My girlfriend and I visited the beautiful, ever-popular Indonesian island of Bali in 2018. After a lot of planning and research, we had an entire week of fun-filled trips and activities organised.
Unsurprisingly, we were incredibly excited to visit an island where the sea is clear blue, the beaches coconut white, and where a night’s stay in a 4-star hotel costs the same as a dine in for two at Marks and Spencer (UK friends, you know).
Honestly, I expected to be writing about it here on the blog quite a lot. However, we’ve been silent about it until now. Why? Because our dream trip to Bali didn’t go quite as planned. Something went wrong. In fact, lots of things went very wrong.
Ruining your perfect holiday to Bali is as easy as experiencing a couple of devastating earthquakes, being threatened by a potential tsunami, injuring yourself on the road, and running out of money. If you want to do it yourself, you can follow this very handy and practical guide.
Here’s 5 top tips for ruining the seemingly impeccable Bali.
1) Unease yourself with an earthquake 4 hours into arriving
For the first 3 nights, we stayed in Ubud – a beautiful, bustling town about an hour from the airport. An Instagrammer’s dream, Ubud is adored for its gorgeous nearby temples, rice fields, waterfalls and monkey forest.
Personally, however, Ubud will forever be the place where a 6.9 magnitude earthquake smashed my ice-cold Bintang all over our restaurant’s floor, metaphorically setting off the chain of disastrous events that followed.
“Is that a…”, “That’s not a…” remarked the Scottish couple on the table next to us, as a slight wobble turned into a violent tremor. Yes it is, my Glaswegian comrades. All hell broke loose, as we all ran out of the restaurant (save one couple who continued their meal throughout the whole chaos).
I say we all ran out, I actually dived under the table initially, thinking this was protocol. Apparently sprinting like a headless chicken out of the building is the way to do it. Who knew I was the fool?
And so, 10 seconds after everyone else, and much to the amusement of my girlfriend, I made it out to the “safety” of the street, leaving only the earthquake-dismissing, steak-eating love birds on table 6 behind.
We’d been hit by the outer ripples of a pretty devastating quake that actually caused several hundred deaths closer to the epicentre in nearby Lombok.
Not only had the event shaken us up (pun intended), but later that evening the next leg of our trip to the Gili islands was cancelled due to damage from the earthquake. No beach sunset swing picture for me then, sigh.
2) Ensure the second earthquake is experienced by the sea
Although the Ubud earthquake was unsettling, at least Ubud was inland. Therefore, despite a tsunami risk being put out, we were safely on high ground.
4 days later and with our trip to Gili cancelled, we made last minute arrangements to stay in the seaside town of Candidasa in the east of the island.
All was going well. A glorious 5-star meal here, spectacular beach-side accommodation there. We then decided to take a day trip on a rented scooter to a beach an hour and a half to the north for some snorkeling. Half way through the journey we stopped off at an idyllic cafe by the coast for a bite to eat. As the sub-heading might have given away, this is where the second earthquake hit, causing more chaotic scenes of get out, get OUT, GET OUT!
Although this earthquake was a shade lighter (magnitude 6.2) it was far scarier for several reasons:
1) Second earthquake in 4 days hmm…is this just the norm here…I don’t like it.
2) We’re now by the coast, so if there is a tsunami then we’re in a very, very bad spot.
3) Our phones had no service so we couldn’t see if a tsunami warning had been issued.
We therefore decided to scrap our beach day-trip plan and head back, rather panicked, immediately to Candidasa on our trusty (for now) scooter. And so begins top tip number 3…
3) Crash your scooter escaping said potential tsunami
The last thing my Dad said to me before going to Bali – “Don’t rent one of those scooters. My friend went there a few months ago and he says the drivers are crazy and the roads are terrible”.
Of course, I promised not to, but I secretly knew I would. Who wouldn’t want the independence of going anywhere for only $5 a day? Definitely worth the risk. Definitely…
I crashed our scooter 30 minutes after fleeing the aforementioned tsunami (no, I’m not being dramatic). Going around a corner, a bit of loose gravel had caused the bike to slip from underneath us. Thankfully, my girlfriend had come out with only a swollen finger and a few cuts. Nice for her. Somehow I’d managed to take the brunt of the fall with severe bleeding coming from my toes, knee, shoulder and arm.
