Bali, It’s Not You, It’s Me.

Bali rice terrace in the rainy season

Bali made an average effort on our first traveller/destination date together, but did not overly impress. We did have a few good times, but after repeated attempts I really don’t think there’s any future in the relationship. Is it time we part ways?

When you hear the name Bali it evokes romanticised thoughts of a far away paradise, a tropical haven embossed with the idealistic paradigm of enchantment and romance. Thoughts of white sanded tropical beaches fill your mind and you are swayed of stories about the rich cultural heritage of the friendly Balinese people and the western influences that extend no further than a relaxing spa retreat and a few yoga classes.

It Really Isn’t Like That.

Bali is almost put on a pedestal in Western culture; revered by travel agents and package tourists alike as the ultimate in luxury travel, waxed lyrical about in novels and film, dreamed about by those seeking the ultimate escape.

A decorated stone statue in Bali

And Maybe That Is Part Of The Problem?

Like a relationship that started with high hopes but has quickly gone sour, the reality of Bali no more resembles that idyllic dream than a fantasy notion of nostalgic wish fulfilment, and just like that toxic relationship there comes a time when no matter how many good times there have been, no matter how you feel, you just have to let go.

My first visit to Bali didn’t start off well. I admit it. Thanks to the general laissez faire attitude to work in Bali (which I can normally sympathise with quite well, just not after a long flight and no sleep) and an immigration officer who paradoxically came straight from the Hitler school of tin pot despotism, actually getting into the country was an ordeal and a half.

I mean they do actually want visitors to come into the country, right?

I completely admit that my lack of sleep probably coloured my first impressions a lot. I was tired and needed a long shower and an even longer sleep. But I was in no mood to be dealing with border control or annoying taxi drivers.

But it was more than that.

First Impressions Did Not Go Well.

What followed was wave after wave ever increasing disappointment. Like going on an expensive romantic dinner with a blind date to find a rude, burping, nose picking partner you have absolutely nothing in common with. The famed beaches were strewn with rubbish and most of the half decent stretches of sand I found had been swallowed up and cordoned off by private hotels and tourist complexes. Even the okay beaches weren’t a patch on others I had been to. in the region.

Bali Beach

The pollution was on a level that is shocking for such a small island and it was difficult to escape the drunken Australians over on a cheap package holiday and the mentality that made it seem like Bali was to Australia that Benidorm is to the British. Even Ubud, the famed cultural heart of Bali kept trying to trip me up, either literally with the impossibly uneven pavements that made every short walk seem like an intense step aerobic exercise, or figuratively with the overly touristy resort feeling.

You just could not escape package tourists and crowds of middle aged housewives you just couldn’t move for, all thinking they were Julia Roberts and trying to find themselves over a wheatgrass smoothie and a yoga retreat.

Gap year health and wellbeing yoga

I Did Love Some Things, We Did Have Some Good Times Together.

The relationship wasn’t going smoothly, but there was still just enough to like about Bali that intrigued me. Just enough to like that made me want to see past all of that initial nonsense and made me want to come back for more.

The Balinese people are among the most friendly I have met anywhere. From the host family at my homestay in Ubud who quite literally redefined hospitality to almost every local I met – outside of the tourist trap markets and touts of course – who always had the biggest smiles on their faces when greeting me, a complete stranger.

Parts of the culture are both fascinatingly mysterious and unendingly beautiful all at the same time.

I was even impressed with the efforts the local and volunteer workers at BAWA were making to ensure the safety and health for the dogs and cats of the island.

There were times on Bali where I did relax and enjoy my surroundings, there are still definitely some places where you can escape the crowds of Kuta beach and the heavily touristy areas, I stayed in some great places, met some awesome people, saw some amazing things and there were times where I am glad I came. Truly. Despite everything I am glad I came to Bali and experienced some good times.

It All Sounds Great, So What Was My Problem?

Despite all of that, it just wasn’t enough. There was no spark. There was none of that indefineable magic that makes a traveller truly fall in love with a destination. I wanted to be swept off my feet by Bali and all I got was, well, tripped up and kicked.

It was essentially just average and uninspiring. In fact, it was the good times that made the bad ones seem so infuriating. I suppose not everyone can like everywhere, and I think that is the case here. Bali was nice,it was okay, it just wasn’t somewhere I gelled with all that well. I certainly would never discourage anyone else from coming here and discovering it for themselves. I know many people love Bali and if that is you then that is awesome, I hope you make a happy travelling couple, it just isn’t for me.

I’m Sorry Bali, It Isn’t You, It’s Me.

Oh okay, it is you and there are far more beautiful fish in that South East Asian sea for me to spend any more time with you, but I would like to stay friends!

Distant friends.

Who knows, maybe I’ll return one day and try to give you another chance? Maybe. That’s the real beauty of travel. You won’t like every place you visit, it’s impossible, but there are always new places to explore and more than plenty new fish in the sea. 

Did you enjoy this article? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.

7 Better Island Alternatives To Bali In Indonesia.

A Day With BAWA’s Street Feeding Team In Bali.


Spotlight On BAWA. Volunteering In Bali.

Sri Ratih Cottages Review, Ubud, Bali.


Michael Huxley is a published author, professional adventurer and founder of the travel website, Bemused Backpacker. He has spent the last twenty years travelling to over 100 countries on almost every continent, slowly building Bemused Backpacker into a successful business after leaving a former career in emergency nursing and travel medicine, and continues to travel the world on numerous adventures every year.

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Posted in Destinations
6 comments on “Bali, It’s Not You, It’s Me.
  1. Wibi Udayana says:

    Tourism had built Bali and in the process destroying it. Everytime somebody talks about a beautiful untouched part of the island, I wish they had kept it a secret. One by one the secret beaches and peaceful rice paddies becomes tainted by a construction site.

    Glad you picked this up. Need more complaints before our government does something about it.

  2. jaimeedreams says:

    I only ever went to Bali once and that was only because we had to change our travel plans after the hurricane in Fiji. I honestly didn’t see anything special about Bali. Which is practically sacrilegious to say as an Australian. I know people that go there every couple of months and I just don’t get it. Personally I think the place would be better if they kicked out the Australians 😉 too many of them go over there and leave their brains at home. There is this certain possessiveness in the aussie psyche as well. The backlash against Indonesia when they raised the cost of the visa was nuts. It’s almost like they forget that it’s not their right to go there. It’s a privilege. Ok rant over haha.

  3. May I simply just say what a relief to hear someone else say this! I hated Bali and everyone else I know who has been raves about it! It’s all over social media all the time how amazing Bali is! I was beginning to think it is just me!

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Hi, I'm Michael! I'm a former nurse turned published author and world travelling professional adventurer! I have spent over twenty years travelling over 100 countries and I want to inspire you to do the same! Want to know more about me? Just click here!

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