Bali After the Bombings
“Hello! Looking? Yes?”
Walking along any tourist region on the Indonesian island of Bali, you are likely to be touted and hustled. Merchants stand in the entrance of their shops, desperate to get you inside. Drivers are even worse - sometimes they’ll follow you up the street as you walk…
“You want driver. I drive. You want trip?” they’ll say while miming out the act of driving.
Big mistake. If you reply, you are simply giving them an incentive to talk more.
“How about tomorrow? Yes? We go to Ubud, and then volcano…”
“No thanks, really. I’m just going to the beach.”
“How about weekend? Here is my card…”
The 2002 bombing in the Kuta region of Bali, when 202 people were killed, followed by the bombings in 2005, have left the formerly popular Indonesian island holiday favorite relegated to a paradise lost; only worthy of the brave, the fearless … and, of course, surfers. Slowly the tourists have started to come back, but they are not flocking.
A Swedish woman staying at my hotel, who had been to Bali before the bombings, commented: “Isn’t it sad? It’s so quiet now – like a ghost town. It used to be so full of life…” I had never traveled to Bali before the terrorist attacks, but I could well imagine that this is not the typical Balinese spirit of old.
"Special Price For You"
I started my trip in the quieter town of Sanur - a place for families, for those who no longer feel the need to go partying and clubbing until the late hours; a place to relax… so they say. But the locals want business, and they start as soon as you arrive; trying to strike up a relationship, trying to make an impression—
“Hello! Where you from?”
Within a few minutes of hopping out of the taxi, I was hustled into buying some new flip-flops, for which I think I paid more than double the normal price.
Wild Monkeys and Fire Dances
The next stop on my itinery was the quieter town of Ubud. On the way, I passed a large crowd of men shouting so I asked my driver to stop. It turned out to be an authentic Balinese cock fight.
This is one way in which local men entertain themselves by putting on a few choice bets. Sharp knives are tied to the poultry gladiators’ feet before they do battle.
I finally arrived at my next destination – Ubud. Famous for art and craft, Ubud is a must visit to get the feel of traditional Bali. It is situated just south of the centre of the island; which means that the altitude is higher, bringing more rain, and of course – there is no beach. It is a very different side of Bali that not everyone gets the opportunity to experience.
One of the most memorable aspects of Ubud is the sacred monkey forest. Guarded by two giant stone monkey statues, the forest is overrun by, albeit, friendly monkeys who will hassle you for bananas as you stroll through. Sometimes they will even follow you and try to steal the contents of your pockets!
Next, I traveled down to Legion, just north of Kuta. The beaches here are the best in Bali, and it is busier with crowds of surfers and partygoers. However, when you walk around the shopping areas of Kuta, most of the bars remain practically empty, except for one or two nightclubs – and the owners look just as depressed and desperate to get you inside as those in the quieter town of Sanur.
There is a huge memorial in Kuta dedicated to the bomb victims who died there; a shrine and a symbol of remembrance for the tragedies that happened. As a post-attack tourist, it does nothing for the holiday spirit and there is still a sense of danger in Kuta; with a third bombing not beyond the realm of possibility.
Bali is still a holiday paradise, but it has become political. No doubt that almost any country you visit these days will have similar risks of terrorist attacks as Bali does – especially in big cities and tourist hotspots.
Read more GoNOMAD stories about Indonesia
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