Indonesia: Bali, Paradise or Overrated?

Bali, a land of white sand, green mountains, warm weather, and sweet-smelling flowers. Or, at least it used to be.

Going to Bali, I expected it to be paradise on earth – nearly unrivaled. This thought changed quickly. Tourism has destroyed this once pristine island, tourism and poor handling of its excess amount of people.

Leaving the airport, you’ll be immediately surrounded by dozens of different male drivers clambering towards you, trying to get you into their car. As they shouted out prices and waved their hands wildly, my family quickly became overwhelmed and went inside to use the airport’s taxi service. This was more expensive but I was also in a wheelchair so it was much easier.

The driver told us that those men outside the airport are illegally offering their services, but the airport and the government hadn’t found a way to keep them out. He had lots of resentment toward such men, as they hindered first impressions of Bali and created chaos on the roads.

And the roads certainly were just that, chaotic. I’ve never seen so many motorbikes crammed into a tiny road in all my life. We were on the edges of our seats as the bikes zoomed past us, missing us by mere inches. People of all ages rode the biked, one was a boy as young as 11, nor was there any limit to how many could fit on a bike. Families of five, with a dog and a baby, wearing flip-flops and no helmets would zoom past us at crazy speeds. They crowded the roads to a point where there was nearly no room for regular cars, insuring that our speed never reached above 25 miles per hour until we had gotten farther away from the airport.

Bali has an issue with transportation. There is no speed limit and all of the roads are one lane roads but manage to fit traffic going both ways. Cars of all sizes have to pass through these roads, even giant trucks, who take up to 10 minutes trying to make a turn. What should be a 45 minute drive at most, becomes nearly 3 hours.

Something problematic for me was that many of the temples and Hindu shrines were picky about letting women in. To be specific, women who were on their period were not allowed anywhere near the entrance because, as our guide told us, they were impure. I get how traditional and religion fit together, but denying sexism does nothing for the future welfare of the world.

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Then there were the wild, emaciated dogs. Our hotel driver told us that these dogs don’t belong to anyone, but are allowed to live in front houses because of protection. He claimed that their influence dropped the rate of burglary significantly, but I still think that there needs to be a system that holds people accountable for treating the dogs better. I tried to feed one twice, but it kept running away because of how scared of humans it was.

The biggest issue with Bali for me was the trash. There is clearly no trash system and very little respect for the earth by the people living there. Piles and piles of trash line the road wherever you go, then the sun hits it and the stink permeates the air. I never once saw a trash can outside of the hotel and witnessed at least nine people throw their trash out the car window. Mentioning recycling would surely make them laugh.

Even at our hotel, the one part of Bali that was what I expected – clean, beautiful, and tropical, there was trash all over the beach. In the morning we would see the hotel employees go out on the beach and pick up as much discarded trash and cigarette butts as they could before people came out.

Going up into the mountains we saw chocolate wrappers tangled in the long grass and plastic bottles floating down the rivers. Even at their sacred temples, trash was collected in the water – sullying the image the temple tried to present.

Now don’t get me wrong, parts of Bali were insanely beautiful and were worth visiting. But I doubt I will return because clearly the government doesn’t know how to handle the amount of people who live there, as well as the tourists. They aren’t protecting the natural beauty of their island and are letting trash consume and rot it.

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