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Bali impressions 2023: it's time to give up

Bali impressions 2023: it's time to give up

Old Mar 19th 2023, 3:10 am
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Default Bali impressions 2023: it's time to give up

As I've written in another post, this year I'm searching out places in Bali, with an eye to relocating here for a few months at a time as my 'home base' for other travels around Asia.

I'm no stranger to Bali. I first went there in 1972 when it was entirely another world, and since 1985 almost every year. I retired in 2012 and moved to East Java, specifically five years in Surabaya. Then to Bali in 2017. We rented a small villa in Sanur from 2016 to 2020 until Covid when we were forced to vacate.

Unlike many expats, my travel plans were never to be permanently in Indonesia, only to stay for a few months, then leave Indonesia to wander round Southeast Asia, and occasionally go home to Australia. Which I've done, successfully and happily, since 2012 until Covid forced us all to go home and replan our lives. Now Indonesia (for most this means Bali) has reopened, sort of - unsurprisingly, in many ways nothing is the same.

We flew from Melbourne. Jetstar did us in yet again. Four hours' delay, a smaller replacement jet eventually came and we were crammed into every available seat. So-so in-flight service (to give them due credit the staff coped well, even managing a sense of humor, and most passengers behaved, all of which helped). Not so happy were the Business Class passengers who got downgraded to Cattle Class. Another airline was added to my bucket list, never ever again!

We landed in Bali at 11.00 PM, not a good time to arrive anywhere in Asia. The new Indonesian visa is for 30 days (it can be renewed one time) and costs Rp500,000. We had rupiahs and paid quickly but the AUD$ payers had to cough up a few extra dollars. Visa service was polite and efficient. Then passport control, long queues, few staff, slow processing so more than an hour before we were finally at baggage retrieval. Customs staff waved aside our paper customs declaration, saying "you must online!" We smiled, turned back, went round and sneaked out. Nobody stopped us.

The new(ish) Ngurarai airport has all the modern services. ATMs to draw cash from our debit cards. A few good cafes and restaurants, open late. Outside, the usual chaos, a mob of hopeful drivers shouting the usual come-one, "good price", "special price for you", "promo". Sure, sure. All polite, but many drivers quoted high prices in dollars, Euros, marks, even lira. One said "for you, only one hundred" (US dollars) to take us 10 kilometers to Sanur. Only? Sorry, tidak, mas. In the parking lot, more sensible driver prices were offered. A pleasant driver quickly agreed to 200,000 and off we went.

Our driver was friendly and gave me useful information. Many villas for rent, prices high, no great demand. Car transport same. Indonesian tourists everywhere in Bali but they travel in groups, bargain for everything, don't spend much, only walk around and eat street food. Europeans slowly returning, mostly older Dutch and Germans, some French. Not many Aussies in Sanur, they flock to the fleshpots of Kuta-Legian-Seminyak-Canggur. All the Balinese eagerly awaiting the return of mainland Chinese.

In our room at 1.20 AM. SO, exhausted, had a double duty free gin and warm bottled water and went to bed. I sneaked a swim in the hotel pool, diplomatically ignored by the security staff. We were, I was told, one of three lots of guests, in a 125 room resort.

A late morning breakfast in a pleasant setting, a pendopo, in a lush tropical garden setting. Food so-so. Not impressed with prices, AUD$20 for two meh! Bali breakfasts, a delicious banana pancake, small pots of strong Bali coffee. Ants in the sugar bowl, hey, this is Bali!

Weather at 10 AM, blue sky, hot, high humidity. Hotel staff said it will probably rain later. Which it did, three times. Short downpours. I got soaked but was dry again in 10 minutes. Bali...

Not many tourists around. Older couples, Dutch and Germans, some Aussies, a few Japanese. No Chinese to be seen as yet. Many Indonesians, wandering in thr usual groups, eating street food. A relaxing ambience of no tour buses crowding every available parking space on Jalan Danau Tamblingan. They will come later.

SO went out shopping. I wanted to change money and I went to Hardy's. In a cramped moneychanger's shop (like a hotel bathroom, if smaller) three Balinese hangers-on, all drivers, hustling for business. They wouldn't go out so I left.

