A collection of stuff that I didn’t know about before coming here

As I was thinking for a topic for this blog post, I came across the thought of sharing things that surprised me after I came here to Bali. However, instead of going through things that can be found in every corner of the internet, I will be going through stuff that I only learnt once I was already here, some of the things took me over a month to realize. So, in no particular order, let’s start off with gentleman’s agreement.

(pictures often not relevant to topic at all)

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Bali, and in my understanding whole Indonesia, has a strong culture of making oral agreements, which the locals call gentleman’s agreement. This can vary from small daily deals all the way to renting a house. For example, my second and third apartments have been rented based on an oral agreement, or at most we got a receipt of our payment but everything else was based around our discussions. Efficient, but also quite risky from a western point of view.

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One quite annoying thing that I found out immediately after arriving here was that some restaurants add 10% tax and 5% service charge to their list prices, while others don’t. This is often mentioned somewhere in the menu, so sometimes you will not know if the 15% is added until you have the menu in front of you. The rule of thumb for me has been that the more official the restaurant looks, the more likely they are to add the 15%, but exceptions can be found as well.

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Taxi services around here are a bit of a hassle as well. The regular taxis operate around the clock in the most popular tourist areas, but unfortunately they also charge ridiculous prices. Not expensive compared to the prices at home of course, but considering how cheap the transportation can be with online taxi services Uber, Go Jek and Grab, I have not even considered using the normal taxis in the daytime. The online taxi services are normally around half the price of the normal taxis.

The online taxi services come with a twist though. They are not allowed to pick you up at the most popular tourist spots, as the taxi drivers and the companies behind them are ready to vandalize or harm the vehicles of the online taxi drivers if they see someone picking up customers too close to certain tourist places (drop off is usually fine though). For that reason it is often necessary to walk away a bit before ordering online taxi, Go Jek is the one that I have used by far the most. I can get around the city with Go Jek for 1-2 euros if the destination is around 15-30 minutes away.

During the night there is literally a night and day difference with the pricing of transportation. Taxis block the traffic around all the major night clubs, and the prices at least double from daytime prices. Additionally, certain areas are protected by the local cab drivers so outsiders cannot go in to pick up customers. Not a legal thing to do, but the difference between the law and what actually happens in the city can be quite massive from time to time. I have never paid more than 150k idr for a taxi here, which is around 11 euros. Solo travelers can also take a a scooter ride, which is usually 50k at most, depending on how good talker you are.

Another thing to mention, the airport taxis are the biggest rip off you will see here, so if you have the chance to not use them, don’t.

 

 

The traffic here is a daily dose of chaos as I have mentioned before, but that was expected. Few things I didn’t expect though include drunk driving, constant presence of policemen, and just how stupid the locals can get in traffic.

First things first, drunk driving here is legal. That sounds very questionable, but to this day I have not heard that it would be illegal anytime soon either. From my point of view the major problem in this are the tourists who drive to the bar, get drunk and drive back home, sometimes hurting themselves or others. Since many tourists also refuse to use a helmet, that is a pretty dangerous combo. Additionally, drunk driving is a serious offence only if you cause an accident, which means that panicking drunk people often might just drive away after causing an accident.

Another thing I didn’t really expect is that there is police officers around many of the major intersections.  The funny thing is that these intersections also have traffic lights, meaning that they are effectively overseeing traffic that is flowing smoothly anyway. Sometimes the police officers also set up drivers license inspections in bigger roads, and often times the tourists are the only ones being stopped. If your paperwork is not in order a bribe is often necessary, the police are not actively looking to give people official tickets as that just takes too much of their time.

As a third thing, there is just no limit to the stupid things the locals do in traffic. Some of the locals risk their life on a daily basis driving way too fast when the traffic is not really moving, while some drive so slow it pisses off every other driver in the traffic. And by slow I mean really slow, like 10km/h while normally people drive around 50km/h there. Scooters can carry pretty much anything, and if the traffic stops, the sidewalks become a track for the scooters to take. I could write a whole paper about this, but that probably gives the general idea.

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One weird thing that I figured out only after around two months here is that there are two different types of water in the pools here. They feel slightly different, and in the other one you can’t keep your eyes open that well since the water will start hurting your eyes. I still haven’t figured out what causes the difference, but something to consider when renting a place here.

