I have explored the depths of my soul here in Ubud, collaborated with Global Entrepreneurs in Kuta and lived among the locals in no-name villages. I have supported local foot-vendors, expressed immense gratitude, trained on local customs, learned Balinese, referred my western friends, overpaid for things knowingly, socially promoted, given reviews online and told you all the reasons why I appreciate Bali- but now I’m going to talk about what bothers the crap out of me.
I realize that there is a difference in culture and I respect that, I also know how lucky I am to have the opportunity to be here and for such an extended period of time of 2 months to have met such wonderful people. So if I offend you, I’m sorry in advance but I defiantly want to leave you with the whole picture and not just the romance- after all this these are JUST my opinions.
It’s easy to write about all of the glory- but I like the challenge of the honesty getting a full review to calculate a more informed decision. So before you get jealous I’m here ‘living it up’ just because it’s Bali, don’t forget it’s real life.
It all started a few days ago after a 4 hours spa day; my fuse was running shorter and shorter and I was looking forward to how many days I had left and my flight moving on to Japan.
- I’m a $Dollar$ Amount, not a person. Balinese people love tourists, but mostly they really love our wallets. I think they assume that anyone visiting here is a millionaire and try and get every cent they can (even if you are friends) out of you, which I am fairly confident most of them make more income to debt ratio than I do.
- Massages are cheap and not just in price. A massage is about $5-$20 USD which is a STEAL compared to the rates in America, but you also get what you pay for. An hour massage (which is only 45 min long) will not have a trained person oiling you up (which you need the equivalent of paint thinner to get the oil off your skin) and half the time they will barely apply pressure but just excess oil and hand sliding. Also, I could have done WITHOUT the snot rocket the lady did in the sink next to my head during my last massage. Ambiance is not there- the sheets may smell moldy, your masseuse may be sick & will absolutely be untrained and there is no music to sooth your soul- BUT it’s cheap.
- Negotiating is EXHAUSTING. 95% of the time you are negotiating a price: A traffic ticket, Taxi, food, a shell, a place to stay, laundry services, clothes- you name it. The upside is you can get a deal if you work for it. The rule of thumb is they ask for a price ten times higher than it’s worth. The whole thing takes 3-10 min typically, even if you negotiate well you may end up empty handed- be prepared for that if they don’t like your counter offer. I once accepted the price quoted from a Taxi driver over doing the ol’ song-and-dance-routine and he said “No, you have to negotiate” and laughed his head off. I just wanted to tell him to shut it and just ask for a proper price, then.
- Hearing the same questions 15 times over per mile traveled. If you’re a parent you understand the level of annoyance it is to hear the SAME question or watching the same movie over and over and over day after day. That’s what walking around in Bali feels like. I once counted, 8 times was the number of times I was asked the same question within less than a mile at 11:00 pm- the same route I walk every day into town. Never mind the other repetitive questions that flow in ALL DAMN DAY and well after midnight.
- TAXI PLEASE?
- NO? TOMORROW THEN?
- YOU GIVE ME JOB?
- YES TAXI?
- YES MASSAGE?
- ONE DOLLAR?
- JUST LOOKING OK (fights you and puts the clothing on you)
So on and so on OVER and over again. Even if I answer “No thank you I’m walking.” In Balinese they just keep asking and they are not even 2 steps away from the next guy offering the same thing. Makes me want to scream, in fact last night I think I did.
- A YES that means NO. I give them props for having English as a second or third language but sometimes I wish they would admit they have no idea what I’m saying or learn the phrase “I don’t know, please leave me alone.” I’m assuming its a part of their culture to just agree without arguing. Sometimes you talk to someone for 40 min and leave with no resolutions because they edge on the conversation with a YES but in reality they mean NO.
- Nickeled and Dimed to broke. Everything in Bali is cheaper than home (the states) but it adds up and very quickly. On average a meal will cost $5-$9, so will a dress and a trinket for your friends. But if you spend $5 a meal (on the cheap end) and get 5 gifts at $7 (on the SUPER cheap end) you’ll have spent $500 by the end of the month. Not including having to buy water (cannot drink it from the faucet), getting a place to sleep, if you want to indulge in a drink or dessert, massage, laundry, taxi or fee to any event. Doing things VERY cheaply and said no to 3 out of 5 events, I’ve still spent about 2.5k in two months.
- I hope you don’t have plans. Coming from Hawaii I get Island Time but in Bali they think you don’t have plans, ever. You have to ask for the check during your last round cause it will take them 30 min to get it to you. I had three things to do yesterday: eat, swim and get a massage. I almost didn’t make it to my massage on time. On the upside if you’re 2 hours late (as my friends were for the spa day) no one seems to notice so it all evens out.
- They are PROs. Man, the Balinese have some serious business skills. This section only makes me angry because I’m jealous. In some Villages you will see kids as young as One year old selling you bracelets- I’m pretty sure Sales is in their blood. I once had an old man track me down in a large town without Google or stalking and sell me on the spot a trinket we discussed a few days prior. I was able to negotiate down, but I know overpaid. Getting my caught off my guard, being 80-something years of age and in front of an entire cafe-he knew exactly what he was doing. If that doesn’t work there is always emotional selling, telling tales of having no education, hard labor, illness, death etc. Again, I’m not a millionaire and came from a REALLY poor family and I’m sure if I let you in on my struggles and pain you’d stop asking. Sales & Vulnerability are a bomb of success in sales.
- Cash only, please. Cash only to enter the country ($25 on the government site and $35 in real life), cash only in crisp bills to leave the country and most establishments even charging 250,000 Rupiah ($25 USD which is the Spa Day that unraveled my calm) they don’t accept cards while others do. Did I mention it has to be exact change? Yeah they don’t have registers most of the time making budgeting extra difficult.
I can live without water pressure where the showers just dribble over your face without rinsing out the shampoo fully, I can live without not being in control of what or when I can eat most of the day (no kitchen access, storing food in humidity is impossible and having to walk at least 10 min to the closest market limits my food intake), I can live with the endless traffic since I have no real plans anyway, I can live without AC in 90 degree heat, I can walk 12 miles and fight monkeys for my groceries, I can live out of my backpack and never truly own anything again, I can sleep when mosquitoes are attacking me viciously all night- but the above are the things I can say with certainty I WON’T be missing.
Do you have any on your list? I’d love to hear yours below.