In Perth we don’t have many cheap and close holiday options. Sometimes it can feel a little bit like Gilead from The Hand Maid’s Tale, where we have only one way of doing things and therefore only one holiday destination in the world – Bali. Of course I jest, but it is a well known fact that its cheaper for Perth people to go to Bali than any other place in the world. Its even cheaper than travelling within WA or going over east for a getaway. By the time you factor in accommodation its can be cheaper to go to Bali than to our very own beloved Quokka Island – Rottnest.
I am a regular Bali goer myself and don’t look down upon others that also enjoy their Bali time, like some do. I’d like to make being a Bali Bogan something to be proud of rather than cringe-worthy. And since I began learning Indonesian, five years ago, I have enjoyed going to other places in Indonesia besides Bali, including Lombok, Yogyakarta, Bandung and Jakarta.
My partner and I, who I shall call Mr Talky, for the sake of irony, recently did two nights in Margaret River or ‘Margs’. In the same month we also spent five nights in Bali for a friend’s wedding. So based on these two destinations I wanted to make my own comparison of these holiday options for Perth people.
Margs; cheap it most certainly is not, unless you eat fast food or cook for yourself that is. And if you are going there and not planning to enjoy the delicious food on offer I reckon you would be depriving yourself of 75% of the Margaret River experience, may as well just stay home.
That cliched tourist marketing phrase ‘local produce’ makes me cringe as much as some people cringe from the word ‘moist’. Actually when an establishment praises its own local bloody produce it makes me feel like I am being strangled in a hipster wankfest. HOWEVER….. I must concede that the local produce in Margs is to die for.
Tonight I went out with Mr Talky for dinner at one of the nicer restaurants on the main drag and we were like pigs in mud enjoying our blood sausage (him) and me my jilgies in risotto with asparagas and sharply flavoured parmesan. Though I am not sure why they were written up as ‘king prawns’ when they were clearly local jilgies. Perhaps its for tourists, maybe if the restaurant writes ‘prawns’ they know they will get ordered. Jigies would have to be explained and possibly too hard for tourists to understand. Or just maybe they had an opportunity to use jilgies that were cheaper and fresher. Anyway by the time the dish comes out tourists just probably think its a special kind of local prawn and I guess it is in a ‘freshwater prawn’ kind of way. This set us back about $100, 2 meals and a bottle of wine.
There is no denying that the local produce of WA’s south west is premium. You won’t always get premium food in Bali, however, I did enjoy dining at Bubba Gump’s on my last trip. To me, the food was exquisite. We had two mocktails and Mr Talky had fish and I had prawns (alright, bloody shrimp then). The service was excellent and the bill was AU$98 for 2 drinks and 2 meals. These are Australian prices. The average Indonesian wage is about $120 per month. I kid you not so it did feel a bit gross eating such expensive food in front of people who could never afford to eat there themselves.
Bali can be as expensive or as cheap as you wish, but cheap is possible and usually the norm. If you don’t mind eating at a local warung on the street you can eat for a few dollars, and even if you get stung with ‘harga bule’ (foreigner prices or specifically white people prices) you will still only eat for a few dollars. I like to do a combo of both, some cheap street eats and then treat myself to 1 or 2 classy upmarket eateries if I can. On my last trip I did my usual cheap eats and I did a bit of upmarket eating too. I find less touristy places provide better opportunities for me to practise my Indonesian with locals rather than the upmarket places that ensure their staff speak decent English, so I don’t learn much in the fancy places. However the food may be so good it might be worth it sometimes for a word collector who gets naturally high on taking new parts of speech with her to bed most nights. Some people actually go out to eat good food and then there are others like me who are always buying new words.
Winner – the food in Margs for taste.
Winner – the food in Bali on price.
Wine, wine, wine!
The other world famous local produce of Margs is the wine. Drinking the world reknown Margaret River wine is no comparison to drinking alcohol in Bali. Its not even a contest but for Australian consumers wine is an important factor when choosing holiday destinations. Margs offers the best wine in the world as far as I am concerned. I have never had a bad wine from there. Being the cheapskates we are, tonight, Mr Talky and I ordered the cheapest bottle of SSB on the menu. It didn’t have a brand on it, it just said ‘blended wine’ but Mr Talky said it was a local cleanskin. It was softly textured and went down smoothly like flavoured water, and that’s a compliment.
Winner – the wine of Margaret River is no competition for any other place in the world.
As an aside, there is also a lot to be said for being able to drink out of the tap directly without having to worry about getting sick. And you can’t do a winery tour in Bali.