Life in Bali is definitely a culture shock. On one hand, there are so many luxurious hotels and villas where foreign tourists (a majority of whom are Australian) frolic in exclusivity. On the other hand, the living standards for locals is extremely modest. The difference between the masses is astonishing, and despite knowing this beforehand, it was still a bit jarring to be confronted by it.
Prices in Bali are generally very reasonable (cheap, if you want to be more precise), especially if you come from a developed country. But, like many countries in southeast Asia, bartering and haggling is the way business happens here. This can definitely be an adjustment as some of the vendors can be really aggressive. People selling sarongs, drinks, kites, jewelry and other items patrol the streets and beaches to sell their wares. Taxi and tuk tuk drivers call out repeatedly to get your business, sometimes following you as you walk down the road. Over time, this becomes grating on your nerves, or at least I thought so.
After a few days in Bali, I felt overwhelmed by everything going on around me. To locals, it was just business as usual. But I was not used to this system and felt like I was constantly being harassed. It took many days for me to adjust to the constant barrage of sellers, but I still felt uncomfortable with it most of the time.
Some people find sport in the haggling process, but I found it tedious. It’s a good thing I don’t have much room in my backpack for any new clothes or souvenirs. It would be my idea of a nightmare to bargain back and forth at the markets. Combining this experience with the heat and humidity of Bali would be a challenge. But, I understand that this is how locals make their living. And the longer I am in Bali, the more aware I am of the separation between the haves and the have nots.