Visiting Kuta in Bali (aka: What Was I Thinking?!)

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I went to Kuta to see a Balinese Healer. Anybody who knows Kuta will know that the aforementioned sentence is a comedy of errors waiting to happen.

And so, it was.

This post was originally published in 2017. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.

What’s the Deal With Kuta?

“Mushrooms and Viagra?” my friend said when I announced I was going to Kuta.

“What?!” I replied.

“Mushrooms and Viagra! Those are the only things you go to Kuta for. They’re sold on every street corner.”

My friend was joking of course, but at the same time, she wasn’t.

I ignored the funny looks my friends in Ubud gave me when I told them I was going to see a Balinese Healer in Kuta. And although I had a sense that I was heading into a more touristy, raunchy area of Bali than my lovely little “home” in Ubud (which is pretty damn touristy as well, let’s get it right), I was still not prepared for what the day held in store.

WikiTravel sums up Kuta as diplomatically as possible:

Kuta is the best known tourist area on the island of Bali in Indonesia, and offers a great surfing beach, despite being chronically overdeveloped. Visitors who feel overwhelmed by aggressive hawkers, chain restaurants and traffic jams should base themselves further along the coast towards nearby Seminyak, though the area is still worth a night out in the low-end nightclubs and dive bars.

Chronically overdeveloped, aggressive hawkers, traffic jams, low-end nightclubs, and dive bars. All worked into two simple sentences. Sounds like paradise on earth. The only redeeming quality revealed in this description is the casual mention of a great surfing beach, which was true, and still a laughable affair on sight.

The best place to start this story is at the beginning. Buckle your seatbelt; it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

I went to Kuta to see a Balinese healer. It's all downhill from there. The best place to start is the beginning. Buckle your seatbelt; it's a bumpy ride! #Kuta #Bali #Indonesia #BaliTravel #FullTimeTravel #TravelPlanning #BudgetTravel #TravelTips #DigitalNomads

Getting to Kuta

Remember when I told you that Bali sucks without a scooter? I meant it. Because a trip to Kuta, which is about an hour away, becomes a complicated affair without wheels. My options were to hire a (car) driver ($22USD each way), hire a bike taxi (not for me), or take a shuttle ($5 each way).

The shuttle seemed like the most sensible approach.

Unfortunately, the shuttle I chose happened to pick me up first (of many pickups), and drop me off last. Throw in there some traffic jams and an inexplicable transfer between vans, and the trip took three hours. I was expecting two, so the additional hour of crawling through traffic was frustrating.

Changing Money in Kuta (How NOT to Get Ripped Off)

Kuta money changer
For the record, a plywood money changing shack down an alleyway is NOT the sort of upstanding establishment you want to frequent. I didn’t use them; I took a picture because of how comically bad the place was.

Changing money in Kuta: another sentence befitting of a comedy of errors. And so, it was.

Why would you be changing money, Nora? You might ask. Can’t you just use the ATM? Under any other circumstances, I’d satisfy my cash requirements with an ATM. However, before arriving in Bali, I’d been warned many times about the ATM machines being rigged with skimmers (watch this terrifying video if you don’t know what a skimmer is), and all reports advised to bring cash and exchange it.

Then, I read many articles about how to change money without getting ripped off (there’s a lot to know). So, I thought I was sufficiently armed for the experience.

Apparently I wasn’t.

It was a simple exchange: one 10,000 Japanese Yen note, which should convert to about 1.2 million Indonesian Rupiahs (IDR). (It’s about $100USD). I’d done it in Ubud a few times already, with no drama. Which is probably why I was so unprepared for the money-changing process in Kuta.

The first guy had a professional looking shop, and had just completed Canang Sari, the beautiful traditional Balinese Hindu daily offering. I thought: He must be an upstanding money changer, with the Balinese Hindu ethics of karma and such, right?

Seeing my crisp note, he proceeded to enter a bunch of numbers into his calculator over and over again. He came up with 1 million IDR. Still flustered from my three hour drive, and without my “game face” on as yet, I said “okay”. He counted out a pile of bills, and seemed in a hurry to finish the transaction.

