Bali Raw: An exposé of the underbelly of Greater Kuta

Jun 27th, 2012, in Featured, IM Posts, Travel, by

A good bloke in Greater Kuta; a review of the book "Bali Raw: an expose of the underbelly of Bali, Indonesia".

Bali Raw is a first person "expose of the underbelly of Bali, Indonesia", written by long term Australian resident of Kuta and surrounds Malcolm Scott, of which we received a review copy.

Bali RawMalcolm goes to live in Bali to work for his three brothers' property business; originally he is taken on by the firm as a sort of charity case on a one million rupiah ($100ish) salary per week, and lives in a cheap and nasty bedsit type room in Kuta, but years later it appears he has become an established man in the company.

The bulk of the book is made up of Malcolm's personal recollections of adventures he had and people he knew, or recollections of conversations and stories told in the bars and restaurants of Kuta. These stories focus heavily on expats:

  • Malcolm getting king hit in a nightclub and narrowly avoiding a further beating from the club security team;
  • a bloody dispute involving a prostitute between the author's brother and another Australian, the latter of whom seems to be quite handy with a broken Bintang bottle;
  • an "English rose" getting deserted by her countryman boyfriend, then roaming the streets in a drunken haze for a month dressed in the same vomit stained dress;
  • how Malcolm managed to persuade four prostitutes to come to an impromptu buck's party by the pool one afternoon;
  • Malcolm attempting to find a prostitute who would be willing to service a very ugly western man, and failing
  • Malcolm taking a young Australian tourist to an infamous prostitute named Angel, and how the tourist would never be the same again;
  • and many more

These tales are done in exhaustive, every twist and turn detail, with the obvious purpose being to portray Bali (well Kuta really) as a violent, seedy place.

While most of the anecdotes are focused on expats Malcolm's observations on the locals and Indonesians generally are intended to dispel the myth that too many tourists have, that

the Balinese are a peaceful, spiritual race of people without a bad bone in their bodies. This is just not true. There is good and bad in any society.

All very true if pedestrian and for evidence Malcolm cites the bloody turf wars that go on between security guards, the casual, open willingness of some Balinese men to sexually exploit quite young girls, the sex for sale everywhere you turn (in Kuta..., and Sanur), the exploitation of dopey, naive westerners for money, money, money.

In summary Bali Raw is Indonesia seen through the eyes of a decent average bloke Australian; for the casual visitor to Bali the book might well be an eye opener, while for the more knowledgeable Indonesia hand much of it will be quite familiar, and it is certainly entertaining.

Minor pedantic gripes - the book could have done with some copy editing to root out grammatical mistakes (too/to, for eg.), and Bali is not a "town", unless it is and it's Greater Kuta.

Bali Raw is published by Monsoon Books of Singapore and can be bought in bookshops in Indonesia, Singapore, and Australia. The UK shortly.


32 Comments on “Bali Raw: An exposé of the underbelly of Greater Kuta”

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  1. avatar Oigal says:
    June 27th, 2012 at 11:19 am

    I always have a problem with equating “Kuta” as “Bali” it is almost as inane as inferring “Jakarta” is Indonesia or Indonesia is Muslim.
    It’s displays a singular ignorance of what you are speaking.

    It would be interesting to see if the author actually identifies where the working girls actually hail from (I think we all know from where). Contrary to the pious rantings of some about the dress or lack there of in Bali it is in fact pretty rare to see a Balinese “Working Girl” so books like this can do a great injustice to the women of Bali

  2. avatar Chris says:
    June 28th, 2012 at 1:03 am

    Hi David,

    I was looking up on the Monsoon Books website where it is available in Indonesia, when I noticed the book was not categorised under travel or humour, but:

    Subject: True Crime

    Do you think that is a fair assessment?

  3. avatar David says:
    June 28th, 2012 at 7:31 am

    It would be interesting to see if the author actually identifies where the working girls actually hail from (I think we all know from where).

    He does mention that the working girls are mostly from Java, or other parts not including Bali. The Javanese come off fairly well in the book relative to the Balinese, except for the story about some bule marrying a Javanese prostitute and going to live in her village and getting kept prisoner by her family…

    Subject: True Crime

    It can read a little like a Chopper Read book here and there, not that I’ve actually read a Chopper Read book… a few stories that are basically how a bar room or out on the street brawl took place, but overall it’s not a crime book.

