Sunday, December 02, 2007

If you try, you'll find me / where the sky meets the sea

It’s another beautiful day here in paradise. The sun is up, its thirty odd degrees, the rooster next door is crowing away as it does on and off all day (I thought these things were supposed to make daybreak noise..this lazy bugger doesn’t get going until 9 or so).

Yes, it’s a wonderful day, and the local folks outside are gate are smiling as they do all over Indonesia. I’m feeling great…and then, via email, this arrives:

The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has today updated its travel advice for Indonesia. Full text below.

Indonesia….

….. Bali high risk

Our advice against all tourist and other non-essential travel extends to Bali…..(the whole thing is here)

I dunno what to say about this really but I’ll give it a go. I’m aware (more than most gustuofferingI’d say) of the bombings, the aftermath to those bombings and the threat to we non-Indonesians here in Bali. And I’m also aware that our government has a responsibility to warn its citizens of any real threat to their safety whilst abroad.

And therein lies my problem with these warnings, and, I think, pretty much every other New Zealander I’ve discussed this with agrees, as do Australians and Americans here.

We live day to day here, we encounter Indonesians of all religious and political colours and we don’t ever (and I don't use that word lightly) feel threatened. To be honest, as I go about my life here, the personal threat to myself and my family not only feels substantially like its less than much of the rest of the planet, but, if one is to believe the stats here, it actually is.

So lets toss a few things into the mix….you are warned against visiting Bali because you are at threat. Non essential travel is a big no no. But this page places New Zealand near the top of the global per-capita figures for crime. And the US and Australia, the UK and the United States all hang around the upper rungs. Have a wander through all the stats and you’ll find Indonesia strangely absent from the top of the lists. And Bali is substantially more relaxed than the rest of Indonesia.

Remember, this is an island New Zealanders are being warned not to go to because of the extreme personal danger.

Cast your mind back a few years and think of the multitude of attacks, muggings, rapes and murders of tourists in New Zealand over that time. They still happen and are not uncommon. In contrast last year ago Japanese tourist was robbed in a villa in Ubud. This was a very, very big deal..it was the first such attack in 25 years and the offender was tracked to Lombok and then returned here with some noise, to face a very unhappy judiciary. A Swedish woman was raped here earlier this year… the first tourist raped on record I’m reliably told. The offender was Australian.

Walking through downtown Denpasar, or most other Indonesian cities late on a Saturday night is a damn sight less threatening than the Auckland viaduct on a Weekend late night. There is no culture of violence in Indonesia, nor anywhere else in South East Asia, unlike the nations that are warning their citizens not to visit. When it exists, it happens often for other reasons than the repeated randomness found in NZ or Australia. Crimes against women in Indonesia, based on UN & NGO figures, are 22 times lower than they are in the USA. I’ve seen more violence on the average night in High Street than I’ve encountered in Bali over three years.

Of course the terror attacks happened, but they also happened in New York City, with deaths ten times the Bali toll. And yes, it could happen again. But only a fool thinks it couldn’t happen again in London, or for that matter Sydney (although probably not Auckland, to be honest, no-one actually knows where it is, let alone planning an attack there). And day to day, all those places are, if you remove the extraordinarily unlikely chance that the aberation of a terror attack will hit you, substantially more dangerous to visit than poor slighted Bali where the only real danger comes from the lunatics on the road.

So what does the NZ government say about a trip to the US? That there is some risk but it’s more pointed advice warns you about, ummm, your visa….. Forget the fact that you are seven times more likely to die violently in NYC or LA than Indonesia.

I’m really not sure where this warning comes from...is it ignorance or confusion, or perhaps both, tinged with a little good old fashioned racial boysindpsprejudice. I’m leaning towards the latter mix of all three, simply because the warnings of visits to other countries where tourists are shot, or mugged far more frequently are missing from the NZ Safetravel website. Or perhaps its just an aping of the US website (and we all know how bang on their intel has been in recent years, and how non-xenophobic they are), via Australia (who will follow the US without question), since the UK and other European counties, whilst warning strongly about Aceh and Sulawesi, offer the advice that caution is required in Bali.

That makes sense. It is anywhere.

And it looks like much of the rest of the world agrees, as 10,000 delegates from 190 nations arrive today and tomorrow for the largest climate conference ever, most, quite clearly unconcerned that their delegates may find themselves in little pieces after a trip to Kuta beach or Seminyak.

Makes one a little ashamed to be a New Zealander.

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8 comments:

thewalker said...

Well put Simon,

look on the bright side; it may mean less annoying kiwis in paradise!

:)

I wouldn't be surprised if it isn't just some thick bureaucrats playing it safe. And I am sure a HECK off a lot less thought has to go into putting a warning out about Bali than, say, putting a warning out about America. imagine the show America would put on if NZ did that. it'd be worth it,,,it would be something to be proud of i think.

Anita said...

I'm honestly touched. It's not often to see or hear some foreigners actually do have something good to say about our country. My then boyfriend was offered to work to Indonesia on the day the bomb exploded in Bali and he still went anyway. Just like you he found that Indonesia is reasonably safe. Thanks for this great posting, hope this would help people to open their mind about the 'real' Indonesia.

Rob's Blockhead Blog said...

They do play it safe, these bureaucrats.

An ex-colleague used to plan her travel around where the US State Dept was warning people not to go. This was pre-Sept 11, but even so it showed a certain chutzpah.

Personally the city I've felt most at risk in was London.

Rob's Blockhead Blog said...

Only just got the joke in the headline on your post.

Nice.

Subtle.

Simon said...

Thanks Rob..you were up early!

pollywog said...

i don't need a warning to know not to holiday where and when a lot of high profile multinational politicians are conferencing...

...wrong place, wrong time

Simon said...

actually its mostly low level functionaries and a few carbon credit entrepreneurs

pollywog said...

sounds like some serious partyins gonna go down then...heh