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This a re-print of an op-ed I just published with the Lowy Institute.
I’ve argued elsewhere that I don’t think a President Trump would pull the US out of Asia. That would requiring battling a deep Washington consensus of government officials, think-tankers, military, and the rest who strongly support a continued American presence out here. Trump is too lazy and too ill-informed to try that. So don’t worry about that. Nor will Trump win. So don’t freak out yet.
But I do think Trump has changed the GOP a lot, and that he will have successors. Trump just proved that the median GOP voter doesn’t give a damn about Reaganism. Republican voters are now lower middle class and downscale (whites), and they are not anti-statists who want tax cuts for the rich. Nor are they neocons (it’s their kids that fight the wars), nor are they social conservatives, as their rates of divorce, single parenthood, and substance abuse make clear. What they do want though is a dramatic reduction of immigration in order that the United States remain majority white longer.
In short, Trump has just showed the potential for the US to have a European-style nationalist-rightist party, complete with a whiff of fascism in Trump’s authoritarian posturing.
So my prediction is that: 1) Trump will lose, but 2) post-Trumpers will pop-up and try to use his message to win GOP primaries. This will ignite a serious civil war inside the GOP between the establishment – who are mostly Reaganites like Paul Ryan but who have weak roots among actual GOP voters, as Trump just illustrated – and white nationalist post-Trumpers who actually speak to issues the GOP base cares about. It’s not clear to me who will win, but the post-Trumpers have the votes and the passion.
The full essay follows the jump.
The US Republican Party will gather from July 18 to 21 to formally nominate Donald Trump as its presidential candidate. This may be contested – the ‘Never Trump’ movement is searching for a way to open the convention – but regardless, Trump has already altered the Grand Old Party (GOP) dramatically. The convention may be contested, and Trump will likely lose in November. But ‘Trumpism’ – white nationalism, America First, overt hostility to Islam and the growing diversity of the United States, border control, and foreign policy disinterest – will survive. And if it feeds through into policy, it will impact America in Asia.
Trump himself is a terrible messenger for his ideas – buffoonish, undisciplined, fraudulent – but the ideas themselves clearly resonate. Almost out of nowhere, Trump managed to defeat nearly twenty other rivals. Those rivals spoke the well-established Reaganite language of the modern GOP. They promised the usual mix of libertarian economics, foreign policy hawkishness, and social conservatism in a Christian idiom.
This was an exciting and relevant package in the late 1970s. The economic doldrums of that decade inspired supply-side economics, and the Reagan-era economic boom suggests that tax rates were probably too high. Détente with communism never sat as well with Americans as it did with the allies. And the social tumult of the 1960s and 70s had inspired a Christian-moralist backlash. Reagan fused these three agendas as none of his successors ever would.
In the years since though, that Reaganite package has lost much of its appeal. Decades of tax cuts have left the US with a huge debt and deficit, and most Republican voters today, downscale whites, do not wish to see the welfare state, funded by those taxes, reduced. Neoconservative belligerence shattered on the rocks of Iraq and the intractable war on terrorism. And resistance to social change simply no longer motivates Americans that much; most have come to accept a great deal more sexual and gender freedom, such as divorce and gay marriage.
With astonishing speed, Trump demonstrated just how ossified this 40-year old message is. He won the GOP primary with no almost staff, money, intellectual or organizational preparation, or campaign strategy. He clearly ‘wings it’ through most of his speeches. He alienated most of the GOP establishment. He fought with its premier media organ, Fox. And he still won handily, with over 14 million votes and roughly 45% of the GOP primary vote.
Trump’s Inevitable Successors
Trump’s ‘revolution’ is to show that Republican candidates can dispense with the Reganite superstructure and win with direct appeals to the Republican id, particularly the ‘angry white men’ who are the core of the GOP voter base. As David Frum put it, “Trump is running not to be president of all Americans, but to be the clan leader of white Americans.” For decades Republicans have danced around the mobilization of white identity politics. Trump, with his characteristic bull-in-a-china-shop, win-at-all-costs approach, he has thrown out that pretense and appealed openly to white Christian racial/cultural loyalties.