  4. avatar William says:
    June 28th, 2012 at 8:14 am

    Its all relative, Kuta would look like a nunnery compared to Pattaya or even Surabaya. I remember a British bloke who went to Indonesia to see his uncle. He went to Bali, did all the touristy stuff, then his uncle took him to Dolly, Surabaya. He spent a full ten minutes talking about Surabaya in a business meeting. Well, to each his own.

  5. avatar Chris says:
    June 28th, 2012 at 10:49 am

    It would be interesting to see if the author actually identifies where the working girls actually hail from (I think we all know from where).

    I wonder, do the working boys also rate a mention in the book?

  6. avatar Oigal says:
    June 28th, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    then his uncle took him to Dolly, Surabaya.

    I am certainly not one to be able to take the high moral ground on sexual mores but Dolly is a sad, depressing place and for the life of me cannot figure out why any expatriate would consider it otherwise. Obviously the girls are press ganged into working their and many way too young.

    Me personally much prefer those places where the banter occurs and no one is real sure who is the predator and who is the prey and at least the girls have the opportunity to say NO. That said, more often than not, I would be like the dog chasing the car..”Oh look, I caught one now what do I do with it”. Tis the game not the result and buying slabs of meat is just not fun.

    He does mention that the working girls are mostly from Java, or other parts not including Bali.

    Thanks David, I guess I have always found it curious the way many Indonesians consider Bali as the island of sin and fun yet the inherent make up of those so called sinners were from the Islands of Java. Says something just not sure what.

    Oh ok, I think most times I was the naive prey.

  7. avatar madrotter says:
    June 28th, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Saw this book in the bookstore here in Bandung, might pick it up:) I always have to laugh when I’m in Kuta and these obvious cops (leather jackets, mustaches) whisper in your ear if you wanna buy some ganja off them…. For a visit to the beach I prefer Pangandaran and it’s surroundings these days…

  8. avatar M. Scott says:
    June 29th, 2012 at 6:50 am

    I have been trawling through this site and it’s a good one. But I would like to clear something up.

    Oigal in your comment you suggest Balinese working girls are a rarity. Sadly this is not quite the case. Balinese girls are slowly beginning to infiltrate the Kuta nightlife industry.

    It would be correct to say that there are more Javanese working girls than there are Balinese. But that is slowly changing. And I have a feeling that it may completely change in future years.

    For proof of this I can inform you that the two girls that work the front door of Cr…oes on Legian St are Balinese. I know them personally. I also know of a group of three Balinese girls that work The Bo…ty nightclub.

    These are just the working girls that I could consider as friends. There are more.

  9. avatar Oigal says:
    June 29th, 2012 at 11:25 am

    Hi MS,

    Thanks and I have no doubt in what you are saying. My information (and I should have perhaps qualified it) is some years out of date. I confess trawling the bars of Kuta has long since lost its appeal.

    Sad really..

  10. avatar M. Scott says:
    June 30th, 2012 at 4:53 am

    Hi Oigal

    No problem it is a very common misconception.

    Balinese working girls generally come from far flung villages a long way from Kuta. Or they come from Singaraja. Like their Javanese sisters most tell their families they have found work in a hotel or as domestic staff.

    I have never encountered Balinese working girls that have family living close.

    If a girl’s family is originally from Kuta or Seminyak. Or a village that is in close proximity. It would be very unlikely that she would work in and around Kuta or Seminyak. The chance of her lifestyle being discovered by her family would be too great.

  11. avatar Rob says:
    July 2nd, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    I would just like to say that in the book Scott never mentions once that 100% of prostitutes in Bali are from Bali itself or Java. I my self have visted Bali over 20 times and have spent the last 3 years living there full time ( not a 2 week tourist ).
    In my experience and yes with a lot of prositutes ,my opion would be that a third of the working girls in Bali are Balinese.
    I loved the book and challenge anyone who has lived in Bali ( especially ) Kuta longer than 2 years to disagree with anything in Mr Scott’s book.

  12. avatar Jakartass says:
    July 15th, 2012 at 10:23 am

    Sorry Malcolm Scott and others, but I didn’t like the book at all.

    The opening line of my review in the Bali Expat mag is “This is a strange book, and I have to wonder why it was written, let alone published.”

