Thursday, December 19, 2013

10 Things I truly, madly, deeply DISLIKE about Bali

"One does not love a place the less because one has suffered in it."
--Virginia Woolf, The Common Reader



I would have used ‘hate’ but Mike keeps telling me it’s such a strong word so, I used ‘dislike’ instead, with some adjectives for emphasis. =) 

Before you accuse me of being a whining ungrateful b*tch, understand that I don’t hate Bali enough to leave it and curse it for all primitive eternity. I just dislike (very) some things that go on about this place; some things that spoil the beauty and serenity of living here.

People often tell me how lucky I am that I live in paradise and they get very surprised when I say it is not always so. I am grateful to be here. People forget however, that holidaying in a place doesn’t let you get to know its reality and intimate details compared to spending time -- a lot of time -- in it.

I’ve always accepted Bali as a place with primitive ways. In some aspects this contributes to its charm but in others, it causes headaches. In general, I have no problems with the locals’ ways, morals, and religion. In fact, I feel privileged to experience all these. However, as I've said, there are some behavioral aspects that baffle and frustrate me (and any bule*) to no end.

If you live in Bali or have lived here especially recently, I’m sure you’d be able to relate. For those that plan to move here full-time, consider this article as my way of introducing the reality of life in Bali as well as honest advice to help you keep your patience (and sanity). 



1.    RRRRoad   Rants  --   I’ve decided to divide this into 3 parts:

                  a)    Crazy Conditions

Due to the amount of hotels and resorts being built on the island, particularly in the south, the roads are full of gravel, rocks, and sand that fall off the careless dump trucks that transport them resulting as well to dangerously deep potholes in their wake. These, not to mention the crazy truck drivers, cause so many road accidents at times resulting to death.

These road mines makes one feel like they’re in a Mario Kart game with King Koopa constantly throwing sh*t at you. Isn’t there a regulation that controls the amount of development on the island??

Once in Ubud, I skidded on a patch of gravel and face planted on the rocky ground. Locals who rushed to help me said “Oh, you’re the 5th one this past hour!” No sooner had I sat down, another biker fell and injured himself! My friend had to find a broom to sweep the area and put some sort of sign to warn motorists.

As you can see, the locals don’t care much for these hazards. I was flabergasted at how they would wait for multiple accidents before they would even do anything about it, if they actually do. Most of the time, they wait for a bule to do the job.

FYI: Plants in potholes or about 10 meters away from a broken-down truck are the locals’ Early Warning Devices.

this has been here for years

               b)    I hope you're not in a hurry...

Cruising on the streets is just terrible these days. If you're in a car, the traffic will consume a lot of your travel time. What should be a 20-minute ride turns into 2-3 hours now. It has become crazy here and the amount of road rage is increasing as well. Even in the bukit where it’s supposed to be mellower, traffic has intensified the last couple of years.

This is courtesy of the hundreds of tour buses that squeeze themselves into Bali’s tiny streets. We’re talking about large-capacity tour buses highly speeding on 5 to 10 meter-wide streets apart from crowding and causing so much traffic on the roads! Shouldn’t there also be a regulation on the bus sizes and allowable amount that travel on the island?

Adding to this are the never-ending road projects strewn all over the central and south. At the moment, it’s the highly unnecessarily massive footpaths being built on both sides of the road!  



First of all, nobody really uses foot paths here. 

Second, this just killed the small businesses due to lack of parking spaces. Even bikes have difficulty getting over these humps to get to the shops, what more a car?! 

And third, why build 2 sidewalks? What the hell for?? (You'd think one would be enough!) They’re annoyingly wide and thick eating up the little extension it gives the narrow streets!

There’s got to be a good reason for this. Otherwise, they deserve a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for lack of common sense.






                  c)    Safety? What?

Be warned that locals are reckless on the motorbike (and car). For them, especially the youth, riding the bike is a game with no consequences. You’ll see kids no more than 10 driving a scooter 5x their size or an entire family on a motorbike, with the adults wearing helmets but their 4 children, none.

You will also see young boys who think they’re speed devils going too fast to nowhere but a probably accident or death. More so, they remove the side mirrors on their bikes to make it more dangerous thus, making them look cooler (or so they think).

All this recklessness causes Bali to average a death toll of about 250 people* per month from motorbike accidents. You’d think this reality would scare them? Not really, because they continue to go speeding on small, rocky roads without caring if they hit someone or not. Nor do they look at oncoming traffic before they speed out of a perpendicular street. Heck, they don’t even use turn signals here! 

Crazy isn't it? I understand the motorbike is their mode of transportation here but some driving courtesy and regard for safety would surely save many lives.

By the way, if you get into an accident with a local, even if it’s not your fault, move on because they will turn it against you and make you pay for all the damages and hospitalization. Keep in mind that bules are always on the losing end here in Bali.

