The airport wasn’t even five minutes behind me when I saw the monstrous billboard advertisement by Heineken.
Holiday troubles are part of the tradition, enjoy them.
Accurate, I told myself as we whizzed on past, weaving through the onslaught of mopeds and scooters. Mario Kart, but with more traffic. But this wasn’t a virtual reality. I had just touched down in the Indonesian island of Bali and this was not a drill. Due to the severe rainstorms and flash flooding that had unexpectedly hit the UAE, causing mayhem across the entire infrastructure, it was a miracle that I’d arrived at all. Delayed flights, and cancelled ones too, I’d made it! Despite the sleeping pills, the turbulence kept me awake, and I was still jet lagged, still on California timing. I needed a coffee. Or maybe an Aperol; I was finally on holiday after all, and surely, if the billboard was in fact right, I’d already encountered my share of ‘holiday troubles’. Bring on BAAALI!
What can I tell you about Bali?
Bali… Where the beaches are as beautiful as the people that lounge on them, with their glossy, bronzed limbs outstretched to the sun, lean from hours of yoga and surf. Golden highlights adorn the locks of hair that tumble over fresh, sun-kissed smiling faces, beauty curls from the waves they just surfed. With such an array of fresh, healthy foods available in every second cafe, they radiate health from the inside, out.
Instagramable opportunities lie on every corner, between the sparkling ocean and her rolling waves, to graffiti adorned walls on quirky, chic cafes.
Marketed as a dreamy getaway for the laid back, there is an intangible air of pretentiousness unique to the island itself. For every true wanderer, who really does not give a f*ck, there is a new age yoga-heralding, yummy-mummy, activist, slash blogger, slash recently-turned-vegan, preaching to a choir of fellow yummy-mummies about the latest healing trends blah blah blah.
Me? I am somewhere in-between. Says ‘I don’t care’, but somewhere, I do. Hardcore advocate of astrology, and a believer of life after death – I’m wondering…does that make me spiritual? Can’t do a <insert difficult yoga pose> for nothing, but an advocate of moving the body and fueling it well as a way to free the mind. Loves the sea, but not so much the seaweed.
I see the appeal. I wanted so badly to take cute pictures in my carefully curated outfits, but felt awkward to ask – plus, I don’t like to be the centre of attention, and these days, snap happy snappers and their muses are watched by everyone who is not wielding a camera. Instead, I snapped a selfie of me donning a too-big helmet and some anti-bug splat frames for the scooter that we’d hired. ‘You look like the love child of Deidre Rashid’. Unfortunately, I had to agree.
Arriving anywhere, my eyes often surveyed the venue, looking for someone as comparatively pale as me. It wasn’t hard to find them, although they were few and far between. Often, they were accompanied by angry red lines where the sun hadn’t so much as kissed them, but battered them – a reminder that I needed to reapply a generous helping of factor BLOCK – pronto.
Prior to going, I had researched the place very little – as usual. (For someone who hates the unknown’s to life itself, I sure do impulsive frighteningly well). But the one thing I had remembered from a brief scroll through some forums, was that the islands only real hospital was in Denpasar, and even then, the majority of expats and travellers said that they travelled for healthcare to their home countries or to mainland. I made the mistake of casually mentioning it to my bf (for reasons unrelated to the actual trip).
Fast forward a few days later, I worriedly lay on the balcony of the most beautiful hotel room I’ve ever been a guest at, in my life, (it was built into a CLIFF) while bf lay suffering inside, convinced he had contracted Dengue Fever. Thankfully, he did not, but the moral of this story is that, no matter where you stay in Bali, getting adequate medication and medical access is not for the faint hearted, and so it’s best to prepare yourself.
Amidst the sickness, there was other, lets shall we say, ‘hiccups’, that could have been avoided. Most of these hiccups are unique to myself, and trust me, probably no-one else would ever even encounter them, but as for the others? I’ve wrote you a little list of Bali know it’s. And I should add, don’t bother fake tanning, or doing your eyelashes. It’s not that kind of place, and you will feel like a twat
In a place as green as Bali, it’d do well to remember that other species thrive just as well as, (if not, better) than the tourists. It’s no place for the faint hearted when it comes to bugs, lizards and free-roaming stray furry creatures.