Then an arranged meeting with the son of our former landlord, who had contacted to say the villa we rented was again "available" - yes, but at three times the price. "We poor now," he insisted. So will I be, if I pay you that much. I made polite excuses and left, to his entreaties of "no many villas now, all rented", "many people want rent, you must take now!" and inevitably, "you good friend, special price for you" and "how much you want pay?". We'll let you know, I promised - with two fingers crossed behind my back.

On to a travel-tour-villa rental agency. The baby doll at the counter sighed. Many come in to ask, nobody rents. Indonesians want to live in Bali, but they all insist on bargaining. The first offers they make start at half the pre-2020 prices. She had the look of one resigned to reciting the same script too many times to would-be callers who come and go. Hers was the same story. A glut of villas for rent, prices too high. "Everybody in Bali poor now" she said by way of explanation when I queried the new high rental prices.

Back on the street, I asked about a car and driver to Bedugul. The usual hustler prices, one million, no? 900,000 then, okay? 800,000, okay? 700,000. Alas, the reputable Denpasar travel agency I often used pre-2020 is now closed, so I no longer have any bargaining edge. A nearby agency wanted 550,000, a fair price, I thought, but then - this fee per person plus 150,000 for "booking". Tsk tsk!

On Jalan Danau Tamblingan our driver from the airport greeted me. A few minutes' negotiating and a good price, 400,000 for an eight hour day. No extras to pay. Deal done. We go tomorrow via Ubud, so two birds with one stone.

I still had time for visits to two rental agencies. The same story.

At 1 PM, time for lunch at a charming small cafe, Retro, renowned for its chef who does fish without incinerating it. Here the old Bali politeness (if not the menu prices) prevail. I was there early, frazzled by my local encounters and the heat-humidity, and I had a arak cocktail with a well-chilled Heineken chaser, which put me in a calm stupor.

SO arrived with news. Hotel and restaurant prices are up, some higher, most still reasonable. Cafe menus not as elaborate, portions smaller. Unsurprisingly, bar and beer prices 25% higher. A few local places have vanished. The legendary Cafe Batujimbar is closed "for renovations", which in Indonesia often means it will never reopen. Never mind. Retro will do nicely.

After an excellent lunch, a leisured stroll to Hardy's mall. Not many customers. We didn't venture upstairs (SO had been there earlier, reported all the usual tourist rubbish on offer, prices medium to high). Hardy's supermarket much the same as pre-Covid, service is now better, staff are polite to foreign customers. Amazing. The Periplus bookshop is open, huzzah!

Afterwards SO returned to the hotel to relax and swim. I decided to check out our old villa and called the owner's son, who raced over in minutes on his motorbike and took me to the house. Not much to see. The place was vacant since 2020,with my last coffee cup still in the sink and some old food items I bought in the pantry. Dust everywhere, the garden neglected and a mess. I could easily and quickly fix all that, but the rental price is still too high for my liking. Given its location, this villa is no longer a bargain. Over the half hour I was there, the price went down by 10 then, then 20 per cent, but the final offer was still much too high.

I could have bargained still more, but I no longer wanted to relive the past. A new future elsewhere now appealed more.And I was no longer sure if I wanted to be in Bali. Too long in the one place tends to make me bored and stultified. And Bali has changed so much. More polite excuses and I took my leave. This time no new offers and, tellingly, the owner's son didn't drive me back. Telling, this The walk took 20 minutes, in my old neighborhood. Nothing to repor or see there. Que sera...

Dinner in Seminyak. With old friends, in a favorite old haunt we enjoyed in the past, legendary in its time but now somewhat out of things. The new 'scene' has shifted to Canggu, I was told. I won't name itr. The same ambience, only a few diners, so-so service. We waited 20 minutes for menus, the waiters flitted past every five minutes to ask, "another drink?" Food okay but unmemorable. Fish overcooked, salads past their best, the once generously heaped nasi campur platter much diminished. Mixed drinks watered down.The bill was high and I paid it for old times' sake. Later the downside of our gala night out - back at our hotel, SO sick with food poisoning, fortunately only a minor case. A sad ending to our past enjoyable times. .

So far our day has been so-so. Mixed. Sanur still charms and pleases, but no longer delights. For us the Kuta 'strip' is best avoided, we decide - but then I've felt the same about it for many years now. Maybe I'm too old. Or not Australian enough.

Tomorrow to Ubud and Bedugul. We went to bed wondering what to expect - would it be the same or too greatly changed? Time will tell, and we'll see.

