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The Two Sides of Paradise

by Sean Ogle | Last Updated: July 1, 2010

First off, sorry to everyone for being somewhat unresponsive over the last week!  I’ve been in Bali and my free time at a computer has been pretty limited.  Although, I’m sure you guys can understand my desire to have a bunch of experiences, rather than spend all of my time writing about them.  Also, if you haven’t seen it, check out my recent guest post at Unclutterer.

When I was younger I used to always dream of the day when I could take a lavish vacation to some place truly exotic.  Places like Tahiti, Bora Bora and Bali all seemed like these far away, astronomically expensive destinations that I wouldn’t get to experience until I was of retirement age.  Well, as of a few days ago, that dream became a reality.  And you know what?  Very little of it is what I expected.

In my mind, Bali, Indonesia has always been the epitome of a world class tropical destination.  Up until recently I actually knew very little about it aside from umbrella drinks and expensive resorts.  I once heard that Bali has more rooms that cost over $1,000 a night than any other place in the world.  I’m not sure I’ve come across one more than $50.

Kuta Sunset

Kuta Sunset

We booked $200 round trip tickets out of Bangkok on a semi-whim when Air Asia announced that many of their Bangkok routes would be going on sale.  We spent the first three days near the highlands and rice terraces in a town called Ubud.  Ubud was the exact opposite of everything you’d think of when you think of Bali.

Artists, jewelry makers, and craftsmen pretty much sums up Ubud.  If you were to transplant Portland, Oregon and put it in Asia, I have a feeling this is kind of what it would look like.  With a very laid back feel, no one ever seemed to be in a hurry in Ubud. Our beautiful room came complete with it’s own private veranda, where we would find fresh coffee and tea twice daily.  The breakfast was fantastic as well.  If you’ve never had a jaffle, be sure to give it a try when you arrive in Bali.  Oh and it only cost $270 a night.  Oh wait, I meant $27.  $27 is a long way away from the dreams of yachts and beach clubs that I’d been picturing.

Sure, those places are around, but I’ve been shocked at just how affordable Bali really is.  I rarely spend more than $3 or 4 when eating, and you can get a large Bintang beer for $2.50 or less at most places on the island.  After expecting to be eating ramen and drinking water all week, its been a nice surprise to find I can live the high life for such a reasonable amount of money.  If you’re willing to splurge and spend $20-30 on a dinner for two with drinks, you can get something really special.  Honestly, my meal of spare ribs and potatoes at a beautiful open air restaurant along the river in Ubud would have been well over $100 at a fancy place in the states, here its hardly more than a Big Mac.

View from Teba Guest House in Ubud, Bali

View from Teba Guest House in Ubud, Bali

All of this to say Bali has shocked me.  Its absolutely gorgeous and after spending time at temples, textile shops, and some of the most quaint and delicious café’s around, I can’t imagine not coming here on a trip through South East Asia.

I hardly know a single person in the states that hasn’t been to Hawaii at some point in their lives.  Yet while Bali may have a slightly more expensive plane ticket to get here, I bet you the whole trip would cost hundreds less.  The food will be twice as good, and you’ll get a cultural experience that’s second to none.  Sure Kuta Beach, where I am now, is overrun with Australian surfers, but even that can be overlooked when considering how much the island has to offer.

While it isn’t the super secluded, personal island paradise I may have built up in my mind (although I’m sure that’s around), Bali has definitely not disappointed.  Even passport issues and a flat tire on our motorbike haven’t been enough to dampen the trip.  The people are the friendliest I’ve met in Asia, and everyone is more than willing to help out in any way they can.  When was the last time you were in a place where people would pull over their bikes, just to thank you for visiting their country.

fire-hdr-small

Fire Dancer on Kuta Beach, Bali

Now that’s hospitality.

So while many in the western world only know the side of Bali that caters to jet-set celebrities and millionaires, the truth is that it is actually an extremely affordable place for just about anyone – assuming you can make the time to get here.

It’s moments like these when I truly appreciate the lifestyle I’ve created.  While I may have spent the week being more concerned than I should be about getting work done, the fact that I have the ability to take my work wherever I want to go is a pretty incredible thing.  Many might hate the idea of working in paradise. However, personally I’d rather have the flexibility to go anywhere in the world, whenever I want, and do a little work in the process, than have to save up a whole year’s worth of vacation time just to get a few weeks off.

Bottom line, whether you are looking to play while you work, or just get away from work altogether, Bali is the perfect place to do it.

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Sean Ogle is the Founder of Location Rebel where he has spent the last 12+ years teaching people how to build online businesses that give them the freedom to do more of the things they like to do in life. When he's not in the coffee shops of Portland, or the beaches of Bali, he's probably sneaking into some other high-class establishment where he most certainly doesn't belong.
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