Friday, 24 September 2010

Bali lows: what the travel brochures don't tell you

I haven't read Elizabeth Gilbert's account of her time spent on a mission of self-discovery in Bali in her memoirs Eat, Pray, Love. I'm not sure what she found there or whether she wrote about some of the more pressing issues impacting on this beautiful island and its people. Probably not. After all, it was all about her.

I was only in Bali for 12 days and loved it.

But no one told me about:

* the burning off. What recycling? Plastic bottles and bags, the whole kit and kaboodle goes up in smoke every day in Bali. It blows off the coast, but in the northern town of Ubud the air is thick with poisonous fumes each morning and evening.

* the raw sewerage that pollutes the rivers and the ocean. Actually, my friend Ms Love-a-chat did warn me about this. She and her hubby chose not to swim at Kuta Beach earlier this year because of the raw sewerage that poured into the Indian Ocean every day after the rain.

* the dreadful plight of street dogs. Thousands of starving maltreated dogs prowl the streets of Bali rummaging for food. Ms Fivestar and I were nearly holed up by a growling street dog when we went for a walk around a village close to Ubud. I didn't fancy frothing at the mouth so we made a beeline for our comfortable resort. The sad thing is that Aussie ex-pats tend to import their own spoilt fat canine creatures, even though it is possible to adopt a street dog.

* the traffic. I will never complain about Sydney traffic again. Unless you cycle down a small village back street, Bali is in gridlock for most of the day and night.

* the rampant overdevelopment of the south coast. This includes Seminyak, Kuta, Legian, Nusa Dua and almost down to Uluwatu (watch out surfers at Blue Point and Padang Padang, the developers are encroaching on your piece of paradise). Eyesore hotels litter the coast. It's fugly and sad. Where have all the rice paddies gone?

* children begging on the freeway. The eldest child knocks on the car window while mum sits on the median strip cradling a newborn. Sometimes there is no mum at all. This is terribly worrying.

And let's not forget regular sightings of the Bintang outfitted (singlet and cap and Bintang in hand) Aussie tourist - tattoos are mandatory for blokes and sheilas. God bless their fat farty bottoms, for they bring in the tourist dollar.

On the bright side, there are initiatives to clean up Bali, though it's stuck with the Bintang-sucking Aussies. Coca-Cola Amatil has a program to clean up the beaches and help the recovery of sea turtles at Kuta Beach (KBSTC).

There's also a program to help Bali's street kids at

The Bali Animal Welfare Association recently launched a petition to help save Bali's street dogs and eliminate the cruel treatment of animals in Indonesia. The petition is at and needs 5000 more signatures.

Spanner just came in and told me that it was impossible to save the world. But that's just Spanner.


Anita Joy said...

Might be impossible to save the world on your own, Shayne, but if we all take baby steps...

Shayne said...

Hi Anita!
Thanks for commenting. You make me feel loved.

I agree. You can only do small things and hope they make a difference.

Don't take the kids to Bali until they're older - or you might lose them through the really big gaps in the footpaths!


Mon said...

I've never been to Bali, but it sounds a little like Vanuatu. When you're in the resort areas it's wonderful, but then you see the poverty beyond all of the touristy stuff, and it can be a bit depressing.

When I hear Aussies whinge about Australia, I think they should shut their mouths - obviously they haven't travelled around the world. They'd realise how lucky they/we are if they'd open their eyes. We are so very fortunate to be here.

Glad you had a safe trip, and I hope we get to catch up soon.

:-) Mon