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It had been 6 years since I went to Bali.
In my head, it’s a magical place where other than the touristy beach areas, it’s largely not overrun by tourists.
The first shock was the airport.
We got in at 11pm, and getting through immigration could not have been easier.
Night & day from 6 years ago.
And…holy shit, the airport has changed! While in 2012 it looked like the airport of a banana republic, it now looks like a major, modern city airport.
The process before consisted of waiting in line to get a 30-day visa for $25 (woohoo bargain!), and then waiting in line to allow the bureaucrat to grant access to the wonderful island.
This time, we just walked right up and showed our plane ticket, and got a stamp. No questions asked, no scrutiny or even the typical suspicious looks! Seems Bali, and/or the country of Indonesia, is really wanting tourists.
In typical Bali fashion, as we left the airport, we had a taxi driver following us around.
“We’re using Grab,” we told him.
“Grab no pick up at airport. Must meet 3 kilometers from here.”
I gave him about a 40% chance of being truthful. So we asked him his price as we tried Grab. He wanted about 3 times as much as the Grab ride, and turns out….he was…lying! Shock and surprise.
Bali appeared completely different to me, as we wound through the streets on the way to Canggu. Everything looked…nice! And new. And even trendy. So many hotels, cafes, restaurants…all with nice signs out front.
Amazingly, the air was cool, compared to the Philippines. It was actually very nice. Except for the smoke, as the Balinese still burn their garbage, a sign that they still haven’t discovered the idea of caring for the environment.
I stayed at the Canggu Beach Inn. The next morning, I tried going for a walk on the main street, but it was pretty hectic- no sidewalks and motorbikes constantly buzzing by- feeling a little too close for comfort every time.
Landed on Vida Cafe for breakfast. It would be my home away from home for the next week, with dishes like this:
And even their own version of Bulletproof Coffee!
The plan for Canggu was to work and surf, surf and work, and eat.
Well the eating definitely happened, and work to some degree, but the rain dampened my mood to surf- not because I’m afraid of getting wet before getting wet, but the amount of garbage that washes into the ocean when it rains is unreal! And I’m not trying to get some in curable disease.
The shocking thing about Canggu is that, 6 years ago, there was hardly anything in the town beyond rice fields, like this one:
Now, it’s overrun by the digital nomad crowd.
There are more of them then there are locals it seems.
The good part of this is it’s very easy to meet people. We were meeting people at breakfast daily, and most people seem to want to connect, because everyone is of course from somewhere else, doing some kind of project or business, and living the good life on the cheap.
And Bali IS still cheap, from what I saw, costs have not gone up in the 6 years since I visited last. I think that is mostly because of the continuing drop of the currency.
The beach is still nice, although wayyy more tourists now.
I booked a villa as close as I could get to my conference, the Running Remote conference, in the town of Mengwi.
Unfortunately, the taxi driver had no clue how to get there, even with GPS.
Apparently, the place was in the middle of nowhere.
And the maps were wrong.
After asking several people, we finally got there. Place was really nice! And only one other guy in the hotel, and he too was attending the conference.
The Running Remote Conference
A lot was learned there, the TL;DR is, working with humans is very complex and there is no “right way” of doing things. Nonetheless, I learned quite a bit, and met some interesting and inspiring individuals through the weekend.
I only had 3 days to chill in Ubud, but made the most of them.
Man, this city has changed in the past 6 years! It’s way more built up, more shops, restaurants, coffee shops, tourists…and taxi drivers 🙂
Central Ubud is a bit hectic. Last time I was there, it didn’t feel that way. The sidewalks have not improved at all, but there are more amazing eating spots.
I also had a “spiritual experience” there one of the days. I’ll talk more about that on a future podcast.
Bali is still a great place in many ways, and I can see why people move there, and why the digital nomad scene is so big there.
But for me, it’s still lacking something. Partly, it’s decent grocery stores, and good service. But it’s more than that. Not having sidewalks is actually a big deal. It’s hard to just go for a walk, unless you are out in the country, but even then, cars will buzz by pretty close as you are walking in the road.
Maybe the idea is to buy a rice field.
38.5 hours later, I arrived back in California.
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