Last year almost 1.2 million Australians travelled to Indonesia for their holiday – most of them landing in Denpasar Airport for a Bali break.
Bali is so close to Australia and it is still such a “good value” holiday destination that Australians can’t resist contacting Hoot Holidays to book a Bali adventure.
But how well do we really understand the Bali customs and culture, and do we understand how the pace of change, driven by tourism, is affecting Balinese locals?
Choosing a holiday destination is important. So too is obtaining the appropriate visas, choosing the right hotel, and exchanging some hard-earned Australian dollars for some Rupiah.
The other thing we need to understand before hopping on the plane is how to behave in someone else’s country. Australian tourists don’t have a great reputation in Bali. Over the years, a small number of idiots have tarnished the way locals think about Australian travellers.
Indonesia is a conservative country. The Balinese people are respectful, religious and relatively shy. Here are some tips to consider before your Bali holiday that might help you understand the culture of these smiling, friendly people.
Cover up when you visit temples in Bali. Both men and women should observe this rule as visitors are expected to dress modestly when visiting places of worship. It’s a good idea to always carry a sarong or a scarf in your backpack.
Leave a donation when you leave the temple. Bali is all about karma, and leaving a donation can only bring you good things.
Leave your shoes outside if you visit a local’s home. It is considered rude to wear shoes into a house, or sometimes a café. If you see shoes outside the café door, then take yours off before ordering your morning latte.
Learn some Balinese phrases like “selamat pagi” which means “good morning”; “terima kasih” which means “thank you”; and “berapa” which means, “how much?” Don’t worry, English is widely spoken but learning some of Balinese language is a welcome sign of respect. It might even get you a better price when you are bargaining in the shops.
Never pat anyone on the head in Bali. The head is considered to be a sacred part of the body.
Unless it has come out of a sealed bottle, don’t drink the water.
Don’t get too cranky when the local hawkers hassle you to buy from them. Remember, they need to make a living, and a lot of traditional jobs have disappeared since Bali became a tourist haven. If you do buy something though, remember it is “buyer beware” as we are pretty sure that Tag watch you’ve picked up for a bargain price isn’t really a Tag.
The pace of change too, driven by tourism, is dramatic in Bali and some locals are feeling the pinch as their country morphs into a bustling holiday destination invaded daily by people from throughout the world. Take a place like Canggu for example. Less than a decade ago it was a small village with a great surf break. It was relaxed. The pace of life was oh so slow. Today it is a booming wellness destination. People come to meditate, practice yoga, and eat healthy foods at popular Balinese restaurants like The Shady Shack and Ruko Café. The old Canggu has all but disappeared. And not all locals are happy about this. So it is doubly important now, that we, as tourists, are respectful of the locals. It is important that we go out of our way to understand their way of life. Because after all, the people of Bali are one of the reasons we fell in love with the country in the first place.