When you think of Bali, Indonesia you might think of massive rice fields and pristine untouched beaches, all surrounded by a rich culture of tradition. However, if you happen to start your trip in Kuta Beach – Bali’s premier surf spot and tourist attraction you’ll find yourself in quite a different environment. Kuta Beach is to Australians, what Mexico is for North Americans. Due to this large tourist influx you really feel like you haven’t left home at all.
During the 20-minute drive from the airport to our guesthouse we passed 3 Starbucks, 2 McDonalds, a KFC and 2 massive shopping complex’s filled with Billabong, Prada, and sports bars. While the beach is gorgeous, unless you’re out in the water at sunrise you’re fighting for waves with about 30 others and being hounded by beach boys selling everything under the sun.
It’s truly difficult to haggle in a place where there’s an equal population of Westerners as there is Balinese. You can spend your day watching drunk Australians shout at Rugby matches, groups of women walk the street with arms full of shopping bags, and grab a late night Big Mac to top it all off.
While I don’t expect the rest of Bali to feel this strung under by the tourist trap, it’s clear to recognize the mark left by tourists, and simple to see that if you really want to experience Bali, it’s best to grab a bike, rent a board, strap your bags onto the back and head off in search or hidden beaches, local eats, and humble guesthouses.