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Moving to Bali: Difference in expectations and reality

TIME : 2016/2/25 14:08:05

Moving to Bali is a dream for many, a reality for a few. Since living in Bali for almost 4 years, I have met longtern expats, and short term ones, who have come and gone. Before I moved here, I had certain preconcieved ideas of how it would be. Some of those were accurate, others completely out of whack.

My impression of Bali, after visiting in 1993, was a small island, pretty much max’d out with tourism. One on occassion, a couple of German girls, another friend and myself, were walking up a set of steps from a waterfall. As we neared the top, we saw a dozen Germans, singing a song about ‘no beer in Hawaii’, at a restaurant. The girls were aghast, announcing that Bali was already too touristy.

Now on that trip, I visited Kuta, Ubud, Lovina, Padangbai, so hit all the main spots back then. Arriving on Jan 2nd 2003, there had been terrific growth in Bali, as far as building development. In 1993, Legian was the new trendy area, with Goa Cafe, the center of everything. Now it seemed, Jl, Dhyana Pura was the hip place and Jl. Oberoi was coming alive with new places every month.

Getting hold of money:
Getting money changed, was a effort in the past, but now moneychangers have revised their operating proceedures, no longer needing your life story and a letter from mommy to change a $20 bill. ATM’s dot the island, so accessing your money is easy.

Bemo buses:
One of my pet hates from 1993 was bemo’s, with their scheister little drivers. Moving to Bali, I see there are still bemo’s that crisscross the island, but nobody who lives her uses them. Why would you want to, other than in a breakdown situation?

What’s the food like like?
Visiting the Kuta warungs in 1993, it seemed the choices available, were the ‘burger & chips, nasi , goreng, pancake’ type places, that all did an average job at serving uninspiring food. Yes there were other places, such as Glory and TJ’s, I just was just unaware of them. Now its cascade of choices, you name it, Bali has it. You want Moroccan, Greek, Thai, English, Italian, Spanish, its all here, as well as a wide range of Indonesian cuisines, served in specialist places.

How does the climate affect you?
The climate is tropical, and constantly sweating was something I wasn’t totally looking forward to. After being here for a while I got used to it. Yes, there are days when I’m riinging wet just typnig an article, but for the most part, its not a huge factor affecting my life.

Internet access:
Internet access did not exist in 1993, at least in Bali, the fact that it did in 2003 meant I was able to come here. What I found was the only places in Bali, where a person who needs the use of an internet cafe, can function is the Kuta area and Ubud. You can now get home access in a variety of ways, but the mom & pop internet cafes in places like Lovina and Candi Dasa are almost worthless.

Meeting people:
One of the cool aspects about Bali, as an expat enclave, is that not everyone is doing the same thing. There are people manufacturing, exporting, involved in tours and watersports, restaurants, the entertainment / nightlife scene, publishing, hotels, property and a variety of other arenas.

On many occassion, I have gone out and met cool people, some who became friends. One time I went out for a walk to Jl. Oberoi, with the idea of having 1 beer at my friend’s bar. After several beers and going to dinner with 4 of the customers, I arrived home after midnight. If you’ve got the time to hang out, you’ll meet all kinds of people.

Who can you trust out here?
Bali is a weird scene in some ways. Locals play the passive-aggressive all the time, and I’ve had a guy get physical with me, because I wouldn’t tell him what my business was. You’ve got corrupt officials and some desperate expats, who will do things to stay in Bali, they might not at home. All that adds up to an environment, where you must look out for yourself. Even Aussie guys have told me, they have dobbed in other people to the immigration.

Staying in shape:
Its hot, you’re rushed, the food is good and a bintang or 2 helps you unwind. Okay, we’ve all been there. How do you combat that expanding waistline? Some people don’t, and turn into tubs, which is okay. For people who want to stay in the same shape they arrived in, you pretty much have to schedule some kind of workout, otherwise it won’t happen. Riding a bicycle out here is not a good way to get in shape, running on the beach is so-so, bearing in mind the beach slopes and the time of the tide changes. Swimming in the ocean solo is dangerous, as you might get caught in a current. Hiking a mountain will work, if you don’t mind the 4 hour round trip to get there. What works for me is a trip to thr gym, some weights and a session on the runner.

What to do all day:
Well I have my blog to do and meet / email many people who read it. I also have a wife and kid, so with the traffic and internet access, I find I’m not bored. There are many expats, particularly guys in their 50′s, who have told me they have nothing to do. In place of something to do many people go out every night, drink too much and end up pretty listless.

Since moving to Bali, I can see that the nightlife scene is a total scene in its own right. you can come to Bali, just to enjoy the restaurants, lounge bars and nightclubs, its a total scene.

Bill Clinton had a billion year old moon rock in the Oval Office. He’d look at that rock and think, ‘I’m just passing through.’ Here in Bali, I’m just passing through. A long term expat told me once he feels like he’s on a long term holiday.

The Balinese:
Some people read books on Bali / Thailand / India and get suduced by the history and culture. Its here no doubt and being a spectator, to a fascinating culture, that is different from the ones I’m used to, is awesome. After visiting in 1993, I was used to the games locals play and how they could be when money was an issue. That beautiful culture is nowhere to be seen, when money is the subject, that’s all I’m saying. I think to have a healthy appreciation of Balinese people, you have to give yourself the time, to interact and get to know them, then the cool stuff happens and you see a different side to ‘Boss you want taxi?’

Returning to Bali:
Coming back to Bali after spending 2 months in Europe felt great. What immediately was obvious to me was that the climate is more humid, colors were brighter, the dry season is REALLY DRY!, and that I’m lucky to be in a place where ceremonies happen around the corner from my house, the beach is around the other corner and I have a wife a son waiting. You’ll be hard pressed to find anothe expat scene anywhere in the world that ocmpares with Bali. Altogether its a good place to live.