I definitely do not have bitchy resting face. I think every single peddler in Bali tried to sell me their wares or services at least twice. My cheerful “no thank yous” faded slowly to mumbled deflections and then to silence and zero eye contact.
Ah, the joys of being in a place tainted by tourism.
I didn’t pick Bali for the experience. I’d been before. But when Boyfriend and I got word my partner visa was being granted, we knew I’d have to temporarily leave Australia to activate it. Bali boasted the cheapest flight.
Picked My Poison
I didn’t have to stay in Kuta – the district nearest the airport famous for drawing the most ego-centric tourists. However my trip was so short that it didn’t make sense to incur the expense of traveling inland. Especially when I planned to spend 50% of my waking hours holed up in my hotel room. Why would I do such a blasphemous thing? To catch up on writing and “me time” that had been sorely lacking in my Australian life thus far. So, Kuta it was.
Plus, I had a bit of a morbid curiosity about the famous horrible hordes, the bulk of which is comprised of Australians. aIt should be said that “Australians” merely refers to the fact that most of the people hanging out in Kuta happen to be from Australia. This does not mean all Australians are like those who fly to Bali to booze it up and throw money around. Just like not every American is fat, loud, ignorant or rich. The anthropologist in me wanted to find out why my new fellow countrymen are drawn here. When a group of school girls interviewed me on the beach for a classroom project, I answered their “why Bali” question with a laugh. They laughed, too, when I said I guess I came to study Australians.
It was a little bit painful to compare the Bali I know – the quiet streets of Candi Kuning, the family compounds on the outskirts of Ubud, the easy-to-miss Medewi coast – with the Las Vegas-y intensity of Kuta. I steeled myself for an assault on my sense of fairness.
It drives me crazy to see tourists splash cash, clueless about the negative impact their fiscal apathy has on the locals whose treasures they’ve come to consume. Especially for Australians who are conditioned to forking over astronomical sums back home, the difference between a $2 or $8 plate of Nasi Goreng (fried rice) barely registers.
The same pattern happens in every gorgeous land of have-nots: the “haves” descend, they are so rich compared to the locals that they pay any price asked, the costs of goods and services rise to a level the locals can no longer afford, and then the locals are forced to either move away or harass the tourists endlessly to survive another day.
And… is it true that those who complain the most about being harassed are also the least interested in “doing as the Romans do?”
I did manage to suspend my ironic loathing for the tourist system in which I partake long enough to enjoy a few things in Kuta. I found a Russian restaurant with amazing papaya and avocado salad. Twice I made my way to a local gym (sans aircon – I have never sweated so much in my life). I felt grateful for two amazing massages. I discovered every single pharmacy in Bali “just ran out” of melatonin, and optometrists only stock 8.8 curve contacts.
I went down to the sea the night before my departure. As beach beauty goes, well, Australia has ruined me. However Kuta’s wide, flat, expanse of hard sand made a fantastic footballing place at low tide. Games started up all along the shoreline, the pounding feet of the players felt by onlookers. The warm breeze was a nice contrast to the stiff and biting gusts that accompany summer sunsets in Perth. Among the bits of rubbish and packaging strewn about, sand crabs excavated safe spots for themselves, leaving fascinating patterns behind. More than a few beach-goers grabbed a stick and carved out messages in the wet sand.
I wish I’d discovered sooner that the beach also provides a bit of respite from the constant hawking of goods and services. As I caught sight of Agung (Bali’s main volcano) looming in the distance, I finally felt the sense of pensive calm that had eluded me for months.
As I strolled past a posh resort, glimpsing the Gucci-crowd poolside in their loungers, I decided comfort dulls ones senses. Having a carefully controlled daily life is, yes, comfortable. But also boring. To me. I guess there are those who prefer to live on the banks of the river of life, watching it go by. And there are those who prefer to jump in the river and be carried wherever the current may take them.
I learned to swim almost before I could walk, so you can probably guess which camp I fall into. ♣
References [ + ]
|a.||↑||It should be said that “Australians” merely refers to the fact that most of the people hanging out in Kuta happen to be from Australia. This does not mean all Australians are like those who fly to Bali to booze it up and throw money around. Just like not every American is fat, loud, ignorant or rich.|