That this worked so well, so fast, and for such an obviously unqualified candidate, means it will almost certainly be picked-up by a post-Trump generation – slicker, better organized, and disciplined enough to properly exploit the opening Trump has created. Think of Trump as the National Front’s first leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen – the frightening, undisciplined buffoon who gets the nationalist ball rolling – and his successors as daughter Marine, sharper, smarter, less overtly scary.
Trump shown a new method to win the GOP primary. We should expect successors. In the years before the next presidential primary, a civil war will be fought in the GOP between an establishment desperate not to appear racist, clinging to a fossilized Reaganism that no one in American really wants, and an insurgent, Trumpish white resentment that would remake the GOP as a European-style nationalist-rightist party. It is not clear who will win.
What Will a Trumpist GOP Mean for America in Asia?
The Reaganite GOP has traditionally appealed to Asian elites. Republican belief in free trade allowed export-oriented economies around the region to trade freely, even as Asian mercantilist strategies blunted US imports. Republican hawkishness and obsession with credibility served American allies’ security. Despite reasonable concerns that America’s Asia allies cheap-ride on US guarantees, that debate almost never arises in the GOP. Instead, anxiety runs the other way: GOP elites constantly worry that American allies doubt US commitment, therefore arguing that America must give the allies more attention, resources, and so on. Finally, GOP hawks strongly support American global preponderance. The GOP supports the maintenance or expansion of US bases around the world and a forward US military presence that is frequently interventionist. If the GOP controlled the White House today, the US would be far more heavily involved in Ukraine, the South China Sea, and Syria. All this takes the pressure off US allies to respond to Putin, China, ISIS, and so on.
Trump, for all his foolishness, raises the obvious question of whether all this forward engagement is actually good for the United States. With the exception of free trade, it is not immediately clear that it is. Almost thirty years of US intervention in the Persian Gulf has probably worsened American security in the Middle East. Taking the lead in Ukraine would once again let Europe off the hook regarding its own security. If the Americans were not around to bail-out European security, would the Brexit debate have focused on so narrowly on parochial issues like the National Health Service and housing? In Asia, wealthy American allies can clearly spend a good deal more on defense – and should with China and North Korea in their neighborhood. Nor is it immediately clear that Trump’s support for Japanese and South Korean nuclearization is a bad thing – both are liberal democracies mature enough for nuclear command-and-control, and allied to the US. A lot of Americans, including Trump voters, would like to see a less expensive, less interventionist US foreign policy, with the dividends of that caution brought home.
Specific policies from a Trumpish GOP might include:
– A substantial immigration reduction: If there is one thing that the white working class across the West – which is fueling Brexit, Trump, Marine Le Pen, and others – want, it is reduced non-white immigration. This would effect southeast Asia more than northeast Asia.
– The end of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and new FTAs: Free trade is an easy target for nationalists. Trade with Asia has a racial edge to it as well.
– Expanded Asian defense spending: Post-Trumpers will likely be far more serious about burden-sharing division than any US administration since Nixon.
The Pivot and Its Problems
I have long argued (short version, long version) that the US pivot’s achilles’ heel is public opinion. A commitment to Asia interests American elites but does not really grip the US median voter. Americans do not know or care that much about Asia – it’s far away, the languages are very hard (no Spanglish?), the religious beliefs are even more foreign than Islam (which is at least monotheistic), the food is a challenge, we don’t learn about it in school, there aren’t many Asian-Americans (-5%), and so on. Even at this late date, more Americans study Latin than Chinese.
