"I've never been on a vacation like this before," I tell Dan from my perch on the poolside of our $12-a-night hotel.

He sips his one-dollar 'Arak attack', a cocktail made of coconut spirits and lime juice and adjusts his $10 sunglasses. “Me either.”

Later, we go out for a meal ($10) and some shopping (all told, $5). I contemplate getting a pedicure (at $6) before Dan's brother's wedding on Wednesday.

This is Bali as legions of Australian vacationers know it--a sunny, romantic paradise with climate and terrain not unlike their own continent, but with prices way, way cheaper.

Walking down the street to the Legian Beach Hotel, the resort where Dan's family stayed (at prices much higher than our own hotel but still cheaper than a medium-nice hotel in Oz) from looking at the passers by instead of the potholes, we could have been in Australia. There's the balding man and his ever-smiling wife running a restaurant, a mother and children bargaining over souvenirs, the surfers on mopeds racing to the beach, the plump couple strolling with the sun on their shoulders. Except for me and a German couple we met diving, there are Aussie accents everywhere.

We stayed in Legian, a "sleepier" area near Kuta, the most famous of Bali's beach towns. There's a beach with a steady supply of one- and two-meter waves and the surfers who ride them. There's two or three covered rabbit-warren markets selling batiks, fake batiks, beachwear and wooden carvings. There are restaurants clearly aimed at Western palates serving up club sandwiches, nachos, surf and turf and tall bottles of the local Bintang beer.

What we seem to be missing are actual Indonesians. Other than wait staff, hotel cleaners, shop assistants, masseurs and security guards, we meet no one. Later, a tour guide confides in us that the restaurants tourists find so cheap along Melasti Street are far beyond the spending power of most locals. Coming recently from China, where prices were similar but restaurant dining was firmly in the price bracket of the locals, we were surprised by this. We tried to find out more about the local living conditions from an Indonesian woman on our dive trip, but the language barrier didn't let us do more than chit chat. This is the first time in our travels that we haven't been able to connect with some local people, and we missed them.

**Click here to see pictures from Bali!**
 


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