You know you may have been in the third world too long when you find yourself getting excited about a Hypermarket opening. But, sad to report, that’s been exactly the case this week. You see, right there on Jl Sunset, the enormous Carrefour chain has opened an enormous store complete with an enormous car-park, and enormous sign and enormous crowds.
So here we all are in Paradise (and make no mistake, Bali still feels like just that...two years here, with all the frustrations that implies, have not dampened that belief) and yet the whole island is abuzz with the opening of what is really, to many of we expats, simply a large faceless superstore of the type which dominates every town, big or small, in our native lands. And, inevitably, kills off the all the smaller businesses in that town. Whether it does that here is a matter of conjecture, because, generally, its no cheaper than the other places, has the same stock and only has glitz and convenience to offer.
But I guess that’s the key to it’s success and its hard to overstate the impact a shop like this must have on the overwhelming majority of Balinese who have never, or only once or twice, left the island (especially as the relic from a dictatorship..the Fiskal exit tax shows little sign of being abolished). Both Brigid and I were wondering what the endless overstocked shelves (shelves here generally have a sparse few of each item), well lit aisles (aisles here tend to be dark with low wattage bulbs, half of which are blown, perhaps as a sign of solidarity with the traffic lights) and the seemingly efficient, helpful, knowledgeable staff (usually rare), must look like to the uninitiated. Not only that, but each item has a price sticker, so the idea of having to wait half an hour while several girls scroll through the catalogue on the Windows 3.1 driven database in the PC for the price, goes out the window.
But sadder than all that was the supposedly A list expats wandering the aisles too grinning as their old world somehow comes a little closer. Of course the Jl Laksama expat shop girls on “business visas” haven’t quite made it, as all their time is taken scrambling around trying to find enough change for the next Ku De Ta sunset cocktail, or trying to edge oneself into the tragic, expats only, social pages in the Bali Times.
We, being as a sad as the rest, wandered in last Saturday, as we killed time waiting for Antique to open for dinner, as you do. And we were pleased to note that they haven’t managed to excise every last bit of the island….a Dolce & Gabbana shop, complete with Versace and Paul Smith knock offs of course, had managed to sneak into the first level, and there were still absolutely no trash bins to be found anywhere.
The Periplus bookshop on the ground lantai was strategically next to KFC too, and the smell wafted though as you browsed the same 50 bloody books they have in every other branch....the Colonel had thought that one out well.
As we left, we all made snide remarks about how businesses like this are ruining the soul of the island…as we all made mental notes about the best floor to park on for quick access, and wondered if, like all the locals queuing up, we expats are too allowed to open accounts.
incidentally the photo on this post has nothing to do with any of this...I felt like posting a picture of my friend Shaun at Ulawatu in a purple skirt.....