Bali – Beyond The Tourist Trail.

The Challenge ~

Me – “Alex, I want to experience & photograph traditional Balinese life. Can you get me away from western tourists?”

Alex – “Yes Bapak (Mr) Saxon … No problems!”

The response had been optimistic from my amazing local Balinese driver ‘Alex’ but I was dubious.  Nonetheless the challenge had been set! It was time to head off…

Trying to escape the crowds

We left early one morning from my hotel on the outskirts of Ubud and headed north towards the lush and lofty hinterlands. As we drove through the centre of Ubud town I thought Alex had no chance of successfully delivering on his promise.

As we zig-zagged our way along the main roads I noted that they were lined mile after mile by bric-a-brac shops, wood working factories, food stalls, temples and an oddly regular collection of stores selling glittering diamonte statues. 

Intermingled however with the kitsch were some of the traditions that I was hoping to find.

Roadside offerings of freshly cut flowers and a small treat were a constant companion during our drive. Alex told me they were to ward off bad spirits.  Oh and who-let-the-dogs-out? There were a multitude of dogs that strode along the roadside with more swagger than Jagger.

Alex explained that each household keeps a dog as security.

dog sitting peacefully in bali village

I guess it only took about thirty minutes from leaving my hotel until we turned off the ‘highway’ into what at first looked like someone’s driveway. However this small lane was actually a tiny B-Road and after we turned in to it everything changed.

First this Happened!

beautiful bali village at sunrise

And then this…

men in rice paddy fields ubud bali

The next six or seven hours were then spent exploring verdant valleys, lush rice paddy fields, restful villages, bamboo forests and isolated temples. New exploration for me but mere revisiting for Alex. I know now I couldn’t have spent $50 Australian Dollars and ever received better ROI – Return on Indonesia.

I have a confession to make – I was a Bali snob

I was 40 years old when I visited Bali. When an Australian hasn’t gone to Bali by the time they are 30 let alone 40 there’s a reason for it. It is a considered choice not to go. In other words I didn’t want to go.

I just didn’t think we’d get on. I thought Bali was Kuta and Kuta was Bali. All bogans, boobs & Bintang. So it turns out Kuta was pretty much like I had expected but I did have something very, very wrong! 

Kuta is in Bali but it’s ~ not ~ the ‘real’ Bali!

old balinese woman in ubud

Something for everyone.

Even after one visit I’m looking forward to returning and believe that Bali offers the visitor many varied faces.

Partying & pampering, chaos & calm, surfing & serenity…

And sure all of these are mutually exclusive however you could also experience them all in one visit if you really wanted. It certainly is a destination that you can make your own!

So Alex did it!! We only saw one couple of western tourists in six hours of touring! So it is possible to escape the hoards but you really need to know ‘where-to-go’. If you would like to get Alex’ details just click on his Facebook link below.

Oh and by-the-way I stayed at the amazing Kayumanis Villas just out of Ubud if you are up for a spurge and looking for an incredible accommodation experience. Check out the link for my review…

The ‘Real Bali’ gallery.

All photography copyright Thirty Summers. All rights reserved.

More Information.

Facebook Page for my driver Alex.

The Bali Tourism Board website packed with info and ideas.


Travel is my passion and also my career. I’ve spent my entire working-life in the travel industry with roles as diverse as tour guide, travel agent and marketing manager for some of the worlds largest travel brands. My favourite city in the world to visit is NYC and France is my most beloved country to explore. I travel to learn and observe to understand always with camera in hand.

15 thoughts on “Bali – Beyond The Tourist Trail.

  1. Gorgeous Photos! This is the Bali i want to see. I too have been a Bali snob after having experienced Kuta 15 years ago for a 3 day trip. i have never wanted to return. More recently, i have heard about the wonderful authentic experiences to be found in Ubud and travelling to gorgeous villages. Thus, its interesting to find your article. And such a short plane trip from Aussie. Big Smile!

    Liked by 1 person

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