By Honey Writer
Since we moved here to run Bali cycling holiday’s, what staggers me most about the island of Bali is just how fast it’s progressing. New and improved is happening all the time. What works is replicated and what doesn’t is torn down and started again. The Balinese people bend over backwards to make a visitor’s dreams reality, and that kind of commitment has results you can almost see overnight.
Any suggestion you make is provided for and any complaint rectified as soon as possible, which is propelling the tourism industry here to even more staggering heights. 5-star villas, ocean view yoga platforms, intimate candlelit dinners on the edge of the infinity pool, supermarkets that stock global brands, cocktail lists as long as your arm, sumptuous western cooking, flushing toilets. It’s getting tough to remember this is a third world country. The poverty exists, but it’s tucked well behind the giant air-conditioned shopping complexes, cinemas and bars.
While we do want the very best for the locals and embrace the increased level of care to hospitals, medicine, nutrition and schooling, we do also need to be mindful of the precious resources here as well, lest they be completely swallowed by the modern tourist dream. The water channels, the rice fields, the ocean, the mountains, the villages and the culture of the people are just as worth maintaining, nurturing and preserving as a plush hotel, and in so many cases, this is why people come, that is what they want to see, they just want to be comfortable at the same time.
It’s so important to maintain a balance, something the Hindu religion is catered around between their traditions, and creating a smooth, safe road for travellers.
Here are just some of the updates that have happened recently in Bali that makes for smooth travel.
The New Bali International Airport
The new airport is secure and trouble free, coupled with free temporary visa entry with your stamp, you cruise off the plane, through immigration, grab your bags in peace and quiet. Bikes (any oversized luggage, but we care about bikes) are delivered to a clearly marked point on the floor at the end of each carousel so you can keep an eye on your bags and get collect your pride and joy at the same time. They are normally delivered only a short time after the bags start parading, on a two-tier trolley.
After that you get everything x-rayed, to be sure you are drug free, and you exit into the small duty free shop and out to find your driver, just look for the sign with you name on it.
Free Visitors Visa
This is heaven. No more having to have US dollars on your person. Given that we are not all travelling from the US, this was a tricky one, even more tricky was having to have money left in your wallet at the end of your holiday to get home again – now what kind of holiday is that!?
I am not sad at all about getting a stamp and being let in and out again. For me, this is improvement #1
Getting Bali Belly from food or beverages now is nowhere near as common as in the past. The truly authentic Bali warungs still pose a threat, so choose your eatery wisely. Trip Advisor recommendations are almost always accurate, drivers and hotel staff will usually be able to point you to trustworthy sources and if in doubt, look for other happy diners at dinner tables- which is Bali all over.
Firstly, tap water sources come from more hygienic routes, decreasing the danger significantly.
Secondly, bottled water is used for all cooking and food preparation and ice making all over the island, and villas or hotels have bottles available in bathrooms for cleaning your teeth. Some of the very isolated western beaches and villages in the north east may still wash salads and seafood in tap water but with smart café’s putting out chalkboards – we use spring water only- the others pick up the slack pretty fast.
Thirdly, Bali Belly is bad for business, the locals avoid giving it to us just as avidly as we avoid getting it.
Money is a real issue for spreading tummy bugs. ATM notes are always fresh and clean, it’s the baby notes (1000 to 5000) and the coins that are the trouble. Always wash your hands with bacteria killing soap after handling or counting money and do wash your hands before every meal. Every Balinese eatery, no matter how low cost, will have a ready basin and soap – it’s part of their practice to wash hands before meals, and for good reason, so locate the basin (usually in open view of the tables) and wash up before you dig in. If you are seriously concerned about Bali Belly then simply refuse small notes and coins, you’ll make their day, avoid having to figure out how to get rid of it and keep your hands clean.
It used to be an adventure, finding and then figuring out how to use a Bali style toilet. There is nothing else in the world quite like it. While the locals haven’t given over to the flush systems yet, all restaurants, cafes and tourist areas (shopping malls) have flush toilets and toilet paper!
At sacred sites you can expect to pay a small fee 2000 (20 cents) to use the bathrooms and they may bee under par, however they too will usually have tissue and a flush system. If you have refused all your coins, ask your driver to please pay for your bathroom break.
