Bali, Indonesia, is a nice place. Manuel has been going there for the last several years and I finally got to check it out this summer when Team Single Dude spent a very pleasant week there. I can’t give Bali a top score for single dude travel, but it does have quite a bit to offer.
First of all I should mention the Bali breeze. After spending the last several months in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Kuala Lumpur, all of which can be stiflingly hot and humid, Team Single Dude greatly appreciated Bali’s breeze, low humidity and clear blue skies. Maybe we just had especially good luck, but the weather was beautiful with amazing sunsets and starry skies.
Bali is strong in several other areas too, especially in the food department. Seminyak has a bunch of great upscale restaurants where you can get a real meal with real service and very decent prices for the level of quality and service you receive. There are lots of very good expat restauranteurs on the island who get it, you can easily find a delicious meal for two with drinks and lots of different dishes for $50. Our best meal was at a new tapas place in Canggu called La Finca, highly recommended, especially the gaspacho-vodka cocktail. Other recommended places are The Bistrot and Biku. You will not be disappointed by the food in Bali. Make sure to try some local dishes as well; Indonesian cuisine is delicious and healthy.
Bali is not extremely cheap, but it is a good value on a moderate budget. For a hundred bucks a night you can get a private villa with a swimming pool, two bedrooms and two bathrooms. For $10 you can easily get a great meal if you’re not drinking. At our favorite beach side club/bar/restaurant Potato Head, you can get a poolside bed/table for four with a fabulous view of the beach and sunset next to their infinity pool for a table minimum of only $50. The facilities are comparable to a high end South Beach or Ibiza joint, that kind of real estate is a relative bargain in Bali.
Things do change affordability-wise when you start drinking though. Indonesia, being a primarily Muslim county, follows the retarded Muslim trend of Malaysia and others with artificially high drink prices thanks to sin taxes. (Even though the island of Bali is a bit of an anomaly having more Hindus than Muslims, they still get the shitty standard Indonesian pricing on booze). The local beer is called Bintang (Star), is quite tasty and will set you back about $4-$5 in a nice place while cocktails are often around $8-$10.
But what cocktails they are. I’m not really much of a drinker nor am I a cocktail guy generally speaking, but in my opinion Bali is the best cocktail location I have ever been to in the world. There are some unbelievably delicious drinks to be had in Bali. I tasted the two of the best Bloody Marys I’ve ever had and even the mocktails are to die for.
For a single dude trip however, Bali is not an ideal choice and there are a couple details that prevent Bali from reaching the top of my list. My number one complaint about Bali: it is impossible to find weed. I went with with Dankus McReefer on our first night on the island to the main drag in Kuta, home to the local party/backpacker/fake drug dealer/hooker/bar fight scene, looking for weed. We managed to get a bad deal on some completely useless “weed” that was probably just tea leaves or stale oregano. I heard lots of stories of people being sold fake weed as well as other drugs in Kuta and no stories of people finding the real thing. After asking around, especially the local longtime expats, I never got an answer other than “Don’t mess with that shit, man, the penalties are really strict and they will set you up just to turn you in to the cops” from someone that wasn’t actively trying to rip me off.
So for me, that is the biggest drawback to Bali. It would be just perfect to sit on the beach with a nice cocktail, a hot chick and watch a picture perfect sunset with a nice a fat spliff. Unfortunately this is just not possible in Bali. Dankus and I were constantly ruining the moment by reminding each other how awesome it would have been to have just a little puff.
But all is not lost in Bali in terms of drugs. While weed and the harder drugs are not at all available in Bali, there is one interesting little loophole: Mushrooms! The local Bali magic mushrooms are an oasis of sanity in an otherwise backwards drug policy. Smooth, clean, mellow and beautiful, the experience of taking Bali mushrooms is not to be missed. Just head down to the main strip in Kuta, take a look around and you will see signs for them everywhere: “Money changer, boat trips, magic mushrooms” would be a common business establishment. It seemed to me that the going rate was about 100K INR ($10) per packet, although you could probably negotiate a lot harder than I did. One packet should be enough for most people but if you want to trip balls you will need more. They will also deliver so make sure to get your guy’s card for round two.
I also have a recipe for you that will drastically improve your mushroom experience. As those who have tried shrooms already can attest, most magic mushrooms taste terrible and are tough on the digestive system. I have experimented with many different ways of mitigating their shitty taste: chocolate (pretty good), peanut butter, ground up in beer, and others, but now my favorite method is Charlie’s World Famous Mushroom Tea:
1: X packets Bali mushrooms
2: Ginger root
3: Fresh mint
4: 1 Tea bag (flavor of your choice)
Chop or grind the mushrooms, ginger, mint, and simmer for 15 minutes. Important: do not boil, too much heat will lessen the effect of or even destroy the active ingredients! Add the tea bag, let it cool and steep for a minimum of 5 minutes and you’re good to go. It actually tastes good and no one on Team Single Dude had any stomach issues. Then go and enjoy the sunset at Potato Head and have a Bloody Shame.
