Part One: Culture Shock in Bali

Having traveled to several different countries and easily immersing myself into other cultures, I figured Bali might give me only just a little bit of culture shock. Boy was I wrong. The “Island of Gods” proved to be a big culture shock. Although a few of my experiences may have made me feel uncomfortable at the time, I look back and know they will also be remembered as some of the best experiences of my life.

Arriving at Ngurah Rai International Airport

Ngurah Rai International Airport

Brandon and I arrived at Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denspar just before midnight. As soon as we walked into the main terminal I noticed the grand architecture and statues. But instead of getting to marvel at how beautiful it was, we were instantly hounded by taxi drivers asking if we needed a ride. One even followed us to the bathroom and then said he would watch our suitcases while we were in the bathroom (no way!!!). Since Brandon had already ordered an Uber driver we made our way out of the airport. Services like Uber are very controversial in Bali, so instead of telling the taxi drivers who continued to pursue us we told them our hotel had sent us a driver. When we finally did meet the Uber driver in the parking garage, he tried to charge us more than double what the app told us. He said it would be difficult to get to our hotel because the area it was in was populated by nightclubs and the streets would be full of people. We figured it was a ruse and later found we were right. The streets in that area were nearly dead.

We again tried using Uber, but were told by drivers they were not willing to drop us off at our hotel in Legian. Finally after being harassed again by the first Uber driver telling us we wouldn’t find a better deal, we bargained with a professional driver to get us to our hotel. Although it was the same price the Uber driver asked for, we were just glad to be getting out of the airport and on to our hotel. Our first lesson for Bali had been learned: bargain always and bargain hard.

Legian Loft Hotel

Upon arriving at our hotel I had become very skeptical of people around us, trying to rip us off. The staff at the hotel instantly restored my faith in blogs that I had read where Balinese are very nice people. The gentleman helping us gave us a handmade bracelet, which is a tribute to the Balinese Culture, to welcome us to the hotel. Around the time we had gone, Mount Agung was also expected to erupt, affecting the thousands of people who lived around it. There was a container set up for donations for those people. It was something I saw throughout our time there. It showed they really cared about each other.

Blue Lagoon Beach in Padangbai

Streets outside Kuta

The next morning the bright sunshine revealed what we hadn't seen the night before: bustling shops lining the streets, mopeds and motorcycles whizzing by, and many already had their daily offerings (Canang sari) lying on their front steps. After a delicious breakfast from an adorable café down the street from our hotel, we began our day. We had originally planned to go to Amed Beach on the east side of Bali to snorkel. Just a few meters off the beach there you can discover a Japanese shipwreck from WWII. Unfortunately, due to the possible eruption of Mt. Agung, the road to Amed had been closed off to tourists. So instead we settled on visiting Blue Lagoon Beach.

Despite our issues with Uber the night before, Brandon and I decided to give it another go the next day using UberTrip. This lets you hire an Uber driver for the day. So far, so good. He showed up on time and as we traveled out of the Legian/Kuta area, I finally got a sense of what Bali was like. Balinese culture is founded on Balinese Hinduism and they’re known for their performing arts and artworks such as woodcarving. Just about every street we turned down this was evident. It seemed as if every other building we passed was either a temple or a stone/wood/hand carving shop. It was neat to see the intricate and beautiful artwork sitting in front of the shops. We also learned just how crazy the traffic is there. Although it was less than 40 miles from our hotel to Blue Lagoon Beach, it took more than two hours to get there. It took me awhile to get used to the motorbikes and scooters darting around the cars and trucks. I also saw it was pretty common to have up to five people shoved onto one bike.

Blue Lagoon Beach
When we got to the secluded area of Blue Lagoon Beach (just a few rupiahs to get in) we made sure the driver knew we would be just a few hours and to wait for us. As we rounded the corner towards the steps to the beach, we finally saw the clear blue water and beautiful beaches we had heard other tourists/blogs talk about. Since the past 24 hours had been hectic and “different” for me, I was excited to relax. But first, I couldn’t wait to snorkel. A couple next to us on the beach said they had tried, but it was very difficult. I was determined to try anyway. About 20 minutes later, Brandon and I were out of the water and back on the beach. The tide was strong and had thrown me around. My legs and arms had been torn up and bloodied. Unfortunately it wasn’t good weather to snorkel. Ten minutes later however, I was determined to try again. I really wanted to see the vibrant fish and dynamic coral I had seen in pictures. It started out okay at first, but quickly got dangerous again. Brandon and I had gone past the break and were out near a few other snorkelers. That’s when I felt the riptides pulling me under. I gasped for breath while trying to swim and hold on to my underwater action camera at the same time. In the process, I lost my fins and part of my mask. Thankfully Brandon was able to pull me towards him. Being tall enough he had good footing and was able to hold on to me until I regained normal breathing. Once we finally got to shore (Brandon was able to retrieve one of my fins) I decided snorkeling just wasn’t going to be an option. After relaxing on the beach, looking at the beautiful water, buying a sarong after being hassled several times by a local, and exploring the rocks, shells and creatures on the sand we decided it was time to go.

Back up at the parking lot we got a surprise. The Uber driver we had made sure to tell to stay had left us. Panic slightly began to set in. We were a few hours away from our hotel in a small little town where Uber drivers and taxis were basically non-existent. Thankfully after waiting some time, an Uber driver did happen to pop up on the app. We weren’t sure if he would be willing to take us all the way back to Kuta. Thankfully he agreed and was even willing to make another stop for us along the way. He had just come from Kuta and was dropping a few tourists off in town. Somehow, someway we had gotten really lucky. Brandon later told me he thought we might have a chance walking into town and seeing if we could ride one of those big transportation busses back. I’m glad we didn’t have to find out if that would have worked…

Pura Goa Lawah

On the way back to Kuta, we stopped to check out our first temple in Bali. Pura Goa Lawah, which is located in Klungkung, translates to “bat cave.” It is believed the temple was built in the 11th century and within it, there is a cave filled with thousands of bats. I’ve never seen such a sight! It is one of the most sacred temples on the island and it’s believed the cave extends all the way to Mt. Agung, but this has not been proven. Apparently the last time Mt. Agung erupted, steam or ash was seen coming from the cave. Several other legends are associated with the cave. On our way out, we once again encountered locals pushing us to buy their souvenirs. After a few uncomfortable minutes and buying some magnets we left.

It wasn’t long after we were whizzing through the streets of Legian again, admiring the temples at every turn, and back at our hotel in bed, falling fast asleep after our first full day in Bali. Tomorrow would be another fun-filled adventure day.
Part One: Culture Shock in Bali Part One: Culture Shock in Bali Reviewed by Tara Grimes on January 20, 2018 Rating: 5

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