Nature and Culture - Unusually for Indonesia, the Balinese practice an unusual form of Hinduism with a dash of Buddism and Animism, creating a fascinating religious culture centred on ritual ceremonies and offerings. Favourite tourist haunts include the artist village of Ubud, sunrise over Lake Batur and the lofty volcanic peak of Agung mountain, which dominates the landscape. There are also famous temples (Uluwatu, Tanah Lot, Besakih), myriad shopping opportunities and great restaurants serving international and local Indonesian meals. Kuta nightlife is a legendary, hedonistic melting pot of nightclubs and parties fuelled by cheap(ish) alcohol.
Hazards and Hassles - Mosquitos carry dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis and malaria (officially not present on Bali) - avoid bites. Considering the lack of sewage treatment and general sanitation levels, it's not surprising that cholera, typhoid,hepatitis, Bali-belly and TB are prevalent. Avoid rivermouths. Don't drink local water supply, ice or fruit/veg not freshly peeled/cooked. Dogs can carry rabies. Be careful of thieves, scammers and hustlers - drugs are a big no-no. Motorbike road-rash or shallow reef-rash are biggest threats. If injured seriously, many recommend flying to Singapore or Darwin for hospital treatment as opposed to entering Denpasar Hospital. Private clinics and hospitals have improved treatment facilities but are expensive cash up front deals - get medical insurance!
Handy Hints - Kuta has the highest concentration of well-stocked surf shops in the world and prices may compare favourably when looking at high airline board charges. It is possible to sell your gear to local shops and giving kids your spare boards, boots, leg ropes is normal practice. Learn some basic Indonesian, which is easy to pick up. Be courteous to the local surfers who may include surfing legends Made Kasim, Wayan Suwenda, Ketut Menda, Wayan Ganti, Made Switra, Rizal Tandjung, Ismael Dooley and Made Adi Putra to name just a few.
© Paul Kennedy