Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bali holiday, part 2

I was reading my friends` blog, who also took a trip to Bali this summer, and I realized that I should do another post about this strange little island.

My last post was pretty negative. I think that was the culture shock talking more than anything. Culture shock is a strange thing. You don’t always get it, and when you do, it can make you caught up in all the negatives of traveling and none of the positives. But then you go home and breathe and see how not bad the whole thing was. How amazing, actually.

I had never been anywhere like Bali before this summer. From the way it was described on the Internet and my eternally-useful Lonely Planet guide, I figured that we were going to the Indian Ocean equivalent of the Bahamas or something.

Anyways, I had no real idea what to expect. I wasn’t expecting the roads to be clogged with motorcycles bought on credit or offerings to various gods to be mixed with trash on the sidewalks. I wasn’t expecting to feel like a rich traveler, either. We were millionaires in the local currency, the Rupiah. Many locals seemed to view us as big wallets with legs, but that’s probably because tourism makes up 80% of the Balinese economy.

We saw extravagant beach resorts right next to trashed beaches and slums.

I hope that things like poverty and pollution never cease to shock and sadden me, no matter how well-traveled I become.

The people were generally nice, although I just had to accept that some behavior that seemed normal to them was just plain shady to me. A lot of things were shady in Bali.

But I’m glad that I went.

One of the most interesting aspects of Balinese culture is the Hindu religion. It is the only island in Indonesia that isn’t predominantly Muslim. I saw many temples, one of which was on a stunning cliff beside the Indian Ocean. Hindu temples are elaborate and ancient looking.

Pura Ulu Watu

Pura Batukaru

I climbed my first mountain, which was actually a volcano. (I didn’t make it to the tippy top, but I made it pretty far. This is an accomplishment for me and my irrationally-afraid-of-heights brain.)

Gunung Batur

I got addicted to some of the best coffee I’ve ever had, and I felt good knowing that every cup was locally grown. We even visited a coffee and spice plantation and saw how it was produced.

A few beaches were depressing (Lovina) because of pollution problems, but it felt amazing to walk on sand and breathe in ocean air again. I’ve been going to the beach at least once a summer for as long as I can remember. This is the first time in nearly two years that I’ve gone to a nice beach. (I don’t count the beach in Toyohashi, Japan that I visited earlier this year because it was a total dump and I couldn’t even walk with my toes in the sand.)

I got a slight tan (my first in almost two years), saw some stunning scenery, learned about another people’s culture, and learned to appreciate the privileges that I have in life.

I realized that it was really more a traveling trip than a vacation.* A vacation denotes things like mints on pillows and air conditioning and having drinks served to you while you get a tan. I saw a lot of people doing just that. But we were traveling, which is more like staying in places that may or may not have running water and eating nasi goreng more times than you can count. It’s more risky and a little less comfortable, but it’s also more of an adventure. And that’s the whole point of going places, isn’t it?

*I think I got that idea from a conversation I had one time with Josie. Thanks, Josie!