I got my money, walked down the street, and realized what had just happened. He’d ripped me off for 200,000 IDR! A $20 hit was more than I was prepared to take, so I returned to his shop with a winning smile and a request for the other 200,000.

“Tax and commission,” he said.

“200,000 in tax and commission? No!” I said, still smiling. (Expressing anger and frustration gets you nowhere in Bali; everything must be done with a smile).

“Give me my money back,” he said curtly. I was surprised; I would have been happy for him to admit his folly and even to split the difference with me. But no – “give me my money back” was what I got.

And so, my first exchange attempt was a dud.

The second guy was brilliant. If he weren’t trying to rip me off for so much money, I’d have let him get away with it based on his talents alone.

Another flurry of calculator action revealed the right exchange amount: 1.2 million. Brilliant. He carefully counted out one million in 50,000-denomination notes. Then he passed it to me to count. Yep, all there. He counted out the remaining 200,000. Then he took all the money and recounted again. I knew this was one of the scams (sleight of hand), so I watched him like a hawk. The count was fine. But when he handed me the final pile of bills, it was noticeably lighter. As in, he’d somehow managed to pocket half the bills, right under my watchful eye! I counted out 800,000 in front of him and asked for the rest (with a smile, of course).

That was when he informed me that my bill was ripped and that he couldn’t take it. I don’t know if he ripped it while I was doing the final count (because he knew he’d been caught), or if the first guy ripped it in giving it back to me, but either way, I was 0-for-2 in the money exchange game, and now I had a damaged bill to try and exchange. It was a tiny rip that likely didn’t affect the actual value of the bill, but certainly affected my leverage in a money-changing situation.

I furtively looked for the next place to change money that looked remotely legitimate.

It’s worth noting that Legian street in Kuta (the main drag) is an over-crowded, noisy, tourist hell. Between every souvenir shop (with desperate owners who begged me and some who literally grabbed my arm to drag me into their shops) is a guy robotically saying “Hello, taxi? Transport? Hello, taxi? Transport?” Next to him is a dilapidated nightclub and/or an overpriced restaurant (the kind that obviously makes terrible food….you know the kind). And next to that is a money changer. This quartet of horrors is repeated every 30 feet of Legian street.

So it’s not like I had to look far for my next money changer. What I was looking for was the most reputable-looking establishment I could find, but hopefully not so reputable that they wouldn’t accept my ripped bill. With damaged goods, I had to play their game.

One more flurry of calculator action. 1.19 million.

“Great, I’ll take it,” I said.

He counted out one million in 100,000-denomination notes. Easy peasy. Then, with exaggerated flair, he counted out three 5,000 notes, and two 2,000 notes.

I frowned. I knew something was wrong, but I was so flustered from the events of the morning thus far that I couldn’t put it together. I looked at his calculator, which had by that point changed to 1 million 19 thousand.

“See? 19,000,” he said. I frowned, still trying to put it together. “Let me count again,” he said, reaching for the money in my hand, but by that point I was nervous he’d pull another sleight of hand like the last guy, and, I was worried he would notice my bill was ripped, so I just took the money and darted out.

Of course, he’d ripped me off 180,000 IDR – which is about $14 US). But by the time I realized what he had done, I was over the whole thing, so I took the hit. Apparently that was the cost of changing money in Kuta, and I was out of energy to invest in the exercise.

But 180,000! That’s a lot of money in Indonesia. It’s two Balinese massages and a local lunch. It’s three shuttle rides to/from Ubud (nine hours of bloody driving time). It’s a truck-load of fresh fruit. It’s….it’s enough money that I felt really shitty for having been ripped off for that much.

Time for Lunch a Breakdown

Feeling exhausted from my three-hour journey to Kuta, violated by my money changing incidents, overwhelmed by the desperate and touchy-feely tourist shop owners and taxi drivers, and overstimulated by the sheer noise and energy of the place, I had an hour left to get some lunch before my appointment with the Balinese Healer.

