Bali opened my eyes on several subjects and was a memorable experience. It was my first country outside of Singapore and therefore, probably the first country in “real” Asia.
Firstly, religion is a fundamental part of the Balinese culture. People normally pray three times a day and offer gifts to the gods. As life has changed in the last few decades, making an offering twice a day has to do. I strongly assume that the happiness we see in these people, is influenced by their religion. Of course, other factors come into play, too, but it is my only explanation for the spiritual life they live and for their relaxed, friendly appearance.
Secondly, the uncountable number of temples, offering tables and architecture gives Bali a certain touch you can not imagine or interpret from pictures. I knew from my travels in Canada that I have a weak spot for moss and its green, soft glow. But the moss glow on the walls of these buildings touched me deeply. Everything seemed unspoiled, innocent in the way nature creates its rare spots, where cameras cannot even come close to capturing your eyes point of view. The feeling you get by looking at these magically-in-moss-wrapped places is a WOW! in your head, where you keep forgetting to blink until your eyes start hurting because you don’t want to miss a single thing. These moments were my personal highlights of my stay in Bali.
Thirdly, corrupt societies live often on the shoulders of people with low income. I am aware that this “learning” is not a breakthrough in cultural understanding of corruption. It was somewhat sad to hear that on several, unrelated occasions, that to pay a police officer off privately can save you from a parking ticket or even prison. People with money can do what they want and it is publicly known.
Fourthly, tourism can change a country. What we experienced in the streets of Bali has been developed over years. As a tourist, you are barley able to walk 5 meters without somebody trying to sell you something or honk at you for taxi service. In tourist areas, it is even hard to bargain because they know what other people pay. Our driver said that we can bargain up to 80%, which we never even got close to. All of this left behind a bad aftertaste. Do not get me wrong, I have not seen more genuine smiles in any other city so far, but I have also never felt as much as an object as in these 4 days. Next time, we would like to stay away from these areas.
We saw an island in Indonesia and were amazed by the culture and nature we encountered. I would love to go back, but hope to see other places first… Maybe Phuket? Maybe New Delhi?