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Another interesting thing I found here is that there are minimarkets like the above one all around the city, usually within 200 meters from where you live, in my 3 places so far they have been  less than 100 meters away. Convenient, but unfortunately they also charge around 50% extra for most products that tourists buy. Big supermarkets are not around every corner, but finding them is definitely worth it.

That is all I can think of right now, I’m sure there would be more topics to cover as well. I have moved again and I’m now quite close to the first place where I lived two months ago. More on that in the next blog.

 

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Hash run, midterm exams and holiday

Time for another update on what’s been happening here in Bali in the last few weeks! Starting things off, me and my roommate Felix decided to go to an event called Hash run about two weeks ago, which was basically a run/walk of 5-15 km in the middle of Balinese jungle. The weather wasn’t really on our side on that day as it rained a few times during our walk, but it didn’t really matter too much as the track was extremely rough, so I was sweating the whole time. A lot of up and down hills in the middle of of jungle, river crossings, rice fields and local tiny roads for about 10 km, after which we arrived back to our starting point. The pictures below are from the starting point towards the direction we went.

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It also happened to be the 40 year anniversary of the event, meaning everyone got a pink t-shirt for the party after the walk, so here I am, looking a bit lost, wearing a pink shirt for the first time in years I guess. The party included a lot of local people and foreigners living here, but not really tourists at all, which was a welcome experience after being in so many tourist places during my two months here.

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During the first few days of last week we had our midterm exams, which wasn’t really too much of a challenge as I only have four courses here. We don’t have any results yet, but I’m feeling pretty good about how the exams went. Can’t really complain about the place where I get to study, our current apartment has been just an amazing place for living for the past month.

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Once the exams were over, our vacation of about 1,5 weeks started.  I decided to spend a few days at home first, and we planned to go to a treetop park here in Bali, but the day we planned on going turned out to have the worst weather I’ve seen here so far, so that got cancelled. We still have almost two months ahead of us, so we will go there later for sure.

After the first few days of vacation, I took a boat to Gili Trawangan, a tiny island around 75 minutes away from Bali to the east. I took a hotel for three nights, which turned out to be quite enough for me at least. This was my first solo traveling trip here, as most of the time I’ve traveled with my roommate around Bali.

Gili Trawangan is a tiny island, which has no cars or scooters, instead all the traveling there is done by foot, bicycle or horse rides. You can get around the whole island with a bicycle in about an hour. Beaches, partying and fancy hotels are the three things that attract people to the island, and from my experience it seemed that there is a lot more tourists on the island than there is local people. While the island is known as a big party island for tourists, I was there during Ramadan, meaning that pretty much every place on the island closed at midnight. The weather wasn’t on my side (again) on the first day I arrived there, but luckily things got better for the two other days.

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What I really liked a lot at Gili was that even though I wasn’t a customer in a beach hotel or anything like that, I could use their beach and pool areas as long as I had a drink or two or lunch there. A really nice concept for a traveler like me, and I hope other places would use the same concept as well. Having lunch at the beach was also a very memorable experience for me.

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Looking at it now I realize I really didn’t take a whole lot of pictures during my three days at Gili. A sweet experience nonetheless, I have not been in a place so quiet in a long time. We’ll see if I go back, might just do that during my last month here when Ramadan is over.

New place and roadtripping

Last Thursday was the day when our month at Apple Apartment came to an end and it was time for a change of location. We moved quite a bit closer to the sea and the tourist area of the city, while getting a place that looks so much better than the old one.

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There is actually three of us living here right now as my roommate has his friend visiting him, but still we have a lot of space for three people. We can now also cook for ourselves if we want to, the kitchen is actually outside, which is something new for me. Like I said this apartment is closer to pretty much everything, with the exception of the university which is now maybe two minutes further away.

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Last week we also got to try one of the local instruments at university, but I still can’t remember its name. Our teacher turned out to be quite a maestro with the instrument, which was very fun to listen to when he got too excited.

Last weekend I did a roadtrip with my roommate and his friend to the northern parts of Bali. Our first stop was at some rice fields, where we also hiked for a few hours:

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The weather happened to be a little bit of everything, as we had sunshine and rain in just the first 15 minutes. Not something you would see at home.

Our trip continued across the mountains, and on our way we stopped to see a few waterfalls and some other stuff as well. We also got the opportunity to swim in the waterfall, which was quite an experience.