Finding a restaurant with reasonably-priced food was a difficult task. The restaurants reeked of awful, westernized, overpriced, plastic crap. Finally, I found a place serving Indonesian food (still overpriced) that looked slightly less deplorable than my other options. I ordered a traditional dish that is like a stir-fry, and comes with rice.

When my stir-fry arrived without rice, I frowned. I turned on what was left of my Balinese smile and asked where the rice was.

“9,000 extra,” said the server.

It was the final straw. I burst into tears right then and there. I marvelled through my hyper-ventilations at what a horrible place Kuta was, and wondered why anybody would ever visit this cesspool.

The server was understandably confused. She put a hand on my shoulder to comfort me while remaining as far away from me as possible (I was obviously a loose canon), and handed me some tissue with her other hand. “Are you okay?” she said, not sure what to do.

I laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation, cleaned myself up, assured my server that I was fine, and ate my (tasteless overpriced rice-free) lunch.

Seeing a Balinese Healer

Never mind, I thought. I’m here to see a Balinese Healer. I really need some healing now!

Which was ironic, because I’d made an appointment with a Balinese Healer the week prior feeling ailed by nothing more than curiosity.

The woman in question was recommended to me by a reader, who personally attested to her brilliance and transformational healing. She spoke of energetic work, channeling the Hindu gods, identifying and exorcising bad energy, and physical healing that she’d not experienced anywhere else. She said all I needed was an open mind, because this healer might do anything, including making sounds like a chicken and spitting my bad energy into a bucket.

Further online research into the clinic revealed similar reviews. This wife/husband duo were talented chiropractic/physiotherapists, and the wife was known to make animal sounds and spit into a bucket from time to time.

I was all for it! Having experienced (and even practiced) indigenous healing arts in South America, the idea of channeling other energies, and exorcising a patient’s bad energy by spitting or even vomiting, and making strange sounds wasn’t all that alien to me. I wanted to experience the brand of energetic healing practiced in Bali, versus what I’d experienced in South America.

Perhaps what followed with this healer was my fault. In an effort to see what she was capable of, I didn’t tell her what I wanted her to work on. When she asked if anything was wrong, I simply replied with “nothing serious”. I figured a talented energy healer should be able to see what’s going on in a patient’s body and go from there.

Or perhaps there was nothing wrong with me (other than being energetically molested by the morning’s events).

Regardless, all I got from this Balinese Healer….was a massage. It was a very good massage, mind you, with attention to acupressure points, and she immediately honed in on an area of tension in my neck that had been bothering me. There was no arguing her talents.

But there was also no chicken noises or spitting into buckets.

At one point she started breathing heavily and making a throat-clearing type of sound. I got really excited. This is it! She’s going to squawk like a chicken and spit into a bucket! But no, her heavy breathing stopped as soon as it started, and that was that.

Needless to say, I was pretty disappointed to have paid a pretty price (financially, time-wise, and energetically) to travel to Kuta to see a Balinese Healer and walk out having received a massage. But it seemed to be in perfect keeping with my experience of Kuta on the whole; a place with fewer redeeming qualities by the second.

What to do in Kuta? Hit the Beach

With two hours to kill before my return shuttle to Ubud departed, I decided I may as well check out the beach. I envisioned sipping coffee at a cafe beside a delightful boardwalk lining a peaceful beach.

By this point, I should have known better.

First of all, the beach was protected from the road by a giant wall. Periodic breaks in the wall allowed people to enter and leave. So the beach was a mystery to me until I walked through that wall…..

And was accosted by people wanting to sell me surf lessons.

“Lady! I teach you to surf!”

“Hello! Surfing today? Great deal!”

“You must surf with me. We have fun!”

They were all over me. I wasn’t remotely dressed in beach gear, but it didn’t stop any of the throngs of surf instructors from trying.

Once I fought my way through that wave, I was hit by another wave – this time people trying to sell me beer. The next wave was people selling me keychains and hats.

Finally, I broke through the wall of touts and vendors, and marvelled at the beach in front of me.

