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Archive for January, 2010

The West Aussie’s love Bali, but which Bali is it?

Posted by cegan on January 4, 2010

Bali, Indonesia the tropical paradise that often doesn’t get Political freaks like myself analysing the context of its importance to Western Australians. But nevertheless I found myself extremely interested in the phenomenon that leads more Sandgropers to this island than any other.

My Dad says “no rules, you can do whatever you like. My Mum says “I just love lazing by the pool all day”. These are typical views of what Bali is. I summarise that they are the context of what the love affair with the little isle has meant to Western Australians. We marry, engage, and celebrate major milestones such as 21sts, 50ths, anniversaries, football trips. We go back there in ever increasing numbers. For the month of October 2009 over 29,000 people left Perth International Airport on one of the seven flights that depart Perth every day. For comparison sake Adelaide had just 1500, Melbourne a tad over 13,000, Sydney 9,000, Brisbane 4,500 and Darwin 3000.

So despite having just 1.5 million people, Perth has 50% of all Australians to Bali. It also has more tourists coming out of Western Australia than the Republic of China with reports of 17,000 a month respectively heading to the holiday isle. The infectious word of mouth culture feeds into foreign tourists. 2 French Tourists and an American on a year working visa went there over the Christmas Break. Would they have gone had they never experienced the Bali craze that dominates Perth – I suspect not.

Why do they go?  I work in Freo, the liberal centre of paradise in Australia. Guys and girls feel comfortable wearing hot pink skirts that you can see their g-strings. While guys will go in shirtless with no shoes on, this in a city that is revered for its sophisticated Cappucino Strip. A chasm of liberalism allows a care free attitude to flourish…

But outside of Freo the economic boom has zapped the care free style. The Kingswoods that used to dominate the roads have been replaced by Landsrovers. A housing estate in Warnbro that started selling houses in 2004-5 has all the grandeur of increased wealth compared to the housing estate on the other side of the road that sold land in the mid 90’s. Forgive me for the archaeological interpretation, but it delivers an impression of a society in change from relative care free attitudes to more wealth and prestige delivering a change in culture, in just 10 years. As sandgropers we are a conservative lot in terms of social change, what better way to go back to how life used to be like then to head to Bali.

We feel proud to drink the cheapest beer on the street for not much more than a dollar…pfft Little Creatures, Coranas that show our beer sophistication are not needed in Bali. Boutique beers that are all the rage…stuff that, all I want is a Bintang.

All I want is to swim by the pool, relax and get back to what Perth was like in the 60’s and 70’s. Grab a Boost Juice and shop at prices I used to pay for.

Is Kuta/Legian/Seminyak  Bali though?

I would argue the 29,000 tourists a month arriving into Bali from Perth do not see what I do. Indeed my trip involves no happy snaps showing me drinking, screaming and having a good time. But connecting with the Balinese island. It is no different to the isolated town of Tembilahan once you walk the backstreets.

By myself I wandered, I heard, I saw , I relaxed into the culture. I got Nasi Goreng, the simple version that had more spinach than chicken for $1 – this is for locals, gourmet food for locals is not heard of. Nothing like what I saw at the Bounty Hotel, full of Sandgropers on Christmas Day.

I bought a banana for 10 cents than proceeded to walk down back streets that most West Aussie’s don’t see. Indeed, I saw very few tourists of any kind in Denpasar – which means by the market. The capital had many motor shops, but the satay stick I had for 15cents will stay in my memory for a very long time. It was insanely good…

I was shocked, I expected this Bali to be politically and culturally infused by tourism and local cooking and markets would be long gone. It hadn’t, Bali survives on the cultural chasm that operates. Away from Kuta/Seminyak/Legian is a local economy, culture that hardly is pierced by foreign eyes. While the Europeans were prevalent on the cultural trecks up to Bandung, waterfalls, there was nobody in the capital city.

The local economy is booming with pet shops scattered throughout the city, massages for locals, defining an economy that has luxury goods becoming mainstream. I saw celluite reduction shops in areas that are only for locals.

The economy delivers economic growth mainly for the middle and upper economies, with corruption being a major issue and a society that struggles to believe it can challenge this culture. But this is a whole new blog altogether. After spending a week in Bali, exploring ‘No Go Zones’ that other Aussies would find boring, I don’t see a tourist juggernaut eroding the special characteristics of Bali as reported in the Australian. Yes there are environmental issues, but that needs a caimpaign on a national level, Indonesia is shocking on all levels. There is a psychological difference on how we view the environment and how Indonesians do.

But the creativity, energy and diversity of the population creates the image of the connectivity of cultures between Bali and Australia on the strip.

“This is Chris’s second home” I was told more than once by the drivers around the island. Its becoming a second home to more sandgropers by the month. There has been no low season thus far, with every month of 2009 having more departures from Perth than the previous month.

With tourist numbers more than doubling from Perth in 2009 and the island appealing to those with varied interests, the real Bali is safe from the tourist stampede. That is if they continue to ignore the magic of Asia, for the comforts of bygone years.

By Chris Egan

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