- Be generous with bug repellant – especially at night, to stop the mosquitos feasting on you.
- Don’t leave your toothbrush out in the open of the bathroom. We made that mistake, and one evening as I stepped out the shower, I saw a giant cockroach crawling all over the bristles of our toothbrushes. Thankfully, my hero, aka boyfriend, squashed the cockroach and didn’t even complain that I ran shrieking for the hills and locked him in the bathroom alone to deal with the situation.
- Don’t pet the stray animals, because they might have worms/rabies/fleas etc. (But if you see any cats with half a stumpy tail, or a dog wearing a collar, then they belong to someone and are a pet).
- Turn off the lights when you go out. Or don’t… but be prepared to return to a small army of moths.
- That weird croaky, growly noise? Yeah… it’s probably a Komodo dragon.
Pack a basic medical kit
Heard of Bali Belly? No, I hadn’t either, but thanks to me, you’re now in the privileged inner circle, and so, you can do as I say, and not as I do, when I tell you to pack a Bali Basic first aid kit that compromises the following lifesavers. Clearly a lot of people did not pack these things, because when we finally found a pharmacy, they had unfortunately ‘sold out long time’ of Immodium, and that speaks volumes, don’t you think?
- rehydration sachets
- a fever scanner
- anti-nausea medication
The low season in Bali is very humid, and so bacteria breeds quicker. During this time especially, avoid drinking local water and eating in places with open kitchens. If a restaurant is busy, go ahead and eat there. If it’s not… best give it a miss. Wash your hands before eating too.
Sun protection, glasses for bug splat on a moped protection, after sun protection, you name it. If you can protect it, wrap it up.
Power to the people
Bring an adaptor that actually fits the plug sockets. You’d think that by being such a seasoned pro traveller like myself, I’d actually remember which countries require such plugs, but you’d be wrong, so just Google it before hand, and bring the right one, because chances are all of these cute little hotels and tiny corner shops are so cheap because they don’t invest in commodities like adaptors, and then all your efforts for cute Instagram opportunities will be ruined.
Power dressing also was a bit of an issue for me. Those outfits that I had preplanned which looked so cute in my head, unfortunately resembled the type of tissue paper that had been stuffed in last years Christmas gift bags. In line with the shabby-chic hotel vibes, you’ll be hard pressed to find an iron in a ten mile radius. So, save yourself the hassle, and pack a travel iron (I have now ordered myself one), or just embrace the beach vibes, and live in a bikini, flip flops and shorts. I wore the same sundress about three days in a row because it was the only thing that didn’t look like it’d been rescued from the donation scrap heap – not because it’s cute, trust me.
Sun burn is also not the only kind of burn you might find yourself dealing with while on your adventure. Most scooters (okay, like every single one except the cute little Vespa that we saw) has a black leather seat. Park that scooter for two minutes, then try plonking your sunburned butt down on that sea. You’ll jump up quicker than a jack in the box. Bring a little towel, face cloth, or be inventive – whatever! JUST remember that the seat gets HOT, and take precautions.
But aside from all these mishaps, enjoy Bali. Enjoy the cheap but amazing coffee and fresh coconuts that are available everywhere. Enjoy the cute shops that sell everything boho Zara but at a fraction of the price you’d normally pay. Enjoy zooming everywhere on a scooter, and enjoy the absolute zero style effort that’s expected of you normally, and embrace au natural beauty by foregoing make up and hair gadgets. Enjoy the sea and the most beautiful sunsets you’ll probably every witness. Enjoy a daily massage, because it’s so cheap you can afford to. Enjoy the fresh food, because it’s the most nutritious and fresh yet tasty in the world (and I’ve tried a lot of foods in a lot of world). Snap away at everything cute including the cats and baby chickens that just free roam, and don’t give too much thought to anything other than how pretty your surroundings are.
But most importantly, allow yourself to just go with the flow, have zero expectations and remember that none’s holiday is perfect, despite what they tell you. They just don’t post the pictures or discuss the behind the scenes footage that didn’t quite make the cut.
* If you’d like to know any of the restaurants, hotels or hot spots I visited, drop me a message and I’ll be more than happy to share.