As post-Trump candidates pick-up his threads, expect his America First-ism, focus on allied free-riding, and hostility to trade deals, to push the GOP away from its previous Reaganite internationalism. This year’s primary revealed the Reaganite GOP establishment as the emperor with no clothes; neither Democratic nor Republican voters actually want what the GOP in Washington is selling. Trump (of all people!) just proved that, and that is a titanic shift in American politics. When the GOP establishment eventually reflects its voters’ actual preferences, the GOP of recent decades, which Asian elites know, will fade.
I had to learn how to make one of my favorite foods because I eat out too often.
2 cups chopped green cabbage
2 small sweet potatoes sliced
1 cup rice cakes (ddeok - 떡) or 1 package udon or plain ramen noodles
2-3 boneless skin-on chicken thighs , cut into strips
1 handful of enokki mushrooms (팽이버섯) (150g)
10 perilla leaves (깻잎) chopped
8 basil leaves chopped
100g shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup hot water
2 tablespoons hot pepper paste (gochujang - 고추장)
2 tablespoons soju (소주) or rice wine
1-½ to 2 tablespoons hot pepper flakes (gochugaru - 고추가루)
1 tablespoon yellow curry powder or 1 curry bouillon cube
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon grated ginger
½ teaspoon black pepper
- Add a bit of oil, cabbage, and sweet potatoes to a large skillet. Cover and cook for 3 minutes over medium-low heat.
- Prepare rice cakes (or udon or ramen if you chose that) by cooking in hot water.
- Mix all sauce ingredients together and coat chicken in sauce thoroughly. Add chicken and sauce mixture to skillet, coat everything, put the heat on medium-low, and put a lid on it. Set a timer for 5 minutes. Stir. If it looks dry, stir in ¼ cup of water.
- Drain the rice cakes and add to the mixture, coat thoroughly. Add the mushrooms (which will create more moisture) and put the lid on. Set a timer for another 5 minutes.
- Stir. If rice cakes are soft, turn off the heat. Add chopped perilla leaf, basil, and cheese. Put the lid back on for a minute. Then, serve straight from the pan!
For years I have been following so many pro photographers and I was always bummed when they would do “Asian Tours” and skip completely over Korea. While Seoul may not be as popular as the so-called “world-renowned” locations like Beijing or Tokyo, it is not to say that it should be passed over.
Currently, the food scene is picking up. Over the past year or so, great chefs like Anthony Bourdain and Jamie Oliver have visited and were impressed with the warmth of the people and the food. However, it seems that only local Korean photographers and the expats are the ones taking the memorable and striking images in Korea.
What about that TV Show in Korea?
Off hand, I can think only the show on Arirang called “In Frame” that brings great Magnum photographers like David Alan Harvey to Korea. There have been other photographers which I will mention a bit later. However, I feel that the TV show is totally different than professionals setting out on their own to photograph personal projects.
So this begs the question “Why are so many photographers passing over South Korea?”
This is a question that pops into my head whenever I hear that one of my favourite photographers is heading to Asia. As I heard that Justin Mott, a great photographer based out of Bangkok, Thailand was loving Japan I wondered if I should be that fan that writes “When are you coming to Korea?” As if that would make any difference. However, it did get me thinking.
What Do You Know?
For the most part, I think it has a lot to do with how we look at different countries. For years people have had a love affair with the futuristic almost anime style backdrops that Tokyo provides. Then you get a taste of the famous temples and shrines of Kyoto. We are so familiar with the Great wall and Forbidden City that tourists flock to every year.
However, when you mention places like Gyeongbukgung and Bulguksa, many people draw a blank. They probably know Seoul from the ’88 Olympics or possibly even from the Korean War and the TV sitcom like M*A*S*H but probably not much more.
Check These Guys Out
Images are what creates wonder in the minds of travellers and artists alike. While I feel that Korea is an untapped resource for photographers, I also feel that the ones who are taking photos of this country deserve more recognition. I am taking myself out of this discussion and directing you toward great photographers like Sungjin Kim, John Steele, Robert Kohler, Douglas MacDonald, Leigh MacArthur and Roy Cruz. Not to mention my good friend Pete DeMarco who recently left Korea.