There are countless stories of foreigners stopping to help an injured local only to get blamed in the end and asked to pay the hospital bills!

*250 death toll = source from police information


2.    Flirting..... with Danger. Literally!  (This one's for the ladies)

This actually belongs to above but it’s such a huge pet peeve of mine that I decided to give it its own number. If you’re a female and you drive the motorbike, you will experience getting chased and hit-on while on the road. A crazy method that local men do to meet girls. This is because local girls actually respond to this bizarre 'pick-up' practice so they think foreign women would too!
           
Apart from the usual cat-calling and whistling, I’ve seriously been chased and my arm grabbed while I was driving my bike! Why they would think I’d appreciate this, consider it cute, and give them my digits is bewildering. First, it’s highly dangerous. Second, when a woman is ignoring your hollering that means she is not interested and the only thing it’s making me want to do is run you over or kick you to the ground. Third, it’s highly dangerous!

Sometimes, men here act like they have never seen women before.




3.    Sanitation Shortage

Hand Washing -- Know that this is not a common practice around here. And if they do, they rarely use soap.

Bathroom Etiquette – I understand that it was only recently that locals learnt to use a Western-style toilet (most still use the squat-type). But you’d think they’d have adapted some by now.

Not really, hence all the prevalent diseases on the island like typhoid, stomach flu, and hepatitis.

When you use a public toilet, you’d notice that the toilet rim is always wet. This is because they don’t use toilet paper to wipe themselves after their business. Instead, they use the bidet, wetting everything in the cubicle and flooding the floor. Oh no, they don’t wipe the seat off for the next user.

But, consider this better because other times, you’d see shoe-step marks on the rim!

The food – I’m not really a fan of Indonesian food to begin with. I find it too greasy and often times too salty. Plus, I don’t fancy the smell of the famous sambal. But of course I have to eat the local food to survive and most of the time it’s at the warung*. However, when I see loads of flies in the glass cases, it makes me lose my appetite and even more so when I see the lady use her hands in taking my choices, even with soup! Mind you, this is the same hand that receives money and is used in the toilet for…...

*warung =  cheap local restaurants

the few i was able to retrieve 

4.    Courting Courtesy 

Another missing piece in the maturity department. There’s no such thing as lining up or queuing here. At the stores, expect someone to just dump their stuff on the counter totally ignoring you as you wait for your turn.
           
If you accidentally bought a defective product, rarely do you get your money back. And if they lost an item of yours, say at the laundry, expect a sorry, a smile, or a shrug.

Recently, I bought pasta at Pepitos, and both l times, they had LOADS of weevils in them (flour bugs). These were of 2 different brands. The second time, I went to return the pasta to change with another brand as I knew they wouldn't return my money. They gave me another one to try, one that’s more expensive and even asked me to pay the difference! Yep, their fault and you still have to pay.
 
cropped cartoon by Baloo, grabbed online (www.jantoo.com)

5.    The Bules

bule = pronounced boo-ley; a foreigner

Let’s take a break from the locals and talk about the quality of its foreign residents. 

"Aw, gitu! Gila-gila orang!" 

After years of living here and meeting many, many people, I can honestly say that for such a small place, Bali sure attracts a good amount of crazies!

You see, some of those that come to live here are either running away from something back home or ‘wannabe’ big fishes in small ponds or, simply get drunk and hook up with the local girls, young local girls.

Borrowing from the surf community lingo, some ‘kooks’ come here and act like they’re royalty or a special local. It's actually quite funny hearing them bragging and acting all huffy and puffy, the locals smiling and nodding to show agreement, but in truth they laugh about them crazy bules behind their backs or even to their faces. 


6.    Constantly being asked about Bali.

I’ve become very annoyed about this which is partly what led me in creating this blog. Ever since I moved to Bali, people ask me for all sorts of stuff about it from the surf to hotels to activities. Even to the point of wanting me to plan their whole itinerary down to the booking.

Yes I live here but I don’t know every single hotel on the island nor do I want to plan for you. I can only recommend certain things and places. More so, in this age of technology, getting information is so easy! Go online and do some research. You say you want to travel and be a traveler, well then act like one. I am not your personal travel agent.  

I would appreciate it if you did your research first then asked me what I thought, because then I can see you’ve made effort and done your homework instead of relying on me for everything.



So yeah, if you do move here, prepare for your friends to barrage you with endless questions and recommendations regarding Bali. I hope you have more patience than me.


7.    Work Ethic

Okay, back to the locals. Know that most locals are quite lazy. There’s a certain laissez faire to their work style. They pretty much work when they want. Try it. Hire someone to do a job and when the date comes, you won’t see them. And when you ring, they’d apologize and ask for another time. That is if they answer the call because sometimes they just don’t.