We were particularly amused by all the squares discussing how dangerous and overly potent the Bali magic mushrooms are on Trip Adviser because for us, we found them to be extremely mellow and not overly potent. As with all drugs, especially hallucinogens, try a just a little bit at first to find the right dosage for you. Also, keep in mind that you will not feel the full effects until potentially hours later. It’s better to have a weak trip than a bad trip!
Bali is also am excellent place for water sports, such as diving, kite boarding and surfing. When diving, clear blue water with great visibility, lots of fish, coral and other underwater life is the norm. On good days it’s like a National Geographic special down there. Prices are also quite reasonable if you shop around a bit. The only drawback is that you may have to spend one or more hours in a van and/or a boat getting to your dive site.
This brings me to another Bali drawback. Bali is actually quite a huge place, with a population above three million and lots of traffic. The roads are tiny, congested and windy. You may have to go somewhere that’s only 5 km as the crow flies away but it will take 45 minutes to get there because you have crawl along in traffic on a 15 km long road that curves back and forth for no apparent reason. The concept of sidewalks is completely alien to Bali. Bali is the only place I have ever been where it is more dangerous to be a pedestrian than it is to ride a motorbike, which is really saying something because tourists with road rash are absolutely a normal fixture throughout Bali. Walking on the side of these heavily congested narrow roads with lots of blind corners and no sidewalks is quite nerve racking not recommended. Luckily you can rent a motorbike for just $5 a day but we wouldn’t recommend it unless you have some serious third world motorbike experience like Dankus McReefer, for example. That leaves taxis and luckily they are very affordable with initial meter drop at 5K INR ($0.50), the meter rolls forward very slowly and the taxi drivers are generally quite honest. After hours they may quote you a higher rate than the meter but it’s generally still pretty reasonable.
On to the nightlife. We were quite confused by the nightlife situation (or lack thereof) because we visited during the supposed high season yet had a very difficult time finding a good place to party. The fallback option for last call stupidity is Kuta, where the drunk backpackers, fake weed dealers, hookers, and slumming-it upscale people are guaranteed to be found late night. The crown jewel of this scene is the Sky Garden. A multi-level disaster, this establishments has as many hookers, Uncle Boners, and drunk western kids puking on each other as you will ever need in a lifetime. We went once, but it’s not really my scene anymore since I prefer uptown chicks and a nicer vibe.
In Seminyak there are lots of upmarket fancy places, most notably Ku De Ta, the W Hotel with it’s several associated bars and club, and Potato Head. Unfortunately during the week we visited all of those places were dead. We made friends with some local Spanish restaurant owners and they told us that a few years ago Ku De Ta would have 3,000 people there but the Friday night we went there, there were no more than 75 people there at midnight. Same with The W, it was dead. Where to find the high end party in Bali still remains a mystery to us.
Generally speaking Bali is not a super good location to find chicks in. I’m not into mediocre, cheap, self entitled Western 20 year old backpackers or hookers, so Kuta is out. The upscale places chick-wise are largely patronized by post-expiration date overweight Australian chicks. I have never really been into Aussie chicks either and they seem to me to have many of the same drawbacks as American chicks. After living in Asia for a while where there are lots of slender, feminine and beautiful mid-twenties professional single girls, I have been spoiled. The Aussie women in Bali, with their thunder thighs, crows-feet, and unfeminine personalities just don’t appeal to me. I will say for those into mediocre white chicks, like Dankus McReefer, the 30-somethin Aussie chicks that go to Bali with their girlfriends are delighted when approach so if you’re into it by all means go ahead.
There are some local Balinese girls that are quite lovely, however, you will meet them working at the hotels and nice restaurants everywhere. Cute, feminine, nice, friendly and simple, they have a lot going for them. However, they work all the time and are quite conservative so if you want to make something happen with them you will have your work cut out for you. Like all girls from conservative cultures the key is to get them away from prying eyes and make sure their reputation will stay secure. It will take time with these girls. If you can take a Balinese girl home the night you meet her, chances are she is a hooker.
All in all, Bali has a lot to offer, especially for the non-weed smoking, foodie diver who imports his own girl. Girlfriend importation is definitely the Single Dude recommended strategy for Bali. Personally I will not make Bali a regular vacation destination, not when I can go to Vietnam instead for awesome chicks, fantastic food, lower prices and liberal drug policy.