With so many awesome photographers already here, you would think that it would entice some of the bigger names in the industry to come around and check the place out. A few have come, but I heard very little about it. I know that Matt Granger came for a workshop in Seoul a few years ago and Elia Locardi did a quick tour. Trey Ratcliff has not been here in over a decade. There maybe others that I am missing and if I am, let me know. It is really hard to find pro photographers excited to come to Korea despite all that it has to offer.
I feel that the answer is the fact that South Korea itself has a bit of an image problem. It affects the way travellers and photographers look at the country. Many people do not really know much about the countries they visit aside from what the see on facebook feeds and in travel magazines. Word of mouth is equally as important. If no one is saying much or what is being said is slightly strange. Not too many pros are going to come just on a whim.
Creating Interest or just Meh…
So while Korea has all of the ingredients to make a great destination in Asia, it lacks the pull that places like Tokyo, Beijing, Bangkok or Singapore have. Perhaps, this could be also to do with the wealth of English teachers passing through the country every year. The feeling that I got when I talked to many of the younger teachers in my Masters of Education classes was a feeling of “been there done that” which I would imagine came from a frustrating experience at a language school and using Korea as a jumping off point for other destinations.
With that sort of “meh” attitude towards the country, it is no wonder that many of the pros skip over Korea. Their jobs depend on getting people excited about their photographs of “exotic” locations. If the photos that you take are getting “meh… I taught English there in 2010” or something like that, then it is not going to be high or your list of places to return.
What Sells Photos?
While there are lots of reasons why photographers skip over Korea, I am lumping it into how the photo industry really works. Pro photographers need the popularity of their photos to keep them relevant and keep their viewers interested. If the audience is either largely uninterested in your destination then it is sort of a flop and not worth investing the time and money into heading there.
Unless they are like the Magnum photographers who are no doubt paid to come here, South Korea is a hard sell. This is why I have so much respect for the photographers here in Korea who are taking images that rival the pros. It is my feeling that Korea is a bit of a diamond in the rough. The photographers that I mentioned before are taking amazing images and that is not always an easy task.
The final point here is if this article strikes a chord with you, share your thoughts below. If you have found other pro photographers who have come here, send me their links. Let me know what you think! Why are so many pro photographers skipping over Korea?
One of Korea’s biggest attractions are its traditional markets. In Seoul, tourists can pick up almost anything in the large Namdaemun market, or they can visit the 24 hour Dongdaemun clothes market if they are interested in fashion.
Even if you aren’t interested in buying anything, these markets have a great atmosphere and are well worth a visit. One thing that you will notice about these markets, and also the many street food sellers that you can encounter in Korea, is the lack of price tags. If you want to buy anything, you will need to know how to say ‘how much’ in Korean.
*Can’t read Korean yet? Click here to learn for free in about 60 minutes!
‘How Much’ in Korean
One of the most useful words to learn when studying Korean; the word ‘how much’ is 얼마 (eolma). This word is the basis of phrases such as ‘How much is it?’
Two other really useful words to learn are 이거 (igeo), which means ‘this’ in Korean; and 값이 (gapsi) which means ‘price’ in Korean.
Formal ‘How Much’ in Korean
1. 얼마입니까? (eolmaimnikka?)
Formal Korean is often used in presentations and interviews, as well as in public announcements. Although you probably wouldn’t use this expression often in the street markets of Seoul, it could be useful if you want to speak more formally.
이것의 항공 우편료는 얼마입니까? (igeosui hanggong upyeonryoneun eolmaimnikka?)
How much is it by airmail?
시간당 주차료는 얼마입니까? (shigandang jucharyoneun eolmaimnikka?)
How much is the hourly parking fee?
Standard ‘How Much’ in Korean
1. 얼마예요? (eolmayeyo?)
2. 얼마요? (eolmayo?)
