Thursday, October 26, 2006

then we'll all be happy / and we'll all be wise / and together we will live beneath the burning sky

Tourism in Bali is down, not as much as it was, but its still down. It’s a fact and it’s a tragedy for those on the island who can least afford it as, without a proper social welfare system (beyond the village system, which is in reality probably more supportive than half the systems in the so called developed world (hello Singapore, hello USA)) those on the bottom rungs, who depend not only on the actual work but the obvious flow on, are clearly suffering.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still tourists by the thousand arriving daily on this island (to suffer the indignity of the rather poorly thought out visa-on-demand fee, which clearly is designed to benefit those with such access to so much ready US cash than Indonesia, but that’s another story) but the numbers are clearly down and the balance has changed rather dramatically. There has been a massive upswing in the numbers from many of the more sophisticated Asian nations; and Europe and even the fearful American tourists seem to be returning. In truth there was never really a substantive drop off in the young European visitor, attracted by the sun, surf, and the lights of Seminyak; and the pick up in American numbers is relative to the fact that our paranoid imperialist want-to-be-masters don’t like to travel and haven’t much for some years anyway, unless they go under the guise of the 82nd Airborne or such.

But the obvious swing is the drop in the budget Australian tourist…Ma and Pa with three kids from the sprawling suburbs of Perth, Sydney or Brisbane, who have, as a habit, spent their annual three weeks off from the Holden factory in Bali. The fifty percent drop in their numbers has really hurt ocker central...the low end tourist market of Kuta and Tuban. The unwashed crowds who used to come en-mass to buy their cheap T shirts, knock off DVDs and pay far too much for “plaiting of hair”, let alone frequent the seedy bars of Jl Legian, are staying away in droves. The middle and high end seem to have tossed aside any concerns and are here in obvious numbers, as a drive down Jalan Laksama on a Saturday night will attest.

And, you may say, can you blame them…after all four years ago, in a couple of those very seedy and sleazy Kuta bars 202 poor souls lost their lives. It was and remains a tragedy. There is nothing that I can say to make it any better or to justify the horror of what was done then, or in Kuta Square & Jimabaran last year.

But, and I thought long and hard before I posted this…according to a recent poll, this understandable reasoning is NOT the primary reason most of these people are not coming here. No, some 76 percent of Australians, in a recent Australian poll of those who have made a decision to holiday elsewhere, stated that their primary reason for avoiding Bali was the fear of being fitted up for a drug conviction. I don’t have an link for this as it doesn’t appear in the online version of the Jakarta Post who reported it, so you’ll need to take my word for it.

Now I can also understand that many people would, and have, dismissed the bomb threat as minor (I’ve not seen any figures but I would imagine the chance of being hit by a Sydney bus would be about the same as being in another bomb here, and indeed, courtesy of Sheriff Howard’s rather pathetic desire the to be seen as a player, you may be as much at risk of a bomb right now in George Street or The Crown Casino as Bali…)…not non existent mind, but the chances of being in that particular place...well you know…I lived in London whilst the IRA were blowing up Harrods and the like, but you put it in perspective. Planes crash but I still fly; there are nasty snakes here but I still wander carefully through the countryside.

So I scratch my head and wonder, is this symptomatic of a recent failure in the Australian education system or have these people always been so bloody stupid. There is even some idiot (from Harvey World in Tasmania no less) who has conducted a campaign against traveling to Bali because of what was done to our Schapelle. Forget the fact that she’s probably guilty (and I’m not going to go into it again but look at the evidence...any court in the world would have convicted her, and I’ve yet to hear a convincing contrary argument, or for that matter, meet a Bali resident who thinks otherwise) and the fact that the drugs were allegedly planted in Australia by corrupt baggage handlers for gods sake, not by those terrible Indonesians. And forget the fact that the Bali 9 were handed over to the Indonesian police by the Australian Federal Police who were well aware that, when found guilty, as they most surely are, what the likely outcome would be.

See, I don’t agree with the sentences handed out, 20 years simply is wrong and the death penalty is always wrong wherever and why ever its applied, but, big but this, that is largely beside the point…if you consciously plan and undertake the crime, as I believe both the Corby crew and the Bali 9 obviously did, and then you work out your odds…and the odds in Indonesia for bulés with drug related crimes are not good. End of story. You do it, you are stupid, even if, as so many suspect, the Corby family may well have done so before successfully. We are not dealing with a bright family here, but the above polling suggests that they are more or less representative of many their compatriots in that.

The Australian hypocrisy stinks too…complaining on one hand about the death penalties for the Bali 9, and on the other clambering for the Bali bombers to meet their end. And then there is the Ba’shir nonsense. The man was convicted on hearsay, most of which would not have held up in an Australian court. In Australia it’s doubtful if he would’ve spent any time in a cell, but so eager were the Indonesian Authorities to be seen to be doing the right thing that perhaps the goalposts were shifted a little. The Indonesian justice system is a million miles from perfect but I would suggest that before the self righteously ignorant downunder rant that they look a little closer to home, at their justice system as it’s applied to their native peoples over the years, and the notoriously corrupt police and courts in NSW, Victoria and Queensland.

So that’s my little dua ribu’s worth…stay away if you are worried about your physical safely (but apply the same values to your next journey to London or NYC please), but anything else is crap.

Anyway, as seems to be the common wisdom here, the place has, aesthetically if nothing else, benefited substantially from the demographical swing…

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