The early European visitors to Bali had to make do without email, Skype, ATM machines, not to mention jet planes and credit cards. In those days visitors to Bali had to reserve more time to get to Bali and more time to explore Bali. Nowadays it is possible to book a holiday package online and be on a plane fairly quickly to an easy to digest, Bali holiday. When in Bali tourists can demand and get great accommodation, food, entertainment and shopping. Bali also offers a landscape of tropical beauty, smiling people and a culture that has been called the perfect socialist society.
Although day tours and package deals can be the most economically affordable way to go, requiring the least amount of effort and risk, often times the adventure really starts where the plan stops. Around an unmarked bend one can find sweeping rice terraces, amazing funeral processions, locals bathing natural style. A problem with your car or motorbike can tune into a chance to meet people in a local village, small crowds often gathering, passersby lingering to test their English and make the most of a random tourist who somehow ended up in their midst. Small mishaps, such as getting your car stuck down a hill, or ending up at a dead end in a quiet village can be the talking point of your time in Bali, if all you’ve done previously is shop in Tuban and walk on Kuta Beach.
The fact that Bali is a relatively small island, criss crossed with thousands of tiny local back roads, means you do not have to go far to enjoy the tranquility, local culture and opportunity for adventure. Escaping Tuban / Kuta / Legian / Seminyak / Ubud and other places on the day trip schedule will free your time and mind. With no other tourists to contend with prices will be lower, people more genuine and the stuff you see on those famous Balinese paintings actually going on (including topless Balinese women chewing betel nut).
Do not have nay reservations about missing out on the ‘places to see’ according to your guidebook. The people who write most of these books try to nail down the big tourist draws and cannot possibly hope to cover the whole island. Use the guidebook as a basic framework, but not as a complete moment by moment method of exploring Bali.
If a person really wanted to have an adventure, meet the locals and save money a great way to go would be to find a desirable location using their own transport, then asking locals if anyone has a room for rent. Imagine living with a Balinese family in the highlands for a month, or next to a white sand East Bali beach, or in a rice farming region. Imagine the language skills you could pick up, the ceremonies you might attend and the inside track to the Balinese culture you’d get!
Bali is a land of living traditions, the Balinese people living close to the land. Dirt yards carved out of the forest, perched on a flattened side of a ridge, with roosters, cats dogs and half naked kids is what this island is about. The amazing thing is everything has a place and everyone knows their place. The banjar or community is an organization that includes all the heads of the local families. The banjar will determine the dates for ceremonies and each person’s contribution. No one is left out and to leave someone out of an important ceremony such as a wedding or cremation would be an awful slight, never to be forgiven.
Getting your own person peek behind the tourist curtain is possible, you’ve just got to want it.