‘The traveller sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.’- G.K. Chesterton
No truer words have been spoken about exploring a new city. We have all spotted them-the “tourists” who eagerly try to explore the city with a DSLR in hand while rushing to follow their tour guide, missing out on the beauty around. Unlike a tourist, a traveller, however, is someone who wants to experience another culture and avoid the usual tourist traps.
With its explosion in tourism, particularly in the last few years, the exotic island destination of Bali is a destination where it’s very easy to find yourself be a part of the herd. Known both for its high-end luxury and for being a backpacker haven, it is the exact reason why you may have heard one friend who can’t stand it and another who can’t stop raving about it. The difference is in knowing the dos and don’ts. Here are a few steps to guide you on experiencing an authentic side of Bali to not feel like a tourist on the island.
Go exploring off the beaten paths
There is so much more to Bali than yoga retreats, smoothie bowls and even beaches. Although the popular touristy destinations have their own charm, to discover an authentic side of Bali, go exploring the rural villages beyond these places to discover some stunning waterfalls and the magnificent marine life that it is famous for. The most amazing aspect of being a traveller is stumbling upon an unexpected stretch of beauty.
Try local food & drinks
Bali is not the place for making a repeat visit to your favourite junk food chain. With fresh and organic produce available, Indonesian cuisine is a fascinating fusion of Southeast Asian cultures. Not only will visiting local street markets or warungs, be much cheaper, but it will also taste much better too. For drinks as well, skip the international brands and try the local Arak, which is a distilled spirit made of coconut or drink. For a complete guide on trying local drinks in Bali, check this list!
Learn some basic local language
Residents love it when travellers make an effort to learn or communicate in their mother tongue. While you do not have to be an expert at the local dialect or learn the national language of Bahasa, learning a few words of Balinese goes a long way! Here are a few basic words to know before you take the trip.
Thank you- Suksma
I am sorry- Ampura
How much is this? – Aji kuda niki?
There is a time and place for everything. So, unless you are on a beach, Bali is not the place to walk around in a bikini top (if you are a woman) or even shirtless (if you are a man). The tropical weather and pictures on the internet may tempt you into believing that you can wear anything on the island, however, the local customs are very conservative. In sacred spaces such as temples especially, women are expected to cover their knees and shoulder. It is always helpful to carry around a sarong or a scarf if you are visiting religious places around the town.
Make sure you barter with compassion
Negotiating the price in Bali is expected and even a must. However, if you visit the local street markets, don’t be an obnoxious tourist. Be polite in your approach and remember that while bartering is acceptable, there is a difference in the economy. The little extra that you are saving is providing for a local household and every extra buck is appreciated by them.
Embrace local traditions
Bali is full of beautiful rituals and peaceful people who love their customs and traditions. It is important to show respect to these by not doing anything which hurts their sentiments. Doing this will not only earn you some appreciation from the locals but also help you know about a different side of Bali that most tourists miss out on.
Most importantly focus on the culture of the country and connect with locals for advice and new friendships. Allowing yourself to be spontaneous, will ensure you experience the true beauty of this island while minimizing your ecological footprint!
‘Curated by Neha Bhise’