Shifting Expectations

Were you to research Indonesia, you might get the wrong impression of my current living conditions. The country has a massive population — perpetual news reports about terrible congestion in the urban centres. Combined with conservative ideals — and even Sharia Law on certain islands? You could assume that a tourist with hippy morals wouldn’t feel too cozy.

Oh how wrong you’d be.

Yes, Java is congested, and some islands are more Islamic. But the archipelago stretches far. And I’m living on Bali. Which might as well be the other side of the world.

Bali’s density is about half of Penang’s, with most of its people around the beaches in the south. Living in the middle of the island feels like countryside. Well, tropical countryside. Palm trees and rice fields stretch to the ever-blue horizon. Bamboo forests cover any untilled soil, which are home to many species for David Attenborough enthusiasts — and even some cheeky monkeys for the rest of us.

And unlike the rest of the country, Bali is devoutly Hindu. But its own flavour of Hinduism — mixing the traditional Indian religion with ancient tribal animalism. Everything has its own a special day — from the dog to the car — so it’s common to see processions along the streets. And every house has a private temple in its backyard (no really, a big one!), with additional community and tourist temples for a traveler to stumble into.

Any complaints thus far? Well, the stray dogs can be scary at night — but motorbike revs scare them easily enough. No, my biggest annoyance is that I might be here twenty years too late. Tourists, mostly Australians, are about the only people you’ll see who aren’t working in the tourism industry itself. From the southern beaches filled with drunken eighteen year olds, to the family vacations you’ll find around Ubud, it seems the whole place is just Australia’s getaway — a Disneyland downunder. And the prices match.

I’m excited to climb the volcano, to frolic on white pebbles and swim in the turquoise ocean, to take a cooking class, and to have a temple tour. But it’s not quite as adventurous as I’d like — being the final destination on the Southeast Asia tour.

You’re probably screaming at your screen. How can I complain that it’s too perfect? I should just appreciate it while I’m here, I guess. Fine then. Have it your way. Off to get a foot massage. See you next week!

Background image from Wikimedia Commons