To be continued in my next post.




Last edited by scrubbedexpat143; Mar 19th 2023 at 4:31 am.
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Old Mar 19th 2023, 8:05 pm
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Default Re: Bali impressions 2023: it's time to give up

Sad to read. Many fond memories of our times in Sanur. First visited in 1980; last visit 2018.

Will be interested to read your update on Ubud - our preferred destination in Bali. Many happy times there. Excellent accommodation, first rate cafes & restaurants at reasonable prices.

We’ve always thought we might spend a few months a year there in retirement. But with your insights & what we’ve picked up on other blogs looking less likely. Bizarrely some places in Europe looking more attractive price wise, Two weeks ago we were paying €2.50 for the most beautiful seafood tapas dishes in Malaga. One thing is for sure, travel post Covid is very different!
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Old Mar 25th 2023, 2:00 am
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Default Re: Bali impressions 2023: it's time to give up

Covid has changed Bali. In some ways drastically, in other ways less so. Costs for transport are much higher, food (at least in Sanur where I usually hang out) has not seen such big increases in cost but the serving places are cutting back on portions, service isn't quite as good as it was, alcohol prices have soared. Hotel prices are much the same, when we were there (early March) there were fewer guests around. Many shops have now reopened but some have closed for good. My laundry lady (I've used her services since 2006) is back in business, bless her, she also sells cheap tourist gewgaws (carvings, batiks, sarongs etcetera) but told me not many are buying now. Supermarket prices (at Hardy's) were a little lower than pre-Covid, amazing but there you are. So business as usual, 90%...

Sanur circa 1980 was a small slice of heaven on earth. In 2023 it still has its charm, but business has taken over and thanks to the tour companies and there busses full of buying-mad traveling Asians, the peace and quiet of the place has largely evaporated. But as we know time passes, things change.

In my next post (when time allows) I'll write about Nusa Dua and Ubud. Two places I explored, ere briefly, as possible hidey-holes for my next long-term stay in Bali. I quickly changed my mind on either. We stayed in ND for a few days but only visited Ubud as day-trippers, so again, opinions. ND is now too expensive and as poorly serviced as always. Ubud is the new Mecca for Liz Gilbert wannabes hunting for their Bali experiences (and their Felipes), not a few dozen but hundreds, even thousands. Prices have soared. To lunch or dine at the old haunts now means standing in a long line to wait for a table, all the budget homesteads have doubled or tripled their rates but at least most now have split system AC which is now a must in all of Bali. Traffic jams such as we've never seen in Sanur or even Denpasar,often it can take up to 40 minutes to travel three kilometers from the southern outskirts of the town to the Campuhan bridge.

OzSheila, you could consider time in Spain or Portugal for your few months away from Oz. I personally would opt for one of the quieter parts (and there are still many) of Italy, but admittedly this will be more expensive. Not much of Europe attracts budget visitors now. I have Sydney friends now in Malta who say if they did not have family there (she is Maltese born) they couldn't afford the place. There are still a few countries left in Asia for the more impecunious to hang out in, butter us, not Indonesia. The visa system there is a cash-grab, you now pay upfront on arrival for the first 30 days and the renewal for an additional 30 days means paying up to $250 per person plus an expensive taxi trip to immigration in Denpasar. After which time you will have to leave the country every 60 days.

Which means in a nutshell, if you are okay with staying maybe 30 days or even 60 days in Bali, it's still possible to do. But not so much long-term visa life there, which now means a lot of money.

A few other Asian countries are more generous with their visas - the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia come to mind for longer term stays - but it now looks as if the good old pre-Covid days have gone and Asian tourism has shifted gears to attracting the big money travelers. As a good example of this, check out the Global Nomad Visa offered by Indonesia which seems to be the way that country is going. Sad, but there you are. Reality again, 2023 style.

For those who would consider staying out of Bali, East and Central Java are still affordable but bear in mind that even the big cities in Java are not as well serviced for Western visitors as Bali is. As well, few Indonesians speak much English beyond the usual deadly"dari mana?" questions taught by the English schools there and widely practiced by the students on every hapless visitor.

So yes, Covid has changed everything. There area few small encouraging signs that things in Bali are slowly going back to what they were pre-2020, but like in Australia, post-Covid life even for tourists will most likely never go back to what it was. This is the new 'given' and we must all get used to it.

