The Deal Mommy

Does Bali Deserve a 2nd Chance?

It's not as fun as it sounds.

Visiting during a currency meltdown didn’t help.

I’m starting to think about Camp Mom 2015 and could use your help. This trip is a homecoming of sorts; I had the opportunity to live in Beijing and Bangkok pre-kids but haven’t been across the Pacific since before Deal Kid was born in 2003. The first 2 weeks are blacked out for Japan and the last 4 days for Hong Kong so I’m working with about 10 days open with the kids for some beach time.

I went to my old friend Twitter and asked for suggestions for 10 days in Asia with the Deal Kids. Time and time again came up one place: Bali.

To which I shuddered and responded: “No, absolutely not Bali!”

Allow me to explain. I spent a week in Bali in the fall of 1997 (economics history fans already know where this is going). While it was a physically lovely country with really lovely people, 2 features of the trip stand out to this day:

I also have a story to share about arrival at Depensar airport. By this time I was pretty used to the Asian squat porcelain toilets so wasn’t shocked to see one in my stall. What I couldn’t find was a way to flush it. Looking around, I spotted a pull-chain dangling from the ceiling and thought “this must be it”. NOTE: if you EVER see a pull-chain you can’t verify, DO NOT PULL IT. I learned very quickly this specific pull-chain operated the (heretofore unseen) shower.

But no one has seen rats at the Grand Hyatt and the Rupiah seems fairly stable for now. Is it such an amazing place that I’m doing myself a disservice not to return? Or should I let the Bali ship sail and set out for another amazing Asian beach? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments.

(And please don’t mention Ko Samui. Been there, loved it, but it’s the Vendome of South East Asia.)

22 thoughts on “Does Bali Deserve a 2nd Chance?

  1. Becky

    I haven’t been to Bali, so take my thoughts with a grain of salt, but…the few places I’ve given a second chance, I’ve left just as underwhelmed as I was the first time around. In my opinion, no one knows what you’ll like or enjoy as much as you do and time is too precious to include somewhere that doesn’t have a good chance of ending up as a wonderful, beloved memory. I love the idea of including a more “developing” country in Asia inbetween modern Japan & Hong Kong, but I’m not convinced that Bali is the right fit for you

    And ironically, now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’ll also mention that despite everything I’ve said, Indonesia is actually high on my list of places to visit!

    P.S. Have you read this post?

    1. The Deal Mommy Post author

      Thanks, Becky, for chiming in. I’m inclined to agree but folks who love Bali LOOOOOOOOOVE Bali. I just wondered what I missed. I would say that I DON’T think Bali is Indonesia at all. Totally different religion, more tourism based economy, just very different from any other Island.

      And Thanks for sharing RTC post. Definitely an opinion to trust there!

  2. Mark B.

    Wife and I just returned from Bali two weeks ago. I don’t think you are missing anything by going somewhere else. The new airport in Denpasar, while not complete, is really nice, but they still have the same issues with arrivals with usually an hour wait for immigration. New bridge to Nusa Dua is also outstanding; its now only a 20 minute drive from the airport. We stayed at the St. Regis, which was an exceptional hotel, but we could have been staying at any upscale beach hotel in the US. Had a better time in Ubud in the mountains, but since you are doing a beach trip, that won’t help. The people are wonderful in Bali, but the wife and I definitely enjoyed our time more in Thailand a few years ago, (we stayed on the island you said to not mention), and really wish we had gone somewhere in Thailand rather than Bali.

    1. The Deal Mommy Post author

      LOL. Thanks, Mark. I do love the Island that must not be named, too, just wish it wasn’t named so much! I appreciate the very recent viewpoint.

      1. JGM

        Ahhh… Europeans have been flocking to Krabi / Koh Lanta / Ao Nang in droves for years. Unknown to Americans but not so much to Europeans. Beautiful place, been there 4 times in the last 3 years exploring the area, and while I’d love to go back, I think I’m done with Thailand for now.