Mercifully, tailing us had been a helpful New Zealand family who witnessed the incident. They gave us water and offered to drive us to the hospital in their car while one of them drove the SLIGHTLY broken scooter (more on that later). This was a real life-saver as the nearest hospital was a good 30 minutes away and neither of us were in a fit state to drive the SLIGHTLY broken scooter.
Once at the hospital, my wounds were cleaned with an iodine wipe – a feeling that I would imagine is akin to hell. I was convinced that my toe was broken too, and for a fee of $8 I could check that out. I did. No break. I looked a fool. Nothing proper to even justify the pain I was in.
I did, however, rock 4 very large and visible wounds along the right side of my body, which have evolved into gnarly scars that constantly remind me of that fateful crash today.
Anyway, after about 2 hours or so we left the hospital, called our Airbnb owner, explained what happened and they kindly agreed to come and pick us up. Surely that’s got to be the end of all of this, right?
4) Spend all your remaining money on a SLIGHTLY broken scooter
Okay, here’s a genuine top tip for if you’re going to Bali or probably any country where people so freely use and rent scooters: only hire one that is insured! You’d probably think that goes without saying, but in truth there’s no guarantee they will be, especially outside of the major towns (Ubud, Kuta, Seminyak).
We hired our offending scooter privately from our Airbnb owner in Candidasa. She did warn us beforehand that it was uninsured but assured us she’s “never had any problems”. Besides, we had already scooted our way around Ubud’s temples, rice fields and waterfalls a few days before and had a whale of a time.
What could possibly go wrong?
As we now know, a lot. I’m not Steve McQueen, but really the bike didn’t seem in bad shape, despite the crash. It seemed to run fine (from what the Kiwi who drove it to the hospital told us) and its only physically blemish was a missing wing-mirror.
Wrong. Once we’d got back to our Airbnb after the day’s ordeal, its owner listed 6 or 7 faults that needed repairing, before totalling up what we owed her due to its uninsured nature.
It left us with the equivalent of around £10 in cash to last us the rest of the holiday.
The only silver lining was that because everything is so cheap in Bali, we would only need another couple of hundred pounds or so to buy everything we still had left to do.
Although, that also contributed to the disbelief that repairing this bike would cost so much, when everything else was so cheap. Suspicious. I’m still not over it, as you might have gathered.
5) Be in too much pain to do any of the things that make people go to Bali
After the incident, we headed straight to Kuta, the most Western and least cultural part of our holiday. It’s essentially a Little Australia. We’d planned to go snorkelling, swimming, boat tripping, and to visit the highly-lauded neighbouring island, Nusa Penida. Forget it. Most activities were too painful to do for any great length of time.
The main culprit was the wound on my forearm, which was so large it extended up my bicep. The doctor decided the wound was so deep that it needed to be aired. Then it went through a few different phases. First came the bleeding, then the pus, then the scabbing. Basically, it wasn’t very nice and I couldn’t really do anything.
Going in water with all that pus and blood? Nah, forget it. Sand in the wounds? No thanks.
The last 5 days of the holiday became pretty repetitive. Wake up. Eat. Sit by the hotel pool (don’t go in). Lunch. Back to the pool. Can we justify dinner at 4:30? No, okay we’ll go to a bar. Pity comments from passers-by who see the pus arm. Dinner at 6:30. Back to the hotel. Try and sleep.
Oh and the kicker? Being so bored that you’re just scrolling on Instagram all day until you see someone swimming with turtles in Bali. Bleugh.
Reflections on travels gone wrong
So there you have it – 5 ways to ruin what should have been the dream holiday to Bali.
The purpose of this article isn’t to put you off that amazing trip you’ve been planing to Bali. Before everything started to go wrong for us, we were having an amazing time exploring the island’s most impressive sites, and eating and drinking delicious things to our heart’s content. One day, I’d even like to go back for round 2.
The purpose of this article is to demonstrate that even on the most meticulously planned trips, things can go wrong and plans can change in a blink. I’ve been very hesitant to write about this nightmare trip, but I realised that travel isn’t just about perfect trips to perfect destinations where everything is just perfect.
It’s about experiences. And learning that driving an uninsured scooter without a license across miles and miles of poorly tarmacked roads isn’t a very good idea.
We won’t be making that mistake again!