Monday, April 16, 2007

If You Don't Have Something Nice to Say...

I know I've been harping on Bali for the past week. While I feel justified in my frustration, I think it's only fair that I write a post explaining why Bali may be the way it is.

There was once a booming tourist economy in Bali. Then, in October 2002, terrorists set off bombs in a nightclub in Kuta, killing more than 200 tourists. Three years later, twin bombs went off on the beach in Kuta, again causing loss of life. There was also the tsumani, which killed hundreds of thousands of Indonesians in northern Sumatra (very far from where I am now). Add to this, at least for Americans, State Department warnings of political unrest, and you've got myriad reasons for travelers to skip Bali and head elsewhere.

Where does this leave the thousands, perhaps millions, of people who depend on tourism for a living? It leaves them with few options. I'm sure many have turned to other businesses, or adapted in ways that still service tourism but in other ways. But there are still those who depend on tourists for a living. And with fewer tourists there is more competition for tourist dollars (Euros, Yen, etc.).

In my week in Bali, I've spent my dollars on hotels, food and clothing. I haven't purchased everything available to me, but neither have I cut corners to save a buck here or there. I would spend more but for the hassle I've detailed in my past few posts.

There have been bright spots: good food, friendly people and some pictaresque locations. Just today, I went to Warung Aria, a small outdoor restaurant, for a plate of stir-fried vegetables and rice, and discovered the spicy food I'd heard about, exquisite little red chilis (cabe rawit - bird's eye chili) that packed a perfect punch. Yesterday, I topped off the credit on my mobile phone and had a good conversation with the woman behind the counter, her pudgy baby sleeping peacefully behind her on a carpet. Two nights ago I sat at a cart next to the beach, drinking Bintang beer and munching on peanuts while chatting with a local musician while the owner smiled at everything I said. At the impecably clean Internet cafe Bits 'n' Bytes (where wireless acrcess actually costs less than using their desktops!), ex-pats exhange friendly greetings with the staff while taking care of business.

There is a genuine culture to be discovered here. It's too bad terrorism has turned the world off Bali. Everybody, locals and tourists, would be better off if things were different.



Blogger Reni said...


I really enjoy reading your travel blog here. I don't know what to say about the scams and difficulties that you're having there, but to say very typical (agaian!!) of Indonesians!!! But I haven't visited Mount Bromo or Semeru, because I don't want to get ripped-off. Well, enjoy the rest of your travel.

7:18 PM  

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