UPDATE: October 2020
In early 2018, I spent some time in Bali following up on an offer of dive work. Money was running out from my travels in the USA, Canada, the UK, France, and the Balkans, so it was good to be able to extend my time away by working in Indonesia – famous for its world-class diving. My time was mostly spent underwater (of course), but during my stint on this ‘small island with a big reputation’, I learned some interesting but lesser-known facts. I will share them with you here…
Photos are my own unless otherwise credited.
1. You should watch where you step!
Known as Canang Sari in Indonesian, these little parcels of treats are presented by Balinese Hindus as an offering to Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa – the supreme god of Indonesian Hinduism. Containing anything from flowers, to burning incense sticks and sometime cigarettes, they can be found everywhere from temples to beaches, outside shops, inside private homes, the lobbies of hotels, and even boats. Indeed, our boat crew set an offering floating in the ocean before we departed the dock for each dive trip. However, for the unwary (or clumsy) traveller, they can lead to all sorts of awkwardness as at least once, you will inevitably kick one of these while going about your business. The contents of these little trays will then scatter in a myriad of bright colours across the roadside as you mutter your apologies to the perturbed local shopkeeper who just watched you dis-honour their offering with a violent rendition of David Beckham. For me, it was the early mornings which proved most hazardous as we drove from hotel to hotel picking up guests for the day’s trip. The customers would invariably fail to meet us by the roadside, so I would have to track them down by knocking on doors, running down alleys, climbing stairs, using elevators, asking at reception desks, and shouting up to balconies in this urban jungle that is Denpasar – the capital city of Bali. In my daily effort to locate missing customers, I would kick over many of these Canang Sari as I stumbled my way around the maze-like labyrinth of this Asian metropolis.
2. Gasoline is sold in vodka bottles. (And it’s blue!)
Catering mostly to the droves of scooters that zip their way around Bali’s urban areas, these enterprising roadside entrepreneurs will sell you a litre of fuel for just a few Rupiah. Why it is blue, however, I couldn’t tell you! For anyone renting a scooter (which is highly recommended) during your time here, don’t pay over the odds at the large, out-of-town gas stations, support local! Buy your fuel from an 8-year-old kid down the nearest narrow alleyway! Better for you, better for local business. Win Win!
3. Everything looks like it has been chopped in half!
Well, maybe not everything, but the influence of ‘Candi Bentar‘ is everywhere. Candi Bentar, is the style of split entrance gate that is typical of the Hindu temples of Bali. (To a lesser extent also Java and Lombok, the neighbouring islands to the west and east respectively.) Thought to originate in 13th and 14th century Java, Candi Bentar is usually formed of a temple-like structure literally being cut in two to create a gateway that is supposed to act as a passage from the outside world into the holy temple. The effect is that of symmetry, and its influence can be seen all over Bali from simple garden walls, rooftops, entrances into shops and businesses, and even the airport.
4. There is more to Bali than Kuta and Seminyak.
Kuta and Seminyak are suburbs of Denpasar, Bali’s main city of 800,000 people. (Yes! 800,000 – who would have thought it? The population of the island as a whole is 4.2 million!) Each are good for only two things; shopping and drinking. However, both of these things they do incredibly well. The beach clubs are some of the best in the world – playing live deep house sets from some of the best producers and DJ’s in the world. Surrounded by beautiful people and drinking amazing cocktails. What isn’t to love for our millennial generation of hedonistic nomads? Both of these locations definitely have their place; in many ways I wished I had more money at the time to truly take advantage! However, by limiting yourself to these densely packed urban centres, you are doing yourself a huge injustice in not seeing what else this island has to offer. From the rice terraces (seen in the photo above), to the volcanoes, breathtaking temples, amazing diving, motorbiking, and of course surfing. Bali is a right of passage for all young Australian surfers with money to burn! I was fortunate to get out of the city most days, and in future blog posts I will share my accounts of the things that I got up to!
5. You can buy broccoli juice in a carton!