The standard way of saying ‘how much’ in Korean is one of the most useful expressions that you will learn during your Korean studies. You can use this expression with people you don’t know well, so it is perfect for use with street vendors or salespeople. An alternative way of saying ‘how much’ is 얼마요. You will hear this from time to time, especially in Suwon, but it is best to stick with 얼마예요.
그거 임대료가 얼마예요? (geugeo imdaeryoga eolmayeyo?)
How much does it rent for?
Informal ‘How Much’ in Korean
1. 얼마? (Eolma?)
Informal Korean is used when talking to somebody who you are close to, and who is usually younger than you. This expression could be used when asking your boyfriend or girlfriend how much something is.
이거 사는데 얼마 썼어? (igeo saneunde eolma sseosseo?)
How much did you spend on all this?
A Word of Caution About Romanization
Romanization is a useful tool for the complete beginner, but if you want to improve your Korean fast, then it is best to learn Hangeul. Hangeul, the Korean alphabet, allows you to learn new words while walking down the street or riding the subway, improves your pronunciation, and helps you identify similar parts of words, which makes memorization easier. You can learn how to read Hangeul in less than two hours on this very site. Now, that is what I call ‘time well spent’.
Now that you know how to say ‘how much’ in Korean, it is time to hit the streets and learn about Korean culture by visiting some traditional markets. Have fun shopping!
*Want more Korean phrases? Go to our Korean Phrases Page for a complete list!
Learn to read Korean and be having simple conversations, taking taxis and ordering in Korean within a week with our FREE Hangeul Hacks series: http://www.90DayKorean.com/learn
How many times has the owner of a neglected blog said that before? More importantly, how many times has the owner of a neglected blog not said that before? At any rate, I’ve decided to fire up the old blog for a few reasons.
Toward that, I’ve been busy boning up on everything from rental agreements, K-Pop, the Choseon Dynasty, and what not to say at business meetings, among many, many other things – some necessarily interesting, and some interestingly necessary – as well as hammering out the first, very messy drafts of what I hope will be a useful, readable book on how to get along in Korea.
Now, the reasons I’m firing up the blog again:
I need an occasional break from rental agreements, K-Pop, the Choseon Dynasty, and what not to say at business meetings. The work and the reading has been fun, and it’s taught me a lot, while also obliging me to look at the familiar afresh. But I need an occasional short break, and five out of five doctors agree that blogging is better for you than smoking.
Also, as a writer, the blog helps me exercise good writing habits, like forcing me to get stuff out on time, not getting too hung up on perfection, and just jogging the muscles that we use in the creation of text. This of course is in lieu of actually jogging around the block, which is no fun at all.
Another reason is that I’m reading a lot of stuff, and a lot of it is stuff that doesn’t necessarily fit with what I’m doing in the book, but is nonetheless interesting ,and I’d like to share it. That’s just the kind of guy I am.
I also want to try to tap into that other great potential of blogging which is as a sounding board and avenue for thoughtful feedback. Criticism, comments, rants, and praise are all welcome, as all of it, good, bad, and perhaps even ugly, helps the process of refining a piece of writing and getting a sense of what makes readers tick. I invite you – the sensitive, thoughtful, and clearly tasteful regular reader of this blog – to share your thoughts. And thank you!
More to come, just after I wade through today’s to do list, which includes finishing the draft of the chapter in which I condense 5,000 years of history into 5,000 words. That’s one word per year, but trust me, most of those years were not especially noteworthy and will be skipped.
Have a good day, and welcome (back?) to Outside Looking In!
The view from the Samseong-gak at Namjijangsa Temple in southern Daegu.
Hello Again Everyone!!
Situated south of the Daegu city centre, and south of the towering Mt. Choijeongsan (905m), is Namjijangsa Temple. The name of the temple means “South Bodhisattva of the Afterlife,” which shouldn’t be confused with Bukjijangsa Temple to the north of the Daegu city centre.
