Just off of the north coast of Darwin, which is about as far north as Australia goes, you can find a trail of over one thousand islands, making up the country of Indonesia. Perhaps the most popular island in this archipelago, is one made famous by the New York Times Best Seller: Eat Pray Love. In the book that later became a Julie Roberts film, a divorced and middle aged woman finds herself and a new lover on the small island of Bali, Indonesia. Since the success of both the book and the movie, Bali has become a tourist destination for people all over the world, though Australians are particularly popular because of proximity. You may wonder why three backpackers chose to take a holiday from their working holiday, and I will tell you, the answer is simple. Vacations in Bali are cheap. While we could easily stay in Darwin, spending $30 a night on accommodation and an average of $15 per meal and another $10 if we want to enjoy a drink, we could also stay a few kilometers north and enjoy the view of an ocean at half the cost. So that's exactly what we did, because, well, it was just good sense.
Our flights to Bali cost under $300 for a round trip. We were flying at the end of the tourism season where things were cheaper but not at their cheapest yet either (I heard rumors of flights going as low as $30 in the off season). Our meals in Bali ranged from $2-10 and our accommodation was less than what we spent at most hostels but much nicer in style and location. It was nice to be pampered and spoiled and even nicer to relax by the ocean.
Our plan for Bali was simple. We'd spend 33% of our time laying in the sun doing absolutely nothing, another 33% using the wifi to look for jobs in Darwin, and the final 33% would be for exploring and enjoying the sites of the island. We stuck to our plan well. When we were relaxing we were looking for jobs and when we weren't looking for jobs we were experiencing a beautiful and strange land.
Bali is a beautiful island full of green plant life and lush rice fields. Of course, the island is surrounded by a beautiful ocean that is famous for surfing and swimming. In the heart of the island you have a few main cities that have become very westernized by years of tourist visits. Many savvy businesses have made storefronts here because of the lax regulations and building codes. Kuta and Seminyak are the most touristy. We stayed a week in Seminyak and enjoyed walking up and down the streets full of shops of all kinds. Some brands like Polo, RipCurl and Billabong were priced and stocked similar to their western counterparts. Other stores were trendy and fashionable with heavily discounted prices. Even still, there were dozens of local shops mixed in between with brand-name rejects which were gladly sold for under ten Australian dollars. Outside of shops and in vacant spaces there seemed to always be a mural to give a trendy and artistic charm to the area. In fact, there was quite a blossoming art scene on the island as well. I found lots of paintings that I would have gladly taken home with me if it weren't for my limited space. The art was unique, bold and affordable. I particularly like an artist from Thailand with bright colors and loose acrylic scribbles. He was my favorite.
The entire island seems to smell like incense. The climate is mostly tropical and sunny and so swimming pools are always within walking distance. Aside from shopping there are many beautiful Hindu temples to visit and the food here is more eclectic than anything I've experienced in Australia. One night we had excellent Mexican cuisine, the next an authentic Indonesian meal, and yet another we had fresh seafood on the beach. Even the burgers were good! While in Australia I had struggled to find a decent Margarita, much less under $20. Here they were quite common and for half the cost.
Another popular activity in Bali is going to the spa. Maggie and I enjoyed a half day of pampering, receiving an hour long massage and a pedicure for about twenty dollars all together. The women who work at the spa are sweet and caring.
Driving in Bali there are no rules. The right and left lanes are only important when they are full. Otherwise you can drive a ways on either side of the road. Scooters can drive in and out of wherever they fit. It's common to pass them on the sidewalk as often as pedestrians. I guess it's okay because they aren't much bigger than your person. Maggie and I rented a scooter a couple of different times. For only $7 a day, you can drive all over the island at your own leisure. The traffic was intimidating at first, but before the end of our first day, Maggie was handling it like a pro!
All this to say, Bali is an amazing place. I am glad I took the opportunity to see and do things around an island such as this. Many people enjoy Bali so much that they come back again and again. Now, I can see why. Bali is to Australians what Cancun is to Americans. A beautiful beach of culture; perfect for relaxing. I took this vacation because I worked really hard at a really monotonous job for three months, I was beyond froogle while traveling through the outback, and now I am enjoying two weeks by the beach while I look for my next job position. Bali is my holiday from a working holiday.