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Day one ended with a dinner at the northern coast of Bali, after which we moved to our hostel for the night. Easier said than done, as we had to climb up quite a bit before we were at the bottom of the volcano Mt. Batur.

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Day two started very early as we woke up at 3:40 to hike up to the volcano for the sunrise. We were very fast and climbed up the volcano in just around 1 hour 20 minutes, so we had maybe an hour before the sunrise was supposed to happen. That really didn’t go as planned as the whole volcano top was so cloudy you couldn’t see anything at all, but at least we got a few pictures on our way down.

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The pool pictures are from our hostel, where we went after the climb. A heated pool with this view was pretty welcome after a few hours of climbing up and down the volcano.

Life in Bali has been treating me well, so I’m excited to see what’s the next thing coming my way. I think I also have to do another house tour sometime soon.

A whole bunch of new stuff

Almost three weeks behind and it’s time for update on what has happened during my first weeks here in Bali. At the time of my last post our orientation was over, but we had not had any classes at that point. Now we have had two weeks of school, and I’m happy to say that everything has been going pretty much as I expected. The lecturers are always very friendly and it has been quite a soft start, nothing too difficult yet. At the university we are expected to wear long pants and collared shirts, which is quite new for me. For me, learning the local language has been the most useful course by far, and at this point we are four classes into the course, so everyone can already speak a few words of Indonesian.

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Our university is located in a busy area of the city (well, almost everywhere here is busy but still) but for me getting to school and back has had no issues so far. A bit over a week ago I rented a scooter for around 50 euros a month, which has been an excellent transport for me across the city of Denpasar. As I mentioned earlier, the traffic is a complete chaos, but at the same time the fact that there is very few rules makes it also kind of fun. Car rides took maybe double the time compared to driving my own scooter, so renting the scooter has also saved me quite a bit of time over the last week or so.

Three weeks in and I have only been at the beach twice, not quite what I expected. The first time was a surfing lesson, but unfortunately I have no pictures from there as I had to leave my stuff to the lockers. Anyways, it turned out surfing is very difficult and fun at the same time. I managed to get on the board properly a few times and stay up for a few seconds before coming crashing down. It was a very fun experience, but for me it might be the only time I try surfing on this visit, we’ll see. I unfortunately got a small wound on the bottom of my foot during the surfing lesson, so I couldn’t walk properly for the next three days

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The second beach was a day dedicated for only the beach and nothing else. Great scenery, waves and clear water for the whole day. In my understanding we were not even at the best beach of Bali, so looking forward to the better ones, this was one was very good too. We stayed at the beach until sunset, which is around 18.30 here.

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Naturally my visit here has also included a fair bit of going out, and since Bali is quite a party island, you are not really going to run out of options of where to go out. Live music, clubs, beach parties, or maybe all at one place, the tourists coming here ensure that there is always parties going on along the coastline on Bali. So far I’ve only seen the places meant for tourists, but it would be interesting if I could find a place where the locals like to go as well. Drinking here is a bit cheaper than back at home, but maybe not as cheap as I had expected.

The three weeks so far have been a completely new life for me and I’m looking forwards to the months to come. We finally get to meet the other international students tomorrow, so new stuff coming out my way again.

A visit to a local wedding

Our first week at Warmadewa University gave us quite a unique start, as we were invited to a local wedding by one our university professors. His son got married yesterday, and all of us international students were excited to see the wedding take place in Denpasar.

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To prep for the occasion, we did a bit of shopping at some local stores for clothes that would suit the wedding.

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As we would soon find out, when the invitation to the wedding says that the reception to the wedding starts at 17.00, it does not mean that everyone is actually going to be there at that time. The first hour or so is just reserved for welcoming guests, greeting other people and maybe eating some snacks etc.

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The actual ceremony started at maybe 18.30, as we welcomed the bride and groom to the ceremony. They walked through the wedding party, in a quite similar fashion as at home, but this time we were at a temple and outside. A million people taking photos, and as I would later found out, many of my photos included the back of someone’s head, but at least a few decent ones too.

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After the welcoming formalities, we were entertained by two dance performances, prayer, a few speeches and introductions to the families and highly-educated people who were present at the wedding. I couldn’t really keep up with everything that was going on as almost everything was in Indonesian, but an impressive event nonetheless.

