Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bali: The Differences We Noticed

I said I was going to try to stay away from lists, but I just love lists. My journal is full of them. Here is one list we made while in Bali:

Differences between Bali and Japan
  • Surprisingly, you take off your shoes MORE in Bali than in Japan. You take them off before entering an internet cafe, most shops and the porch at your homestay. There are no cute shoe cubbies though, you don't have to line them up perfectly and there are no indoor slippers to use. You just flick off your flip flops and assume no one's going to take them.
  • In Bali, PDA is A-OK. You don't really see couples canoodling too much in Japan, at least around our parts. It's nothing like in Latin America where you almost felt uncomfortable in the plazas some nights. They keep it in the love hotel here, I guess. One night in Ubud as we were leaving a Balinese dance performance we saw a Japanese couple in front of us holding hands and thought--they don't do that back home, I'll bet.
  • Indonesian food was more flavorful than Japanese food. Japanese food is delicious but pretty subtle, especially for a western palate. With the exception of wasabi, there's not a lot of spice. In Bali they keep hot sauce on the table so you can spice your dish up. Regardless, the food was very flavorful--whether it was salty, spicy or sweet, they were going for it. Japan holds back a bit. Or maybe they're just more focused on umami.
  • Japan is a lot cleaner than Bali (or darn near everywhere in the world). They are trying their best down there but, as with most developing countries, they're just living closer to the land and it's tough to keep the bugs at bay when you haven't paved over everything. We're used to disgusting bathrooms and all from our travels, but I was surprised to find the Denpasar airport bathroom literally crawling with cockroaches. I was pretty paranoid that they'd crawl into my bag and I'd inadvertently bring them back with me. We also saw a huge rat at the airport while we spent our last rupiahs on some beers. Luckily, while all of this was going on we were chatting up 2 very nice couples from New Zealand.
  • Balinese people speak more English and are more outgoing. The reason for this is pretty clear--tourism is the main business on the island and it behooves people to learn English. That said, when we'd mention to a Balinese person that we lived in Japan we'd soon find out that they knew about as much Japanese as we did in addition to their stellar English. Even if Japanese people know English, they're pretty shy about using it. They hate making mistakes. We were reminded by how little attention we are paid by Japanese people when we were lavished with it by the Balinese. They all wanted to know where we were from, for one thing. (Pretty sure the wrong answer is Dutch since they colonized Bali.) I can only remember being asked that a few times here and at least 2 of those times the person asking was drunk. (Alcohol is a very important social lubricant in Japan).
Obviously, there are myriad more differences. As they say, Japan is like another planet and Bali is a very unique Hindu island in a Muslim nation. Those are just a few that stuck out to us.

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