By: Kristofer Bech
I’d be surprised if you hadn’t heard of it before – one of the favourite recycled clickbait catchphrases of many a travel writer and blogger these days – ‘xxx is the new Bali’. Just Google it… you’ll see!
There have been so many unsuitable suggestions over the years that I’ve lost count – But this all leaves me asking, why are people looking for a ‘new Bali’ anyway? I recently read an article by a well-known travel blogger along the lines of – ‘I dreamt of travelling to Bali my whole life and now I wish I’d waited!’
What followed was a rather humorous conversation detailing her disappointment at the chasm between her expectations and the stark realities of what a modern Bali holiday has mostly become, expecting a heavenly tropical island paradise only to be met with soul-crushing traffic jams, piles of rubbish, drunk tourists, Instagram memes and trendy cafes instead.
Paradise is in the eye of the beholder, so it seems!
I remember not too long ago when Canggu was a non-descript beachside village fringed by lush, terraced rice paddies, located at the end of a complex myriad of zig-zagging laneways and dusty roads – it was only 20 miles from Kuta but a million miles from care! And even when you did know how to get there, you would still somehow wind up getting lost. I’m not so sure it even existed on a map back in those days – the most reliable way to get there was to be shown how by somebody else already in the know!
Back in the good ‘ole days, Canggu was just a regular Balinese village, with a few dilapidated beachside shacks fronting the mostly mechanical A-frame surfing peaks which rolled into the bay like clockwork, minus the crowds that we’ve become accustomed to today. Now the Canggu area is thought of as the new north Kuta, with all the bells and whistles that come along with that tag, and that’s where the story ends – so disappointing, well for me anyway!
The first time I came to Bali, half a lifetime ago, I felt like I’d stumbled upon a little piece of Eden, somewhere between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. However, these days you’d more easily feel like you’ve been caught somewhere between a jug of jungle juice and a gluten-free muffin – between all the rabid pleasure seekers and wellness junkies that is!
In days gone by Bali was a famous destination for its arts, culture, historic temples, natural scenery, rice terraces, mountainous landscapes, diving, beaches, world-class surfing breaks, nasi goreng… I could really go on and on, but most importantly what made the Bali experience so special was the hospitable locals, the warmth of their smiles and their generosity of spirit!
Recently though, the reality is that Bali has now been overtaken by the ‘event’ destination catering for wellness, weddings, Instagram and hedonism. In addition to that, perhaps you could even find love, after a meal and a prayer of course -just don’t forget to bring your yoga mat!
In days now long gone by destination, Kuta was known as the original wellness retreat – yet these days people are more likely to go there to get drunk and fall over in the street, the Ying and the Yang of Bali so to speak! Well, as the old timers might say, ‘You can’t stop progress!’ But progressing to what exactly I ask – paving paradise to put up a parking lot, a few thousand apartments, hotels, spas and ‘trendy’ bars?
Some parts of Bali have definitely lost their charm, and the tourists have too – so much so that the local authorities are now proposing a tax to keep out the riffraff, otherwise known as the tourists behaving badly.
So back to the new Bali – a quick Google search may have brought up something like this…
‘Saipan is being hailed as the new Bali’ or ‘The new Bali – 6 Reasons you should visit Sumbawa’. Ha, but this one takes the cake! ‘Small Island off the Australian coast that could be the next Bali’ – am I missing something here? That small island off the Australian coast is Bali!
Nope, sorry, no you won’t find the supposed ‘new Bali’ in any of those places that Google suggested. You can’t replicate Paradise, East Java might be close, but that’s a story for another day.
To find authentic Bali as a tourist you’re best advised to escape the beach clubs, vegan cafes, and hipster bars and travel beyond once ‘mystical’ Ubud, and further than ‘remote’ Bedugul, dive over mountain tops and parachute yourself down into the serenity of the far north coast where the deep blue Bali sea meets the ultimate laid back Lo-Fi location – a place where it is said they Eat, Pray, Lovina!