“Well, well, well…” says Maleficent in the 2014 and 2019 hit movies. It’s the end of 2020.
The festive season is looking a little different this year. COVID-19 in Indonesia hasn’t even passed the first wave, unlike other countries entering wave number two or three. Though vaccines are soon to be delivered, anxiety to gather in crowded public spaces still lingers for most.
Do you feel paranoid about entering a crowded restaurant? I still do. Do you choose restaurants and other public spaces that are likely less crowded? For sure.
The pandemic has brought travelling to another realm. Road trips have become the new fad, especially for those who are reluctant and paranoid to board a plane. Even the trend to visit Bali by car is a current local favourite. Might as well take advantage of the new toll roads for an R&R, am I right?
I was one of the few who decided to sit on my bum for hours and hours on the road, overlooking the paddy fields across Java. I embarked on a journey from Jakarta to Bali by road with my best friend and her family. It was a long drive – 18 hours to be precise. We arrived at Ketapang Port in Banyuwangi at past midnight and made our way crossing to Gilimanuk Port in Bali. At 5am Central Indonesian Time (WITA), we finally arrived in Singaraja, Bali. Exhausted, we were still thrilled to finally be on the Island of Gods: Bali.
Bali amidst the pandemic is quiet. Spending over two weeks to “work from holiday” – yes, not work from home – in the most “normal” way of life was pure tranquil. It’s absolutely different to pre-pandemic Bali. A quiet Bali might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it really allows one to enjoy the island’s natural beauty without having to endure ridiculous traffic and queues.
The waves of Batu Bolong beach on a Saturday morning weren’t too ideal for surfing. Many expats residing in Bali, children and those in their 20s, still surfed along the baby waves. My surfing guide, Bli Made, shared how Bali’s locals are struggling, including himself. He could get plenty of newbie surfers in a day before, but is now subjected to one or even none on the weekends. He’s even resorted to distributing fresh coconuts to a café in Canggu.
WFH or Work from Holiday
A Singaporean named Priscilla was walking her dogs along with her friends, Pedro and Ivan, at Petitenget Beach, Seminyak around sunset hour. Priscilla is busy with her dogs as well as her work in telemedicine and creating apps and websites nowadays. She’s been living in Bali for the past two years, so the pandemic has certainly changed her lifestyle.
“I don’t really go out as much as I previously did, and I think that’s probably better. When I first came to Bali ten years ago, it was really crowded. I prefer how Bali is now where it’s much quieter and less traffic. But it’s starting to get back to normal already,” she said. Even so, Priscilla will be staying in Bali with her dogs over the year-end holidays.
Pedro, on the other hand, found himself staying longer than he expected. He’s an online English teacher from New York, USA. Being a digital nomad enables him to easily travel. Since February 2020, Pedro has been working, surfing, scuba diving, and explored Flores on a motorbike, Lombok, and Sumbawa. “I’ll be back in the US for Thanksgiving and Christmas as I was supposed to see my family back in August, but things changed. I’ll hopefully return to Bali because I want to stay here for the long term,” he said.
His friend Ivan has quite a similar story; he travelled to Asia in January and then went to Bali in February 2020. “I was on my visa run in Vietnam and then moved to Singapore. At that point, everything was starting to close down. I was thinking whether I should go back home to Italy or should I just stay in Asia?” he explained. Ivan eventually decided to stay in Bali. “My friend and I decided to stay here together and see what would happen. It was one of the best things that could happen to us – we have whatever we wish for here,” he added.
As a freelancer living in Seminyak, he explained that after meeting some friends around May, they all started to realise that there are actually a lot of them “stuck” and chose to start or make a living here instead. Jennia from Ukraine denies the label of being “stuck” in Bali after having her flight in April cancelled due to Ukraine’s lockdown. “I’m waiting for better days; I’m waiting for when it’s safe to return home. Being stuck is when you don’t have another option,” she explained. Considering 2020 her recovery year, Jennia will be exploring the rest of the island despite residing here for almost a year, as well as finishing her online studies.
Whereas Sofie won’t be staying longer in Bali, that’s if her personal affairs to move to the US are sorted. Originating from Russia, Sofie lived in Shanghai, China for the past two years. “Being in Bali is my choice. I didn’t even plan to move to Bali nine months ago. I love this place; I’ve already got my Bali family, my friends, and my dog but I need to go,” she explained.
Biggest Takeaway of 2020
Made: “There’s always a way for the Balinese to survive and this pandemic doesn’t hinder our efforts. We hope to have Bali back on its feet soon, welcoming international tourists again.”
Priscilla: “I’m really good at my job (chuckles).”
Pedro: “We’ve had such a different experience here in Bali compared to the rest of the world like in the US and Europe. I can’t say something cheesy and take advantage of everything because we’re the lucky few, and not everyone in the world had the same opportunity to go to the beach, travel, and get busy in Indonesia.”
Ivan: “I learned to trust my gut feelings. My family urged me to come back home because it’s safer. I had this feeling that it’s worth to stay in Bali because you could see how the atmosphere was at the beginning when everybody was terrified but then started to loosen up a couple of months later.”
Jennia: “Flexibility. It is the most important quality we should have now. Though we have our plans and dreams, situations are always changing so we should be flexible enough to adapt and to change our plans according to the situation around us. It doesn’t mean to reject what we’ve always wanted, but not to be very stubborn, find other ways, and be more creative in what you do and how you do it.”
Sofie: “Enjoy the moment. I tend to overthink, hence, not enjoying the moment that’s thrust upon me. It’s important to enjoy the moment because it can be gone in a split second.”
Rumours of Bali reopening its international doors constantly circulate throughout the year. The recent one is the reopening on December 1, 2020. Bali’s government officials have denied these rumours, in fact stating 2021 will possibly be the year of welcoming international tourism back.