Bali, the land of the Gods. Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places on earth. Superb beaches, spectacular panoramas, and cool mountain retreats. A gentle people living in perfect harmony with their surroundings, famous for their rich cultural traditions and elaborate religious ceremonies…
Surely the ultimate holiday destination then.
But not say Time, in a damning new article entitled "Holidays in Hell: Bali's Ongoing Woes"
The problem according to Time is that the monstrous mass-market tourism industry is slowly but surely taking its inevitable toll on this once pristine island. South Bali is in particularly bad shape, especially Kuta and its surrounds, which now bears the scars of over zealous mass tourism.
Let’s look at some of the problems one by one:
1. Filth. And I’m not talking just about littering. It’s far worse than that. Because unbeknown to most tourists, natural sewage is routinely pumped into Bali’s seas and rivers - untreated. No wonder so many tourists get diarrhea, or the infamous Bali belly. Yuck!
2. Harassment. Bali has some of the most persistent hawkers in the world. “No” is not a word they understand. And they usually won’t lay off until you get angry and tell them to leave you alone. Doesn’t exactly make for a relaxing holiday, does it? The loud-mouthed gigolos (the so-called Kuta Cowboys) are an added irritation: they’ll try it on with anyone from your sister to your grandma.
The older the woman, the better for the Kuta cowboys - who strangely don't even exist according to the Balinese local government!
3. Drugs. Being a party island, young tourists are up for a good time. And with soft drugs readily available many of them wanna make it a holiday to remember. But they’d better watch out: some of those seemingly friendly drug pushers may actually be working with you-know-who and trying to set them up. An easy way to stretch a two-week vacation into a 20-year super extended stay. Not really recommended unless you’re really keen on getting to know Australia’s Schapelle Corby.
4. Cheating. Ever wondered how a five-kilometer taxi trip from the airport to your hotel can turn into a one-hour sightseeing trip? Does the taxi driver really not know where to go?
5. Scams. You didn’t ask that girl at the temple to tag on, but she seems friendly enough and shows you around. Don’t be surprised though when she asks for a ridiculously large payment for her services. And if you don’t want to pay her, her male friends who have suddenly appeared from nowhere can be mighty persuasive. Official guides can be just as bad. Find out for yourself at Besakih Temple. You have to watch your credit cards and bank cards too, because criminals have been "skimming" bank cards at ATM machines and using hidden cameras to obtain PIN numbers.
6. Dodgy airport. Nope, Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport is not the world's greatest, but does it really matter?
7. Traffic. "Traffic so bad that parts of the island resemble Indonesia's gridlocked capital Jakarta," claim Time, but a ridiculous thing to say if you've ever encountered Jakarta's madcap roads which are a million times more hellish than the ones in Bali.
8. Environmental destruction. Resorts have been built everywhere, but little attention has been paid to environmental concerns. Hotels, restaurants and other tourist facilities are built right on the sand, which results in the disappearance of beach sediment. The floodplain rivers are filled in to pave the way for new developments. This then causes annual flooding during Bali's rainy season.
All these problems could easily be overcome however. The Balinese should launch raids against the gigolos and get them rehabilitated (like the local government does against street prostitutes in Jakarta). Also, there should be a clampdown on the street hawkers and cheats, and there should be big fines against littering. And some of the considerable taxes raised from the tourism industry should be used to build sewage treatment facilities. Sustainable development must be practiced. It’s really not so difficult is it?
Keep Bali beautiful! Because it’s way too magical to lose…