Dominic VanAbbe - Holiday in Bali, 1997

...Well it was certainly a terrific holiday - right up there with Europe as the best holiday I've ever had, but for different reasons. Europe was very much a sightseeing, go-go-go sort of trip, always on the move. On the other hand, this trip was completely relaxed - much lounging on the beach or by the pool, much partying and carry-on at night. I can't claim however that Bali (in particular the Kuta Beach, Sanur, Nusa Dua areas) has anything whatsoever to do with Indonesian culture - it's very geared up for tourism. A lot of the fun and games we had was purely circumstantial. We were really lucky in having a terrific bunch of folks in the hotel. By New Years we had about 25 of us (a motley assortment of Ozzies, Kiwis and Pommies) who partied at the hotel, across the road in a restaurant/bar, and later in a nightclub - just enjoying each other's cmpany and completely oblivious to what anyone else was doing. Like I said, it was circumstantial, but geez it was a lot of fun!!! of course it would have been a waste to go all that way and not attempt to see any of the country, so I did take advantage of a couple of tours (to see the volcano, traditional dances, temples, hot springs etc.) that were included in our airfare.

Indonesia is a real culture shock though - in the first 48 hours I was ready to get on the plane and come home. It stinks (continual smells of sewage wafting up from the many draincovers), on surface value it appears dirty, it's *EXTREMELY* humid, and you couldn't walk down the streets without getting continually hassled by the peddlers and hawkers (of course, they've spotted your pasty white skin from a mile away and assume you're fresh off the plane and thus have lotsa money to burn!!). After a few days though you get used to it, and by the end of the holiday we were posing for photos and joking around with them!!

As I said, though, in a lot of ways Kuta Beach is extremely westernised now, and will continue to be even more so. We went into a Town Planning Centre when we were there, and there was a small-scale model of what the main drag of Kuta is going to look like n10 years. It's gonna be all shopping plazas, fast food chains and hotels. It's really sad - all this money is not helping the locals any, it's all going to overseas interests like the US, Japan and, no doubt, Australia. In fact, I'm certain the whole place is run by some sort of Oz/Indo/Jap Mafioso group.

When the price of, say, a Pizza Hut large pizza is 23,000 rupiah (roughly 6 stg) and the average monthly wage for a decent job over there (e.g. hotel security guard) is 180,000 rupiah (roughly 45 stg), you just know that the locals aren't eating there. It's all geared up for tourism. Mc.Donalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, you name it - they're all there. Much of the local culture in the area has evaporated, which I find tremendously sad.

Despite all this, the Indonesians (esp. the Balinese) remain incredibly friendly. I've never seen so many smiling faces. They pick your brains to hear about Australia and overseas places, primarily because the poor buggers are never going to get outside their own countries, and so they live it through mine and other people's words. It must break their hearts when I'm telling someone who earns 180,000 rupiah a month that I was just ripped off 50,000 rupiah for a crappy pair of shorts and a sarong. And yet, they remain friendly and smile. Incredibly noble, admirable people..."

Dominic VanAbbe can be contacted at

(c) Dominic VanAbbe 1997

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