7 days. 6 nights. 2 girls. And 5,780 sq.kms of an island to explore. Who would say that’s anything short of a recipe for a mind-blowing adventure!
We stepped out of Ngurah Rai International Airport one hot Saturday afternoon and learnt our first lesson barely 10 minutes after – When in Bali, get ready for some serious bargaining. Take your time to mentally convert their asking price to your currency back home, and then propose an amount lower than half. And that’s not all. Those 7 days opened our eyes to a new culture with traditions and practices unheard of.
When in Bali, always wear a sarong before entering temples. Fortunately, each temple will have a wide selection of sarongs from which they will tie one around your waist before you enter. And as loving as you know Balinese people to be, just remember that they will do or say anything to make a quick buck off tourists. And this includes telling you to buy sarongs for $2 because they aren’t available at the entrance. What left me rather amused when following this custom, was that it didn’t really matter how you were clothed above the waist. You could be wearing a halter or tube top, and they will only have you cover your legs.
When in Bali, be careful about what coffee you ask for. We learnt this the hard way. After drinking more than our share of black coffee, we understood that if you ask for coffee in any place in Bali, including KFC, you will get nothing but black coffee. 7 days later, Balinese coffee actually grew on me.
When in Bali, don’t be surprised to hear the locals singing Hindi songs. Or even listening to Hindi radio stations. They almost worship Shah Rukh Khan in Bali, and are star-struck to hear that you come from the land of Bollywood. Be ready to hear several questions about the Bollywood superstar, and of course, distorted lyrics from most of his 90s films, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai being their unopposed favourite.
When in Bali, count your money carefully when exchanging. When a country lives only on tourism, you have got to be prepared to have the locals con you into any one of their scams. Roadside ‘certified’ money exchanges will advertise the highest rates possible just to lure you in, and just like most advertisements, you don’t get what’s advertised. As closely as you look, what you’ll never see after you check your money is that while they are packing it into an envelope for you, they’ll drop a few notes. And when those notes are IDR 100,000 each, you definitely stand to lose a lot. To be safe, exchange your money only at the local banks – you may get a lower rate, but you can be sure you aren’t being cheated.
When in Bali, forget the fluent English you speak in. The local Balinese have taken the trouble to learn your language just so that they can converse with you. The least you can do is speak slowly and in an English as close to broken as possible. There’s no point using fancy phrases or sarcasm – they aren’t going to get it.
When in Bali, don’t stay in a commercial hotel. You can stay in the fancy commercial hotels in any other city in the world. But when you go to Bali you should stay in a traditional Balinese hotels. You may have a tough time conversing with the hotel staff, but it’s an experience you will never forget.
When in Bali, you will meet Putu, Wayan, Komang, Made, Gede, multiple times. No it’s not a case of multiple personality disorder, but just a naming custom the Balinese follow. They will name their first born son Wayan or Putu or Gede, their second Made or Kadek, the third Nyoman or Komang, the fourth Ketut, and if they have any more, will just start from the first again.
When in Bali, you have to visit Potato Head Beach Club. This may not be a local custom, but tourists should definitely make it theirs. Easily accessible from Legian and Kuta, this beach club in Semniyak is the perfect location for sunset drinks by the pool at the beach. Just remember to make a reservation beforehand, so that you’re not caught in the seemingly never-ending line outside the club. Far from being a club, Potato Head is a place to relax, go for a swim, enjoy a couple of drinks and just soak in the beauty of the white sands and crystal clear water of Bali. Recommended cocktails: Prohibition Iced Tea, Bells & Whistles, Kookaburra and Champagne Supernova.