There were hundreds – many hundreds – of people in the water, all learning to surf. It was madness. There wasn’t even a three foot strip of water that wasn’t filled with people, surf boards, and instructors. It was the most unrelaxing beach scene I’d ever laid eyes on.

Another final straw. I whipped out my video camera and filmed a maniacal rant – something I supposed might be a vlog entry. I marched up and down the beach, camera in hand, and ranted and raved about what a horrible place Kuta was. What a joke the beach was. How horrible the people were. On and on I went.

I turned the camera off, and looked around.

I realized I was the only person there who appeared to be having a bad time. Sure, the beach was packed – which isn’t exactly my idea of a relaxing affair. But nobody else seemed to care. In fact, they were all in the party mood. It was only me that didn’t have my party pants on.

Kuta: Great for Some, Not for Others

Kuta is the best-known tourist area in Bali. It’s packed, mostly with Aussies, for whom Bali is the closest and cheapest getaway. It’s warm during the winter months of July/August (which is Bali’s high season as a result). The beach has a perfect surf break for people wanting to learn to surf. And Kuta is close to the airport.

The resulting economy that has built up around this set of criteria is an overdeveloped tourist town that caters to people who want a cheap getaway to a beach to surf, drink, and party. If that’s what you want to do, then you’ll have a blast in Kuta. And of course, if mushrooms and Viagra are on your shopping list, Kuta will apparently serve you well.

To anybody else, I suggest you give Kuta a wide berth. Bali is a beautiful island with a kind and beautiful people. You won’t experience any of that in Kuta.

And for goodness sake, don’t go to Kuta to see a Balinese Healer.

Where to Stay in Bali

Obviously, I would suggest getting far away from Kuta, unless your plans are to live on your resort and never leave. Up the road, Canggu is much quieter and a hotspot for digital nomads. Personally, I stayed in Ubud (in the middle of the island of Bali), surrounded by rice paddies and thick with Balinese Hindu culture and practices. I personally stayed in an recommend the Grand Sehati for its awesome location in the thick of it all and quiet serenity as soon as you step inside. Here are some other Bali accommodation deals to check out:

Things to do in Bali

Again, you’ll notice that most things to do in Bali are curiously outside of the Kuta area. Here are some of Bali’s most popular activities and tours:

Visiting Kuta in Bali was a comedy of errors - many, many errors! From currency exchange scams to the crazy beach, this is a funny tale with a few lessons hidden in there. Enjoy! #indonesia #bali #kuta #kutabali #travelscams #currencyexchange #moneychangescams #touristtraps #balinesehealer #kutasurfing #theprofessionalhobo #funnystory #travelstory
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32 thoughts on “Visiting Kuta in Bali (aka: What Was I Thinking?!)”

  1. Another adventure & you’re both alive & got a good blog posting out it!
    I read about the 50,000 people evacuated on Bali (a volcano) & thought of you.
    Stay safe…

    • Hey Rob,
      I’m glad you found it an entertaining post! Although at the moment I was a bit overwhelmed, it wasn’t long before I could see the humour in the whole affair. I hope it came through on this sordid tale.
      Yes….the volcano. I am actually writing this response from the Bali airport….I’ve decided to leave the island, and will spend the rest of my time in Indonesia near Jakarta. This has been a gut-wrenching process that (of course) I’ll be writing (and vlogging) about! Stay tuned. In the meantime, all is good, and I pray for the people and island of Bali.

      • Hi Nora
        Thanks for the Ubud bargaining vlog. and tips. I reckon you’re right on the money! The market is such a vibrant, engrossing, INTERESTING place (it could use a cafe…) and you captured it so well. I love your honest reactions!
        As an Aussie, I’m ashamed at what we’ve done to Kuta. I had a girlfriend who was there in the early 70’s when it was a simple fishing village.
        Too late for regrets.
        These days, I love Ubud, of course, and Sanur.
        Thahnks for your wonderful vids, Tony

  2. Nora, yes, dear Lord, yes: my girlfriend and I avoided Kuta entirely while in Bali, because of tales like yours. We holed up mainly in Ubud, which was dandy, knowing already that it’s a loud and lively place—the scooters, my goodness—but with many fascinating sights and sites.

