Indonesia – Bali, tourism and local NGO

8th of December, 45 000 degres outside, here I am, well arrived to my supposed last step of the trip: Asia. After tanning in Oz, tanning in New Zealand, I needed to equalize all of that on the famous island of Bali, in Indonesia. I’m travelling with Chloe, leader of the project « Voyages Solidaires » (I just rebuilt the website, all new and beautiful so please go check this out: www.voyages-solidaires.org).

Kuta: it’s by putting my first foot out of the plane to go to our first stop, Kuta, that I experiment the asian atmosphere as a punch in my face. Adding to the heat that make me feel like melty cheese (and it’s 10pm), my brain has to face with the crowdy streets, the lights, the indonesians salers, the restaurants, bars and stores still opens, all of that in narrow smelly streets. Just back from a chilly New Zealand only occupied by dears and sheeps, I feel completly lost. But I also experiment the amazing undoubtfully incredible side of this part of the world: tiny prices! After one year paying $30 for a 378 people dorm (but only $4 an hour for wifi, what a deal), I’m spending my first night in a really nice hotel (just taking off the « s » of hostel and I feel like I’m living a luxuous life), with beautiful pool and breakfast included for barely more than $10. And they even carrying my suitcase! (Because yes, I’m backpacking asia with a suitcase and I’m proud of it). Anyway, so Kuta is the exact description of a touristic town, and probably the most tourist attraction of the island: here, every locals speak english (which actually becomes a really good english when it’s about selling something), you can have a transport, a bed, a meal or even a foot massage every 3 meters with a « special price for you » of course, streets are full of drunk australians surfers and if you want to eat in a warung, they look at you as if you were from another planet. We still try it for one of our first meal, trying to get to more remote streets. Chloe, as an expert, brings me in some place where more than half of my family wouldn’t even sit. The food is exposed in windows and at first look honestly doesn’t sell you dream between the full fish fried with the head and the weirdly brown eggs. We end up by choosing one, but obviously don’t speak a word of Indonesian at this point (it’s here that we will learn our 3 crucials words for survivors: « thank you », « rice » and « chicken »), so we have to choose the food in the most random way. Even if I unfortunatly end up with a sad tofu (by asking chicken), the food is actually really good, a bit spicy and cost not more than $1. Ready for a second round! In total we will spend one full day here, enjoying the infinity of balineese shops and the crucial first cheap pedicure of the trip. We notice on the floor loads of little flowers, gifts from the locals for the hindouists gods, which actually give a lot of charm to this tourist attraction. We also have the chance to discover an essential aspect of asia: the road trafic. If you don’t have the nuts to go, you can easily spend your afternoon wainting for crossing the road. Well, at least that’s what we thought before heading to Java.

Jimbaran: Just before heading to the North-East of the island, we decide to have one night of luxe for our stomacs by enjoying another touristic place: Jimbaran beach. 30 minutes of taxi to get there from Kuta, the journey definitly worth it when you arrive on this breath-taking view on the beach. Sunset and sea food restaurants, we feel like in a cheesy romantic movie (and actually at this point, we already have been asked 3 times if we were a couple in 3 days…). We won’t get original and just enjoy an amazing sea food plater by listening the waves breaking on the sand, and spend our most expensive meal of all trip: $10.

Tulamben: 5 hours and 3 bus after leaving Kuta, we made it to the « big town » of Tulamben, in North Bali. The journey is full of asian sceneries with coast roads, lush mountains and hips of rice terrace. Once here, we can explore the said big town, which is actually one street and one supermarket. The spot is famous for one of the best place to dive in the world. It’s even quite hard for us, who doesn’t dive, to find a hostel. Indeed, owners preferes to keep their room for people who’s gonna book a dive trip with them. Unfortunatly, we also discover than the town is full of our dear compatriots: everything is written in french because most of the tourism here comes from there. In total, we will spend 3 to 4 days here, so Chloe can spend a bit of time with a local NGO in the next village. All our time here will be shared between eating amazing Balineese food (knowing only two words, it will be a lot of chicken and rice) for around $1 each meal (and not even getting sick… or not) and snorkeling the crazy blue waters of Bali. One of my best memory is to explore a ship wreck, only a few meters from the beach. Once over my compulsive sharkophobia, hand-holding Chloe, we swimm with giants fishes (not that giants) almost IN our face (not even scared…) and thousands of tiny colorfull fishes, and explore this small Titanic, as Tintin looking for a treasure. Unreel but true, my only regret is to still not having see my wild turtle, but no worry, I keep exploring.

Tianyar: Tianyar is the next village, or should I say the next street, even smaller than Tulamben, where we heading every day by riding a scooter taxi, hair in the air (I now have dreadlocks.). Here, we visit Yayasan, an association offering english lessons to local kids after their usual class. Teachers are exclusivly volunteers from all around the world (lot of dutch, don’t ask me why) and Chloe is here to film them for her documentary. When we first arrive, we are surprised by the kid’s warmly welcoming, always glad to see new faces. Happy to try their english lessons, they come one by one (and god knows they’re a lot), to shake our hand: « hello what’s your name? My name is superlongandunprononciablename. Nice to meet you. » Add that to the fact that, as in every country for now, I have to repeat my name 10 times before they still not get it, this little activity take me all a morning every single day. The first day, we share a great moment with some kids, by going to swimm with them. The others days, we see the classes, the afternoon games or even the emotional goodbyes with some volunteers leaving the NGO but obviously really attach to the kids. For more about the association, the program or volunteering in general, you can have a look at Voyages Solidaires’ s website.

The week is going so fast, we already have to leave. We don’t have time to do more touristic places like Ubud or Gili Islands (my turtle…), and already have to flight, the head full of memories, to the island of Java.

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  1. The non-profit organisation is called Yayasan Widya Sari where you can help volunteering in Bali, Indonesia.
    We need volunteers to teach English, computer skills and other creative activities to the underprivileged children of a fishing village in northeast area of Bali. For more details on volunteering with us please visit: http://www.volunteerinbali.org

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