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As the official part of the wedding came to a close, we were served an excellent dinner as the last event of the wedding. We also got to take a few pictures with the bride and groom before we said goodbyes to the wedding party.

I guess the biggest difference between the wedding ceremony here and back at home was that there was no official moment when the couple gets married, like we do at home when the couple says ‘I do’. There was also no priest in this ceremony. One of our professors explained the situation more in depth, and to put it short the wedding consists of many parts here in Bali, while we were only part of one of the many formalities.

My deepest thanks to Wisnu and Sesil for inviting us to their wedding. A wedding like this was something that I might not see again, so I’m sure I will remember the events of yesterday for quite a while.

The first days in a new world

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After the preparation of a few months, the 31st of March finally arrived and it was time for me to travel to Bali. Three flights, with combined flying time of around 16 hours and total travel time of around 19 hours, i boarded the plane at Tampere, landing to Bali on the evening of April 1st.

I hopped planes in Helsinki and Hong Kong, having only 75 minutes between my flights landing to and leaving from Hong Kong. There me and a few Finnish travelers had a bit of a hiccup to our travels as we were told by the ground staff that our luggage might not make it to our plane to Bali as there was only 75 minutes between the flights. Luckily that was only a precaution, as we would later on find out that our luggage did in fact get on the plane. Here’s the only picture I had time for in Hong Kong:

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My very first feeling in Bali was kind of what I had expected: it was hot. Like really hot. Coming from +3 degrees in Finland, +29 degrees was something I had not experienced in around five months. A warm welcome indeed.

At the airport I was greeted by the owner of the place where I would stay for the next three nights. I had agreed with him a pick up from the airport, which was quite convenient and also cheaper than taking a taxi from the airport.

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The place where I stayed looked like this, a clean, simple room with shower wifi etc. basic stuff available. For the price of around 14 euros per night an excellent choice in my opinion for a stay of a few nights.

The location of the place was far from optimal, but luckily getting around is relatively easy, if you are ready to hop into the car of an Uber driver or similar service. The cheapest service called Go Jek operates in a similar fashion as Uber, and usually costs around 1-3 euros to get around, less than a third of price of a regular taxi (not sure exactly, I have never used the regular ones).

The traffic is completely nuts and follows its own rules. Well, kind of, it’s more like a chaos where everyone goes by their own rule book, and hopefully no one will crash into each other. Scooters everywhere, and the lines between the lanes are just there for the visuals, no matter if the lane next to you is going the same or different direction where you are headed. The roads are often very narrow and in bad condition, making driving even more difficult.

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The first day at Warmadewa University was the orientation day, where we went through a lot speeches, practicalities and advice for the months to come, with even a traditional Balinese dance to start of the ceremony. I truly felt welcome to the university, and the local people really seem to have a smile on their face all the time. The actual studying will start next week.

We also got some tastes of the local food, snacks with coffee and rice with mixed side portions for lunch. I wasn’t particularly a fan of the sweets, but the lunch was excellent and a good start for the semester.

The day after the orientation was dedicated for the apartment search. I decided to search for an apartment together with a German guy Felix, and after going through our options we ended up in a place called Apple Apartment, where we will spend our first month in Bali. I’ll post a proper introduction to the apartment later on.

To sum things up for the first few days, Bali has given me a warm (but rainy) welcome. I’m excited to see how things will go, both in the university and in my leisure time. I now have four days before the school starts, so there is many options to choose from right now. Surfing lessons on Saturday, that is for sure!

Welcome to my adventure in Bali

Hi there! My name is Henri, and I’m a 24-year-old student from Tampere, Finland. This summer I will be taking a leap to a completely new world for me as I will be traveling to Bali, Indonesia for four months to study as an exchange student at Warmadewa University.

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I will be leaving Finland in late March to explore the wonders of Indonesia, and to experience a completely new culture for me. Studying in Bali for four months will give me an opportunity to explore the island with a bunch of international students, and to reach other parts of Indonesia as well.

I will be doing this exchange via Asia Exchange, you can check them out here if you wish.

I have already sorted out stuff like visa, insurance, flights etc. so from now on it is time get hyped for my travels and studies.Needless to say I’m really excited about my upcoming four months abroad, and you can follow my adventures here!