Bali is amazing! In many respects, it has exceeded my expectations, while in others, I’m a bit disappointed. But despite its flaws, and even though we’ve only been here a week, and we’ve only partially explored one town, I think we’ve found where we want to settle for the next year or two. Ubud has been dubbed the cultural and art center of Bali and has so much to offer those who visit and live here. It’s a small town, but it has so many of the things that are important to us, from being surrounded in nature, to an interesting culture and amazing food, to seemingly progressive people and lots of learning opportunities (I’ve never seen so many yoga and meditation class advertisements). Yes, it’s a bit hippie, but I think that adds to its charm.
Of course, our desire to stay here has probably been helped along by the fact we’re spending the month in a luxury villa overlooking rice fields, with our own private chef (incredible food!), housekeeper, nanny, and occasionally, a driver. I’m in absolute heaven in this beautiful house, and I only wish we could stay here permanently. Fortunately, there are an abundance of options in Ubud for both short and long-term furnished rentals, many of them including service staff, pools, and amazing views for reasonable rates.
I continue to be in awe of the natural beauty that surrounds this town, the friendliness and smiles of the people here, the high quality of service I receive everywhere I go, the ornate temples and intricate architecture visible at every turn, the Hindu and Balinese rituals constantly being performed around town, the delicious and varied food, and the low prices on almost everything. Food is even cheaper than in Penang, Malaysia, in many cases, although Internet is slow and very expensive.
Here are some examples of prices, estimated to their USD equivalent at the current exchange rate of about 9100 rupees to the dollar:
- Magnum ice cream bars (our favorite premium ice cream snack) are less than $1 USD here. We’ve seen them for $2.50-$5.00 in Malaysia and Singapore. (Not sure what they cost in the states, as they’re fairly new there).
- Men’s haircut: 76 cents USD. (rp 7000)
- 1-hour massage: $6-15 (and these are very good massages!)
- Our chef bought a whole live chicken for about $5 which she cooked for us that same day. (By the way, she does all our grocery shopping for us, too. So nice!)
- 10 organic chicken eggs: $2.15 cents
- 1/2 kilo (1 lb) of avocado: 70 cents
- 1 kilo (2.2 lbs) of zuccini: $1.40
- 1 kilo of Tomato: 86 cents
- Fresh baguette: 85 cents
- You might pay $3-6/plate at a nice restaurant with a great atmosphere and amazing food, although we haven’t eaten at very many yet because of our incredible in-house chef, Ketut.
- A full-time nanny or housekeeper might cost around $100-150/month USD.
- However, you may pay $75/month for a 1mb Internet connection and $150/month for a 2mb connection, and you’ll often only get half the speed you pay for as it’s a shared connection. If you want a dedicated 2mb connection, expect to pay over $400/month, and it’s only available in some areas. Ouch!
Besides the slow Internet, the biggest down side for me has got to be the roads. Wow. It’s chaotic! I thought I got used to crazy roads in Costa Rica and Penang, but they were nothing like this. Yes, there are pot holes and narrow roads with no sidewalks and pedestrians and dogs everywhere, but there are also swarms of motorbikes constantly trying to overtake someone, and so little room to squeeze though without hitting something or someone, and very few of the drivers seem to be paying attention. I’m also driving a clutch on the left hand side of the road, which I guess I’m still getting used to. There are a few two-lane roads that have been converted to one-lane, one-way roads, which are okay. But it’s still scary to be a driver or a pedestrian on most of the other roads. I do not like driving here. It’s a white knuckle ride every time. So I think I will employ a driver when we find a long-term place.
The other downsides for me are small things like mosquitos (I’m being eaten alive!) but you’ll find those just about everywhere that’s green. Also, there is quite a bit of garbage lying about. Some beautiful areas on the side of the road have been turned into neighborhood garbage dumps. I assume there is some sort of garbage collection and disposal service here, but it looks like it could use some improvement. And despite the apparent poverty of some of the people here, most seem genuinely happy. But this is definitely wild country. There are no perfectly manicured streets like Singapore and no massive shopping malls like Malaysia. Actually, I think there are some malls near the beach towns, but that’s over an hour away. And I’m okay with that. I prefer real nature. It feeds my soul.
One other thing that held me back from wanting to live here was the visa requirements, which I thought required us to leave every 30 or 60 days. But it sounds like it’s possible to apply for a 60 day visa which you can extend each month for up to 6 months. I don’t fancy standing in lines to renew visas each month, but I do like the idea of being able to stay here for 6 months without having to fly to another country for paperwork.
We’re still getting oriented in many ways, and are still planning to go to Japan in April, but probably won’t stay as long as we thought. We’re ready to settle down for a while, as we’ve been traveling at a pretty fast pace for the past few months. We’ve started taking daily lessons to learn the language, Bahasa Indonesia, and hope to meet some more friends here soon.
We also looked into a couple of interesting schools here, which I hadn’t heard of before, but which are apparently quite famous for their pioneering of more environmentally focused education: Green School and Pelangi School. We’re still not sure if we’ll send our kids to a school or continue homeschooling them. We’re really enjoying homeschooling, but we think the kids might benefit from the chance to mingle more with other kids and other adults on a regular basis, work in groups, and have a more structured schedule. But if not, there are plenty of classes like art and dance they could take in the community. We’re still weighing our options.
We’re also excited that my mom will be coming to visit us at the villa next week! The kids are counting down the days until Grandma comes. We plan to have a lot of fun with her, as well as spend time just relaxing, which is one thing that Bali makes very easy, as long as you’re not driving.