Travelling Welshman
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Asia,  Discussions,  Indonesia

Why Is Bali So Overrated?

“Where is the best place you’ve ever been to?” is a common question among travellers. Names such as Thailand, Australia and the Maldives make regular appearances, and there’s little question as to why. Yet there’s one dreaded name that tends to elicit an eye-rolling groan from many – Bali.

This tiny island in the distant corner of Southeast Asia is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. The mere mention of its name casts images of white sand beaches, infinity pools and cocktails on deck – the ultimate paradise. However, that couldn’t be further from the case.

Bali has to be considered one of the most overrated travel destinations in the entire world, and I’m going to tell you why.

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Where Is Bali?

Bali is only one of 17,000 islands that make up the nation of Indonesia. The country is placed right between the colliding streams of the Indian and Pacific oceans, leaving behind turquoise oceans and vibrant coral reefs in their wake.

Indonesia also finds itself standing precariously along the formidable Ring of Fire. At the heart of many of these islands burns the same volcanoes that they originated from. The resulting ashfalls from these megalithic beasts ensure that Indonesia has some of the most fertile lands on Earth and that each island flourishes as a lush tropical paradise.

Bali overrated
A view to die for

Despite being one of many thousands, Bali has been able to transcend its national identity with many outsiders even mistaking it as its own country, and there’s a very good reason for that. While its sheer popularity makes it so recognisable, there’s more than lies beneath the surface.

Bali is the only predominantly Hindu island in an otherwise Muslim nation. While the rest of the country holds a stricter stance towards religion, morality and intoxication, Bali has always had more of a relaxed attitude towards foreign ideals and behaviours. That’s one reason it got so popular in the first place.

Why Do People Love Bali?

It’s not that difficult to understand why Bali is loved by many. In every sense of the word, the island has the making of the ultimate paradise.

It’s a small tropical island lined with breathtaking beaches and crystal blue oceans. The dramatic landscapes extend from the pristine rice terraces and staggering waterfalls to the sputtering of active volcanoes. It’s an island of intoxicating spirituality amplified by its numerous breathtaking temples and undeniable natural beauty.

Better yet, it happens to be in one of the cheapest nations on Earth to travel, where the bare minimum can get you the pinnacle of luxury. Though most importantly of all for the loud minority, it’s the perfect place to get absolutely shit-faced… and therein lies the problem.

The Problem With Bali

Much like how Bangkok has become a crucible of foreign debauchery and inebriation, so too has Bali. Every beautiful feature of this once-great island has been tarnished by the influence of drunken parasites and weekend travellers that suck out any form of culture or decorum with their mere presence.

The beachfront streets have been massacred with high-rise hotels, copy-and-paste souvenir stands and fast food chains. Visitors are hounded with offers of tattoos and magic mushrooms while being aggressively propositioned by the dreaded chorus of “massaaaaaaage?

The once pristine beaches and the oceans before them are now overflowing with trash and jetski rentals. Culture has been replaced with convenience and everything that once made it so appealing has been completely bled dry.

Bali overrated
Leaving our mark. Photo by Hariadhi, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s Not Just Bali

The UK has Ibiza and Zakynthos. The US has Cancun. Australia has Bali.

Being just a short international flight away for Aussie families, fashion influencers and fuckboys, it’s the perfect excuse for a quick getaway. For the rest of the world, Bali is seen as that exotic bucket list destination that holds promises of cocktails and sunsets. Or more accurately, it’s the favoured spot for those who lack any real imagination or desire to travel.

Bali overrated
Culture at its finest Photo by Milosz1 on Flickr

These types of visitors don’t wish to come to Bali, they want to visit a place that has nice weather and a complimentary breakfast. Or worse, they come to be in the heart of one of Asia’s biggest party scenes with cheap booze, tampered narcotics and battered prostitutes on tap. EDM clubs and casual STD exchanges are sadly the real motivators for coming to this island of spirituality.

Despite these issues being rampant, it’s not a problem unique to Bali. There are plenty of spots throughout the world that have been ravaged by the travelling community. The problem is that it’s only that part of the travelling community.

Many people come to Gili Trawangan in search of sun, surf and tranquillity, while others come for a much darker reason.

Click here!

Is It All Of Bali?

Many who will have been to Bali will argue that my blanket perspective of Bali is highly inaccurate, and they’d be right. The vast majority of Bali’s toxicity is segregated to Denpasar, or more specifically, the region of Kuta.

