Sunday, October 16, 2005

ABC Radio National: AM - Bali's economy struggling

AM - Bali's economy struggling

This is a radio interview transcript in which an Australian expatriate suggests that room occupancies are down 20% to 50%. I would be interested to know how accurate that is because other things I've read suggest that the tourism fallout from this second bombing has been less than might have been expected.

More interesting is the account of big gates going up round hotels. When I was in Bali in August, there were security men all over the place, but I remembered them there from last time. It is one of the curiosities of travel in the third world how there is this whole industry of para-police, all decked out in quite elaborate uniforms. Cilik, of Cilik's Beach Garden, told me that it was the law, founded in a policy of job creation, that there be a nightwatchman per specific number of bungalows (I forget how many, but it was a small number).

After the first bombing, there was a great reluctance to give up the relaxed attitude to security, and I do not think much changed. At ultra-hip bars packed with ugly "beautiful people" like Ku De Ta, there were security guys who would sweep mirrors on little trolleys underneath cars; so too at places like The Legian, and where we unfortunately stayed, Resor Seminyak, both in Seminyak, two suburbs down Kuta beach from Kuta. But not all cars got the treatment. The security was obviously imperfect, though not exactly relaxed.

These kinds of measures will themselves instill fear, and make Bali a less desirable place.

What is surprising perhaps is that there have been no call to banish Javanese from Bali. Most of the taxi drivers are Javanese. They live together in pockets of Denpasar which the suicide bombers are suspected of cruising in and out of unnoticed. There is already a lot of resentment towards Javanese in Bali. Many are poor and come to try to make money in this comparatively wealthy Indonesian island. The Balinese blame most of the hawker behaviour on Kuta Beach on Javanese visitors.

We don't tend to distinguish much between Indonesians, but a Javanese is truly foreign to a Balinese. They look different, have different religions, speak different languages, and eat different food.

My impression is that many more Javanese are only nominally religious (four in every five, they say), whereas Balinese religion is so built into the culture and structure of society as to be inescapable. Balinese Hinduism is intrinsically more fun, too, involving the creation of beautiful and elaborate offerings to the Gods, the essence of which is then eaten by the Gods, and the substance finished off by the worshippers. Happily, the Balinese gods like nothing more than that which the Balinese so enjoy: gamelan orchestras, traditional dance, and shadow puppetry all have their place in religious ceremonies at which the gods and their subjects are entertained. And it is probably a lot easier to worship one's ancestors than a rather severe God.

Thanks go to for the photo.


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