Our last night in Indonesia was spent in Bali. We had about half a day to spend in Bali and we chose to spend it visiting the magnificent cliffs and precariously placed temples of Uluwatu on the Southern most point of the island. It is also known for it’s gargantuan waves, which were, even in the low season, and even from our high vantage point, quite impressive.
The temple itself is mysterious, old and overrun with small monkeys. It cost 200,000 IDR (20 USD) for a cab to take us there from Sanur. It then cost us another 20,000 IDR (2 USD) to actually enter the temple. You are required to have your legs covered when entering important temples so since I was wearing shorts I had to borrow a small robe from them.
Overall there’s not much else to say other than look at these pretty pictures of the sunset:
Good stuff first. Indonesia is beautiful. What the natural world of Indonesia has to offer is almost unsurpassed in the rest of the world. And it really is all as pretty as the pictures you see both from me and from much better photographers. The really beautiful places may be quite expensive to get to however. And there are a LOT of choices. Indonesia is pretty vast. But of all the possibilities out there, if I ever go back, these are the things I will want to do.
- See the Orangutans in Borneo
- Go diving in Raja Ampat
- Watch a performance of the Javanese Shadow Puppets
- Witness the whale spear-fishing in Lamalera
Now the bad stuff. Disclaimer: this is just based on my own personal experience. You might have a totally different experience and that’d be good for you.
So I’ll begin with pollution. Anywhere that is (relatively) easy to get to is terribly polluted. The beaches of Bali are at least half covered in trash. The same is true for Lombok. There are freaking rivers of trash floating through the ocean between the islands. It really makes you cringe. Once you get to more remote places things get better but anywhere that there are people there is also trash.
Speaking of people – Indonesia does not boast a welcoming culture, or at least not initially. Obviously most locals that you interact with when you are traveling are probably providing you with a service or trying to sell you something, so their endgame is to get your money. That is okay – that’s business. I get that. But I have done a bit of traveling now and I have never been more aware of just how much about the money it really is than when I was here. The Indonesian people we met were quite cordial when there was money within sight for them, but the instant that was no longer true the conversation quickly ended. I don’t want to say this baselessly though – here are some examples that come to mind:
- When we asked a local tourist booth where the hospital was (we had a serious burn that needed treating) the men working there turned the injury of a stranger into an opportunity to profit and charged us to show us where the hospital was.
- When we went to Komodo village, we were told that they bring groups of travelers in for tours as often as possible. The entire time were there we had children shoving wooden carvings of Komodo Dragons at our legs. Eventually I just turned my pockets inside out and walked around like that. After I did that I was all but ignored. My problem with this was that we were not brought there to buy trinkets – we were brought to gawk at their abject poverty. Their business model is to turn their own struggle into a novelty. Which I felt was a bit weird.
- Earlier I posted telling the story of bribing a park ranger to provoke a Komodo Dragon in order to snap a few good pictures. His job as a park ranger is protecting this endangered species and he threw rocks at them for $2.50.
- My personal favorite – our last cab driver, clearly in hopes of receiving a larger tip, told us about his young son receiving surgery on his rectum… for some reason. I seem to recall him using the word 'reconstructive'. Really dude? How about a little discretion.
Still though, I would be remiss if I didn't also acknowledge the kind strangers that came to our rescue when we were lost on our motorbike trip. These people were only found far off the beaten path for tourists. Within the tourist industry, I found people to be money hungry and indifferent. Outside of that realm however, in my limited experience, the people were amazing.
To wrap this up, everything that is good (for travel purposes) about Indonesia is not the doing of any Indonesian person alive today. The natural beauty, the intrigue of this historic culture – the Indonesian economy is powered by turning those things into commodities.
BUT is still had a good time in spite of all this. Yes, it does feel awkward being a walking dollar sign everywhere you go, but if you are willing to navigate that for just a little while… you will get to dive head first into the National Geographic highlight reel, and that's pretty awesome.