The rest of the island is in complete contrast to the alcohol-fulled streets of the south. Ubud boasts picture-perfect rice terraces and notorious monkey forests, while the remaining landscape is carpeted with active volcanoes and exotic rainforests.

It’s more like what you imagined a lush equatorial haven to be, or to be more accurate, what many hoped Bali would be.

Bali overrated
Certainly not an overrated part of Bali

Why Blame It On Bali?

If the vast majority of the island really is in contrast to the depravity of Kuta, then why tarnish the island with the same brush? Because that’s exactly what the party-hungry, convenience-demanding travellers do.

What they claim to be Bali is nothing more than a collection of novelty streets designed to please the needs and desires of every foreigner – the definition of a tourist trap. For them, spending their entire vacation in alcohol-fuelled raves or poolside in a luxury resort is all the evidence they need that the entirety of Bali is amazing.

Thus, responses to the question, “What is Bali like?” should be met with a substantial amount of scepticism as it’s this loud majority that’s painted the narrative. If these individuals are to be believed, Kuta is the Shangri-la you’ve always wanted. Their Bali is overrated, while the rest of the island is criminally overlooked.

Snobbery In Travelling

Undoubtedly there’s a bit of an elitist attitude when it comes to travelling. A great proportion of the travelling community wants to immersive themselves in local culture and to gleefully experience a different way of life. Others travel in search of sandy beaches, cheap beer and venereal diseases. While some are travellers, others are simply tourists.

It’s the latter that ruins the fun for the rest of us. Any sense of authenticity a place holds quickly vanishes with the arrival of tour buses and Bermuda shorts. Curious fascination is replaced by resentful anger toward those who lack respect or common courtesy to where they stand. We pay the price for your convenience.

Much like Dicaprio in The Beach, there’s a good reason for wanting a place to remain a hidden gem. Once it’s found, it will be lost once and for all to the toxic tourist horde, and you’ll never get it back.

Which are you, a tourist or a traveller? What’s the difference between the two? And why does one have animosity towards the other?

Click here!

Did You Try Anywhere Else?

The problem with Bali lovers is that they give the impression that it’s the only place they’ve ever really been to. For travellers who prioritise comfort and copious amounts of Bintang, Bali is often the only time they’ve travelled outside of the “first world.”

Naturally, such a place would be a significant upgrade to the Brit-filled beaches of Spain or a piss-up in Prague. But what is it they really love about Bali? Is it the food? The awe-inspiring landscapes? The undeniable spirituality and fascinating culture? Of course, it isn’t.

Bali might be overrated, but this isn’t.

If that was the case, why not choose any of the other 17,000 islands Indonesia has to offer? You’ll find plenty of breathtaking beaches, vibrant oceans and luxury hotels for next to nothing. Yet that would require people to have some sense of originality and a genuine desire to actually travel.

What these people truly want is cheap booze, tropical climates and the convenience that comes with a herd mentality. Why bother going anywhere else while Bali has all the overrated 5-star resorts and Western restaurants you’ll ever need? Minimal effort, maximum satisfaction.

Delaying the Inevitable

Bali is surrounded on all sides by magnificent islands, each more unique than the last. They even share many of the features that make Bali so appealing. Immaculate white-sand beaches, lush rainforests and prices even cheaper than Bali’s. Yet, there’s one noticeable thing missing – tourists.

For all its faults, Bali does have a redeeming quality – it’s the perfect honeypot. Tourists and weekend travellers are drawn like moths to a flame, ensuring that the rest of the country has remained relatively unscathed. Sadly, that can only last for so long.

The duality of man. Photo by Bair175, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Travelling is a tragic cycle of discovery and cultural pillaging. The once-hidden gem quickly becomes a poorly kept secret as the families and fuckboys follow in the wake of those trailblazing backpackers.

Locals see the dollar signs that come with tourism and take full advantage while they can, and who can blame them? High-rise hotels and tour agencies rake in far more money than a humble hostel and a roadside warung.

In the end, it isn’t Bali’s fault. It was once the pinnacle paradise that everyone wanted to experience. However, it’s that innate desire which has consumed everything that once made it so special, much like Lenny aggressively cuddling a rabbit until it lies dead and useless. We just can’t help ourselves. It’s what we’ve always done, and what we will continue to do. The question is, where next?

