Bali has been Western Australia’s playground for holidays for over 30 years, but over the past few years it’s been getting quite a bit of bad press.
Although Bali has changed radically since I first visited in 1983, I still really enjoy a few days in a resort environment with a couple of day trips into the mountains soaking up the culture, a little time shopping, and a few evenings sipping beers or cocktails watching the sunset.
Dream Holidays in Bali.
But there’s always the question about whether to gamble the relative safety of a Western Australian holiday against the adrenalin charged excitement of a new culture with scenery unfamiliar to the eye, and holidays in Bali are just that.
To go or stay, that is the question.
Gamelan music, frangipani, rice paddies, temples, religious offerings, inexpensive artifacts, sweet smells of incense, cheap designer gear, markets, authentic nasi goreng and Bintang bear, are just some of the sensual memories a Bali encounter might bring to mind.
Geographically Bali is just a short skip and jump away from Perth; about three and a half hours flying time if you’re still counting minutes after a farewell duty free drink in the departure lounge of Perth’s laid back airport, just long enough for you to mentally pack up your troubles and put on your baggy boardies ready for your holidays in Bali.
Tropical vs Mediterranean?
Because Bali is so different to everything Australian it feels like a veritable world away.
Bali might in comparison be poor when judged by materialistic Western standards but it is rich in culture, art, spirituality and mythology but it is arguably one of the most beautiful islands in the world steeped in a complex culture.
Western Australia on the other hand is amazing. It has a cosmopolitan culture grounded in the mining industry, it’s about the size of India, approximately half that of Europe and it covers one third of the continent of Australia. Perth’s nearest interstate city is Adelaide, a mere 2,700kms away! As yet, I have no intention of doing anything truly pioneering like traversing that distance with a camel, but there’s still time.
Travel south from Perth and there’s little traffic, a scant and scattered population; lots of white, uncrowded, sandy beaches; vineyards, rivers, inlets, estuaries, fruit growing areas, and towering forests.
Add a few jewel coloured parrots flying wild, and who wouldn’t start thinking ‘garden of Eden, while to the north of the State are largely undiscovered reefs and long stretches of beautiful, red, lonely hinterland of the Kimberley Region.
Western Australia is inspiring … it makes you want to put on a rucksack and hiking boots, or grab your suitcase and swimmers, hitch the bike or the surfboard to the car and go somewhere interesting, do something different or see something unusual, maybe even indulge in a little pampering or retail.
In SWA you can stay in the heart of a forest, close to the sea and pay $180 or so, for something like a rustic, timber cottage that sleeps 4, with it’s own juliette balcony perhaps overlooking a dam. Romantic. You can walk for miles along coastal and inland tracks without any thought of being pestered by anybody trying to sell you something, and you don’t have to watch out for rabid dogs – in fact you probably won’t see a dog.
You’re unlikely to get an upset tummy in WA, and dengue fever is pretty much off the radar. You can’t hire nifty little scooters, but you can hire cars and campervans and probably be much safer as a result. It seems I’m leaning towards safety over adventure, but I’m not. I love Bali.
Adventure is the champagne of life. G. K. Chesterton
In Bali you can go white knuckle, white water rafting.
In WA you have (among other rivers) wonderful stretches of The Blackwood River to kayak for instance.
In Bali, spicy and exotic, inexpensive, adventurous … ahh yes! But coffee. Eeeuww, sorry! Bali coffee can be as thick and tasteless as mud. While in Western Australia the coffee is fantastic and varied and for some (pretty pricey) degustation lunches you can’t beat the winery restaurants down south.
But in Bali you have the excitement of new and interesting flavours that you’re possibly unfamiliar with. My advice is to eat from well frequented restaurants, and avoid anything uncooked.
Heading away from the madding crowd is an option – who wouldn’t enjoy eating lunch with these views in Bali?
Bali wins almost every time because the attention to detail is always superb – which establishment in Western Australia could beat the sheer romanticism of the frangipani flowers scattered across the steps and fairy lights leading the way to an al fresco restaurant in Ubud at night?
You’re going to get much better bang for your buck in Bali, and if you like 5 Star accommodation with all the trimmings, then Bali might well still be within budget.
Things that bite
Mosquitos. You’ll need a tropical strength mossie repellant at dusk and dawn in Bali because they’re ferocious and dengue fever is not uncommon. In SWA we do have mosquitos, sometimes the size of helicopters, blood suckers of the insect world (without briefcases), that sail in for a six week or so period at the end of spring, and yes Ross River Virus could be the (somewhat unlikely) result of being bitten.
Beer and Wine
In Western Australia you’ll be replacing the very drinkable Bintang beer for some wonderful local brews – Little Creatures, Moody Cow, Bootleg, Duckstein, Colonial and well over 100 different brands of wine, arguably some of the best in the world – and although some have prices to match their reputation, you can still get a bottle of excellent local plonk for around $16 at cellar doors.
Security: No doubt about it, but you’re probably not going to beat the safety of Western Australia in many places in the world. It’s clean and there are laws (lots of them). In Bali, you need to be aware of your own personal safety at all times, and take precautions when it comes to food and water.
Beaches: Nusa Dua, Kuta, Uluwatu are lovely, and the surf’s not half bad either. On the other hand surfing conditions along the South West Australian Coast are fantastic and Margaret River hosts some of the world’s best surfers each year.
Ah, do I hear you bleat, “Bali beaches are soft and sensual and tropical with palms fringing the sand?” Yes, I have to agree.
WA beaches are wide, open, often windswept and open to the gaping layer in the ozone, but for sheer uninterrupted vistas and purity of air and environment, they’re hard to beat. What do I wish? That some enterprising company would be allowed to build beach huts and small cafes so close to the surf that that you could nip in for sustenance or some cool refeshment every now and then.
Just think, they could offer fresh white towels topped with a Banksia flower or a rosy red Grevillea, and white muslin drapes, and why not beach massages too?
In Bali you’ll be entertained with beautiful traditional dancing, and theatrical shadow dancing and if you’re looking for things to do in Bali, check out this post: 29 Awesome things to do in Bali.
In WA we have Civic Video! Ok, I’m joking. We have some of the best cultural entertainment on offer in the world in Perth that takes place at fabulous venues and stadiums which are easy to get to, and still fairly easy to park at.
Think of King’s Park on a sultry summer’s evening listening to a world class act, or Leeuwin Wine Farm, or Brooklands, or the Bridgetown Blues Festival for outside venues and how about The Ellington, in Gloucester Street (check) for a sophisticated taste of the New York jazz scene in Perth.
I’m glad I live in Western Australia. I love it for its vast open spaces and promise of the Outback. I love it for its beaches and forests and eggs benedict at a café on the waterfront in Bunbury on a Sunday morning.
But do I love Bali too? Oh yes, because it’s so easy to get to and at just over three hours away I love it for the simple fact that it is as diametrically and culturally opposed to everything Australian, as you can possibly get.
And it is as beautiful, really beautiful, as the day is long.
If you’re thinking of taking a trip to Bali shop around. My advice is to stay somewhere reputable, and check out the prices of flights at different times of the year too. Avoid the monsoon season. You might like to try Zuji for flights and check out what they have to offer. We booked flights to Bali via Zuji for a family holiday.
So where would you rather holiday? Bali or Western Australia and why?
If you like this post you might also like: How to create a Balinese Garden in Your Backyard