    Also dug the coastal town of Amed and jaunts in-between it and Ubud.

    And much of the Balinese food, mmmm….

    • Hey Tom,
      Indeed – I love Ubud, despite (or perhaps because of) its loud-and-liveliness. Lots of places to eat, both local and cheap, or expat and organic (and still cheap in the grander scheme of things).
      I plan to return…of that I am sure. 🙂

  3. I did try to warn you… but yeah, I’m steering completely clear of places like that. Phuket, Kuta, Times Square… hold absolutely no appeal to me at all.

    • Hey Turner,
      LOL – I like the little “I told you so” in there. 😉
      Although I haven’t been to Phuket so I’ll take your word on it (and avoid the place), but I certainly wouldn’t ever have compared Kuta to Times Square…..

  4. Wow! Great account of a stressful day.

    Despite your (humorous) ordeal, it’s great to learn that a seasoned traveller like you can still be had. I’m too hard on myself for the rookie mistakes I’ve made so far on our family RTW. It especially stings because I think I should know better for having read about it.

    Thanks for the revelation and for being so candid about it.

    • Hey Colleen,
      Indeed – no amount of reading can prepare you for some things! Also, go easy on yourself if you experience culture shock along the way….the first time I arrived in Bangkok, I absolutely hated the place. I realized it had a lot to do with total culture shock. If a place grinds your gears, find some personal space and re-evaulate. Sometimes it’s time to bail, and other times it’s just a matter of adjusting your expectations.

  5. Hey Nora

    Oh lord, your money changing experiences sound like an absolute nightmare. How anyone would have that much patience with little sleight of hand thieves is beyond me. I’m so glad I’ve come across your blog, I can’t believe how much travelling you’ve got to do and still have free time! I’m actually looking to travel to Bali soon with a luxury travel company called Berkeley Travel ( Have you heard of them before? I’m staying in a remote location and I cant wait for a bit of a break to be honest. I’ll make sure I reread your blog again before I go. Thanks for the heads up! – Evie xx

    • Hey Evie,
      Enjoy your trip to Bali! You’ll love it….even more so if you’re going to be a bit more remote. The island is full of beautiful nature and beautiful people. 🙂

  6. What a day! Not the way you planned it, but glad you came out unscathed in the end! Kuta is definitely not my style either. Went there one day on my three-month stint in Ubud, and don’t have any desire to go back.

  7. Oh Nora your experience brought back memories…….bad memories. Eighteen years ago my first night ended in a police station with me filing charges against a money changer who tried to steal my money. It ended up with a big show of support for the poor tourist (me) and the changer in the back of a police car and taken to jail. I got my money back. But it was all a show. He was back cheating tourists the next day. But I am almost certain if he ever sees a woman who looks like me he will think twice before cheating her. It’s a scam that is still going on today. I knew ahead of time about the scam so watched as the talent-less hack counted and casually threw money on the floor as he counted as if I could not see his pitiful slight of hand. It is shameful and disgusting practice and what is so sad is that most people new to international travel get ripped off. So sorry you had to experience it. I was just in Ubud about four months ago and because of a late arrival I spent one night near the airport and then headed straight to Ubud. In total SHOCK at what Ubud has become I spent nearly two weeks in Ubud and when I couldn’t take it anymore I headed up north about 45 minutes from Ubud and found my old Bali…..the Bali from eighteen years ago. I know progress is good but this is progress on steroids. Safe travels.

    • Hi Jay,
      Yes, I have many friends who know the “old” Ubud, and feel that it has gotten out of hand….or at least isn’t reflective of the Ubud they fell in love with. Because I have no frame of reference, I didn’t find it terrible…but indeed, it was really touristy and took some effort to get “off the beaten path”.
      But still….Ubud is no Kuta…. ha ha!

