Thursday, July 16, 2009
Being Fair To The Other Bali
Maybe I haven't been fair to the southern part of Bali-- Kuta, Seminyak, Legian, Jimbaran Bay, Sanur, the sprawling tourist ghetto surrounding the airport, where upwards of 90% of the tourists who come to Bali stay. And I mean stay.
To me Bali is everything but this consciously created tourist ghetto. I go for places that don't have fast food restaurants, don't have economies based solely on tourism and don't have hordes of pastey tourists looking for they know not what. I've always preferred quiet places or places where peoples' interactions with me aren't necessarily based on the previous interactions they've had with thousands of others "just like me."
I've never eaten in a Wendy's or a Kentucky Fried Chicken or a McDonald's or any of those poisonous industrialized food substitute feeding places and I tend to find little in common with people who do. The tourist ghettos have them woven into their existence, the other 90% of Bali doesn't. I write about the other 90%. But is that fair?
I met a young German the other day who's been living in Bali for the last few years. He's staying on the outskirts of Ubud helping a friend refurbish a house. But he lives in Seminyak. "Ubud," he told me, "is the most boring place in Bali. Everything is closing when I'm getting ready to go out and party." He loves Seminyak, a real party town. You can drink and find plenty of cheap sex there. The Australian partiers are exact duplicates of the American spring break crowd that makes places like Cancun and Cabo so absolutely avoidable. Avoidable to me. There's no doubt that far more people like those places than the quiet kinds of places I prefer.
So let this serve as a warning; most people prefer a very different Bali-- and a very different Mexico-- to the one I prefer. I once went to Athens with a friend and every morning when I'd being going out to see the Acropolis and the sights that drew me to Greece, he'd be dragging his ass home from a night of cruising the sights that drew him to Greece. Who am I to say my way is superior or more worthwhile? He had a great time. Personally I'd rather spend a day on the slopes of Mount Agung or white water rafting on the Ayung than spend a night of club hopping in Kuta. And I basically eat a variation of vegan Nasi Campur or gado gado everyday. I'm sure it's not right for everybody. And I'm sure Disney World and the Atlantis Paradise Island are a million times more popular as travel destinations than the kinds of places this blog covers.
When we got to the Amankila the other day, the security guards searched underneath our car with a huge mirror, the way it's done in much of the third world. We didn't think it looked very effective. I wonder if someone did the same at the Ritz-Carlton and Marriott in Jakarta today, each of which was bombed. Noisiest thing around ole Ubud is the roosters crowing away day and night... and the mosquitos buzzing.