I know people who will never go back to Bali again.
The pain that comes from seeing the ravages inflicted on a once-pristine island by the mass-market tourism industry is just too much for them to bear.
I’m not one of those people mind you, and I still feel Bali has a lot to offer – provided you can get away from the development (sic) onslaught in the south. Generally, for us, that means diving and snorkeling in the beautiful north-east of the island, just behind the majestic Gunung Agung volcano at Tulamben/Amed.
But now I’m starting to get skeptical.
This tiny island currently gets around 3 million foreign tourists a year on top of the soaring number of domestic tourists which has surpassed 5 million annually. For 2015, Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika wants an incredible 15 million tourists! And if plans to build a new airport in the north of the island are realized, the number could potentially rise to 40 million!
And how many Balinese are there? Less than 4 million!
Even so, there are still some (relatively) unspoilt areas in the south of Bali, like the rugged and spectacular Uluwatu/Pecatu peninsular, the in-vogue holiday destination for the seriously rich – who stay in cliffside villas like this.
So that’s where we stayed for a few days (not in that particular villa mind you!) before heading back to Jakarta.
One of the things I wanted to do in Pecatu was check out a beach called Dreamland. I’d heard good things about it a number of years back and how it was a quiet and idyllic refuge for surfers looking for that perfect wave.
Getting to the beach is easy enough, although it’s only accessible via a private road which takes you through a huge 400 hectare development called Pecatu Graha Bali (Kuta Golf Links Resort), owned by the one and only Tommy Suharto.
A lot of the projects here have only just been resumed after being put on hold after the 1990s financial crisis, and the overall vibe is more one of a building site than a tropical paradise.
And there – at the end of the road, wtf is that?!!!
Getting to the car park is a bit like driving through Jakarta’s Blok M bus terminal – big, brutal buses carrying passengers from places as far away as Surabaya and Malang in East Java.
The similarities to Blok M don’t stop there, however, and vendors have set up shop on the path down to the beach selling the usual tourist stuff like sunglasses, T shirts and, inevitably I suppose, Bakso meatballs!
There are also showers which cost “Rp10,000” and by this stage I’m actually surprised that I haven’t been asked to buy a ticket to gain access to the beach.
On the sandy beach itself, things improve markedly - although it’s still packed with people – most of whom are wearing more clothes than I would on a late afternoon walk in Richmond Park on a cold winter day.
Trying to make the best of a bad situation and I decide to walk the path which leads up to the cliffs…
Ah, this is better! Brickland is a beach definitely best seen from afar!