It is no secret that Bali is my favourite place that I have ever had the pleasure of exploring. With its beaches, culture and friendly faces it is hard not to fall for the Indonesian island.
Bali is not the only highly sought out destination for backpackers: Thailand is the biggest backpacker destination in Asia. Often, travellers feel that Thailand is more authentic than Bali, whereas others find Bali more beautiful.
Having visited Bali and Southern Thailand, I felt compelled to compare the two destinations. Both places are very similar, with beaches, rainforests, partying, island hopping, and a chaotic city. But then again, they are very different in many ways.
Bali’s beaches very depending on where you are: from the great surf of Kuta, to the quiet local beaches to Canggu, to the pebbled beaches of Amed. But the water was crystal wherever you are.
The beaches are very busy, with stall sellers and merchants approaching you endlessly. Canggu was the only beach was you could be left in peace.
Unlike Bali, in Thailand the waters differ in each location. On the islands the water is like sapphire, but in Krabi off the mainland the water is murky due to hotels dumping waste onto the beaches. However Thailand did outdo Bali in regards to peaceful beach time: merchants never once approached us anywhere on the beaches.
Kuta and Seminyak in Bali are notorious party cities, especially among the Aussie Schoolies. Drinks are cheap and Kuta is full of clubs, Alleycats being a favourite with backpackers.
Wednesday nights in Canggu are famous for their party at Old Man’s bar, with beer pong tournaments and happy hour offers.
Not only that, but Gili T is known as the Ibiza of the southern hemisphere. The small island is party central, with different bars hosting the club each day.
Yet, outside of these places partying is pretty much non-existent, for example in Ubud bars close at midnight and are usually pretty empty.
On the other hand, there is always a party in Thailand. With party hostels in every town or on every island, your trip will be one non-stop night out. Thailand rivals European hostels with their party-attitude and pub-crawls. There is even an island that has a huge party every week: Koh Phangan’s moon parties are not to be missed. A trip to Thailand is a trip to get wild.
Both Bali and southern Thailand are very similar in terms of sights.
Bali’s sights are mainly of nature, such as Ubud’s rice fields, Mount Batur and waterfalls. People go to Bali to relax on beaches and practice yoga. Bali is very much on island time, no one is in a rush and days are spent chilling out in the sun.
Although that is not to say there aren’t any cultural sights: the northern part of the island is full of beautiful temples.
Similarly, Thailand has many natural sights to see: from the cliffs of Ao Nang and Railay to the viewpoints of Koh Tao. With Southern Thailand is on Thai time, which is even more laid back than island time.
However, up in Bangkok there are many cultural sights to see, such as the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. A trip to Bangkok will have you on your feet all day and feels very much like visiting a European city with much to see.
Balinese people are extremely friendly, and will happily help you with any issues you have. Yet merchants can be very aggressive in their sales techniques, especially on the beaches were they pester you.
Alternatively, it’s true what they say about Thailand: it is the land of smiles. The people are polite and friendly and enjoy banter with tourists. Not once did I feel as though a merchant was acting intimidating.
The Price Tag:
Travellers have often said that Thailand is much cheaper than Bali. And whilst this may be true for northern Thailand, southern Thailand is very commercialised and comes with a hefty tourist-destination price tag.
Surprisingly I found Bali a lot cheaper than Thailand’s south: the beer was cheaper, the trips were cheaper, transport was a fraction of the price, hostels were half the price and food was pennies compared to pounds.
This could be because we spent less time in Thailand and wanted to see as much as possible, so we were on the move a lot and spent money on day trips which were expensive.
The Verdict: Bali VS Southern Thailand
Bali still has my heart. Whilst I did not hate Thailand, I did expect more from what fellow travellers have told me. Then again, I have been warned that the south of Thailand has nothing on the cultural north.
But for now: Bali wins.
Have you visited Thailand and Bali? Tell me which was your favourite in the comments!