Bali: 1 Month Report + I Already Miss It

I can’t believe it’s been about 1 month in Bali. It feels like I’ve experienced so much, yet so little at the same time.

I’ve had so much fun with friends, going to parties, scuba diving WWII shipwreck, motorbiking across the island, seeing magical temples, and so much more.

At the same time, I feel like I’ve hardly done anything. With every adventure I’ve had, 3 more adventure ideas/possibilities came up. It feels as though I’ve hardly done anything!

I estimate that I’ll need at least 2 months to do everything I’d like to here in Bali- I haven’t even left yet, but I’m certain that I will return.

It’s a bit sad actually. While I don’t have too deep of social bonds to anyone here, I feel sad to be leaving new friends & the place of Bali.

It feels as though I’ve just gotten settled in- I know where my favorite restaurants are, as well as morning cafes. Just yesterday I discovered an amazing breakfast/brunch place with one of the best salads and coffee I’ve ever had in my life.

In fact, the coffee is literally SHIT coffee! It’s called “Luwak” coffee, and it’s the best I’ve had in my life- but it’s still SHIT coffee.

No, literally. The coffee beans are fed to the civet cat (a special animal in Indonesia), and then we take the coffee beans after they shit it out to make coffee. Sounds disgusting, and I hesitant on my first drink, but I also became hooked immediately.

It’s so amazing that today I had three Luwak coffees! A huge benefit of the coffee is that it’s low in caffeine, so three coffees doesn’t send you to mars.

Anyways, coffee aside, Bali has been amazing. Let’s talk about some of my experiences so far.

Bali: Mini 1-Month Report

I’m calling this a mini report because there’s so much to experience in a place like Bali you can’t really explain it all in words. It’s amazing!

Traffic & Motorbikes

The traffic is crazy, but you get used to it. I would not recommend riding a motorbike unless you have a license though, as the please sometimes make stops. The fine isn’t that much if you don’t have a license though.

However I recommend the motorcycle license because I learned things in training that you never could learn just riding on the road, such as how to make emergency turns, understand car’s and other people’s visibility of you, etc.

For example, even in USA you’ll see experienced motorcycle riders riding basically in between two lanes. Why do they do that? Is it to be dangerous and stupid?

Actually, not quite. Positioning yourself between two lanes is great because you aren’t in the car’s blind spots, and should the cars suddenly stop (or you notice someone isn’t stopping behind you) you have an escape point between the cars to accelerate to.

Riding a motorbike is fun, but so many clueless Westerners hop on a bike that don’t have a clue how to ride it. One thing that regularly frustrated me was all the people that left their turn signal on.

What’s insane is that people would leave a fucking turn signal on in night. Are they really so clueless they can’t see a giant flashing orange light on the motorbike IN THE NIGHT? What the fuck?

Most motorbikes also have a flashing green light on their dashboard, so some of these people riding motorbikes are so clueless that they’ll have a fucking flashing green light in front of them and flashing orange light to their right yet they don’t even notice it!

Either that, or they don’t know how to turn a turn signal off on a motorcycle (which is done by pressing the button down, compared to left/right).

Motorbike rant aside, it’s a lot of fun, and not as dangerous as you think- assuming you know how to ride a motorbike. The traffic appears crazy but there’s a method to the madness that I quickly figured out. I love motorbikes though, so you may not have the same fun experience.

As long as you’re calm riding, you should be fine. The problem comes when you get over-stimulated or over-excited. Everyone that I met that crashed created chaos instead of relaxing into the chaos. What I mean is that they felt the traffic was crazy, and so drove crazy, when in reality it appears crazy but you should actually be relaxed.

Generally speaking I would avoid white people on motorbikes, I felt safe riding around Indonesians and other people that clearly knew what they were doing. To someone watching me on a camera, you would think that some of my moves are “dangerous” (such as passing cars & motorbikes), but the reason I was doing it was to get away from other people that I felt weren’t certain.

In Bali, the safest thing you can do is keep it moving. Don’t ride too slow (but if you do hang to the right, and never drive slower than the cars). If you know how to pass cars, pass cars and get away from everyone else. But don’t do anything you aren’t calm/comfortable with, because it is fear that makes you crash.

Wow, that was a lot on motorbikes. I love it, it’s fun, and it really makes me present to the moment, but I am a bit frustrated by all the people who have literally no idea how to ride a motorbike and think that it’s easy- real training will teach you a lot.

