I met up there with my friends David and Kim, who were in the last week of their yearlong round-the-world trip that I have been enviously following online. We were joined by Dave and Kim's other friends Karen, Orley and Warren. All-in-all, it was a mellow, nice bunch of folks to spend time with in a beautiful, tropical setting.
I knew very little about Bali before I arrived, other than that it is in Indonesia and lots of Australian and Dutch people go there on holiday. So I didn't have much expectations accept that it would probably be fun.
I can see now why Bali is such a popular tourist destination. It's a beautiful island with a lot to offer various kinds of travellers. Folks who want an affordable beach resort experience will find all the amenities one expects – lots of hotel options, pretty beaches and pools, cheap cocktails. Adventurers can go diving, snorkeling, horseback riding, zip around on scooters and motorcycles, raft down rivers and more. Spiritual seekers can find all the temples they want, visit a local guru, and retreat to a yoga center.
Bali seems super-mellow and very safe, despite the fact that it has suffered from two terrorist attacks in recent years. The people we met were very friendly and pacific, from cab drivers to shop keepers. There is almost no crime to speak of on the island, which is surprising for a developing country. And yet there doesn't seem to be an intrusive security apparatus in place.
On the negative side, the beaches were not that fantastic, the sand typically a greyish color due to volcanic eruptions. The beaches near Kuta were totally gross, due to the high tourist population. The local cuisine was fine, but nothing I would go out of my way for honestly. I was not that impressed by the handicrafts and art that I saw in the stores, galleries and the street markets. And the occasional torrential storms put a damper on several of our outings.
But those quibbles aside, I had a really nice time in Bali, most of it spent hanging out with friends in our private villa with a pool. Languid hours were spent over long breakfasts at home prepared by our maid, reading paperbacks and Kindles on our patio, jumping in the pool to cool off from the heat, and wandering around the neighborhood for good eats and cheap massages. Just enjoying the good life.