Bali is one of those places I’ve always wanted to go to… since December 2015, when, in my post break up ‘I’m-going-travelling’ phase, I watched Eat, Pray, Love starring Julia Roberts. Basically, Julia Roberts gets a divorce, then breaks up with her weird hippy rebound to go travelling. She eats a load of pizza in Italy, spends a lot of time praying in India, then has a load of sex whilst meditating in Bali. And of course, has a load of spiritual revelations on the way, obviously. Having been unceremoniously dumped before going travelling, I basically was Julia Roberts (or Elizabeth Gilbert, if you want to get technical about it). I’ve been to Rome before and done the pizza thing, and Thailand is a bit like India, so all that was left to do to complete my spiritual awakening was Bali. So when the family I’m currently au pairing for gave me the chance to come with them, I only had one answer: yes please!
The Bali that Julia Roberts explores is pretty basic. It’s all about cute little huts decorated with flowers, a casual morning cycle through the rice fields, and doctors that treated based on old wives tales. Yeah, my experience of Bali? Not so much. I was staying in Seminyak, which I’m pretty sure is the Ibiza of Bali. You couldn’t swing a cat around without hitting a trendy champagne bar, a hugely overpriced gelato shop or a dodgy man offering drugs from Valium to viagra on the side of the road. And as with anywhere vaguely touristy, there were taxis bloody everywhere. The soundtrack of my trip to Bali would have to be ‘taxi, taxi, miss?’.
Don’t get me wrong, Bali is a beautiful country, but from the whole Eat, Pray, Love film, I was expecting, like, one cash point for the entire island and possibly a bar on the beach selling fruity cocktails out of a coconut shell. But then, I guess when you’re staying in an amazing villa with a pool, a massive double bed and Matteo the male maid who comes every day, you can’t really expect to see the ‘real’ Bali.
In an attempt to do my solo female traveller thing, I booked myself a taxi and decided to go find my Eat, Pray, Love Bali (surprisingly, the family didn’t fancy dragging 3 children under 6 around a load of cultural sights for 8 hours). With my non-English speaking driver, I felt pretty cultural and traveller-y… until I got my to my first destination, a Barong-Kris dance, and was sat next to two large Americans, complete with Hawaiian shirts, embarrassing dad sandals (with socks), cameras around their necks, and even a map of Bali on their maps. The Barong-Kris show itself is basically a story of good vs.evil and was pretty spectacular, if a bit mentally scarring, with the tiger (representing ‘good’ having the creepiest snapping mask ever. I’m not sure whether anyone in the hundred-strong audience actually watched the performance through something that wasn’t an iPhone screen. My American seat neighbours certainly did not.
After the mentally scarring tiger experience, things got progressively worse as I went to visit a silver making shop. The problem with these places is that it’s totes cool to come and look at these places… if you’ll buy something from their overpriced shops. Hence why I’m now the ‘proud’ owner of a (rather crappy) $10 ring.
And what other ‘culture’ did I see, I hear you ask? Well, I saw a volcano (not gonna lie, looked like a big hill) and one whole temple. Yep, Thailand really did put me off temples forever. I visited the Holy Water temple, where people come from all over the world (maybe) to wash under the holy water. It was strangely moving, watching all these people bathing fully clothed with such hope that their problems would be cured. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an expression of religion that moved me so much… But then the cynical part of me wanted to yell, ‘it’s water, idiots!’. But if there’s one thing my travelling has taught me so far, it’s live and let live. If these people think water will cure them, who am I to say no? Especially when I attempt to cure my problems by sleeping and eating copious amounts of chocolate…
And then there was the delicacies. In particular, Luwak coffee. Which is made from the poo of a civet cat, and is apparently one of the most expensive coffees is the world. I can confirm, not particularly liking coffee (especially when I’ve seen the animal it came from), it was repulsive. And not worth the $10. #neveragain.
Bali is a pretty cool place, but for me, it’s beautiful because of its modernity; it’s the lights, the beach bars and the colours and smells (Ubud art market was a highlight), that make it a place I’d love to return to one day. There’s culture there, sure, but I’m way more of a fan of a cute beach with coloured umbrellas then coffee made from poo. I think it was all a bit touristy for me to have a Elizabeth-Gilbert-esque #liferevelation but I had an amazing time. Can I go back, please?
P.S. Ms. Gilbert, can I suggest Thailand next time? For me, #toteslifechanging #allthetemples #alltheliferevelations…