Namjijangsa Temple was first established in 684 A.D. by the monk Yanggae. Eventually, Namjijangsa Temple would grow to eight shrine halls, as well as a bell pavilion and the Cheonwangmun Gate. However, in 1592, like much of Korea, the temple was completely destroyed by the Japanese during the Imjin War (1592-98). Afterwards, from 1652 to 1769, the temple underwent an extensive rebuild. Historically, the famed warrior monk Samyeong-daesa used Namjijangsa Temple as the staging site for battles against the Japanese during the Imjin War. The temple functioned as a headquarters for the Yeongnam region. Also, it was home, at one point in his life, to the monk Muhak, who would help advise the Goryeo Dynasty founding king, King Taejo.
You first approach Namjijangsa Temple down some country roads, until you eventually arrive at the temple parking lot. It’s next to a beautiful large water fountain that you’ll climb a set of stone stairs on your way through the temple entry gate. The entry gate, rather uniquely, houses the temple bell. At some temples, the temple bell is housed on the second floor, but not at Namjijangsa Temple. As you pass through the entry gate, you’ll see the bell to your right through wooden slats.
Finally entering the main temple courtyard, you’ll notice the monks’ quarters to your left and the visitors’ centre to your right. Straight ahead rests the Daeung-jeon Hall. In front of the main hall stands a five tier stone pagoda that’s adorned with various trinkets that visitors have left behind as a sign of devotion. Adorning the exterior walls to the main hall is a beautiful set of Palsang-do murals, which depict the eight scenes from the Buddha’s life. As for the interior, and resting on the main altar, are a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on both sides by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). Rounding out the interior of the main hall is a massive guardian mural hanging on the far right wall.
To the right rear of the main hall is the temple’s Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Both the Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) and Chilseong (The Seven Stars) murals are of a red hue, but it’s the angry tiger tail holding Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) that is the main highlight to this shaman shrine hall.
To the left of the main hall sits the newly constructed Geukrak-jeon Hall. As you enter the hall have a look at the amazing dragon doors. At the base of these doors are some amazing Nathwi (Monster Masks). As for the interior, and resting on the packed main altar, are a triad of statues centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul).
And just left of the Geukrak-jeon Hall, in an open pavilion under a canopy, is a shrine for Yongwang (The Dragon King). The large painting dedicated to Yongwang is joined by a spring.
HOW TO GET THERE: From the Daegu train station, walk about 15 minutes (930 metres), to get to Chilseong market (where the NH Bank is located) bus stop. Take the bus that reads “Gachang2” on it. After 50 stops, or one hour, get off at the “Urokri” (last stop) and walk about 2.7 km, or 41 minutes, to get to the temple.
You can take a bus or simply take a taxi from the Daegu train station. The ride takes about 50 minutes and costs 23,000 won.
OVERALL RATING: 6/10. Without a doubt, the biggest highlight to this temple is the curmudgeonly Sanshin painting in the Samseong-gak. Adding to the temple’s overall appeal is the large guardian mural inside the main hall, the Yongwang mural, as well as the temple’s beautiful location.
The entry to Namjijangsa Temple.
The temple bell that’s housed inside the entry gate.
The slender five-tier pagoda with the Daeung-jeon Hall behind it.
One of the Palsang-do murals that depicts the Buddha’s life.
The main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall with Seokgamoni-bul front and centre.
The view from the Daeung-jeon Hall out towards the main temple courtyard.
The visitors’ centre at Namjijangsa Temple.
The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at the temple.
An all-red Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) mural.
Joined by this angry looking Sanshin inside the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.
The beautiful view at Namjijangsa Temple.
The Geukrak-jeon Hall to the left of the main hall.
This amazing Nathwi adorns one of the Geukrak-jeon Hall’s doors.
The main altar inside the Geukrak-jeon Hall with Amita-bul sitting in the centre.
And to the left of the Geukrak-jeon Hall is this shrine for Yongwang (The Dragon King).
An up close of the Yongwang mural.
