Somewhere at the Eastern coast of the Indian Ocean, in the middle of Indonesia’s beautiful archipelago, lies a paradise island of Bali. The island will blow your mind away with the mixture of world’s best surfing spots, amazing nature and the mystical culture of believing in spirits.
Even though it’s located almost at the edge of the map, it can still be quite cheap. After all, there is a reason why so many people these days choose to stay there for a year or more. And here are some of mine
The island of Bali has one of the most exotic cultures in the world, combining into one religion Buddhism, Hinduism and their own tradition of believing in spirits. The island is covered in myths and legends about good and bad spirits and every local will tell you his own version of what you can and cannot do on the island not to upset them.
Balinese are so religious that none of them will leave the house without bringing offerings to the statue of a good spirit. The most common one is a dragon that scares away all bad spirits flying around the island.
The offering usually consists of a flower, several minor food items and a lighten up scent stick brought to a statue of the god at the premises, as well as a flower and some food items at the exit of the house. In fact, none of Balinese people will also drive a car without bringing the offering to the good spirit for that as well. It’s also very frequent on Bali that you can hear a procession of a festival or ceremony of some kind with traditional music and hundreds of people in white attires, holding decorations or bringing offerings. On days that are not very festive the procession is much more humble, though.
Bali is located just below the equator making it a perfect destination throughout the year. The weather stays above +30 all the time during the day and only slips slightly below in the evenings. Good news – no need to pack jackets or warm clothing, just flip flops and swimming trunks required. Do pack a sun cream with a strong protection factor though, otherwise you’ll get sunburn in minutes.
The not-so-good news is that, there is a rainy season from November to January/February when the rain is quite frequent and strong. It’s worth noting that the tropical rain is not the same as the average rain people in Europe, for instance, are used to. This kind will get you super-duper wet in minutes. When I was walking on the street in Jakarta I got caught in this kind of rain. To me at that point it looked like a regular European rain. In 10 minutes of walking I could be home, so I figured I can’t get THAT wet in such short period of time. Boy, how wrong was I…
Things to do
Even though Bali is a small island it’s packed with all sorts of things to do. The first, an foremost, what everyone want to see and experience is Balinese culture and you can do that best by visiting temples. The temples are designed as open air spaces for worship connected with a series of decorated gates. There are lots of smaller temples on the island itself and there are also so-called “sea temples”. These are located on the coast and, as traditionally said, each temple can be visible from the next. That way these temples form a chain that protects the island from bad spirits. Quite mystical.
Some of the temples are filled with monkeys which are sacred creatures in Hinduism.
Last photo was so scary that one of the monkeys decided to hold me, as if it was saying “dude, this is too intense”.
Apart from culture, you can also do lots of active leisure, like surfing, rafting, climbing volcano, diving, etc.
If you’re not into this, you can always take a coconut and just enjoy the view and relax. No need to pressure yourself, take it easy.
Cheap accommodation and deals
Prices in Indonesia in general are not that high and Bali is not an exception in that sense (of course, 5-star luxury resorts are exceptions to that exception). On average, you can expect to find a good hotel in a good location with a pool (of course) for as little as $20-30 per room. However, if you are on a very tight budget, you can even rent a room for as little as $2 per night. However, this usually includes a bed and some primitive extras, like toilet outside and stuff. Not so much for a paradise vacation, so I guess this information is more for hardcore backpackers. If you’re coming for a longer time it is worth looking at renting an apartment that can cost you around $150-200 per month.
Here comes the good part, the main season on Bali ends in September (which is considered a start of the rainy season). The real rainy season starts somewhere in the middle of November when it rains for 2/3 of the week. Before that there is occasional rain and cloudy skies, but it’s not different from the summer in Europe or US (even better, since it’s hot and maybe rains 1 day a week). However, the season is considered over on Bali and prices are 25%-50% cheaper. If you book on a very short notice, you can even get up to 80%-90% discount.
Finally, Indonesian people are very friendly by themselves are quite welcoming to foreigners. They smile and laugh a lot, are helpful and look genuinely happy. As my Indonesian friend once put it “We as a nation are happy with our lives. Even if we get upset, we can’t stay so for long – after 5 or 10 minutes we forget about it, move on and keep on laughing”. That’s a wonderful thing to be proud of and something I’ve learned from my time there.
Bali is an amazing place and there is a little bit of everything for everyone to do. If you’re into active sports like me, there is a high chance you will be interested in taking some surfing lessons, going diving or climbing a volcano. If you enjoy exploring cultures and sights, you will be fascinated by exotic Balinese traditions, rituals and temples which you won’t see anywhere else. If you rather stay alone and work on your things, Bali is a great place for that as well. Just rent out a peaceful bungalow on the coast and dive into the “Bounty” commercial with coconuts and Indian Ocean sounds.
In the end if you think about it, for a week in a major European city you would be able to stay in Bali for whole 2-3 weeks. That’s almost a month and it’s including flights, hotel and food. Nearly a month in paradise, or a couple of days in Europe’s metropolis? I choose the first option and already packing my surfing shorts.