On Monday October 26, we checked out of the Mango Tree Inn in Pemuteran on the north shore of Bali, and our driver took us across the island to Kuta on the south side, a journey of several hours. Kuta is very near the airport, where we flew out for Manila on Tuesday October 27.
Bali was a good time. It was a nightmare getting there, but it was a good vacation from traveling. That sounds pretty strange, does it? Well, the other two islands we visited in Indonesia, Java and Kalimantan (Borneo), were uncomfortable and at times stressful. Our Bali experience wasn’t the “paradise” that some people make it out to be, but it was different and nicer in a lot of ways. And we did lots of relaxing and less sightseeing here.
Here are a few final thoughts on Bali and Indonesia.
Religion and Stuff that Flows from It
Java and Kalimantan are both heavily Muslim. Now, in case you don’t already know, Indonesia’s form of Islam is substantially different than the Islam practiced in the Middle East. And more Muslims live in Indonesia than any other country. But Bali is largely Hindu, so it’s got a lot more in common with India than the rest of Indonesia.
In Java and Kalimantan, we were awakened every morning by the Islamic call to prayer. On Bali, we were awakened by birds — sometimes songbirds, but usually roosters. In Java and Kalimantan, we hardly saw any girls or women wearing shorts, and about half of them wore head coverings in public. In Bali, head coverings are rare (though I did see one woman snorkeling in a full modesty swim suit — lightweight black diving “skin” that covered her arms and legs and torso, plus a scarf that covered her hair). In Java and Kalimantan, there was a mosque or masjid every other block. In Bali, there’s one in every town, but nearly every home has a Hindu shrine in front of it; some are nice and some are very modest, depending on the wealth of the family. Oh, and obviously on Java and Kalimantan we didn’t eat any pork or see any pork products offered for sale. But on Bali, even though pork isn’t as prevalent as in North Carolina, they are famous for roast piglet, “babi guling”.
The Outdoor Bathroom
I’ll probably write a whole post later on getting used to the Asian “wet bathroom” and the joys of the butt spray. But for now I’ll just say that in Indonesia almost everywhere we stayed had a bathroom designed for water to be everywhere. There’s no separation between toilet and shower. But they also often have a problem with ventilation and drainage, where the water pools up and makes for other long term yuck. In Bali, though, the tradition is apparently to move the entire bathroom outdoors. The place we stayed most of our visit there had the bathroom outside the main hotel room, in open air.
This has pros and cons. On the plus side, smells and moisture ventilate away into the environment fast. On the minus side, since the outdoor bathrooms for all the rooms are adjacent and open, you hear everything going on in the other guests’ bathrooms.
Where we stayed on Bali was just a short walk to the beach. It wasn’t a beach resort, which would have cost a lot more money. It was a modest lodge of five rooms about a quarter mile from the sea. We went down to the beach two or three times. It’s different than going to the beach in most places. There was no public bathroom on the beach, and no public showers. The resorts provided these services to their guests, but nobody provided these services to the general public.
That was a bit of a pain, because it meant that after drying off from swimming, you have to walk back to your inn and shower off there.
Similarly, there isn’t really much of the beach for swimming and relaxing if you’re not a guest at one of these resorts. They’ve taken over most of the beach front and provide chairs for their paying customers. And then the dive companies have taken over much of the rest. There was one tree that provided the only shady place to relax on the beach for the average Joe tourist like me. It wasn’t a huge deal, but was different than I expected from our experience with American and Mexican beaches.