December 17, 2014

Searching for Bali Ha'i

At the risk of offending all the Bali lovers out there, I have to say it; we don’t love Bali. Part of the reason is as boaters we didn’t long to arrive here from a foggy winter somewhere. And our first view of the sky meeting the sea isn’t from a hotel room window in a nice neighbourhood. Instead we come to Bali through a polluted harbour that’s located on the wrong side of a garbage dump.

Garbage in Bali is as much of the landscape as Gunung Agung, as it sticks its head out from a low-flyin' cloud. There was a sign on the beach in Kuta apologising for the trash in the surf and explaining the floating plastic bags were a ‘natural phenomenon’ linked to rainy season… Yesterday we watched dolphins leaping through an island of plastic. When we swim we need to swat bags out of the way.

Bali is a handy place to have guests join us--our friend Sarah has arrived for a few weeks on the boat
But for us, the bigger loss is with the people. We’ve met some of the kindest people we’ve ever encountered in Indonesia, people who continuously make us fee like honoured guests and who seem invested in making us feel like we’ve found something special. We still catch glimpses of the kindness here (the fisherman who came out in the pouring rain to guide us past Lovina’s reef last night for instance) but mostly the saying we encountered on our first day holds true, “Westerners come to Bali for peace of mind, Indonesians for a piece of your wallet…”

We were pretty impressed with our newly acquired Batik skills
Looking past the garbage and the hawkers we still saw some of the Bali that people love so much. We happened upon an incredible driver, Made Sumartana who toured us around for a few days. We gave him our wish list and he took us through the insane traffic to temples that looked over volcanoes, to rice paddies and batik lessons (not to mention massages and grocery shopping).

In the quiet moments he told us about his life as a Balinese Hindu and explained some of what we saw around us. It felt like if we stayed longer and searched more deeply under the surface that maybe the Bali people dream of was still here. We could also imagine Bali before its most recent tourism boom. Not sure when it happened but for Aussies this is the place to come and get stupidly drunk while for busloads of Chinese tourists this seems to be the place to shop and then make the bathrooms really messy.

A huge benefit of Bali is all the options for stuff to do--Maia took a great trapeze class (that's her flying through the air!)
Maybe Bali has called to too many people over the years. And maybe rather than finding their own special island everyone has flocked to the one with an international airport. But for us BaliHa’i has slipped away. We’ll sail on and find our own special island.

Diving the Liberty wreck

We did find a few great things in Bali:

If you are looking for a safe driver, Made Sumartana has a clean seven passenger mini van. For about $50 a day he’ll take you anywhere you’d like to go 0878 6172 5409 or imadesumartana74 at

We loved our traditional Batik class with Nyoman Deking. $45 for a three hour class in his lovely garden. Dekinga at

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