        1. thedealmommy

          I’m trying out Da Nang, Vietnam this summer- have heard predictions it’s the “new Thailand”.

  3. Trevor

    I wouldn’t go to Bali just to go to Bali. Now, if you’re trying to identify a beach vacation and you’re in the region, then I’d say Bali is a nice option. Here’s a longer post that I did about Bali a while back. … I think I did a tour but I can’t seem to find it. Remember though, going to Bali is like going to any other place geared toward tourists – you’re not going to get the true Balinese experience without taking some risks. But if you just want to relax at a safe place with a nice pool and beach, then I’d say this should be an option.

    1. The Deal Mommy Post author

      Thanks for the insight. It’s hard with just me and the kids…the impulse to be “in the bubble” is strong.

    1. The Deal Mommy Post author

      That’s a new one to me…will check it out. I’ve been to Baidehe (sp?) where the wall meets the sea, but it was a bit too raw to do solo at the time.

  4. Holly

    As a current resident of Bangkok I am partial to Thailand! We recently had a fabulous long weekend at a resort called Paradee on Koh Samet. It is very remote with not any other island life around so I wouldn’t recommend staying longer than 4-5 days there. I would couple it with a trip to Chiang Mai. The kids would LOVE both.

    Another thought, Vietnam. Other families in our expat village swear by Cambodia.

    1. The Deal Mommy Post author

      Koh Samet? Near Hua Hin, right? I LOVED it there years ago, but at the time it was literally shacks with generators and absolutely no infrastructure. Is it a bit more developed than that now? If so, it definitely goes higher up on the list! Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Annie

    I went to Bali last winter. I really enjoyed the trip, it’s a unique place, but it’s not without it’s issues. The touristy areas are super touristy – the congestion reminds of me of Puerto in a bad way (love PR, but the place has some terrible strip malls). There are also issues with garbage washing up on beaches. I had a foot of garbage wash up on shore in one of the resort towns on a bad day, and heard similar stories from others. Cambodia has some off the beaten path islands which I’d recommend. Also some issues with trash, but I’d happily go back to live on a hut on the beach for a while.

  6. MaryE

    I was in Ubud, Bali in 1993 on Christmas Night Eve in a posh 5 star open bungalow type of restaurant. My friends and I enjoyed a lovely dinner and as we waited for our dessert to be served, we watched in horror a rat circle around the top ledge/edging of the restaurant and wondered if it would jump down onto a cabinet located quite close to our table. When our dessert arrived, I inquired of this waiter about the rat circling almost above our heads. His response, “Lady, there are more rats on this island than people. If you can’t live here with them, then leave, because they are not.” Good point. The people of Bali were quite friendly even back in the day. I remember rafting on New Year’s Day and hitching a ride with a Balinese policeman and his sister whom I had rafted with. Good times. Go for the experience.

  7. Terry

    My great nephew went to Bali in 2014 for his semester abroad. He had every vaccine recommended for it. Some tropical diseases are not covered. He ended up with typhoid fever, dengue fever and a third I don’t know the name of. We thought he might die. His mother went over and helped nurse him back to a point where he could at least fly back. That took some weeks. He was one of the fittest persons I have ever known with very little body fat. He lost about twenty pounds. He has recovered well. He was trying to really experience Bali like a local and had pretty good language skills. He would go back he says even though he would be at a higher risk having had dengue previously.

    1. thedealmommy

      Hi Terry,
      Wow! Thanks for sharing your nephew’s experience. It’s a good reminder that you can’t plan for everything. Dengue is one of those under the radar diseases that can really do damage: a friend got it in Puerto Rico a few years ago and still talks about it.

  8. Mike

    Never been to Bali but I have a ticket to check it out in Oct, after I canceled a couple planned trips there the last few years. I am here to recommend the Philippines, maybe Puerto Princessa. Don’t do Boracay, too commercialized now (Been there 14 times when I was an expat there) but it’s still a beautiful island.

    1. thedealmommy

      The Philippines is on my radar, but I only seem to have time during Typhoon season lately. Thanks for the suggestion.

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