    There is too much focus on drunkeness, broken noses and various “motherfuckers”, and way too little on how to deal with officials, the dangers of expats getting scammed in land deals and the other pitfalls of expat life encountered throughout Indonesia.

    If this were filmed, it would ‘star’ Chris Mitchum.

    http://bamboogodsandbionicboys.blogspot.com/2010/01/chris-mitchum-interview-december-2009.html

  13. avatar Trebor says:
    July 17th, 2012 at 7:16 am

    Jakartass, “why it was written let alone published ” are you a idiot or just jealous ?
    The book jacket clearly states what the book is about and does not claim to be a travel book full of helpfull hints.
    It was about time a book came out showing the REAL Bail and before you say I have no idea what I am talking about.
    I have been visting Bali for 6 years and lived in Kuta for 2 1/2 years I now live in Thailand and will never be returning to what I now refer to as ” that shit hole ”
    Good on ya Scott , waiting on Bali Raw 2

  14. avatar bonni says:
    July 17th, 2012 at 11:36 am

    What a stupid book.

  15. avatar Jakartass says:
    July 17th, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    @ Trebor
    Presumably when you say that you “will never be returning to that shit hole” you are referring to Kuta, which in your opinion shows the “the real Bali”.

    Well, maybe it does for you and other testerone-charged short-term visitors to Bali. Personally I try to avoid the place: it reminds me too much of haunts I’ve known such as Jakarta’s Blok M and Thailand’s Pattaya.

    When I say that I’m not sure why Malcolm Scott (MS) wrote it, it’s because the book comes across as an autobiographical memoir for his mates, and that surely has very limited interest for anyone who goes to Bali for its other attractions.

    MS has a valid perspective, but his main focus appears to be violence, often alcohol fuelled, and the kupu-kupu malam. I too look forward to Bali Raw 2, but only if it is an amplification on the land-scams, how to deal with a fuller range of officials, too briefly mentioned, rather than the gangs and the police friends of his sister-in-law.

    And that it is why I question “why it was written let alone published.” So, no, I am not an idiot, and as for being jealous, have you got hold of a copy of ‘my’ book?
    (http://www.amazon.com/Culture-Shock-Jakarta-Etiquette-Cultureshock/dp/0761454071)

    Read my full review – http://baliexpat.biz/artsentertainment/book-reviews/bali-raw-an-expose-of-the-underbelly-of-bali-indonesia/ – and you’ll maybe note that I give a fuller appraisal than what I say here. I also give a link to MS’s blog called, what else but Bali Raw. And that is welcome.

  16. avatar timdog says:
    July 17th, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    While Trebor’s response was hardly very grown up, I think Jakartass’ comment – “This is a strange book, and I have to wonder why it was written, let alone published” – deserves some small argument.

    I’ve not read the book yet myself, and while I’m quite sure it hardly ranks as fine literature, it’s pretty clear why it was published.

    There’s a well-established genre of “Southeast Asia expat-lit” featuring gruesome tales from the grubbier fringes of the night, lashings of drugs, prostitutes (of uncertain gender if at all possible), violence (if at all possible involving local police-cum-mafia), and possibly incarceration in “Asia’s most notorious prison” (which can be any of a number of penitentiaries).

    The vast majority of these purportedly non-fiction books are set in Thailand; Bali Raw is clearly pitched at the same slot, but with a Bali setting. To be honest, I’m very surprised it hasn’t been extensively done before.

    In terms of the style (again, not having yet read it myself), I think that David’s citing of Chopper Reid is perceptive – there’s a long-established Australian phenomenon of cheery thug-lit, pioneered by the aforesaid gentleman, which may at times intersect with the previously mentioned “Asian expat lit”.

    So there we go – the book has a ready-made slot on the shelf, and that’ll be why it was published.

    I doubt it is a very deep book, and I’m sure I could find plenty of faults with it, but to be honest I’m always inclined to look favourably on any publication which eschews the usual mode of expat books on Bali, virtually all of which involve some ghastly middle-aged woman finding a “new life” in the “beautiful island of Bali”, and learning to value the simple things in life while living in a million-dollar villa, and tossing in a few stupendously banal platitudes about a “beautiful, smiling people” and their “timeless spirituality” while being unable to count to ten in Indonesia (let alone Balinese) despite having lived there for a decade…

    What I’d really like to see, of course, is a book looking at the “raw” side of the Balinese Bali – the endless petty violence out in the villages, the ready mob violence between community, the corrosive inter-village politics of jealousy with its violent upshots, the alcohol and drug abuse out in village-land, the pervasive prostitution culture – not in the tourist bars of Kuta, but in the locals-only “cafes” on the outskirts of every small town in the hinterlands, and the associated HIV occurrence amongst unsuspecting housewives. And lots more besides.

