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Padangbai

I felt like I found the Bali I was looking for here…

Not too many hassles, no pretentiousness, no over pricing, great beaches.

I arrived on Monday morning and decided within minutes I would settle here for two nights. I had a beautiful lunch with interesting conversations at Zen Inn where I was staying, before taking a hike to the beach.
I thought I had got the directions wrong when I Looked at the steep rocky footpath that apparently led me to Bias Tugal ( White sand beach ). I persevered in the heat in my $3 flipflops and made it to the top breathless from the hike and my breath taken away by the view. A small palm fringed cove at the bottom of the cliff awaited us, with gentle surf and not many people, and out on the horizon a few boats making their way to Lombok or back.

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I spent a few lazy hours there enjoying the surf and the tranquility. One lady asked me if I would like a massage, to which I politely responded no, and she left me a alone. An Ice cold Bintang made it all the better too…

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Wandering around Padangbai i discovered a charming little village based on fishing, boats to Lombok and diving. It’s a pretty laid back place where ceremonies take precedence and life rolls on. I was disappointed to see where all the obsessive sweeping and countless offerings end up, and you really wouldn’t want to sit on the main beach here…

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The Blue Lagoon beach which the Lonely planet recommends was not one of my favourite places. Whilst the snorkelling is very good, you are subject to hassles on a very small beach, or very desperate women wanting to sell you their sarongs and bracelets, and after paying twice what I think I should have for a broken snorkel set I was then sarcastically told I was “very nice English” when I didn’t want to engage in conversation or even look at the sarongs being thrust under my nose. Honestly, yes I KNOW everyone is just trying to make a dollar, but their tactics need to be changed, they have little understanding of how to make a sale in my opinion and thanks to that experience, I didn’t spend very long at that beach. I did a few snorkel sessions, admired the view and then hiked back to my preferreed beach of Bias Tugal. A lady approached me – the same as the previous day, and said she recognised me from the day before, would I like a massage today? I said I wanted to have a swim first and would think about it when I had rested. She waited a considerable amount of time before approaching me again, and I did say yes simply because the politeness and simpleness of her enquiry made me want to give her my business.

We chatted a little before and after and she told me I was a Strong woman for travelling to Bali alone. This was worth more than the massage itself, as the past few days I had started to question whether I was enjoying myself at all – dealing with a poorly tummy, a bad back and a constant feeling that everyone wanted to extract money from me rather than help to enjoy being here. So thank you to the nice massage lady on the beach – such a simple thing to say and such a lasting effect it had.

More of Padangbai

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Bali beginnings

“I have absolutely no desire to go to Bali” “Everyone goes there!” “I don’t know why you want to go to Bali”
“I wouldn’t go to Bali if I were you, it’s not safe anymore” “Ooooh you be careful there in Bali. it’s quite dangerous you know” “Why go to Bali? There are so many other places you could visit”

Just a few of the reactions I got when I told people I was spending two weeks in Bali on my way home to the UK.
I consider myself to be fairly streetwise, not as well-travelled as I would like to be, but an optimistic, open-minded traveller in any case. These comments, although disappointing, were not going to put me off visiting a country that has been on my wish list for many many years. Yes, I indeed had conjured up (possibly unrealistic ) images of white sandy, palm-fringed beaches and those lovely bed-like seating areas in beach bars to sip long drinks and watch the sunset. I also had a serene, green country in my mind, where people take life slowly, do yoga, eat well and live our dream. Of course I know I had to reduce and re-check my own expectations, but what I can conclude after my third day is that Bali clearly is what YOU make of it.

Forgive me for the lack of pictures in this post, but perhaps thanks to my flight, a lot of moving around, carrying heavy bags and the emotional stress of saying goodbye to so many people – my body seems to have decided that now is a good time for it to hurt. A lot. So I have been trying to walk around with as little as possible, meaning my camera very often gets sacrificed for a bottle of water. At this point I also wish to add that this post (and entire blog) is merely my opinion, and my musings on what I have observed and experienced. If I am offending anyone ( I probably will ) then please do not comment – as I won’t post it. I have to say this, as I once wrote something that a reader disagreed wildly with and wrote so in a comment which I deleted.

My first port of call was Legian – supposedly much less frantic and touristy than Kuta, and a little less snazzy than Seminyak. I think someone told me there are 6 flights daily out of Perth to Denspasar, Bali – so it’s little wonder that tourism has exploded, Australians are everywhere and catering for the masses means that some of Bali’s charm might have been reduced. It’s not hard to escape the fact that this once small, probably quaint seaside village has now morphed into a “cater for all” type destination. You cannot walk down the street without people calling out “Hello Darling shopping? Nice looking! Transport? Taxi? Nice things! Bloody good price ( this made me hoot the first time I heard a little Indonesian man tell me in an Aussie accent that he would give me a “bloody good price”). Every restaurant offers you the 5 same dishes – Mie Goreng, Nasi Goreng, Chicken Satay, Gado Gado and seafood Laksa. On the same menu you will find steak and chips and every Western item they can think of. It’s also not hard to ignore the fact that there are large (sorry but they are), tattooed Australians walking around in Bintang vests, and yes true to the stereotype – often sunburnt. We have the equivalent undesirable tourists from the UK who make me cringe when I am on holiday, trying to hide my nationality, so I am not bashing the Aussies, just the ones that embarrass me.

Walking on the beach brought it home to me – it turned my stomach in fact. This apparently beautiful 12km strip of sand was littered with plastic waste – coming from the sea. I had my beer on a sun lounger, watching the sunset, so I could say I had done it. But I didn’t enjoy being hassled by the sellers, not did I want to even put a toe into the revolting looking water.

Now I am sounding very negative I know, and I didn’t even go to Kuta – imagine what I would say about that! But as I said, I think Bali is what you make of it. For many Australians it’s a cheap get away – cheaper than going somewhere locally. You have got guaranteed sun, cheap food, beer, clothes and services ( massages start from just $6 – If I were Australian I’d be flying over for pampering alone!) and your dollars can probably get you a nice hotel with a pool if the beach isn’t appealing. If you surf – I imagine everything else is a bonus.

But I am generalising wildly of course and speaking of the stretch from Kuta to Seminyak – the most popular tourist areas and easiest to get to from the airport.

In my case – I am certain Bali has much more to offer. I have eaten those 5 dishes, had a massage, manicure and pedicure, done my sunset beer, and then started to get a little irked by constantly feeling like people saw me as a walking cash machine and keen to spend. So I am heading inland to Ubud, for a change in pace, a change in atmosphere, a slight change in temperature and to try and find the essence, not the tourist face, of Bali.

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