The Indonesian island of Bali is a popular destination for travellers looking to immerse themselves in the local culture and experience some tropical beach action.
But there has been some anti-gay moves in Indonesia recently that might make you think twice about planning a trip to this part of the world.
What’s the drama?
Bali has always been a fairly relaxed and welcoming place. There’s a number of gay bars and clubs, and it’s generally been seen as quite socially liberal compared to the rest of Indonesia.
In recent months, Indonesian lawmakers unveiled plans to introduce new laws that would ban consensual sex outside of marriage and criminalise all homosexual sex. The proposed laws would apply to tourists visiting Indonesia.
After widespread protests in Indonesia and international condemnation of the proposed laws, Indonesia’s President announced that the proposed laws would be subject to a review and were not going to be implemented.
At this point, it’s pretty much business as usual for Bali, but it’s worth being aware that Indonesia does seem to be moving towards a more socially conservative outlook.
When to go to Bali
If possible, it’s best to avoid the Australian school vacation periods as these are generally peak times in Bali – Bali is easily accessible from Australia and a popular vacation-choice.
My most recent visit was in early October and the weather was perfect – warm and humid, so the suggestion of a swim in the pool was always welcomed, but cooler at night so that sleeping wasn’t a problem and it was never too oppressive.
There are direct flights into Bali’s Denpasar international airport from all major cities in Australia and across Asia.
When you emerge into the arrivals hall of the airport there is a huge range of taxis and drivers eager to get your attention and secure your business. Your best bet is to organise an airport pick-up through your accommodation.
Alternatively, the Bluebird taxi company has a desk in the main arrivals hall and this is a reliable and inexpensive operator who can get you to where you need to be.
What to do
Once you leave your accommodation you’ll find that Bali is a busy, bustling place with most people riding motorcycles to get where they want to go. Spend some time exploring Seminyak village, or simply head to Potato Head Beach Bar to spend the day drinking cocktails and positioning yourself to watch the spectacular sunset.
If you’re interested in exploring the island a bit further, then a day-trip to the Ubud region can be easily arranged. This is the temple and rice-growing district up in the highlands of the island.
Where to eat
You really are spoiled for choice when it comes to food in Bali. There are plenty of local restaurants serving up simple and tasty Indonesian favourites, but there’s also some really exciting restaurants elevating the traditional flavors to create contemporary and exciting cuisine. Restaurants that I tried on my recent visit included:
- Grocer & Grind
- Mama San
- Potato Head Beach Bar
- La Favela
- Sea Circus
Where to stay
There are a huge range of accommodation options in Bali – from high-end luxury, to simple and basic. The first step is to decide which part of the island that you’re going to base yourself. I’d recommend the Seminyak district – about 45 minutes from the airport. Here you’ll be within walking distance of the beach, and a lot of the bars and restaurants that you’ll want to experience.
Spartacvs is a men-only kind of place, but there wasn’t anything sleazy or overtly sexual about it. Other guests seemed generally friendly, but if you weren’t looking for conversation then you could easily just mind your own business. All rooms were fully booked during my stay and it was a mixed crowd – some couples, groups of friends on holidays – most people seemed to be in the 30-50 age-bracket. The service was friendly and professional, and the wifi worked in the rooms and around the pool. Breakfast was a choice of western-style or Indonesian-style . It was an easy walk to the bars and restaurants of Seminyak, and taxis were readily available for exploring the island.
Peppers is a large complex but consisting completely of self-contained villa compounds. Our private compound had five bungalow bedrooms, and a large open kitchen and living space surrounding a central pool. This style of accommodation works particularly well when you’re travelling as a large group. We hung-out and relaxed around the pool, making excursions into the neighbourhood and around the island for meals, massages, and exploring.