Over 30 years ago Bali was my first Asian trip. Some of my earliest exotic travel memories are from there. 20 years ago I went again for a much more off the beaten track trip around Bali. Another great trip. So I was pretty excited to be going back again. It was a short trip to the main tourist area in Bali. We found it much more developed, a little busy, but still possessing all the charm that I loved on those previous trips.
Cassandra and I wanted to meet our nieces. My brother had just moved to Bali and settled down with his girlfriend, Ria, and their kids. So we planned a trip with Mum and Dad. I have been pretty burnt out with work lately so I wanted a nice relaxed trip. Not the normal flog yourself to get to the top of every mountain, see every temple, off the beaten track type trip that our family often goes for.
A few of our friends expressed concern about Bali. I think its hard to argue that there is not increased risk with travel to Bali. But I think that in today's world that can be said of so many great destinations. Anyway, we decided to go ahead and do it, with only slight concessions to safety.
As a tourist
Charlie found a place called Villa Padi. It was a rather nice little villa. It fully satisfied my requirements for a lazy relaxed holiday. There were three big separate bedrooms with high ceilings and bathrooms, a nice big outdoor area with a lovely pool and lots of areas for flopping around, a semi enclosed dining and lounge area, a staffed kitchen and a driver. It was pretty much surrounded by nice rice fields but not really near anything interesting. It cost about US $1500 for the week and I think everybody thought it was money well spent.
Bali is a Hindu island in a Muslin country. As a result it has a different feeling that the rest of Indonesia. There are temples and Hindu touches on everything. There is beauty everywhere. That said, it feel a lot more like Indonesia than it did on my previous visits.
We visited a couple of really great temples. Its beautiful and tropical there. There is greenery everywhere. The rice had just been harvested and people where out ploughing the fields for the next crop (3 rice crops a year in Bali we think). One day we drove up the mountain to a more temperate climate and visited some nice gardens there and went to the beautiful Brantan Lake temple. Kuta and Sanur beach are still very nice beaches though they are very much more developed and crowded than last time I was there. Ubud too was much busier but still very nice.
Bali feels much more modern. I was sad to see traffic, dirt roads had become busy sealed roads. There is much more prosperity there now too. Lots of foreigners seem to live there now(like Charlie) and there are modern shopping centers and a choice of internet service providers. It feels a lot more like Malaysia or the rest of Indonesia now. But on our trips outside the main area we saw a lot of places I liked the feel of more. There were quiet, green places where the pace was much slower. I'd like to go back and do a longer trip around the island focusing on longer stays in such quieter places. And Charlie was pretty keen for me to come back and climb Mt. Rinjani on Lombok, the neighboring island with him.
As a tourist destination: recommended. Frankly, I'm pretty tempted by the idea of living there too. But I'd like to go back and scout around a bit more.
We were all very keen to meet Ria, Aluna and Alren. It was a nice family time. I like our new family members and look forward to future events with them. Its too bad Mike, Caitlin, Luka and Imogen couldn't make it too. Hopefully, we'll find a way to get everybody together some time. A family trip in December was discussed, but then we are always _discussing_ family events.
They moved to Bali only a very short time ago and moved into a little house in a new housing development. The development is still under construction, but they already have a very nice pool and lots of statues :-) The house is quite nice, its very small, costs just a few thousand dollars a year to rent and is furnished with very nice teak furniture which Charlie bought.
Aluna is about to start school, they have paid 2 years rent on their house in advance (normal in Bali) and life seems cheap and comfortable. So I guess we can expect them to stay in Bali for quite a while. Lots of chances for repeat visits I think.