5/5/18: Struggling To Enjoy Bali

I decided to go for a long run this morning. I did 8 miles, most of it on the main road, but eventually I got brave enough to veer off and was immediately rewarded. I entered some real Balinese neighborhoods and saw a slice of actual life here— something that I hadn’t seen until now. It’s all just been expats, tourists, cute coffee shops, and beaches.




Girls walking to school
Rice patty selfie…?

I don’t know why, but my body always dies around 7 miles. My long runs every week are 8 miles— I can’t seem to build on it. I don’t know if it’s the heat, me being out of shape, being lazy, just not pushing myself enough, but I haven’t been able do to more than 8 miles without wanting to die. Maybe I just need to bring some water with me. I am always crazy thirsty after the runs.

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I got back, got some ooi-ocha (it’s my favorite green tea and it’s everywhere here! Yay!), and showered.

I left again to grab breakfast down the street at a warung, where you can get local food for a dollar or less. I got some tempeh, greens, stir-fried cabbage, and rice for 12,000 IDR, or about $1.



I ate it at my hostel and then got my blogging stuff together so I could work at a cafe.

I chose Koloni Cafe, which was just down the street. It’s a really nice, large, modern cafe with tons of vegan & vegetarian options. I wasn’t there for the food, however. I got a soy milk latte— they use Bonsoy, which is an Australian soy milk brand that is supposedly healthier than other brands.

I loved this tray hehe

I worked until 11:30, and then went back to the hostel to talk with my sister, May. We chatted for about a while before I had to leave to meet up with Trina & Pierre for lunch.

We went to Green Ginger Noodle House, close to their guesthouse. I got sang choi bau, which was tofu “meat” with mushroom & bean sprouts, and comes with lettuce cups & hoisin sauce. You take the lettuce cups, add some of the meat mixture, and dip it in the sauce. I also got a side of rice because it would not have been enough food without some carbs.

Sang choi bau


They got laksa, a coconut/peanut curry

It was really good— I ate it all quite happily. When we got the bill, I realized my rice was 10,000 IDR (almost a dollar), which is double the price of what it normally is. I’m not sure if it was because it was brown rice as opposed to white, but 10,000 seemed a bit excessive.

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We went back to the guesthouse to chill for a while. I researched hostels for Ubud, where I would be going the next day. A girl at my hostel had recommended Pillow Inn to me that morning. I looked it up, and it was a bit more expensive than I usually pay ($10 instead of my normal $5-$8 price range), but everything seemed to be around that price. It had really good reviews, and included breakfast, so I booked it.

I started talking to a guy on Tinder, and we made plans to meet for drinks later that night. He was a software developer/digital nomad living in Bali for a few months. I didn’t really have an interest in hooking up with anyone— I was mostly just meeting up with him out of curiosity. I wanted to know what makes someone move here, what it’s like to live here as a digital nomad, and his opinion of Bali. I was treating it more like an interview than anything, really. Is that bad?

We left for the beach around 3:30. Pierre was going to teach Trina and I how to surf. I left my phone and wallet at their place since I didn’t want to leave it on the beach and risk them getting stolen.

Trina also left her stuff, so it was just Pierre that brought money and a phone.

Or so we thought.

We were almost at the beach when Pierre realized he didn’t have any money. And without money, we couldn’t surf because we couldn’t rent surfboards.

We contemplated our options: walk back 20 minutes to get money; get a Grab to take us to the guesthouse and back; use our social followings as leverage to get free rentals; just swim.

In the end, we chose the lattermost option.

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Trina and I swam together first, while Pierre sat with our stuff. The waves were pretty crazy and hard to manage, but we had fun riding over them and just swimming around. Pierre and went in and did a bit of bodysurfing, which looked really fun. When he got back, we asked him to teach us.

Trina went up first, and they tried it out for a half an hour or so.

As I was sitting on the beach alone, I started thinking about why I’m not enjoying Bali so much.

It’s kind of like a mix of LA, Vegas, and Miami. It’s got the same trendy, “hipster” shops and nice beaches as LA, the same pool/beach clubs and swanky hotels as Vegas, and the same Insta-model, beauty-obsessed people as Miami.

It doesn’t strike me as Indonesia. It’s just a beautiful place that was turned into a vacation spot by foreigners.

I think if Indonesia was my first country, as it was supposed to be (I originally was going to fly from Japan to Indonesia back in November), I would have enjoyed Bali much more. I think I’m too much in the backpacker mentality now— I don’t want to pay $5 for a smoothie bowl when I can pay $1 for a fresh smoothie anywhere else, I don’t want to hang out at places where there are only foreigners for miles around, or shop for “eco-friendly” bikinis and yoga clothes. I think I just don’t like that I don’t feel like I’m in a foreign place. It feels like America to me.

Trina was done with her bodysurf lesson, and I was next.
Pierre and I swam out far enough that we could catch the break of the waves. I don’t really understand waves. Sometimes they break multiple times– they’ll break once pretty far out, and then break again closer to shore. I don’t know how to predict their behavior.

Pierre seemed to know, however. He guided me through which waves to chase. He’d say, “this one, this one!” and I’d start swimming toward the shore. As soon as I felt myself riding the wave, I’d do a superman pose with my arms until the ride was over. The first few times, I’d stop stroking too soon and would miss the wave. However, as soon as Pierre told me I needed to keep swimming until I felt the wave taking me forward, I was able to ride the next couple waves more successfully. It was so fun!

As we were coming back to shore, the waves started getting crazy and I wiped out a couple times. Whoops. Gotta have at least one, sand-in-ass, bikini-top-flying-up tumble with every beach visit.

