I was on my way.
Lonely planet in one hand, coffee in the other, busy lusting over a whole heap of Bali inspo pictures on my Instagram feed. I was getting excited at the prospect of swimming with the Manta rays and spending half my intended budget on smoothie bowls and daily yoga sessions. Two plane rides and a confusing baggage situation later we were greeted by an absolute onslaught of taxi drivers in yo face. After two flights and zero snacks inside me, I couldn’t handle it. I sent Robbie to find us the cheapest, quickest deal he could and off to Canggu we went.
Is it me or do taxi drivers in Asia just not have a clue where they are going? 40 mins in and we were lost. Look, we didn’t mind, there wasn’t really any rush, apart from the fact it was Nyepi day at midnight so the whole island shuts down for 24 hours. You are to stay put in your accommodation and let the island rest, PERFECT, for the first day of our trip, I did just wanted to sit by the pool and chill. However, snacks are important so we were itching to get to a supermarket before everything shut or face the consequences of a 24 hour involuntary fast.
I spent the next day in silence planning trips to the hotspots, researching the not so secret spots and getting excited to explore. I felt like day one, my dreams had been crushed. The first thing that greeted us as we sped off toward the beach was the little wooden baskets on the side of the road, in front of every house and business. They were pretty, flowers-adorned them, charming. That was until we arrived at the beach and they were strewn everywhere. Washing up on the beach, littering the pathways and thrown all over the steps, accompanying the other mounds of litter that had washed up overnight. After further inspection of said baskets, they had cigarettes, mints wrapped in plastic and food cartons, they had also been stapled together. These baskets for the Gods were washing up out of the ocean and everyone stepped over them and carried on about their day. The morning after Nyepi day is popular, families gathered as did the tourists…just adding to the baskets already floating in the watery landfill. We drove away from the beach with heavy hearts, hoping that for the next month this wouldnt be a norm.
We spent one whole month in Indonesia and dare I say it? I didn’t get it. I never found the hype or the reason why everyone bangs on about it so much. Around day 6 I was questioning why we came and was considering running back to the mountains and hiding out there for a while. I am happy we stuck it out because we did some incredible things, we did find some beautiful places but paired with this was the sorrow at the state of a country quite clearly in despair and the constant need I felt to keep up with the ideal on this paradise Isle.
Before we left, everyone and I mean everyone I spoke to told me I would LOVE it. That it was a haven for great photo spots and that I should take the month to immerse myself in the local culture. Well if you call local culture a hoard of overpriced wooden handbags and avo on toast run cafes then you, my friend are wrong. I struggled to find the culture in the tourist hotspots so we headed for Ubud. Hoping to have some Julia Roberts style experience and lose myself in a yoga class or two. All I could find was overpriced mats in a sweaty barn and a flurry of Asia pants taking over the streets, however, I found a soft spot for the monkey forest, that place was both amazing and terrifying at the same time. I decided to climb a mountain, hoping to find my fix by getting high and spending some time in nature. To find we walked single file for two hours and spent time at the top being herded like sheep into separate groups to watch the sunrise from where the guide seemed fit – again the best bit included the monkeys, they sure gave everyone a fright when they came for the picnic boxes everyone had so casually left lying all over the ground.
I only swam in the ocean on Gili Air as this was by far the clearest waters I found and by clear I mean I wasn’t wading through the sea of plastic bags and other crap to have a refreshing dip. I found the amount of trash on the beaches and floating around in the waters so hard to handle. One day I even took to shoving it in my bikini bottoms to no avail when the boat captain threw countless cigarette butts and his snack packets overboard. The Manta rays, a day I was looking forward to the most. I actually left the water in fear of getting decapitated by the number of boats in the area, who by the way had no chill when trying to pick their passengers up. I also left the water in fear of feeling like I was contributing to the mess we are leaving in the home of these beautiful innocent creatures.
NOW, where am I going with this post before I get hung drawn and quartered for having an opinion… I just didn’t love it. I wouldn’t go as far as saying I hated it because that’s not fair and I most certainly do not want to come across as ungrateful, because I am not. We had a great time, a month off, just me and my main squeeze hanging out and exploring. HOWEVER I feel there is an unbelievable push and urge from others to send every Tom, Dick, and Harry to this island and quite frankly it looks to me as if they can’t cope.
I have been afraid to write about this topic, for fear of getting scrutinized for being honest and also I didn’t want to sound like a total negative nin pants. Looking back I did enjoy myself. For example, a private walk around the waterfall forest in Lombok was incredible, the whole day I felt I found the connection I was longing to find. One of my fondest moments was when a sea turtle took me on an exclusive tour of his favorite eateries off the shores of Gili Air. The food, I mean everyone gets sick of noodles, right? So it was nice to find healthy, vegetarian options in most place and also some undiscovered local spots serving up the most delicious and cheap authentic cuisine.
I suppose where I am going is, don’t believe everything you see or read, which I naively did. Expecting days of sandy beaches and private lookouts when in fact you may have to queue to get ‘that shot’ and find yourself on your very own beach clean up mission. I am happy I visited for sure, I am happy I got to make my own mind up on the place that has sat high on my list for a while… would I return? I would politely decline.
Maybe it’s my style of travel or maybe I just need to head to places where I may not see a face for a few days and steer clear of the hype.
Please don’t let my opinions sway you, I am more than happy to chat about my experience & if you’re planning to go I do have a list of amazing places we stayed, ate and experienced BUT for now, I’m off to plan a trip to Nepal to lose myself in the mountains and Dal Bhat…
Enjoy, I will share more adventures soon Xo
Make something everyone likes and no-one will love it – Tim Ferris
10 thoughts on “Against the grain”
Your photos are amazing!
thank you so much, I really appreciate it!
Absolute must read, thanks Soph!
Thank you beautiful
Fab outlook lady. I haven’t been to Bali yet but I declined for the same reasons. It seemed be becoming something it couldn’t live up to and I knew far too many backpackers who didn’t shit up about beaches and cocktails. Considering I ended up going to Tasmania instead I couldn’t be happier ☺️🙏🏻🌎
Thanks girl! Damn i would love to go to Tasmania!
Beautiful pictures – refreshing to see them paired with more honest, ‘uncomfortable’ commentary than you’d usually find beside them!
Thank you Sara X
Really enjoyed reading your blog post – honesty is always the best policy and if people can’t handle that then who cares?!? ☺️
Thank you for reading!