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How to Be a Good Tourist in Bali

Dear fellow Indonesian,

First of all, please don’t take this open letter too seriously. Treat it as a loving, concerned letter your wise Tante Dewi might sent you after she heard how you misbehaved in your vacation. Have you ever heard of a complain made by your friend who just came back from Bali with his family: “Oh the Balinese are awful! They ignored us completely when we ordered and served the bules first even when we obviously arrived earlier”. I can’t deny it happened before and it will happen again. You can blame the post-colonial mentality or you can ask that friend of yours this question: “what did you do to get such treatment?”

You see, born and bred in this small island, I’ve seen you, my dearest fellow Indonesian, here annually, repeatedly. My brother even joked that there are 3 kinds of citizenship in Bali during high season: WNI, WNA and W.N.L (based on your car plates get it?). It seems like some sort of a national reflex in which Bali will be the answer whenever someone asked ‘where should we go for the next holiday’. I totally understand the urge of not thinking during holiday. Aren’t we all just love to not thinking of where to go next, how to get there or where to stay? No research needed. Just pack, bring your Nintendo gaming kids and voila, you’ve arrived in Bali. It just can’t be easier than that... except there are thousands more who thinks like you. Hence, the shocking, horrible, congested traffic from airport to Legian, where you’ve booked your hotel. Even locals and expats alike, are either hiding or fleeing the island whenever this happens.

The first best advice I could give you, one comerade to the other, is this: do not come here during high season or God forbid, peak season. You’ll have to pay extra for the flight and the hotel. You’ll have to queue in every porkish restaurants you’ve planned to eat and trust me, licking your pork ribs while being surrounded by impatient pork vultures who wish they’re beside you sitting and licking, is one of the most unpleasant eating experience you could have in your life, as experienced by yours truly recently.

Second advice: go outside Kuta for real Bali experience. Yes, yes, I understand it is very hard to come to Bali and not posing in front of Hard Rock Hotel. It’s unimaginable. It’s like going to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower, or some sort. Kindly know that Kuta is not Bali. It’s a No Man’s Land of drunk Australian hipsters who barely legal to consume alcohol or first time backpackers who didn’t know any better. There’s way more of Bali than that. Hire a driver and stay far away from the crowd, that’s where the real Bali is. Go north, south or east. Hike, bike, swim and walk. Shut down your BlackBerry for a while and stop updating your Facebook status. Take the iPad away from your kids. Be a family. Chances are you’ll meet some of the nicest locals you will ever meet in you travel.

We know now that you’re a good tipper, easy spender and your wives shops for the whole neighborhood. Yes, we learned our lesson not to just counting on the Australians since that awful thing happened on 2002. We learned to bend our rules and put up with ten people staying in just one room. But really, it is so easy to earn our respect (you don’t even need to raise your voice and waving your platinum card). We couldn’t care less how much money you have back home, that’s not how we judge you. When you’re in a crowded restaurant, please wait to be seated, lower your intonation and volume then wait patiently. We’ll come. A nice, simple gesture like calling the waiter ‘bli’ or the waitress ‘mbok’ will get our attention. We tend to serve you even faster if you managed to not wearing the barong or bintang shirt. FYI, no self respected Balinese will wear those outside their home.

Bali is shrinking. There are more villas and less rice field. God knows what will happen in a decade. We might be known as The Island of Villas instead of temples. One thing for sure, you should know that as Balinese we have a high pride. We can put up with anything: Dutch, terrorists, Bakrie. We’re being called ‘noble savages’ all those years ago, not for nothing. We can smile our widest smile to you and ignore you completely if you’re being rude at us. One thing we can’t put up is when you’re being disrespectful because we do take it personally. After all, being on holiday doesn’t necessarily means we also let our manners on vacation either, aren’t we?

Sincerely yours,


p.s: This is my personal observation. All the characters and places mentioned are real. However any resemblance to actual person is purely intentional (you know who you are, you rude bastard who cuts line at my queue and staring at me while I nibble on my pork ribs).

3 komentar:

Karina said...

Ah, my dear SapiMalas. May God forgive the rude tourist that cut your line. After all, there is a difference between tourists and travelers, no?

asnwords said...

you speak like a true heart Balinese!

SapiMalas said...

Thanks for the comments girls. The entry was written during a high season and a high emotion but surprisingly received a lot of support.