Bali – Indonesia's mystical island of contrasts – the real and the
Bali is an island of contrasts: real, spiritual;
the old, the new
Sometimes thought of as a small or even
tiny island, possibly to give the idea of an almost deserted tropical
island hideaway, Bali is larger than many people might imagine. Compared
to neighbouring Java, with a huge area and large cities including
Indonesia's capital Jakarta, or Borneo, it is relatively small, but there are
countless Indonesian islands of lesser size. See more on our
Introduction to Bali page.
to Retire in Bali – and live in Paradise" is a comprehensive guide
for anyone thinking of spending extended time or retiring in Bali. It
covers important issues for retirees anywhere. Additionally, published in 2014, The
Expat Family Guide to Living in Bali provides essential
information for those planning on bringing dependants to live
with them in Bali.
These books are written by Australian Mike Henry, also the
author of the popular
a Business in Bali". Read our
reviews or go to his
Bali Expat website.
The island of Bali is also a province of Indonesia, some 1100 miles
southeast of the capital Jakarta. Bali is covered by a network of
varying width paved roads, often winding but easily navigable with some care. There are many hills and mountainous areas, but dual
carriageways exist in most urban areas, as well as along part of the
east coast of Bali. Although self-drive car rentals are quite popular,
most tourists prefer a local guide to drive them around in a comfortable
Bali is small enough to enable day return trips
between most places, but
overnight stops should be considered as a more relaxing way to see
everything the island has to offer: quiet, virtually unpopulated beaches
as well as busy,
crowded ones with surfers and jet skis, mountains (volcanoes even),
lakes, rice fields and terraces and magnificent views.
varied too, from cheap home-stays, modestly-priced guest
house accommodation, right up to five or six star luxury resorts and spas
costing hundreds and even thousands of dollars per night.
Bali has rooms in every price bracket.
in Bali, with or without flight included
For families and small groups, an alternative to staying in a hotel is a
vacation or holiday rental. These are usually well-appointed
villas and larger houses, ideal for a few days or longer stay. A popular
area is Canggu near Kuta beach, where there are many available property rentals
or book a flight/accommodation
package; the cost
per person will work out much cheaper than staying in an equivalent
hotel or resort. Click below to see more and get full details.
The population of Bali is in the
region of 3 million, made up of 85% Hindus (unlike the rest of
the country which is 85% or more Muslim). Indonesia is the
world's most populated Islamic nation with 213,000,000 inhabitants.
As it's primarily a tourist location,
there is a significant number of foreigners at all times, made up of
visitors and long term residents from other Asian countries as well as
Australia, North America and various European nations.
What's in a Name?
with the kind permission of the author, Dr Bruce Pohlmann.)
For many years and for many people, the name
"Bali" says it all - warm seas, soft
sands, cold beers, vibrant colors, exotic sounds, friendly people,
large smiles, laughing children, a multitude of inexpensive small
hotels and home-stays. This is perhaps more true for Europeans
and Australians than for Americans. For Australians, Bali is a
relatively short flight over to a world which is different, but
not too different, in order to taste something of the exotic and
leave inhibitions behind in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne or Cairns.
Europeans, particularly the Dutch, may have read of Bali in school
books or heard stories of Bali at the knees of their grandparents,
or in the case of some of my friends, spent their early years
there in the days of the colonial government. Americans, for the
most part, know of Bali from their introductory anthropology courses
or a special on the Discovery Channel.
Bali. A land of wonder and magic set in the warm waters of the
Bali Sea and the Indian Ocean. Bali. The tourist-ruined, money-soaked
island sucking in foreign dollars for the Indonesian government.