  8. Even I was stressed reading this post 🙁 I’m so sorry you had to go through all that! That part where you cried at the restaurant… And the last straw being rice of all things – I’ve probably cried for something similar in the past. Well, I’m never going to Kuta now.

    • LOL – lesson learned about Kuta, and you didn’t even have to visit! Yep – it’s funny what the last straw can be at times. For me, it was rice (or lack thereof).

  9. Ohh! Kuta is amazing. Love it. The atmosphere, the burning incense smells everywhere, the constant yelling at me for “Transport” or “Massage? Hair braiding for your daughter?”. I have been 5 times now.
    Yes I’m an Aussie. From Perth, so only 3 hours away.

    Bali is my favourite place in the world and Kuta is my favourite place in Bali. We just got home last week from 5 days in Nusa Dua and 8 in Kuta. We have so many friends around Kuta now (locals) and have such a fun time mingling with people on the streets. Sure, a lot will try rip you off but it’s third world. You will also find many of those beautiful people you speak of in Kuta who will move heaven and earth for you.

    Just a different perspective. We all like and appreciate different experiences. Kuta is not for everyone that is for sure! But it does have its own charm and beauty…you may just need to look a little harder to find it ?

    • Hi “Tales”,
      Thank you SO much for your positive perspective on the place! I’m happy to know (and of course, not surprised) that Kuta has a more charming side to it that I missed in my short time there.
      You are so right…different experiences and perspectives. That’s why I love travel!

  10. I took my husband to the same Balian you are referring to Nora…. the one who did such powerful energetic work with me that I saw her 5 times in my 6 months on Bali 😉 . His experience was identical to yours, and I stayed in the curtained-room with him, so I saw exactly what she was doing. He was thoroughly “meh” about the whole thing… thought it was a decent massage, (I also dropped him off in the US and hired a lawyer less than 3 months later, but I don’t think it’s a DIRECT cause and effect! ?)

    For me, the healing with Wayan was indisputable and she is one of the first places I’m going as soon as get back there next month, (sure wish their shop wasn’t in the heart of Kuta-ville!).

    I think I told you I worked with a Shaman for many years, and had some truly transformational experiences with her as well. It’s a fascinating journey, healing is… not nearly as straight forward as a bottle of pills or a surgeon’s knife. But I’ll take it any day over Western medicine. Happy travels!

    • Hey Allyson,
      I have no doubts that she’s a great healer, and that your recommendation was a solid one! Don’t get me wrong. She’s great.
      Perhaps I wasn’t in need of the sort of exorcism that entailed what I had expected of the treatment.
      But that’s probably my biggest problem; although you instructed me to have an open mind, I guess I had expectations. And like you say, when it comes to energy healing, nothing is straight forward, and expectations are dangerous at best.
      At least all these adventures made for a pretty funny story, if I do say so myself.

      • I think any time we create expectations about something we “hope” for, we create a platform for disappointment. I know it’s certainly been true in my own life. And so I think you had quite an adventure…. it just wasn’t on Wayan’s table! If you head back to Bali I’d love to meet up for some nasi goreng and some good laughs! ?

