Having never been to Indonesia before, Bali was a great new adventure for us. As first timers there are a few things that really stood out for us.
1. Amazing amounts of kites in the sky. This we especially noticed when we were in Sanur, but we see it in other places as well. Making and flying kites is part of Balinese cultural and religious tradition. From the youngest kids flying their tiny homemade kites of bamboo and plastic bags to the monstrous 10 meter sized creations that are flown during the Bali Kite Festival in July and August, there are kites everywhere.
2. Little offerings everywhere. We were perplexed by the sheer number of little offerings left at seemingly random places, you see them on sidewalks, steps, statues and temples. Sometimes you find one next to your rented motorbike or even see someone placing an offering in the middle of a busy crossroads! Every morning the offerings of the day before are removed and everything is cleaned and made ready for the daily gift of offerings meant to appease and please the various gods and demons of Balinese Hinduism.
3. Balinese women are physically amazingly strong. Everywhere you see women carrying all kinds of very heavy things on their heads, from half banana trees to complete dive equipments. Even very old grannies shuffle down the streets The division of tasks between genders is very clear cut and for us Westerners seems very gender biased with the women as the loosing party. After a bit of reading about it though, it seems appearances may be a bit deceiving. Yes, Balinese women are very strong both physically and mentally, having to balance running the household, raising the kids and earning an income, but it’s not that the men are lazy. The division is very traditional though.
4. Everybody drives a motorbike. We’re not exaggerating, there literally are motorbikes everywhere. When you drive around you see more bikes than cars, at a ratio that easily reaches 1:10 or maybe more. It’s like that in most South-East Asian countries, but here it seems even more noticeable. Mothers can easily transport two kids on the motorbike and often you see whole families of four together on one bike. It never ceases to amaze us. We therefore find it really funny that WE are an attraction for THEM when we drive around with the three of us, with Jace on my back in the Manduca carrier 🙂
5. The price difference between the local warungs and the more western style restaurants is crazy. Why anyone would want to eat at one of the restaurants here is really beyond us. Why pay more then double or even triple for the same dish just because it’s served on a nicer plate in a more posh atmosphere? The bigger warungs however, even if they offer a better price than the restaurants, all seem to offer very much the same menu, nasi goreng, mie goreng, gado gado, ayam kecap, cap cai… We love the more local feel of the small warungs and night markets and the interesting dishes they serve. Like most places we’ve been cooking western food isn’t their forte, although there obviously are exceptions.
Expats that live in Bali and people who’ve been coming here for many years are complaining that it’s overrun by tourists. While I’m sure that’s true and we normally don’t like the tourist traps, we can’t wait to see more of Bali.