Back in May I had the opportunity to revisit Bali. This was my first visit in more than 14 years. Many things have changed since then. For one, it has become considerably more expensive. Having recently visited Vietnam and supped on some of the best food on earth, sipped some of the easiest lagers and purchased some of the most beautiful handicrafts - all on a reasonable budget - Bali seemed unreasonably overpriced. There were many restaurants which advertised their crazily priced fare on shop windows that were virtually empty each time I passed, both afternoon and evening. There were art stores and artisan galleries that had obviously not entertained patrons in a very long time and yet any attempt at negotiation was rebuffed by a vigorous shake of the head and a gallic shrug!
And yet, Bali is still great for a number of things. The beaches are as spectacular as I remember them. And they cater to every taste - from the crowded to the secluded. If surfing is your thing, there are stretches that are as good as anywhere else on earth. Then there are the coastal drives and the temples like Uluwatu and the forests. Bali has its own brand of Hinduism which is something of interest, mixing local customs and beliefs with a stricter diet of Hinduism untouched by any parallel belief in Buddhism as evidenced on other Indonesian islands.
Food, however, is not Bali's strong suit. Java has a wider selection of local fare and tastier. That's not to say that Bali doesn't have some great restaurants. Locavore in Ubud and Bali Cardamom in Nusa Dua were some of the key highlights of the trip. But Warung fare just doesn't do it for me. Even the much vaunted Jimbaran Bay seafood was less tasty than I remember. And I tried it on two separate occasions at two different (but high recommended) restaurants.
Still Bali still stands out as a place that caters to the pure holiday maker. If you are not in it for eco, religious, historical or gastronomical tourism, but rather want a few days away from the madding crowd (or to immerse yourself in it), to laze and be active, to gorge and abstain, to sally forth and retreat, all after the inclinations of the moment, then Bali is certainly among the top five destinations to consider for your next vacation.
Trio, Nusa Dua
The over-hyped paddy fields
Monsters watching over us, Ubud Palace
The road to Uluwatu
Surfer's sunset, southern coast
Inland farmer, Ubud
Hindu Priest, Pura Jagatnatha
Sacred Monkey Forest, Ubud
Tile work, Nusa Dua
Masks rival Batik work for beauty
All pictures taken with the iPhone 7 Plus.