Food/Dining

Food here is amazing, and primarily Western. Prices are cheaper than in USA, albeit not as cheap as I would’ve thought it to be.

Some places are super cheap, like I found one Indian restaurant which was exceptional- the setting appeared to be a shit-hole in the middle of nowhere, but actually it was amazing.

Some of the actual sit-down restaurants are amazing also, but those are going to have more Western prices.

Local Indonesian food doesn’t suit my fancy, but it is the cheapest food- I did have it a few times, and compared to Thailand it really isn’t good.

Thai food has so much diversity, so much flavor & spice, etc. and I’m really excited for this aspect of Thailand (I leave tomorrow to Chiang Mai).

The local food is always the cheapest food, and because Indonesian food isn’t too good (most would agree also, this isn’t just my preference- sorry Indonesians!) I can’t wait for Thailand for that reason. My monthly food costs will reduce drastically, while the quality will increase.

However the diversity of Western food here is exceptional- I ate at amazing steak restaurants, Italian restaurants, a Balkan (Bulgarian/Serbian/Romanian) restaurant. and even Greek restaurants.

I had 2 Danish friends that even found a Danish restaurant and they said it was 100% authentic.

Each bite of the Balkan restaurant felt like I was back in Bulgaria, and the smells took me back to living in Sofia. The food I had in the Greek restaurant took me back to Greece.

The owners are also from their restaurant’s location. The Balkan restaurant owner was Romanian. The Greek restaurant was owned by a Greek man with such a thick accent it was damn obvious where he was from. The same for my favorite Italian restaurant.

They were all so kind also. The Romanian promised me a special Balkan drink when I return to Bali, and the Italian man gave me and a friend free dessert and a free shot of something amazing. The Greek, like a true man from Greece, was always there to greet you with a big smile and shake your hand as you left.

Health Food

There is a huge healthy/vegan scene here, if you’re into that. I eat healthy (but with meat/dairy) and the food is exceptional. I even eat at Vegan restaurants, which says a lot about someone who loves his Balkan meat.

While the local food is lackluster, the overall food scene is exceptional. Because it is not local food the prices are slightly higher than the local food prices in a place like Chiang Mai, but the prices are still very affordable.

For the value you’re getting, it’s insane. You can eat magical smoothie bowls filled with all kinds of incredible food. Even more Western dishes are stylish & colorful, from local restaurants to high-end restaurants. Foodies will love it here!

Note: there are some great local restaurants which I ate at, one of which was in the Northeast of Bali, and I stayed in Canggu where many travelers/expats hang out, so this is probably why my experience of the local food was different.

Cafe Scene

There are exceptional cafes as well- the smoothies & health scene here is exceptional! You can find delicious, cheap smoothies filled with whatever you’d like and no added sugar everywhere at a very affordable price.

The local coffee scene is amazing- the best in the whole world, based on what I’ve experienced.

The coffee shops are not designed for work, like some are in Poland, Bulgaria, and Chiang Mai.

They are more designed to be social, so you can’t get work done. This is the one downside to Bali, that you must find a co-working space (more on that later) if you work remotely.

Even then, there are some places you can get a little work done… it’s just not so normal here, so keep that in mind, remote workers!

One of my favorite cafes serves something called a “Chicory,” which is kind of like Decaf coffee. It tastes so good and I often drank there.

Just yesterday I discovered Luwak coffee, and I wish I had found it earlier because I’d love to have this exceptional drink every single day.

These cafes often serve breakfast/brunch as well. For example, the place I get my Luwak coffee also serves one of the best Caesar salads I’ve had in my whole life.

So the cafe/food scene here is exceptional. You can expect amazing food at an affordable price.

Fun & Adventure

Besides riding the motorbike, there’s tons of adventure to be had here.

You can see beautiful rice fields, climb or ride up mountains, see magical temples, go to the beach, surf, practice yoga, meet friends, go to bars, and so much more. You name it, it’s probably here somewhere in Bali.

I mean if I can find a Balkan restaurant here, you can find pretty much anything here.

There are amazing gyms, and even some rock-climbing ones. Yesterday I went to a trampoline place where you could jump on several trampolines indoors.

There are also ultimate Frisbee tournaments I’ve gone to, cool bars, Tennis, bowling, again- you name it you’ll probably find it somewhere here.

Culture

Balinese people are very kind, though one frustrating thing is that because so much of the economy is dependent on tourism, a lot of locals probably see you as a walking ATM.