I was in Bali for 12 days in April 2016. It was my first time to Indonesia but I hope to return. It’s the world’s largest island country with more than thirteen thousand islands. It’s hard to write about how wonderful my trip was without thinking of the recent Ramadan violence in Java. And, even though ISIS is declaring war on Malaysia and Indonesia, I still think that these are safe countries to travel to. Please pray for the people there.
As much as I discourage being in the Kuta neighborhood, if you arrive late or are just spending a night in Bali, I’d suggest staying somewhere near the airport. You’ll have to walk through a horde of aggressive taxi drivers and a parking lot, but there are plenty of places to stay within a 15-minute walk of the airport. I stayed at the Manggar Indonesia Hotel for $19.67 a night when I had to fly out the next morning.
And, the great thing is that the beach is just a short walk away in the morning too! I’d suggest booking accommodation before you arrive (Agoda always has deals), buying a SIM card at the airport (mine was 200K Indonesian Rupiah), and then use Google Maps to walk to your hotel. Everything seems scary at night so keep your valuables on you and walk diligently. You’ll see in the morning that there was nothing to be scared of.
But, if you’re in Bali for more than a day, get far away from Kuta!
The island’s not that big -about 100 miles from north to south and 175 miles from west to east- but is chock full of variety. You can stay in everything from eclectic hostels to luxurious resorts, hidden lush mountain retreats to epic parties on the beach. Lots of different areas to explore. Seminyak is a luxurious beach resort area, Ubud and Canggu full of artsy and active types, and plenty of mellow beach towns (e.g. Amed, Lovina, and Pemuteran) to relax in. Keep in mind that with a population of 4.2 million and tiny, windy roads, traffic is congested. Always gotta haggle with taxi drivers and set a price before your ride starts!
Bali is not an extremely cheap place, but it is a good value on a moderate budget. Indonesian food is delicious and there’s plenty of good quality foreign food. If you’re not drinking, you can easily have a great meal for less than $10 USD. Indonesia is primarily a Muslim country which means that in places you can buy beer, it’s ~$5 USD. Also, keep in mind that drugs are punishable by death.
I had such a blast in Bali, it’s hard to remember what’s worth mentioning. Sometimes I wonder if it’s just a magical place and everything’s good. I spent some time in Ubud where I stayed at The Onion Collective, a chill co-working spot (RP150K-200K/night) recommended by my friend, Nik Wood. From there, had a bag of laundry washed down the street for ~RP30K. Had some great meals at Taco Casa and Bebek Bengil (~RP220K a person). Also hung out with monkeys at the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary (entrance fee RP40K). Took a class at the Yoga Barn.
Skrobo and I rented scooters, RP300K for three nights. Guided by Google Maps we drove 77km from Ubud to Amed. If you do this, take the coastal route. We didn’t at first and both fell while scooting up a muddy mountain, but were very fortunate as we only got a few scratches. Always wear your helmet!
We felt badass scooting up to the Tegallalang Rice Terraces, and stayed at The Cave Hotel for a night along the way, which has a stunning view of Kintamani Volcano and Mount Batur. The restaurant next door, Warung Baling-Baling, had some of the best food I had in Bali.
In Amed, we stayed at Citra Lestari Cottages (RP300K-350K/night) and scuba dove the USS Liberty Wreck with Baruna Dive Center. What an incredible dive site! Sunsets were gorgeous in Amed. My favorite place to eat was Warung Enak, where the owner serves vegetables fresh from her garden. The highlight was probably when my friend, Skrobo, paid a local to go fishing one morning and came back with a bag of just caught mackerel.
I ended my trip with a comped stay at Tugu Hotel in Canggu. The hotel is everything luxury, situated right by the beach. You’ll be treated to daily tea time and beautiful art; this boutique hotel is a great way to relax or hole away and get some serious work done. Beyond the beach, I loved lazying my way to nearby Grocer & Grind, Nalu Bowls, Crate Cafe, and Deus Ex Machina.