This will be a longer post and I partially wrote it while I was still in Bali and while I was in the airports to Vietnam.
It has rained everyday here.
It’s rainy season so it’s not out of the norm here. This one guy named Kato let me sit under this storage shed when it was down pouring. And I don’t mean casual rain, but monsoon kind of rain that was flooding the streets.
Anyway he let me sit there while it rained and shared some of his food with me. It looked like large french fries and tasted similar except there was this strand in the center, similar to a bone of a fish or a stem, that makes me think it’s maybe some different kind of vegetable. He said he didn’t know what it would be in English and I didn’t catch what he said in Bahasa so I don’t know exactly what it was.
The people here are really nice, particularly to tourists. That means tourists can get away with doing stupid or rude things but I haven’t come across a totally rude local yet. If you’re a tourist, Bali is a safe place because they rely so much on tourism.
I met a ton of great travelers largely from Canada, Europe, and Australia too and found such an interesting array of people. There’s quite a few travelers who go back home and work the service jobs to save money just to come on these month to year long trips. I’m on a relatively short trip compared to everyone else. There’s people similar to myself who are in-between their bachelor’s and masters or on break at their university.
I’ve met two other designers (graphic and web) from Australia and Sweden, a web developer from New Zealand, a mechanical engineer from Germany, a film editor from Canada, medical students from Ireland, a girl who is going to work with school kids from New Zealand, and so much more.
I met this group on my first day in Gili, two other Asians, from Taiwan and the Netherlands, and a guy from Leeds. We really had a great time, but sadly I didn’t get their contacts before they left. The downside of solo travel are meeting people who leave the next day.
I’ve met lots of great travelers but overall I enjoyed my time largely because of the locals that I met. I don’t know if this is how they treat everyone, but typically after they’d ask The Question, they’d ask more about me and seemed genuinely interested in me.
One time, when I just sitting on the beach alone, this person came up selling bracelets and after I declined, he asked if he could sit down, he asked The Question, and then we just had a pleasant conversation about both of our lives. He lives in Lombok and travels to Gili T everyday and walks the beach selling bracelets. He was wearing a hat, I can’t remember what it was but I think it was some American sport team which I noted and he said his sister gave it to him. We just talked for five minutes or so and he got up, said thank you and continued on.
Another time I was walking in the center of the island where it’s pretty much only locals and this one guy, Dan, stopped on their bike and asked if I wanted to ride it to my destination (I think they were wondering why I was walking kinda far from the tourists spots) I said no thanks and they just walked next to me, chatting, until it was their turn.
I’ve noticed a bit of a gender disparity between the men and women working and out in the streets and such. There’s more guys who work the boats, the shops, restaurants, sell things on the streets, food stalls, hostels and hotels, and just in general walking around. I’ve seen a couple of women in coffee shops, clothing stores, and hotels, but still more men than women. That’s probably one of the reasons (along with the fact that I’m an, apparently, ethnically ambiguous Asian girl who is usually alone) I’ve run into more local guys than girls.
As my time here draws to an end I just want to wrap my thoughts up.
I like Bali but I know that I need to relay that it’s not like the Bali that is conveyed through pictures (I didn’t expect it to be nor wanted it to be). Bali and Gili are pretty dirty. It smells like horse shit, fish, and trash. Everyone, particularly tourists, smoke cigarettes here all the time. Cats, goats, chickens, dogs, all just roam the streets.
These are minor details though and I know it’s partially because of the way I decided to travel (backpacking, cheap hostels, street foods, etc.). You can travel Bali and Gili going to the massive five star hotels or chains like Best Western and eat mostly burgers and pizza and that’s definitely how some people do it.
Outside of the tourists spots, it’s obviously less Western and less modernized spots. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. The hostel I stayed at in Bali didn’t have a working toilet or sink, there was A/C in only one room, and no drinking water, but it wasn’t bad. The family was very nice and I’ve found that matters most.
I liked Gili so much because of the locals and the travelers I met, I didn’t care as much for the beaches or the mountains which is why I didn’t really post much about them. I know when people talk about how tourism uplifts Third World countries, it’s a good thing. And while plumbing systems are nice, they certainly aren’t a necessity. I don’t want to romanticize this, but I do think it’s important to at least talk about travel and the Western perspective.
I do not say “I lived like a local” or even visually saw the life of a local because I did not. I lived moderately well to very well here. And I cringe at travelers who urge others that they must travel to Third World counties to “truly experience the poverty and be grateful for what you have.” As a traveler, like myself, with a college degree, one of the most powerful passports in the world, and with thousands of US money, it would be almost impossible for me to ever live or experience life like a local.
Secondly, I think it’s a bit exploitative to think about coming to a Third World country just to experience the struggle of someone’s life so that you can then fly back to your First World country feeling enlightened. I like talking to locals not because I want to see their perceived troubles for my benefit, but because I like what they are interested in, what we have in common, who they are as a person. And I know people like talking about themselves and that not a lot of tourists ask the locals about their lives.
I got a massive blister a couple of days ago right between my big toe and the toe right next to it (where a flip flop goes) and the blister popped. My toe was tingly for a couple of days, I think it got infected, but it’s good now and the blister skin has finally hardened. No pus or any major warning signals, just a longer healing process.
A very big plus about this place is that my skin has never been better, absolutely no acne. And I haven’t even been putting on any of my acne creams. I don’t need to. So years and lots of dollars of what dermatologists tried to do is solved just by going to a place with more humidity.
I think it’s funny how twice (so not too often) white tourists have come into restaurants I’m at and they ask me for a water or something. Then, probably realizing their incorrect assumption, ask quickly, “Oh do you work here?” I don’t have any pictures of myself with any local people to show the comparison, but I really do not think I look Indonesian despite some of them saying so. You can probably Google some images for a comparison.
Locals often sit in chairs the same way I do. With a leg up on the seat and the knee to the chest. This is a place where I haven’t felt weird sitting this way.
Heading to Vietnam
Ngurah Rai Airport had decorations up for Spring Festival (Lunar New Year)
I ate breakfast there because I didn’t have enough cash to get some in Denpasar and didn’t want to go to an ATM. I choked a little at the prices of all the food there. Everything ranged from 100,000 IDR to 300,000 IDR. I got this breakfast skillet thing for 107,000 and a bottle of water for 65,000. I was taken aback since most of my meals have ranged from 5,000 to 50,000. But then I came over my initial shock since 100,000 is $7.48.
Next I landed in Singapore, Changi Airport. I realize I’ve never been surrounded by so many Chinese people before so I guess this is a good intro to when I’ll be in China. I’m taller than a lot of people here and I’m about 5’5.5″. I had to tilt the computer screen up to see it properly. It’ll be funny when I wear my winter boots when I get farther north since they have a bit of a heel on them.
There’s some really good food here but it’s very expensive. For reference, a burger is about 32 SGD which is 25 USD. So I’m skipping eating food here until I get to Vietnam.
The airport itself is huge and the fanciest airport I’ve been in. It has multiple gardens and koi ponds. It has a video game area, two movie rooms, TV show areas, and a while lot more. Although they have all that, the wifi isn’t free unless you have a local phone number.
I’ve already made plans with Jin to see Black Panther when it shows in Korea which I’m excited for. It’s not going to premiere in China when I’m there or else I would have gone and seen it in Beijing or Shanghai.
I’m going to be seeing my friend from CSU, Huong on Saturday which I’m really excited about!
Next time I update, I’ll be in Saigon and maybe have done a couple of things.