  11. Hi Nora
    There are always some good things to being old(er). And one is having been to Bali when I was a very young guy in 1972. I arrived in Kuta on Christmas Day. It was a magical experience with Legong performed by young girls – children really – on a stage in front of my losman. I think my room in the losman was 75R a day. At that time, the rate was 450R to one US dollar. You could get a restaurant meal for 25-50R, usually good too, and I treated myself to lobster for 75R – just once a week – at the only “hotel” in Kuta. A lonely hotel nobody I knew went to at the far end of the beach.
    There was no paved road in Kuta – only when you got on the road to Denpasar. There was no electricity. Usually at night you depended on moonlight – and if no moon, your torch/flashlight guided your way along through the waiting dog packs.
    Even then, there was a big “restaurant” scene – a thatchy hut myriad of competitors, but no really hard sell. Usually took about an hour and a half to get served, but nobody cared much. Some restaurants would fry up mushrooms if you gave them to fry. There were no nightclubs whatsoever. There was no dancing other than ketchak performances and other Balinese plays.
    The beach at Kuta was beautiful then and we enjoyed the huge waves.
    At that time, Balinese were afraid of the sea and knew nothing of surfing. That time was just the beginning of Australian travellers to Bali, who introduced surfing to the guys of Bali over the following years.
    Even then, there were crazy times. Remember that this was already post-hippie era. The motorbike rental scene was getting active and the occasional traveller missed a turn and got himself killed. The families, who let out the rooms at the losmans, put up with a certain amount of partying, coming and going of “guests” to their rooms. They were learning about these foreigners just as we were learning about Bali. In the morning, they would bring a breakfast and travelling artists would spread out paintings in front of your room. I had batik pajamas I wore all the time ( and continued to travel around in later all the way to Jakarta). But even the westerners’ dress was conservative compared to the Balinese women who were often barebreasted.
    I haven’t mentioned Ubud in this writing – I did go there also. It was just starting up and not significantly developed yet. It was “quieter” than Kuta, but in those times, it didn’t make too much difference because you would have had to go to Denpasar to experience anything like a city – and nobody bothered to go there as there was no night life. Just kind of a dusty big town that had a bank in it, and customs office for visa extension, or whatever.
    Anyway. Since that time, I haven’t been back to Bali. I keep wondering if I’d recognize a single thing. One thing I’d really like would be to find the young family in whose losman I stayed. But I imagine that would next to impossible now.
    One thing I think I sense from what you’ve said – Balinese people are still Balinese. So I might go anyhow.

    • Hi Peter,
      Great story about Kuta circa 1972 – thanks for sharing! One of the things that impressed me about Bali (and that is written about by others) was how indeed, the Balinese people have (on the whole) maintained their culture despite influxes in tourism since the 1930s. Although perhaps Kuta is no longer a proper reflection thereof…..

      Funny you should mention going back to find the Balinese family you knew. I’m currently in Chiang Mai Thailand – where I was 10 years ago. I was hoping to find a Thai family I knew back then, and while there are aspects of the Old City that haven’t changed at all, in other ways it’s totally different. I’ve all but given up on my mission. (But I’m still enjoying the place and noting differences in the last 10 years with curiosity).
      I’m sure your own revisit to Bali would be quite the shock…but then again, neither would you expect the place to be now what it was back then.

  12. The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was price gouging at the Seminyak branch of an international pharmacy chain. I needed to buy some medicine and was quoted more than 1,000,000 IDR for 7 omeprazole tablets. This is at LEAST a 500% markup, if not more. No way are locals paying this much. I expect to get ripped off at tourist trap hovels selling junk, but a legit pharmacy?
    What is the point of all the bowing in the smiling if you end up scalping somebody to take advantage of their medical condition, just because their skin is white? It’s just hypocrisy so you feel good about getting gouged.
    Our previous visit to Ubud was nowhere near as bad. I’m put off Bali for good, I think.
    Sitting in the villa, leaving tonight. Can’t wait.

    • Hi Nick,
      I’ve visited pharmacies (brand-name ones) in many countries where you have to get even “over the counter” medications from somebody behind the counter. With no price tags, I’ve often wondered how different my price is from the local price. In Vietnam in particular, I was astounded at the cost of some fairly mundane medications. It happened to me again (with some different meds) in Guatemala.
      I’m sorry that you confirmed the price gouge and felt taken advantage of. In a place like Kuta, I can totally understand how it would be a last straw.

  13. I know that this is quite a few years after this was written but I feel like Ubud has lost its magic and it’s so sad. I have travelled there over the last 20 years and just find it too packed and cliched now. Amed and Pemuteran for me now and I actually don’t mind stopping over in Sanur – a place I used to detest ☺️

    • I’m sorry you feel this way, Mick. I’m sure 20 years has changed the place, dramatically. In fact, I’ll bet the last 6 years alone since I was there would be startling!
      That said – I’m thrilled you found some new places in Bali that are better than before! This is testament to your open-minded attitude and seeing/finding new opportunities/destinations/etc that didn’t formerly exist in the same way.

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