More about Bali in my next post.

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Old Mar 28th 2023, 2:32 am
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Default Re: Bali impressions 2023: it's time to give up

We are just coming to the end of a 5 week stay in Lovina (North Bali). We're in a wonderful villa, on top of hill with sea view one side and jungle on the other. Lovely staff who do the shopping and cook amazing meals for us. We came to Lovina thinking it might be a place we'd like to spend more time. Nice as it is, it is just too quiet and too far away from everything (not so much in distance, but the roads are bad so getting anywhere takes a long time).

Now we're really looking forward to the hustle and bustle of Sanur again: Great restaurants which cater to every taste; Sitting on the beach drinking a cold beer and people watching. Yes, it is much louder and more expensive than it used to be, but Sanur is still the place we want to be. Now if only the visa situation could be sorted out, we would certainly consider settling down here. In the mean time we're going to enjoy our next 3 months in Sanur and see what happens after that.

Hoping that you find your forever place JDWoowoo50!
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Old Apr 5th 2023, 2:58 am
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Default Re: Bali impressions 2023: it's time to give up

Greetings to Fenella and the several other BE members who've contacted about this thread. Also an apology for the delay in my posting the promised new information.

I've been working on the "continuation" of my time in Bali for a few weeks now, but other concerns and considerations have taken on a greater importance. I keep notes but usually I scribble them on pieces of paper, which I then keep here and there and mostly everywhere. Finding them is a chore all its own. Then deciphering them, but that's another story.

Two weeks ago I had to leave Indonesia for a new 30 day VOA (visa on arrival) and I went to Malaysia for nine days. Had a wonderful time. A country of highly cultured and intelligent people of three different and separate cultures, who all live together peaceably, who speak English, are worldly, far less tribal than the insular Indonesians - and best of all, for me, none of the endless chorus of "Dari mana?" and "Mau-ko mana?" and the endless hustling after money from tourists, as seems to be the way in Bali and Java now. In all, a good break.

I did write that I have now mostly decided to pass on Bali, and continue my explorations of Indonesia from my old home base of Surabaya, East Java. Not a city foreign tourists are particularly fond of, but interesting enough to me to warrant a further stay. I can use it to travel to other places, Bromo, Blitar, Mojokerto and Trowulan to look at the old temples of the Majapahit kingdom, the southern beaches, and refreshingly cool weekends in Malang,

Good on you, Fenalla, for having a way to stay in Bali/Indonesia for as long as three months! On (am I assuming here?) one visa only. May I ask if you are American or Dutch? We Aussies haven't the luxury of such visas, at least not that I know of.

Like you, I too found north Bali a little too Behind The Gods' Back for my liking. Singaraja has enough attractions to keep me pleasantly occupied for maybe a week, five weeks there would be end of me and I would be on the gin by the first weekend. Lovina I can happily do without, and otherwise the mostly Bali Aga culture one finds in the north leaves me mostly unimpressed, tho' there are some pleasant day trips to be done if one takes the time to research them. For food, night life, and other social entertainment, south Bali is the place, and Sanur is the way to go. I did find Singaraja was much less expensive (for many if not all things) than Sanur or the Kuta strip, and food in Lovina was also inexpensive if rather basic for my tastes. Good seafood but mostly served up as fish and rice.

So far I've found the best way to deal with longer stays in Bali (for me, anywhere else in Indonesia) is a VOA, which costs AUD $50/US $35) and can be renewed a further 30 days. Then fly out for a few days of R&R in Malaysia or elsewhere, and fly back in.

I've looked into the longer term visas and to be frank, I find the conditions imposed by Jakarta are idiotic. The global nomad visa to me is an expensive cash-grab and I'm convinced nobody in their right minds will willingly hand over so much money to Indonesia. The global nomads are mostly young and freewheeling and many are only playing at Being Free, they flit to and fro around Asia and most will likely leave after 60 or even 30 days in the fleshpots of Kuta.

Anyhow, I will somehow find (or make) the time to finish my essay on my last visit to Bali, and I'll post it in the very near future.

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Old Apr 6th 2023, 7:52 am
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Default Re: Bali impressions 2023: it's time to give up

"Good on you, Fenalla, for having a way to stay in Bali/Indonesia for as long as three months! On (am I assuming here?) one visa only. May I ask if you are American or Dutch? We Aussies haven't the luxury of such visas, at least not that I know of".