Back on the sand, Pierre started practicing standing press-up handstands. I tried as well, and much to my surprise I was still able to do them. I used to be able to do them from the floor when I was a gymnast, but I have lost 99% of my strength since then. The fact that I can still do it from standing was a shock to me. Pierre is clearly much stronger than me, but wasn’t able to do it, so I guess it’s a muscle memory thing.
Watch below to see what a standing press-up handstand is:

We spent the next half hour doing handstands and other random yoga poses. Trina was so close to completing her handstands, but was hesitant to straighten her second leg because she was afraid of toppling over. I taught her the number one rule in gymnastics: squeeze your butt. If you squeeze your butt, you won’t fall over. She tried it, and it worked! She was able to do a complete handstand, with both legs straight. I was proud.

Pierre, me, Trina



We were completely covered in sand, so we rinsed off in the ocean, dried off, and headed back to the guesthouse.

We were all starving by the time we got back. We quickly showered and then went to the same place we ate at the night before for dinner.

We picked up a big bottle of Bintang to share and drank it with our meals.

We tried this rice wrapped in banana leaf. It was ok.
My food


I left to meet up with the Tinder guy. I got a Grab to take me to our meeting place, a Mexican bar/restaurant called Lacalita.

I got a jalapeño margarita. Gotta love spicy cocktails. Well, spicy anything, really.

It was my first marg in a while, and it was so nice! It was $10, though, which is close to NYC prices. Crazy.

He didn’t seem to be phased by the prices, though. Which isn’t so surprising, considering he has a full-time job and an actual income. If you have an American salary in Indonesia, you have money to spare.

I asked him a bunch of questions about living here. Here is the basic lowdown:

  • He’s been living here for about a month and plans to spend another 3 here
  • Wants to go to South Africa after
  • Basically only looking to live in places with good surfing because that’s the reason he left America: to surf
  • He kept the same software development job he had in the States: his boss agreed to let him work remotely. Such a nice deal!
  • He needs places with both good surfing and good internet because he needs to work, which is part of why he chose Bali
  • Enjoys Bali: it’s an easy, laid-back life
  • Doesn’t think that drunk driving in Bali is a problem because “the only drunk drivers are motorcyclists, and if you drive drunk on a motorcycle you are only risking your own life.” Total BS… this really bothered me.
  • All of the nice cafes/hostels/bars aren’t owned by Indonesians: They’re all European, Aussie, or US-owned. Feels like modern colonialism.

The night turned into a bit of a pub crawl/Canggu nightlife tour.

After our drink at Lacalita, we moved on the The Lawn. It’s this really large, open bar with low tables and cushions to sit on. I loved the vibe and atmosphere, and I could totally see myself chilling there during the day. It has a pool, too.

After another spicy, tequila-based cocktail there, we moved on to Old Man’s. Old Man’s is the OG Canggu bar. It’s been there since tourism first started picking up in the area years ago.

It’s a big outdoor bar with lots of picnic tables for sitting and a large dance floor in the center. It reminded me a lot of a bar in Philadelphia called Morgan’s Pier.

The impression I got was that it’s like a general, “let’s go out tonight” type of bar. The music ranged from reggaeton to hip hop to pop, and didn’t seem to have any  consistent thread. The crowd was mainly tourists, some locals (probably surf instructors), and maybe a few expats.

We stayed there until we finished our beers, and then moved on to our final stop of the night: Pretty Poison.

Tinder guy told me about a speakeasy type of bar next to it that we could check out if we wanted. You have to walk through a minimart with a hidden door in the back to get to it.

I was intrigued, so we walked up to the minimart. There was a guy sitting on the front steps who he asked us if we were going to the bar. We told him yes, and he told us it was closed.

A bit disappointed that I couldn’t check out the Balinese speakeasy, we walked over to Pretty Poison.

This was my favorite bar of the night. It had a special quality that separated it from any other bar I’ve been to in my life.

It wasn’t the warehouse-esque space, large dance floor, or really good drinks that set it apart.

It was what was just outside the main bar area.

There was a pool-turned-half pipe, where skaters took turns showing off their skills as dozens of people lined the edges to watch the “show.”

It was impressive— some skaters were clearly more comfortable and skilled than others, but even the less experienced ones were fascinating to watch.


There must have been at least a hundred people watching, but they weren’t afraid to fail. They’d get on their board, attempt a trick, wipe out, get back on their feet, and try again. There was this one guy who kept trying a trick where you kick flip onto the edge of the pipe and then immediately skate down, but he kept missing the edge and either losing the board or falling off it.

The crowd

However, he didn’t give up or get embarrassed. He kept trying, all eyes on him, until he eventually got it.

It was crazy— I think most people (myself included) would be too afraid to let others see them repeatedly fail. I don’t think I could have done what he did (not the skating bit— I doubt I’ll ever be able to do that. I’m talking about the failing in front of a crowd bit).


We stayed until the skating was over, which was around midnight.

Tinder guy took me back to my hostel, and we parted ways.

I’m really grateful that he showed me around Canggu’s night life on my last night here. It was cool to see all the highlights.

3 thoughts on “5/5/18: Struggling To Enjoy Bali

  1. It’s interesting how many people (including myself) don’t enjoy Bali for exactly the points you mentioned! But luckily Indonesia has many other Islands and even in Bali you can find those non over westernized places.
    I love reading your blog and listening to your podcast because we often share tha same set of thoughts and I’m always like:” That’s exactly how I felt!”

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