell you about, you may not see much of what I’m talking about. But if you stray just a little… you will be rewarded.
As for the beaches in Bali, there’s no easy way to say this: they’re dirty. Bali is not a beach paradise by any means or stretch of the imagination. Not so dirty you don’t want to get in them, but dirty enough to wonder why you went to Bali for beaches. But there’s an easy solution: the nearby island of Nusa Penida. You’ll get what you’re looking for there. Unfortunately, I don’t speak from experience as I didn’t have enough time to make it there, but everyone that’s been there I spoke to agrees. Bali is a great place and you should visit, but not for beaches. So if not for beaches, then for what?
The temples Tanah Lot and Ulun Danu alone are worth the visit. They looked amazing even on the rainy days I went. There’s also the rice field and other common places like museums and more temples. There’s plenty of overpriced restaurants of course, but there are also good ones at fair prices. It also has a good nightlife which a great welcome for a nice cold one given how hardly beaten from the sun you’ll be throughout the day. But again, if you want crystal clear waters, go somewhere else. For a sample of the clarity of the water—or lack thereof—see my Walking Indonesia video where I swim with sharks.
I don’t have a death wish, I have a life wish. There’s a very subtle difference
I was severely disappointed I didn’t get to be in cage with sharks trying to have a go at me in Australia, so I was happy to find out I could swim with sharks in Bali. I don’t have a death wish, I have a life wish. There’s a very subtle difference. 🙂 I’m a firm believer that sharks don’t want to eat you. They’re just trying to go about their business like every other animal on the planet. Don’t mess with them, and they won’t mess with you. So I wasn’t actually scared and was looking forward to the experience.
The event begins with feeding the sharks. I joked that we’re feeding them so that they’re not hungry for me. They guy coordinating the event laughed but I sensed sarcasm. Once inside with the sharks, I wasn’t as scared as expected. The water was quite dirty and the sharks were very hard to see. As I thought they would, they were chilling at the bottom minding their own business. The guy knowing that I’ll ask for my money back if I “don’t swim with sharks” took out pieces of fish on a stick and started using them as bait. Hoping the sharks would surface to the top so that I could swim with them. It worked…too well.
Shortly thereafter, one of them actually bumps into me and pushes me slightly. I got the fuck out of there
There I am, swimming like a giant piece of dead meat while sharks are fighting over each other for pieces of fish. Quickly I sensed that they were becoming confused. At the same time, the guy tells me to be careful, as when the visibility is low like that, they get confused. They can’t see you until they’re very close to you. Then he starts laughing. Was he joking? Shortly thereafter, one of them actually bumps into me and pushes me slightly. I got the fuck out of there. I had enough. I was fine only spending half of the 90 minutes I had paid for. I’ll do it again but only if visibility is better. 🙂
A popular destination while in Bali is to visit Ubud. A small town north of Denpasar, the capital of Bali. It’s a cute little town which was still a village not long ago. A big part of it is the market where you will have to haggle as you’re a walking ATM, but it’s not too bad. The rate I calculated is that they’ll try to charge you about 3-4 times the price they’ll sell at. This is still a vast difference to India where it was about 10-20 times. 🙂
The places to be in Yogyakarta are primarily Borobudur and Prambanan temples. I personally liked Prambanan much better, but both are worth the visit. For the more adventurous, you can try hiking near a volcano at night and seeing the sunrise the morning after. Malioboro Road is a popular market but the one in Ubud is far better.
And Jakarta, well, all I’ll say is that in TripAdvisor the number one tourist thing to do is visit the Grand Indonesia mall. It’s a city like any other. Nothing special here. Not with Yogyakarta and Bali and other islands so close by.
I averaged about $112 USD per day for everything and given how much I packed on each of those days, it was very inexpensive. I was having such a good time, I literally almost missed my flight. On the morning of my flight, I was taking my time having breakfast and recording expenses that I realized my flight was going to take off in 78 minutes and I hadn’t even packed yet. If that’s not an indication of a good time, I don’t know what is.