We're British :-) The visa we're currently on is the B211 (https://bali.com/visit-bali-during-covid-offshore-e-visa). This is the visa company we used. They are excellent and you do need a sponsor for this visa. This is Indonesia so it's not as black and white as it seems. The visa is initially valid for 2 months, then has to be renewed for a further two months which requires a visit to immigration. The above mentioned agency takes care of getting your passport to immigration, making the appointment for your visit and returning your passport: Or you can choose to have your passport immediately sent back to immigration for the final 2 month extension, this time you don't need to go in person (6 months total). We're now in the process of extending for another 6 months (without having to leave Indonesia). As I said before though, it's not cheap but we tend to rent airbnbs for a couple of months at a time, and this means we don't need to leave the country every month.

Maybe by the end of the year, there'll be another visa alternative. Otherwise, Thailand here we come. :-)


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Old Apr 6th 2023, 11:26 pm
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Default Re: Bali impressions 2023: it's time to give up

Fenella, many thanks. I've had a look at that Bali agency web site. It's one of several I've checked out in the past.

Australians get the VOA (visa on arrival), and from what I've read (and sort of understand from the site), we Aussies do not qualify for the longer tB211 for that reason. Am I wrong in thinking the visa has to be applied for prior to one's being in Bali? It would seem so.

I note the agency doesn't quote prices online, which is understandable as a business tactic.

As a comparison, renewing the VOA for an additional 30 days to extend one's stay in Indonesia to 60 days, costs a minimum of Rp1.5 million (AUD $150) in Bali and Rp2.5 million elsewhere. A visit to immigration each and every time is required for fingerprinting and photos, which adds to the expense, especially in Bali where transport to anywhere can be costly. If as you wrote you don't have to revisit the agency and immi every couple of months, that would reduce the outgoings.

So far I've not had any problems, nor have I met anyone else who encountered "difficulties" in getting the renewal. The immigration staff in Surabaya all speak good English and are friendly (if not especially helpful with advice or information) if as always in Indonesia prone to "following the ritual" to the letter. I've not yet been asked for any "gift" as I assume my agent takes care of any such expenses as part of his fee.

The alternative to all this bureaucracy is instead to fly out to Malaysia (I did Singapore for two days for a few years but this is now too expensive even for a short stay) for a short R& breakR, which appeals to me more than having to resubmit papers and do the trek to the immi offices. So we will see what happens, how it goes and however it turns out.Here in Indonesia, bureaucracy is rife, rituals abound, almost everything in life is a game...

The web site you listed is also unclear as to whether or not one has to have a "sponsor" or whether the agency automatically provides this. I have a sponsor (a family friend) in Surabaya but the paperwork has to be submitted each and every time an application is made. This isn't really difficult but it does get monotonous

Fenella, it was an interesting read, and I am ever thankful for your excellent input.

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Old Apr 7th 2023, 1:01 am
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Default Re: Bali impressions 2023: it's time to give up

Brits too are able to get the VOA. Did you know that if you take the e-VOA you can apply for the additional 30 days on-line now (this started a couple of months ago).

We applied for our original B211 whilst we were in Malaysia. We can renew the B211 for another 6 months whilst in Indonesia. The agency I mentioned acts as the sponsor and takes care of getting the extensions every two months. We're very happy with their service. It's expensive, but you get what you pay for :-)

I saw that you enjoyed your time in Malaysia. We just spent 6 months in KL (We have MM2H). Like it a lot but it's just not as laid back as Bali - hard to beat the beaches, restaurants and bars. Plus, we really don't want to live in an apartment.
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Old Apr 7th 2023, 1:21 am
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Default Re: Bali impressions 2023: it's time to give up

Returning now to my time in Bali. My ongoing narrative dates to February and March 2023.

I did the long stay in Sanur from 2016 until Covid struck in 2020 and we had to leave. Now travel has reopened, and as I'm retired I have the freedom (and fortunately enough money) to go on doing this on a reasonable budget, altho' costs in Bali now are higher than they were before the pandemic.

Nusa Dua first. As I wrote earlier, I was considering 'ND' as my new bolt-hole for my ongoing visits to Bali, my intention being to avoid the high cost of hotels and instead rent a small villa or a house somewhere and stay 2-3 months, then jet away to other places in Asia to roam a bit, explore temples, and photograph old architecture, as I've been happily doing since the 1970s.