That’s not true everywhere though- in the Northeast I met some compassionate, hilarious locals that wanted to tell jokes with me and just have a good time.

Canggu is a very popular Western / expat place, so my experience is a lot different than someone staying in Ubud or Amed. I also made Western friends, which made the whole experience a lot different than if I had a set of local friends.

I did make some local acquaintances through ultimate frisbee, but we didn’t hangout so much- we did in a group (with foreigners) so I haven’t got a complete local hangout just yet.

In a place like Bulgaria or Poland, you immerse yourself in the local culture. You are joining Poland or Bulgaria, but in Bali the experience is truly amazing but you don’t really feel like you’re joining some local culture because of the amount of tourism / expats here.

Again, I only stayed a month, and it would be totally different if you were staying elsewhere!

Next time I’m here I might stay in Ubud, or if I stay in Canggu again I’ll venture more far out to less-traveled areas. For example, going north from Canggu just 3-5 miles and you’re away from all of the western / expat stuff.

I went up there to explore a couple times, and saw so many beautiful temples, amazing locals, and talked to some groups of people to see what they were doing.

Away from the expat areas is a completely new Bali. If you’re white, it’ll be quite apparent that you are truly in Asia because in these villages where no one else goes only the locals are there.

One strange thing that happened was me and a friend were exploring a beach north of Canggu away from the tourists (where we were the only white people we saw, except for one other couple we saw later) was a group of kids maybe aged 10-15 came up to us and wanted photos with us.

They spoke hardly any English, but intuitively I could feel that it had to do something with the color of our skin. My friend, a Danish girl, said that in Lombok (a neighboring, less touristy island) she had several people come up to her asking for a photo or guys giving her free stuff (ie. hitting on her).

Maybe they wanted to show to their friends they had foreigner friends? Or that they had met foreigners who had actually dared to venture out of the Western hub of Kuta, Seminyak, and Canggu? Or they thought it was weird we were on this beach?

Who knows. We can’t judge, and we shouldn’t say bad things about it. Maybe they just thought it was interesting we were there. I now try to take photos with as many people I meet wherever I am in the world, and true Bali culture must be so different from our own that I can’t understand it.

For example, I’ve observed a lot of Asians like taking lots of photos. There’s a joke that you can spot the Chinese by how they take lots of photos in groups.

While this is vastly different from us Americans (we may take photos, but not so many, and not of random things) we must remember that our cultures are different- we must respect that.

It has been scientifically shown that an Asian’s brain processes information different than an American’s for example. This isn’t good or bad. It just means that our culture shapes the way we act and see the world.

From what little I do know of Balinese culture, it is deeply spiritual. All over the roads even in Canggu you will see special little offerings and incense. It is beautiful to see! There are temples everywhere where they pray and make fascinating noises.

While some in the local areas see you as walking ATM’s, and if you walk around you’ll sure to be badgered by several taxis, the vast majority of people are highly compassionate. Indonesia is about smiling and putting your best food forward.

All of the locals speak some English as well, albeit many with a strong accent that can lead to minor difficulty here or there. You must not speak too fast or complicated, or with too strong an accent, to make sure you’re properly understood.

Some things are simplified. For example, if someone orders something and you want it, you don’t say “hey I’d like one of those also” you say “same same.” Actually, that’s more of a Thai thing, but I am fairly certain it applies here also.

Honestly, now that I’ve wrote this, I feel that it kind of does a disservice to Indonesia. I honestly have no right to talk about local culture because I’ve only been here a month, and I didn’t make several local friends or experience local festivals.

I am a foreigner who often enjoyed things with other foreigners. There are some very obvious differences, such as that smiling & service is super valued, and that people are extremely kind.

But a true Balinese culture? Impossible for me to write about. What I’ve wrote here is probably 1% of local culture, if even that. I’ve only scratched the service, and I’ll never understand it completely.

For example, my ex was Bulgarian and I’ve lived in Bulgaria for roughly a year. Many of my friends there are locals. I experienced several local holidays, learned some Bulgarian, and even after almost a year with my ex we were still discovering fascinating differences between us.

The way we were raised, American vs. Bulgarian, was so vastly different, our lives so different, and culture so different that it would be impossible for one to fully comprehend the life of the other- though we can certainly try!

I intend to go back to Bulgaria for 2-3 months starting June, and even then I know that if I were to live in Bulgaria for years I would still discover things about the culture.