Hand planted rice, homemade religious offerings, vibrant cloths
used in ceremonial clothes. Noisy motorcycles, howling dogs, pesky
sellers, a glut of guides speaking broken English. Gamelan orchestras
practicing in the warm nights under a brilliant moon, fishing
in a traditional prahu chasing tuna and tongkol, the mystery of
a wayang kulit in a village with the children laughing, the men
gambling, and the women making comments on their husbands' performances
or lack thereof. A busload of drunken tourists on a bar hop in
Kuta puking out the bus windows, fake gold and silver, more cheap
watches than you could wear in a lifetime, the inevitable Bali
Belly. A quiet walk through luxurious ravines teeming with birds
and butterflies, the hypnotic chant of the village priest, the
cry of the jamu seller in the tropical sunrise, the aroma of
sizzling over charcoal-filled grills.
Bali. Which one is it? The answer is that there is no answer
- it all depends on what you bring to Bali and where you take
it. There are foreigners who have come to
Kuta and have never
left. The excitement, opportunity and midnight rush have seduced
them into finding a way to build a life there. Close to the
nice beaches and many hotels; also just a twenty
minute ride from Kuta (once a small relaxed village catering to generally
more upscale tourists) a free-for-all 'madhouse' of shops, bars,
restaurants, hotels or privately-owned guest houses and
vacation rentals. Then, too, there are the tourists who come
and drink, dance, spend and flee looking for one more country
or island to "do". Accommodation is available in all price
ranges as you can see. Click on any property for full details:
Go up through the mountains to the
and you can find boredom or bliss. Quiet sunsets on
Anturan beaches, serene walks in scenic villages. Stop off at
fabled center of Balinese culture, and you may find fantastic
artists and musicians, thrilling performances of ancient dances
and plays, or you may find rabid dogs, muddy pathways, cold
showers and down market backpackers and ageing hippies.
Candidasa is a village with beaches, hotels and restaurants on
Bali's east coast, accessible by a new highway, and ideal for a few days
diving or snorkelling. Amed is further north and offers much the same.
Have the Balinese sold out? Depends on what you mean. They like
motorcycles and tv's and t-shirts and jeans. Western music is quite
popular but so is dangdut, Indonesian pop. The Kuta
cowboy knows a few good gamelan songs as well. He is
a Balinese 'muscle/leather macho man', essentially male
prostitute, often with Harley-Davidson or similar 'big bike',
available for 'falling in love with' or at least servicing lonely
middle-aged European women in Kuta.
Is Bali pristine? Is Chicago or London
or Phuket? It's a real place in real time with real people who
generally want the little pleasures of modern life. Even in the
village where I first settled fourteen years ago, they now have
electricity and television and a paved road. Bali is part of Indonesia,
and Indonesia is a developing country with all of the developing
country problems that you might want to find - incipient pollution,
too much traffic, unsafe drinking water and suspect meat and dairy
Bali for Foreigners
Bali is renowned for its luxurious villas for rent or to buy.
If you are planning a holiday
on the island, tourist
numbers are less now than before and there are
Bali vacation deals to be had. We can also recommend a first-class
Balinese driver and tour guide named Ariawan and you can
learn about him and even meet his family at
Bali is wonderful for a break or
'on-the-fence' about recommending long-stay for expat business or
retirement in Indonesia (including Bali) for Westerners,
Christians. However, there are two sides to every story and there are
several thousand foreigners of different nationalities living and/or
running businesses in Bali, apparently without too many
One area of concern is the
Jakarta government trying to impose Sharia Law (strict
Muslim moral and legal code, with bans on pornography and the
so-called 'promiscuous' dress and behaviour of tourists)
over the whole of Indonesia. For Bali
particularly, this will make life
more difficult for the vast majority of Hindu inhabitants, let alone foreign
visitors and residents.
There is evidence of some anti-Western feeling, particularly towards American
and Australian communities, encouraged by local Islamic extremist groups
whose actions have already been felt in Bali in recent years.
Visit a site for
ex-pats living in Indonesia,
information and forums about retiring in Bali (Indonesia has recently
revised its retirement visa regulations and requirements) and other
Indonesian cities and towns.
Business in Asia page too, but if you are just looking for an
friend or dating partner, here's a site for you too...