The Balinese, most particularly, are known regionally for being the laziest and slowest workers of all. This stems from their lack of drive to work due to their feeling of entitlement of the island. They feel they own the island and despise -- secretly though as they’re too modest to admit -- all the development and the foreigners (non-balinese and non-indonesians) that come here purchasing their lands.

I can’t say I blame them. Like I mentioned in #1, soon the Balinese will be renting their own lands!

Many times I’ve heard my friends complain how their maids or gardeners just disappeared. Or how the renovations at their house are taking forever because the workers don’t always come and they have an excuse –- either a ceremony, a blessing, or someone’s sick. “Maaf, ada upacara sekarang…” / Sorry, I have ceremony today… is a phrase you’ll normally here around here.

This is why most companies and people source workers from other places like Java or Timor to do work. They’re more reliable to get things done.

One has to simply accept this and move on. It can get very frustrating especially when you needed something important done. But, unfortunately you’re in Bali, and there’s no such thing as important here to the locals aside from their religious ceremonies.

More so, bumming around tinkering with their numerous cellphones is a favorite pastime here especially by the men. You’d see them loitered around the warungs, on the street, in the fields, by a statue, at the mini marts, or under the trees with no cares or responsibilities in the world. Makes you wonder why they have so much free time, well it’s because most of them don’t work (and yet they can afford many cellphones!). They often leave that task to the women. Sexism? Yes, I very much think so.  



8.    Indo / Bali time

You don’t know what tardiness is until you’ve experienced Bali time. The Indonesians in general have taken tardiness and delay to a whole new level! We’re not talking about minutes or hours in delay, more like days or weeks even!

In something simple as meeting someone for lunch, expect a standard 20-30 minutes of lateness, but for postal services, days to weeks.

I had a friend who went to a neighboring island and asked about the return boat. He was told they’re not sure, maybe tomorrow. He tried every day and it was the 5th or 6th day when a finally boat came to pick up the passengers.    

Yeah, so plan ahead, go with the flow, and don’t stress.

hopefully Bali will always stay this beautiful...

9.    Environmental UN-awareness

It is rather sad that the locals don’t think much of the environment and the ecological effects of their wasteful behavior. Historically, the waters (oceans) are considered unholy places and are where the demons/monsters/ghosts reside which explains the temples built on cliffs facing the oceans to protect them and keep away these unholy characters.

More recently, it seems that to them the ocean is just one big rubbish bin. It is common to swim and surf in garbage here. It’s a pretty disgusting experience. Once I had to wade through diapers, bottles, cigarettes, and other pieces of shit that I almost vomited as I got out to the line up.

The locals don’t care much for the waters or the lands that they simply litter and pollute without hesitation. Rarely would you see rubbish bins at the beaches or streets. It must be such an effort to contain all wastes in one container and dispose of them properly so they simply burn garbage altogether anytime, any day, and everywhere. One will be astounded at the amount of plastic bottles and bags used in this tiny island! More so, they built sewages and toilets that simply go straight out to the ocean anyway.

It’s not very pretty here especially during the rainy season where the rain and current drag the rubbish near the shore. Well, as they say, what goes around comes around.





10.  Bothersome Tagging Barbs!

If you’ve ever had your laundry done here, you’d know what I mean. If not, prepare for your clothes to get destroyed. They love using tagging barbs here. Sometimes 2 or more in a piece of clothing or the hole itself!

They’re terrible things because they cause holes in your clothing damaging the material completely. More so, they don’t really care where to tag, they’ll staple it anywhere they feel like! And no matter how many times you tell them not to tag, they still will.

Once I got my underwear back and saw on the seam were 3 barbs in one hole! (I sound like a porn star) Someone sure went tag-crazy!

I’ve had so many of my clothes ruined from this method of organizing. Finding one that doesn’t use them is definitely a challenge here.

---------------

Yet, don't let all that I have mentioned above deter you from trying it out in Bali. Though patience, acceptance, and tolerance are virtues regularly tested here (especially if you come from a more developed place), there are also many rewards to your well-being. To prevent oneself from becoming negative about the place, one must constantly keep in mind that Bali is simply provincial; its people are not mean nor do they have any personal vendetta against anyone. They are simple people with simple needs. Their shortcomings and lack of maturity stem from the limited education they receive and the effects of their primitive culture. 


Perhaps one day they will grow and develop as people and care more for their lives and surroundings


In the meantime, I will continue to practice patience as I live and experience the beauty that has made this place famous. 



2 comments:

  1. My husband and I are almost at our one year mark of living in Bali and we share a lot of the same dislikes. I might have a few more, but constantly trying to find ways to enjoy it with all it's downsides. :P We spend a lot of effort trying to start a business, realizing it costs a lot just to get a business license. I often think Bali is a good place only if you are rich.

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    1. right. starting a business in bali is tough unless you've tons of money to spend for all the red tape, buro-crazies, and corruption. glad to hear though that you're remaining positive nonetheless. =)

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