It’s not that people are exotically different- we are all fundamentally humans. It’s just the million subtleties that create a culture or experience. It’s the unspoken differences. It’s the vibe that you can just feel is different- not better or worse, but much 2 different great songs, equally beautiful, but beautifully different.

So, I just want to say here that experiencing what little bits of the local culture was amazing, but I’ve hardly tapped the service. They are humans like us, but with a vastly different world view.

I’m just grateful to have been in Bali and experienced this amazing place!

Spas & Massages!

Southeast Asia is AMAZING for massages! This is true of Thailand also!

Here in Bali you can get exceptional massages for super cheap. I think I enjoyed one epic massage for not even $5- traditional 1 hour (or 1.5 hour?) Balinese massage. It was amazing.

There’s also a great spa called Amo Spa which has more expensive massages, but then a spa with sauna & cold plunge which is cheap for the add-on price. I met lots of cool people there.

Internet & Censorship

Internet is cheap (in terms of getting a SIM card for your phone), but it can be spotty at times, depending on where you are.

Sometimes it’ll randomly go out. WiFi can also be very spotty. Video calling with friends was often difficult, and sometimes impossible.

The government also censors several websites, mainly porn websites, but then random websites get caught in the filter like Reddit. Sometimes Reddit works, such as if you Google “Reddit [topic to research,” but if you were to try go to the main page it wouldn’t.

At some co-working spaces & cafes, you can access blocked websites. For example, where I’m at now I could visit Reddit if I wanted to.

Generally WiFi is good, but you can’t work outside of a co-working or coffee shop with great internet, unless your villa has great internet.

Accommodation

Accommodation is cheap and readily abundant! My “home-stay” (which is like a hotel room but with a family in a villa) is just $425 for the month. No deposit required. It’s also directly in the center of Canggu (but this I regret due to noise). It also is cleaned 3-4x per week.

If you can ride a motorbike, I recommend getting a place farther away from the center of Canggu or wherever you’re staying. It’s much more quiet, and a bit cheaper.

The extra 3 minutes will mean you save an extra $100-$200 on a month’s rent, it’ll be super quiet at night, and you may have a bigger place also. Next time, that’s what I will do!

Where I’m at now I need ear plugs to sleep at night. It’s not the worse thing because the location is amazing, but the extra 2-3 minutes of riding is totally worth the much-needed silence I’d like at night.

You can also get private villas, private chefs, private drivers for fairly cheap also, depending on your budget. Like I said next time I’ll look into a better home-stay, apartment, or even villa but farther out from the center for that much-needed silence. Maybe the WiFi would work, also.

Sometimes the electricity goes out too but that’s not really a problem. I think every place I saw had AC as well, which is obviously much needed.

One frustrating thing was that lack of silence in many of the accommodations I visited. I am fairly certain on one of my first few nights in Bali (in a different accommodation) I woke up to a couple having sex in the bungalow next to me.

I didn’t get any special action in Bali, which probably is okay because to be quite honest I’d rather have the freedom to make some noise than have to worry about waking up all the neighbors.

All kinds of wild animals, farm animals, ceremonies, and motorbikes make noise as well, which is why I’d recommend making sure your accommodation is quiet.

Digital Nomads

SO MANY people here make money online while working remotely! It’s a great community to plug into over here.

In Bulgaria I think I could count all of the digital nomads I met on one hand just because of how few there were- but all digital nomads seem to make their rounds here in Bali.

One thing that sucks is the visa situation though- there isn’t a super clear path to residency, as far as I know. However, that could just be the talk from a ton of complaining digital nomads.

Many digital nomads are living perpetually on a tourist visa, which makes me uneasy, especially after Bulgaria rejected one of my visa extensions. While I love it and will return, I feel uneasy about getting attached to a place that doesn’t have a clear path to residency and then citizenship.

Overall

All in all I loved my stay here in Bali. I feel like there are so many more adventures to be had. For every adventure I had, 2-3 more ideas popped in mind or were introduced to me by others!

I feel sad to be leaving- I will certainly return for a total of several months more stay.

I’m excited to return to Bali, experience more of the local culture, have great adventures, and make it even better than this time now that I have so much knowledge of how things work here!

There’s so much more to write about, I feel like I hardly tapped into the experience here in Bali, which is probably why I typically avoid writing posts about places.

And really, there’s so much more to write about. But I’m ending it here. So just keep in mind that there’s a ton more to Bali, you’d probably have to call me/Email me to get more info if you wanted to ask. 

Done!

-Michael