By Honey Writer
Is Bali for grown-ups, or is it just a destination for schoolies and 20-somethings to come drink, throw up, and repeat? I guess the starting point determines how you look at Bali’s ultimate intended traveller.
Departing from Darwin and Perth it’s an easy family getaway. Put up a pool fence and you can put your feet up, order a massage and not leave the safe confines of your villa.
Departing from Sydney and Melbourne is a different concept. This Bali is for hot-blooded young things wanting to party hard on almost nothing.
Both miss the point of this dazzling Indonesian Island and, thanks to the media, (real media, as well as the cacophony of social media, heating up cyberspace), it is difficult to imagine that anything exists outside Kuta and the beer-soaked streets and drug-plagued nightclubs that romp there. This is the kind of place where you can have your cake and eat it as well, so putting the Bali experience into one box is a little like only typing with one finger.
Our flight from Melbourne was jammed with 19 something’s, packs of them, unsupervised and unkempt and talking loudly about nothing. As we taxied down the tarmac I had to remind myself that there is a bigger Bali, one for adults and quiet sophistication. I was heading to another Bali, one where Europeans go to chill out and breathe some spiritual air, one I wanted to connect to.
And this was a big deal because we’re not flying out for a short-lived holiday. Our plan is a long-term move, we’ve done away with almost everything in Melbourne, leaving only a small storage box of photo albums and personal treasures to come back to…one day. All we have with us is a bike and suitcase each (and a laptop and phone and headphones- essential items).
Moving to Bali
I was surprised that so many of our friends didn’t understand the move. They had never been to Bali and had no desire to. It takes about five minutes to describe something better, something bigger than Kuta for them to get a sparkle in their eye and say, “Really? Okay, we’ll come visit.”
Yes Really. For some people it’s the cafés that win them over, others it’s the fresh seafood, some the Balinese special, Babi Gulling (suckling pig). It might be the treetop platforms for yoga, the chakra focus of meditations with bells that ring through the jungle, it might be the organic markets, the beachside lounges, the walks through rice terraces, cycling flat out for 35kms down a volcano (okay so maybe you also need to cycle UP for 35kms first but the views when you get there are second to none, as well as knowing you achieved it, THEN the thrill of the cycling back down again to a swim and a massage.
This doesn’t feel right, though, listening to the three behind talk about nothing. Watching the two in front constantly pause/play on their TV sets so their movies are EXACTLY in sync (only to decide 5 minutes in they don’t want to watch that movie and the process starts again) Is this what I am moving to? Boganville, singlets and 80cent beers?
It was difficult not to run screaming from the plane. I endured the six-hour flight only with the aid of some music in my headphones. Thinking I had made a massive mistake, the Bali I know is gone, there is only Kuta left.
The Real Bali
Whew, no. It’s still here and as soon as I’m off the flight I know it was absolutely worth it. Touchdown and you can feel the magic of Bali. It’s got a special something to it, like Kakadu or the Whitsunday Islands.
There’s a fresh peacefulness that seems to go on forever.
It’s slightly mysterious and has that soft welcome you need after standing at a baggage carousel for 30 minutes.
An air-conditioned car ride skirts Kuta completely and, after a short spell of city congestion, the streets part to stunning rice terraces with giant makeshift flags, postcard vistas that could be clear blue sky or artistic purple thunderclouds.
The Grown-Up Bali
In 20 minutes we reach the other Bali, the one the Americans, the English, and the Europeans come for. This is a place of culture, of fantastic food, of good sleep and educational outings. The local people here are not what the press claim, there are no swindlers or blackmailers or troublemakers stalking tourists. This is a place where top values shine through open-mindedness and family first. My Bali.
There are many other Bali’s, people come from different cities everywhere to get their fix. There’s the surf haven Bali, the yoga and meditation spiritual Bali (complete with elevated platforms and organic smoothies), there is the adventurous Bali, with white water rafting, elephant bathing and sunrise volcano climbing. There is the water Bali, scuba and snorkelling, boating, fishing, kiting. There is lux Bali with butler service, chef and personal masseuse as part of the 5-Star villa extravaganza, then there is Bali chill, a beer, and fresh fish on a candlelit table on the soft beach sand watching the sun go down, in the kind of slow beautiful way only a Balinese sunset can.
When you look closely you see that the Balinese people know fun, they are relaxed and, while compared to what we know back home, they may appear to have no rules or boundaries, they are never reckless or careless in what they do or how they move.
The Playful Bali
Standing watching the rooftops reflected in the river an old woman (let’s say ancient woman) with a basket balanced perfectly on her head walk past with a stern expression. If you take it at face value you might think these are hard people, but as she passed she gave my (extra well padded) bottom a squeeze and when I turned laughing she looked back with such a childish twinkle in her eye. I realise how serious I have become. How much fun I could have if I would just relax and not worry about deadlines and budgets and reaching goals for a while.
Hard work doesn’t mean you have to be in a rush, which is one of the things I truly love here, and, no matter what your concept or expectations when you get on your flight, everyone gets to experience Bali time.
It’s a real thing. Time stops. You feel an hour has passed and it has been all of five minutes. You achieve your entire workload, go for a swim then a stroll to discover a little restaurant, have a light tasty meal where you are not expected to leave as soon as you finish, then a massage and home and it’s not yet 1pm.
The Cycling Bali
So why are we here? We’re here for another Bali again, one that is very different: the cycling Bali. It’s feeling the wind on your skin, taking the time to soak in the views, giving yourself something new to explore. It’s a mix of luxury, chill, hard satisfying work, all of course on Bali time.
That’s what we capture, this is the essence of UpShift Tours.
A sunrise ride. A midday swim. A massage. An evening meal out. Repeat. It’s the power of pedals in the most unlikely of places.
I’ve heard UpShift Tours cycling groups comment that riding here is safer than Melbourne, I was a bit sceptical until I unpacked my bike from its box and set to peddling to Echo Beach (sorry, that’s a lie, I had my bike unpacked and assembled for me by a bike crew).
The road was new and easy, the air soft and gentle. The road share was absolute. Drivers here are prepared for everything and anything; wandering animals (chickens, pigs, dogs and cats) wandering people (especially tourists), slow moving peddlers with giant carts, protruding brooms, kids on bikes, turning traffic (including U-turns) nothing is unexpected, surprising or an issue. The lack of road rules means there is caution and room at all times, as well as a safe ability to pass, since oncoming traffic know to give way.
Unlike home, where car drivers often have no sense of how fast a cyclist can go, how much room they need or that they are even on the road, here you are seen and space is made. Also absent here is the panic and rage of road share. This is a place for all vehicles.
The tooting is not like the ‘Hey, you!” of Australia either. The translation for tooting here is “I’m…” rather than “you are…”
“I’m coming past you, I’m overtaking, I’m exiting this car park, I’m changing lanes.” My favourite is “I’m crossing this bridge,” the tooting being to let the evil spirits underneath know so not to enrage them.
I’m already at home, less than 24 hours after moving into our little dream place, ready for hard work, good humour and family first. I’d love to show you our Bali, the little extra we have created here with room for cyclists, this is a special place, one you don’t hear much about, this is Bali for adults.
UpShift your Bali experience with a week of stunning cycling! Check out our upcoming dates, contact us for single-day rides, and download our free ‘Ultimate Guide To Cycling In Bali’ to get you in the mood for the paradise that is cycling in Bali.
Here’s a few pics of our new home in Canggu!