Bali, Indonesia (January 2003)
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In 2002 I quit my job in the UK and in the winter of 2002/2003 I travelled around Australia and Southeast Asia for about three months. My brother was working and living in Singapore and I stayed with him quite a lot. It was him who booked this trip.
Bali is unique. It is part of Indonesia, which is the most populous Muslim country in the world, but the main religion is Balinese Hinduism, which isn't too different to Buddhism and has the same roots.
My brother and I were both quite keen scuba divers at the time and managed to get a couple of dives in. I can't remember the location, but we did a wreck dive.
I loved Bali and my only regret was not being able to stay longer because it was a very short trip. It seemed perfect. We went shortly after the 12th October 2002 Bali bombing and tourist numbers were still very low, but this suited me perfectly. Previously, I had visited Egypt just after the Luxor massacre and it too was a great trip.
After terrorist attacks tourists tend to stay away for quite a long time. However, there is normally a low risk of another incident occurring, there aren't crowds of tourists everywhere, and there are some great hotel and tour bargains. It's also a way of supporting local people whose livelihoods depend on tourism and who suffer tremendously after incidents such as this.
We stayed at the Hilton Bali Resort in Nusa Dua, which was a large, very pleasant hotel. Personal drivers were very easy to find (because of the lack of tourists) and not too expensive so it wasn't difficult to get around the island.
Kuta beach in Bali is roughly the equivalent of Pattaya in Thailand and therefore the kind of place that I usually steer clear of, but there were very few tourists around after the terrorist incident and it was fine. The last thing I need when I travel somewhere is to meet hordes of obnoxious, drunken Australian teenagers doing their so-called 'schoolies'.
Ubud is regarded as the cultural centre of Bali and there is a lot of artwork and handicrafts for sale. The inland rice terraces were stunninglt beautiful and I have never seen anything quite like this in Thailand. Overall, my memories of Bali are very positive.
At about the four-year stage of living in Thailand I had become very disillusioned with the country and seriously considered leaving. The only problem was knowing where to go. The only place that appealed to me was Bali, but after doing some research I found a couple of websites written by people who had lived in Bali that painted a very different picture. See Fugly Bali and Nasty Bali.
Living in a place permanently is always very different to going somewhere as a tourist and tourists never see very much. After reading what people who lived in Bali had to say about Bali I decided that everywhere was the same and even though there were many aspects of Thailand that I didn't like, going somewhere else wouldn't have been any different. I therefore remained in Thailand.
Normal people in Bali seemed a lot poorer than people in Thailand. Wherever I went as a tourist there was lots of begging and there was one strange incident when we went scuba diving.
After donning our scuba gear and heading off for the dive a guy approaced us trying to sell something. We weren't interested and so as not to be unpleasant we told him we would look when we got back. Of course, we imagined that when we got back he wouldn't be there.
However, he took us at our word and when we returned several hours later he was still there waiting for us.
I would love to return to Bali and hopefully I will soon. It's a great place for a vacation but - exactly the same as anywhere else - if you live somewhere permanently for several years you eventually see a side of the place that tourists never see.
Bali passport stamps
Floral tributes for victims of the October 2002 Bali bombing
Site of the October 2002 Bali bombing
T-shirt messages for the perpetrators of the bombing
Fruit offerings being taken to a temple
Sign at a temple
Cloth wraps for temple visitors
Making myself respectable before visiting a temple
Selling durian by the roadside
Balinese man in the rice terraces
Balinese woman and child
Bali rice terraces
Bali rice terraces
Hassling tourists to buy souvenirs
The symbology is very similar to Buddhist Thailand
My tour guide
Bali beach - maybe Kuta?
Pool at the Hilton Bali Resort
Lobby at the Hilton Bali Resort