Even local guesthouses are now able to offer Wifi (they call it wifey), hot showers and air con. Before, only the big hotels and villas had these kinds of comforts, with everyone else using fans and handheld cold water spray taps. If your room is less than $20 a night, you can bet that it’s fan only, although theses are getting more and more rare. Please just keep in mind the environmental impact of these machines and set a temperature that is comfortably sustainable. Bali has some amazing soft breezes so get an insect coil or some crème repellent and get out there and enjoy a sunset!
Colds: this will sound strange in a tropical climate but head colds happen! This is usually the result of mixing swimming/surfing with air-con. If you have long hair, dry it before you sit in an air-conditioned room and be sure to change out of wet clothes as you might not even notice the chill setting in until it’s too late.
Most eateries have free wifi, just ask for the password when you are settled in. Be prepared for them to be a little confusing, ie.
“What’s the wifey password?”
“I don’t know.”
“Yes, I don’t know with a small i.”
“Oh.” And I’m in!
I’m saying that because I speak English, what I should say is more languages. Hospitality jobs are great money and the positions go to those with fluent additional languages. As well as English I have heard staff speaking Japanese, Russian and French. That means it’s easier than ever to get what you want across, although I recommend speaking clearly (not yelling) and saying what you want at the start of your sentence, rather than at the end, after a lot of ‘would you mind if….’
Want an even smoother experience?
1. Stay hydrated.
You’ll be sweating without even moving so drink plenty of water to keep your fluid levels high. If you’re not sure what your hydration levels are, there is a handy colour chart in the urinals at the Bali airport so you can compare your colour and see how you are faring. It’s so cool.
2. Avoid jetlag.
If you love travelling like we do, you’ve been all over. Guess what, in all the travels we have done since 2002, we’ve never had jet lag! How is that possible? Simple, as soon as we land (even on the plane if we can manage it) we adopt the right sleep patterns. Usually we fly overnight and touch down early, say 6:30 in the morning. What that means is as much sleep as we can manage on the flight over (easier said than done), we process our passports, get our bags and hit the town.
No matter how tired we are we do day one completely. We are only allowed to sleep after 8pm. If you arrive at night (most flights in Bali tend to arrive in the evening), no matter how excited you are, go to bed. Try not to nap on the plane, stay awake so that when you get here, you can check in and close eyes, ready to start the day fresh in the morning. Same goes the other way. It might be tempting to fall into bed when you get home from the airport, after you greet your relieved and angry pets and water your plants. Stay awake until night time. Use whatever day you have to make phone calls, do grocery shopping, walk, brush or love pet, put on a load of washing and so on. If you land home late, then yes, ignore the fact that your fridge is empty and your pets are angry, leave your suitcase on the lounge floor and crash! Again, less sleep on the plane makes that easier and say no to a meal before landing!
3. Get someone else to plan your holiday for you.
Obviously the smoothest way to holiday is to get someone to prepare everything for you. Lazy? No way, it’s smart.
Which is why you can relax knowing that your Bali cycling holiday has been perfectly prepared and hand picked for perfection.
Each day will begin with a locally prepared breakfast then a ride through the beautiful scenery of Bali, all under morning sun glow and soft breezes.
Rides are centred around some of Bali’s most popular cultural sites, Tanah Lot Temple, Jatiluwih rice terraces, Pura Ulun Danu water temple, Tirta Empul, Mt Kintamani, with smooth roads and little traffic.
Your local ride guides are Bali born and bred and will lead you confidently around the back roads, filling you in on interesting items on the way and making sure your ride it 100% comfortable.
After taking in the stunning views and atmosphere of the daily sites it’s a carefree ride back to the villa for a cool down and refresh before lunch. Relax by the pool, enjoy a massage or have a little snooze in your room. In the afternoon activities you can participate in are yoga, cooking class, silver workshop and monkey forest.
Then a delicious dinner out.
The gradual build up day-to-day means that you can settle into Bali cycling on a gentle gradient, it’s about the challenge but always with fun, and holiday mode in mind.
What you see on your ride will be completely up to fate. There is always something interesting, hilarious or simply beautiful happening in the fields around or the streets, a parade, a wedding, a festival, workers bent over the rice with bamboo hats.
Taking on the Bali tradition of doing whatever it takes to make guests happy we are all ears to know what it is you want, you like and you expect that will make for a holiday so priceless, you’ll remember it forever.