Thank you so much for reading Why Is Bali So Overrated? Now check out these other helpful articles!

11 Comments

  • Jacqui

    I couldn’t have said that any better. Having been to bali and seeing all the excitement that people lead me to believe, I felt an underwhelming feeling about the place. Sure you have magnificent hotels but the place just didn’t hit the spot, unlike how I feel about thailand as an example. Similar type of vibe. So I’m glad someone else can see that it’s not all it’s meant to be and I’m sure it does have its beautiful views and areas to it, I just lost all spiritual views of the place due to the fucking tourists and I was one myself complaining about them all lol. I am an adventurous traveller, I travel to see the world for its culture, history and religions, this place just didn’t appeal to me but I will be back to give it one more try. Thank you for your awesome blog keep up the good work.

    • TravellingWelshman

      You perfectly summarized my opinion! It’s just that magic that has been lost and replaced with a bit of novelty instead! “It just be hittin’ different” as the kids would say!”

      I really appreciate you taking the time to read my article, and I wish you many happy travels in the future!

    • TravellingWelshman

      Most definitely, I hate Bali in comparison to the rest of the country. Thank you very much for your insightful comments, I always love receiving constructive criticism 😉

  • Mandy

    Another less than mediocre European posting shit to make a statement because they think their judgemental opinion matters. Post solutions or just stay home idiot

    • TravellingWelshman

      Oh the lack of self-awareness never fails to amuse me! My opinion may not not matter in the slightest, however it does seems to mean a lot to you, doesn’t it?

      Luckily for you, I have the perfect solution, one which was repeatedly emphasised during throughout the article – don’t visit Bali, visit somewhere else, simple 😉

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my article, be sure to check out other thought-provoking articles across my website too!

    • Davo

      Yeh nah it’s true. Grubby, some absolutely filthy accomodation that would be insulting for a local to live in, let alone holiday in. Just don’t see the paradise. Get off the racist rant. What’s European got to do with it? I’m Thai, filipino, German, Colombian mix.

  • Derek Patey

    I think you should stay at home and stop sharing a shit post. Obviously a grumpy shithead. As long as you stay away from Kuta it is a fantastic opportunity to view a fantastic culture and super friendly people. Get up into the hillside and remote villages, they are beautiful caring people. Really poor of you to put people off having a great experience.

    • TravellingWelshman

      Hi Derek, thank you so much for your well-thought out and constructive comments, I appreciate you taking the time out to read my article.

      Sadly, not every opinion shared about a place is going to positive or even neutral in fact. However if you would have read the article thouroughly you would have seen that you’re actually saying the same thing I am. I completely agree the northern regions of Bali are stunning and nothing compared to Kuta. However that does not change the fact that Bali as a whole is overrated and simply not as pristine, heavenly and tranquil as people would have you believe.

      While you may think I’m putting some people off from having a great experience, for others I am saving them from immense disappointment. Having to spend hundreds if not thousands on a vacation only to arrive at a place which is nothing like what they had imagined or hoped (due to the immense saturation of overly-positive content speaking about Bali in a favourable light), it is good to have another perspective and to talk about the hidden truths about Bali.

      However I do find it ironic that you’re actually writing this comment while in Denpasar. I guess you didn’t want to leave the streets of Kuta after all… 😉

  • Marius

    I enjoyed your article and share most of the sentiments here. The hotspots are totally overrated especially, not only though, because of the traffic. On some days it’s worse than Jakarta in my opinion.

    Anyway, while I get it, some parts here sound a bit “elitist”. Not everybody is an adventurer or interested in every bit of every culture. There are good and bad tourists.
    But yeah, for me a lot of people can’t read a room or lack awareness.

    Overall i enjoyed your writing here.

    • TravellingWelshman

      Hi Marius,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my article, and I’m glad that you enjoyed it.

      It’s funny you should mention that I have a bit of an elitist attitude – I actually completely agree with that. This was something I actually addressed in a recent YouTube video I made on the topic. Of course, it’s not that I believe that I’m better than any other traveler or that others don’t deserve to experience what I already have. I suppose it’s more that those who live the life of a local and delve into the local culture almost “deserve” the experience more than someone who that spends their entire vacation in a resort while demanding convenience and wanting everyone to serve them.

      However, that is a very fair point you make. Everyone has the right to travel and explore in any way they wish.

      Once again, thank you so much for taking the time to read my article, I really appreciate it.

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