In most ways this was a disappointment to me, rather a series of small disappointments. The place has always struck me as being (or trying to be) a satellite city, like Canberra, Washington or Ottawa, with a few fairly nice areas but on the whole underwhelming. Services are adequate but not entirely satisfying.

Accommodation was 'of a standard' which is to say, fairly high but lacking the range easily found elsewhere in Bali. As can be expected there is a good range (in fact a glut) of higher end places, but otherwise very little else. I looked around for a longer term rental but found only one or two villas on offer, again at the top end of the price range.

Food options seemed to me to be limited and all 'of a price', again high. I prefer eating Indonesian to Western and in this respect ND doesn't have the variety or the price range to be found anywhere else on the island. Good Western food can be had in any of the large hotels and resorts, of a quite high standard but also at a high cost. For anything else in enjoyable cafes and restaurants as is found in the Kuta-Legian-Seminyak-Canggu strip or in Sanur and Ubud, a long (and expensive) taxi ride to those areas will be called for.

As compared to The Strip, few locals seem to hang out in ND. there was almost none of the never ending and wearying 'hustle' one has to get used to in Bali, where so many locals are out and about trying to entice anyone who so much as glances at them in passing to buy overpriced goods and goodies ranging from bad carvings to so-so batiks and textiles to even one's sisters (and on occasion, brothers) for distinctly dubious purposes. I was asked for money by someone only one time while out and about, this from a young man who was better dressed than me.

The shopping is distinctly meh. Better can be found anywhere else. This says it all.

The beaches are pleasant if not as clean as they were pre-Covid. Relatively few people go there to sunbathe and swim compared to those other places. Fewer locals and foreigners seemed to be out and about.

The shopping mall is quite small and not exciting. Again, prices are on the high side. Go elsewhere.

After five days there my SO had to fly to Australia. I would be staying on, in Bali and later in Java, so I decided to give up on Nusa Dua and go elsewhere. Back to Sanur it would be.

The day before SO left we did a day trip by car (with a driver) to Bedugul, and Lovina and Singaraja. As expected all the local drivers quoted high prices and payment in dollars. Our hotel receptionist recommended an established travel tours and rentals agency in Denpasar which gave us top service - our driver was the owner's son - at half the price quoted by the hustlers. He was generous with advice and information, to the point that if I decide to stay on in Bali, I would be using his services for all my needs.

We made a full day of it with our first stop in Ubud. I hadn't been there since 2019 so I was expecting changes. First impressions were far too much traffic (this is nothing new), convoys of tour buses, no parking available, and all the streets blocked by slow-moving cars and vans sowhich meant it took us 30 minutes to cross the village from the main turnoff to the bridge at Campuhan. Irritating but there you have it. Ubud in a nutshell.

Keeping in mind that a day's trip around Bali is not an in-depth assessment of what life there would be like, here is my summary of our tour of Ubud, Bedugul, Lovina and Singaraja. In all, a long day, nine and a half hours on the road.

For the most part I'm unable to make comparisons with the Kuta strip as I almost never go there. My initial impressions was Ubud isn't short of tourists, in fact every second tourist in Bali seemed to be there. Many foreign young women were everywhere and highly visible, walking arm in arm with Indonesian young men or enjoying heartfelt discussions with each other in cafes, comparing notes about budget tours, cafes, bars with happy hour drink prices, how and where to find the next Felipe, Made or Nugroho.

We made a few visits to places I remembered from past visits. Everywhere we stopped armies of sellers ranged to our car to assail us to buy their overpriced wares. I saw absolutely nothing I wanted to pay for. Loud cries of "promo" and "special price for you". We escaped to the Cafe Lotus, even then one aggressive lout pursued us in but was stopped the entrance by staff.

The Lotus was as good as I recalled if much too busy. Higher than Australian prices prevailed. Food quality and service were excellent, as one expects from Ubud's best "scene" eatery.

After an alfresco late breakfast-early lunch a stroll to the nearby water temple was in order. There a group of several dozen Japanese were crowding all the available places for selfies. "Excuse me!" a middle-aged Tokyo type exclaimed loudly in a mocking tone as we tried to squeeze past this mob. He was excused and sent on his way but then unwisely repeated his flippant comment to an Aussie who responded more bluntly than I had.

