If you’ve been to Bali or if you’re planning to visit Bali, you will undoubtedly come across Seminyak. It’s a place I actively avoided on my trip, but ended up there in the end. Why did I hate my visit to Seminyak? Will you hate your visit too? Maybe not, but at least I’ve warned you 😉
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We ended up visiting Seminyak after surfing in Canggu didn’t work out for us. The waves were pretty rough in Canggu, and we were desperate to find a place with beginner-friendly waves. All signs pointed to Legian Beach located between Kuta and Seminyak (Magic Seaweed, Lonely Planet, surf blogs…), so we reluctantly booked a hotel there for a couple of days to check out the surf.
Before I go any further, you might be wondering why I so wanted to avoid Kuta/Seminyak. Well, I already had an idea that I might not like either place since they are the main tourist destinations. I was a bit worried that they wouldn’t feel like “Bali” and would be filled with drunken Aussies (no offense, Aussies).
Legian Beach – a trash dump
Legian Beach, you are such a depressing place. This beach is filled with heaps of garbage everywhere. Literally everywhere. You can barely take a step without stepping on a piece of trash. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, we rented boards and waded out into the waves, only to find ourselves wading through trash. Endless trash. I really can’t emphasize enough how much garbage there is floating around in the water there. I decided just to try surfing for a little while to get something out of our visit to Seminyak, but my trials were in vain. Laying on my board, I was paddling through garbage. Plastic wrappers clinging to my legs, to my arms, wrapped about the leash of my board. It honestly felt disgusting and I was bit scared of what gross things might be lurking in the water there.
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Nearly all the trash there was from single use packaging. Single use yogurt cups. Straws. Single use water cups. Single use juice packages.
Why is there so much trash there? Our first theory was that this is one of the main tourist beaches of Bali, so the trash must come from the tourists there. We asked locals (as politely as we could muster), and all of them told us that this garbage comes from Java. They told us that December and January are months when the amounts of garbage on the beaches are extreme due to westerly winds that bring trash from Sumatra and Java to Bali.
We weren’t so sure. It seems like an easy excuse to blame the other islands, but for us as tourists it was difficult to know where exactly it came from. After some research we learned that there are reports of up to 20 tons of garbage washing on the shores here per day. PER DAY.
There are some excavators that roam the beaches at night gathering garbage up into piles, but I’m not sure what good that will do, since I never saw any proper garbage disposal in Indonesia anyway (I have never seen garbage cans in public – all garbage is burned).
Forget surfing there. Forget swimming. Forget sunbathing – unless laying on a lounger surrounded by garbage is your thing.
Seeing all the garbage there really opened my eyes. I’m certain that here in the Netherlands, or my home in the US, we produce at least as much trash as the average Indonesian – I’d put my bets on we Westerners producing several times more than Indonesians do. But we’re never exposed to all that garbage we create. Once it gets picked up by the garbage truck, it’s out of side, out of mind. How lucky we are that we aren’t surrounded by trash. But I also think this makes us blind to the amount of trash we produce. When I was surrounded by garbage in the water I wondered, if the trash is bothering me, how much could it be impacting marine life?
Seminyak felt too much like Miami Beach
Resorts, clubs and upscale restaurants. That’s what you’ll find in Seminyak. At least, that’s what we found on our visit to Seminyak — which is exactly why we wanted to avoid going there in the first place. To me, Seminyak felt like Miami Beach. Lots of shopping and hip restaurants. I love Miami, and had a great time there, but that’s not why I went to Indonesia. I know, I know, what else could I expect in Bali? Actually, most other places we visited on the Island of the Gods was much more relaxed than Seminyak/Kuta, so I feel like that area is sort of an axis of trashiness. For me, a trip to Indonesia wasn’t meant to go to all the hippest restaurants and clubs that feel like they could be dropped into an American or European city – my goal was to get a break from all of that in a new culture. Lombok, of course, would be better for that.
So, Ms. Negativity, what did you like?
Our last night in Seminyak our hotel’s owner asked if we were interested in an “adventure.” Of course, we said yes, and he recommended that instead of heading to one of the Western style restaurants, that we head to a fish market a 15 minute walk away – the direction of where actual locals are living.
Thank god for this recommendation, because this was the saving grace of our visit to Seminyak. We found a fish barbecue market where we could pick out anything we wanted to have it cooked fresh for us. The best part was that this place felt “real.” There weren’t any other westerners on vacation there. Just some locals chowing down and lots of fish.
I can’t forget to mention, our hotel was great. We stayed at Umadasa Seminyak during our short visit. Despite how much we didn’t enjoy our visit to Seminyak, we did enjoy our hotel – which was very centrally located, featured a great breakfast, had friendly hosts, and maybe best of all, was cheap! We paid about €28 per night and were happy to have such a quiet place to stay despite its very central location.
Planning your trip to Indonesia? Lonely Planet is my go-to for all my travels and I used it to plan and inspire all my travels in Indonesia
Gabby is a native (Northern) Californian who spent the majority of her 20’s living the expat life in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, exploring Europe and beyond. 27 countries later, she’s relocated back to her home base in California where she explores her passions for the travel and the outdoors.