Indonesia is the world’s largest island country, with more than 17000 stunning islands. It is a country filled with hidden gems and mind blowing scenery, with lush palm trees, rainforests, volcanoes, and the famous iconic rice fields. I have been lucky enough to come once and then kept coming back several times, until I ended up living in Indonesia for months. Now I want to tell you about my experience there, of living in Indonesia for 8 months (in total) and what it meant for me.
Indonesia, An Underrated Country
I love my home country and many others that I’ve had the pleasure to visit and stay in. But having explored a lot of Bali and the surrounding islands in Indonesia for days in a row, months in row, has left quite an impact on me.
Many see Bali as the main must see place in Indonesia, but the truth is, this whole place is so rich in scenery and culture. There are soo many places outside of Bali that deserve attention, such as Sumatra, Sulawesi, and others, and little promotion of these places leads to it being an underrated country.
There Is So Much More To It Than Bali
Most tourists have only one destination in mind when they think of Indonesia or when they book their flights. And that is, the beautiful green Bali. Why? Because of that pink dragonfruit smoothie bowl we see on Insta, perfect couple photos on the beach, surfers in Uluwatu, perfect posh cafes, and crazy good parties and cheap cocktails.
Bali is a dream destination, no doubt. It is absolutely breathtaking, even though in these past two years I visited it, it has become increasingly annoying to deal with traffic and pollution. But all in all, I would come back to Bali anytime, it has left such a mark on my life that I cannot forget it. I am not sure though if I would live in it again ( but more on that coming soon on a more detailed personal note).
Most tourists go for the Instagrammable place that Bali has sort of become and don’t even think of booking a flight to Padang, for example. Padang is the home of Padang or Minang food, the cuisine of the Minangkabau people from West Sumatra. And I have eaten padang food and I can tell you it’s tasty and spicy! Oh and you are meant to eat it with your hands because..it tastes better! And it’s definitely worth a visit and trying out new things besides the standard “to do” list in Bali.
That’s why I say that Indonesia is an underrated country, because there are places like Padang, Java, Sumatra, that have so much to offer. And there is much more to this country than just Bali. Indonesia has volcanoes, waterfalls, hills and mountains, empty deserted beaches, cliffside bars, and it’s home to some of the worlds’ best sunsets.
Life Is Prettier In Rice Fields
The first time I went to Bali we went to see the main spots, one of them being the iconic Tegalalang rice terraces. The place was pretty empty, it had just rained heavily, and there was no one around. There also weren’t a hundred swings all along, with people screaming. The experience was a bit different, in the sense that there was a peace, quiet and beauty that it’s rare to see. I feel like nowadays the craze for tourism and money have kind of stained this perfect place. But if you want to see it empty, go for sunrise and there won’t be many people there.
Tegalalalng wasn’t the only place we went to, and while living in Umalas, Mengwi, or Canggu, the views from our rooms were towards seemingly endless rice fields. Sipping a cafe or having Nasi Goreng in a terrace overlooking the rice fields, getting lost through rice fields in Ubud, it is magical. It seems like life is prettier in rice fields. Please also note that however, a lot of these photos are staged, and edited. And that doesn’t take away from the moment or their beauty, it’s just something to be aware.
You Can Live Like A King/Queen in Indonesia
Compared to Europe, living in Asia has its clear advantages when it comes to cost of living. In Indonesia a tourist/foreigner can live a queen/king, given that luxury Airbnbs or villas cost from a couple of hundreds of dollars for a month. You can rent a mansion starting at about 1000$/month, and adding staff, such as a chef or valet, doesn’t cost too much extra.
You can live in a house and have a stunning view from your bed, or get a place next to the beach with the price of renting a one room apartment or a room in a house in Europe. Food is really cheap, you can eat locally starting at 50p and have a meal at a luxury restaurant with as little as 5$.
Shocking? Well, when you think of European living costs versus Indonesia, yes, it is. That is why many people prefer to come here and stay for longer, especially those who can work remotely from anywhere.
These are just some of the places we stayed in, luxury villas, that cost as little as 20
I Learned To Embrace What At First Seemed Weird
Ok so I am a Christian Orthodox, and seeing another culture unfold each day, since the moment I woke up till the moment I went to bed was shocking to me at first. Although Bali is multi-religious, the majority is Hindu. Seeing their rituals, the ceremonies throughout the day, it took a bit of time to adjust to this new culture I was living in and basically a part of. Yes, I had a bit of a culture shock. But I quickly learned how to embrace it. And yes, I love traveling and all cultures, and I am open to literally anything. However, admitting now that it was hard for me in the beginning as well, I feel it’s part of a growth process.
So quickly after I got to Bali, I started to take notice of the way they pray, how beautifully laid are the offerings everywhere, and try to pay my respects by not stepping on them.
(I know, they’re a bit in the way since they are at the entrance of every shop, cafe and so on, but still I wanted to respect that they took the time to put it there).
I started to look for the beauty and the soul they were pouring into their blessings and rituals. And it’s magical to do that, taking the time to take in this new culture taught me a lot, and even though there were moments (like for example when living right next to a temple), that I felt overwhelmed, and a bit anxious even. Now I know that everything takes time, and adjusting to a new culture is one of them.
I Had The Scariest Night Ever During a Ritual
The previous point takes me to this moment… Ok so we were this year in Ubud, staying in an Airbnb which was part of a big house. There were actually different houses in the same one, and we had one room in one of them, separate from the Indonesian families, this was only for tourists who rent via Airbnb.
It was in the middle of the night, or even past midnight, when I started to hear screams. I jumped out of bed, and didn’t know what was happening, the door was really thin, so besides the sounds of birds and geckos, you could hear anything outside. The screaming went on, like a sort of chant, and it went louder and louder. However, I knew this is not something I’ve heard before in my time spent living in Bali.
I didn’t want to go outside, so I peaked out of my window to the temple next to us, which was quite huge. There was a woman in black doing this, and moving slowly as she was screaming. That was one of the scariest nights.
Island Time Becomes Precious When You’re Working
You know the saying, it’s “island time”, right? Well, I have heard so many times on different islands, and Bali is no exception. Whenever I went to the shops, or was in a hurry, or a bit stressed, the people around me were on “the island time”, chilled, relaxed, and happy, while all I wanted to do since my whole day was taken up by work was just get my supplies and go back home again.
Oh and yes, I did start to get annoyed when I was in pain at the pharmacy for example hurrying to get what I needed and I still had to be on island time and make chit chat.
But anyways, this island time sometimes got to me because working as a freelancer in paradise, it’s not those Insta photos with people on a laptop by the pool. I mean, sometimes, it is, for like a second while you take the photo, but mostly it is everything else but “island time”.
I Lost and Found Myself
Bali is one of those places where people also go for a spiritual journey, to find themselves, maybe. You will see how many places there are to do yoga, to meditate, and to just breathe in and relax. In Bali I found myself, but I also lost myself.
Of course, this comes in direct relation to various factors in my life at that time, but when I look back on it, I think it’s maybe even more than once that I lost and then found myself. When I think of Bali now, I find it a bit intriguing… and I will tell you why and exactly how I felt in the next posts.
Stay tuned for my next confession about living in Bali and let me know if you’ve been or planning to go! Meanwhile, check out my Travel section for more inspiration and stories.