SO wanted to buy textiles and went with the driver. I opted for a half hour walk along the Campuhan river, starting from the bridge and along a narrow path with many twists and turns. All so calming and peaceful if not exactly as I remembered it from 1993 and 2006. Much building of hotels and of villas on the hills above the river. Very few people. At the river's edge a Germanic foreigner was carving rough New Age figurines from blocks of wood. As I went east he said "you want to buy?".No thanks. "No photos," he snapped. Absolutely no photos, I solemnly promised, and went on my happy way.

So it was for our time in Ubud. A few hours isn't really long enough to draw firm conclusions, but at a surface glance the place is much too New Age for me. If I opt for Bali, I decided, then the more sedate charms of Sanur would have to do.

Bedugul, Lovina and Singaraja were mostly unchanged. The first was overcrowded with Indonesian tourists. The Uu Dana Beratan temples by the main lake seemed less busy than usual, with only a few tour buses . The local buffet lunch restaurants were packed. At the local market when we stopped to buy rambutans and mangos, we were the only foreign tourists. The usual buleh prices prevailed. Our driver did the bargaining and buying. In all, AUD $7.00 well spent.

It was raining heavily when we got to Lovina. After a brief tour of the seaside and the forlorn beach, it was time for a second lunch at a pleasant cafe, a pendopo open to the elements and overlooking rice fields if too close to the highway, dusty and full of petrol fumes. there we had generous platters of grilled fish tuna with heady green and red sambal, salad and rice at half the Sanur prices. I was craving something stronger than es teh tawar. Alas, no beer on the menu The rain let up for a time, then a downpour, seemingly endless. The sky was purple-black. At 2.30 PM it seemed our travel day was almost ended.

Not quite. Off we went to Singaraja for a drive round the town, pleasant if unexciting. Little looked to have changed but almost no old architecture is now left. The local waterfront was redeveloped and the old Dutch guiding (warehouses) were bulldozed. The site is ultra modern with the homogenized charmless look of all such artificial entertainment places in Indonesia.

On the outskirts of town, so much new development - villas, tourist shops, a new mall - has taken place. Yes, things are changing in North Bali.

Then an uneventful drive to Sanur, where I was relocating. Two hours of slow, slow travel along rain-sodden roads, past Penelokan and on to Tampaksiring and again past Ubud, not stopping there this time. My late afternoon Bintang would wait for my return to Sanur, I had decided.

As previously written, this post is not meant as an indication of how things are for expats in Bali. Our driver was an invaluable guide and a great source of advice on what to look for. I had hoped to suss out possible rentals for my future stays in Bali, and we talked about this as we drove along the countryside. Sanur, Canggu and Kerobokan, and to a lesser extent Ubud were the best places to look for longer-than-short-term rentals, he advised. Nothing much in Denpasar and Nusa Dua is too limited. Living out in the rice fields in the middle of nowhere is still possible but at a price - one needs a car and even a driver, and costs for everything can be high.

We didn't discuss the visa situation. I've written (and others have also posted) enough about all that in other posts. Best left for another day and if new information comes to light.

My own thoughts were mostly unchanged. Ubud isn't for me, it's far too crowded and much too superficially New Age-younger crowd-hipster for my liking and best left to the young and socially more agile. Ditto Bedugul, which has almost nothing available in rentals and is too far from everything. Lovina would depress me. Singaraja was too quiet and locally focused for me to live a varied life there.

Which leaves Sanur. Back to where I started. Initially at the budget hotel I've stayed at since 2000, AUD $25 a night pre-Covid, now AUD $35 a night, with a pool, a lush tropical garden and all the usual mod cons of a budget hotel in Bali. There are rental agents and agencies in Sanur and Denpasar with long lists of available rentals in both places, to suit all budgets. Some are reliable. Not all. Hustlers and hustling abound. Beware the commission men who flog services as freelancers and add their generous commissions to the agency's prices. It's best to go to the source.

I still enjoy traveling and I still like Bali. At my age I also need my basic comforts, all the more so when they can be found in a satisfying variety and at affordable prices like in Sanur.

More to come. I have two notebooks to read through, so a few more posts may yet come.

Last edited by scrubbedexpat143; Apr 7th 2023 at 1:56 am.
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