    Sadly, I suspect neither Malcom Scott nor the floaty white women with their new lives and beautiful people have the qualifications for such an undertaking…

  17. avatar Oigal says:
    July 18th, 2012 at 9:30 am

    the “raw” side of the Balinese Bali – the endless petty violence out in the villages, the ready mob violence between community, the corrosive inter-village politics of jealousy with its violent upshots, the alcohol and drug abuse out in village-land, the pervasive prostitution culture – not in the tourist bars of Kuta, but in the locals-only “cafes” on the outskirts of every small town in the hinterlands, and the associated HIV occurrence amongst unsuspecting housewives.

    I mean this in a non sarcastic way…Well come on Timdog, enlighten us. It would be fair to say you would make a better fist of it than most of us here.

    As a matter of interest, do they do the same in Bali for these ‘local knock-shops” and name them after the distance sign posts from the main town? It took me forever to get the joke amongst our drivers that they always get tired at “Kilo 23 or Kilo 27″ and need a rest.

    Of course, I looked a right plonker when on one of my first trips I suggested that we should stop for coffee at Kilo 23 then.

  18. avatar Jakartass says:
    July 18th, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    @ Timdog

    “there’s a long-established Australian phenomenon of cheery thug-lit.”

    Thanks. Now I can cease my wondering.

    It could also explain the extremely crap films that have come out of Thailand recently featuring the likes of David Carradine, Nicholas Cage and, some 30 years ago, Chris Mitchum (in assorted Indonesian and Philippine films as well). The plotlines are weak, but the violence isn’t.

    Who knows but Bali Raw may yet be filmed, which leads to this question for Malcolm Scott: Apart from Quentin Tarantino, who would you like to portray you?

  19. avatar Malcolm Scott says:
    July 18th, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    Trebor. I concur with some of what you have to say, but this is a friendly forum.

    Timdog. My applause, I could not have said it better myself and I may not have.

    Jakartass. Seems you are doing a lot of self promotion.

    Everyone. Its just a book and an accounting of my honest experience.

  20. avatar Malcolm Scott says:
    July 18th, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    Oigal in Timdogs defence.

    Please Google Degung Santikarma. He is a Balinese anthropologist.

    Then read his article on what is happening in Balinese villages regards the Banjar.

    Degung Santikarma anthropologist and Banjar should bring it up. But if it doesn’t. Post here and I will supply you with the article.

    I would have like to supply you with more information but I had to go through a lot of research just to find his name.

    If you are interested in Bali it makes an interesting read.

  21. avatar Jakartass says:
    July 19th, 2012 at 8:48 am

    @ MS.

    Jakartass. Seems you are doing a lot of self promotion.

    In joining this discussion, I thought I was promoting your book

    This may be the link to Degung Santikarma you refer to. It gives a valued insight into what you and Trebor call the “real” Bali.

    Although you say Bali Raw is “just a book”, I’d have given it a much more favourable review if you had given more of the context of [your] “honest experience”.

  22. avatar timdog says:
    July 19th, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    Oigs:

    I mean this in a non sarcastic way…Well come on Timdog, enlighten us. It would be fair to say you would make a better fist of it than most of us here.

    In all honesty, it has been an idea I’ve idly toyed with at times, and earlier this year I was tentatively considering taking a full-time job in Bali, which would have given me a chance.
    But the thing is, I don’t much like the idea of swimming with crocodiles, which the job in question would inevitably have involved to some extent (as most jobs in Bali seem to, these days)

    Also, I think for the pitch to work commercially the book would need to combine a look at the Balinese Bali, and the side that Malcolm Scott appears to portray. And the thing is, I’m not a very brave person when it comes to stuff like that, despite – or perhaps because, now I come to think about it – looking a bit like the kind of guy who beats people up for a hobby…

    And then, it would be very hard to stop the book turning into a Fugly Bali-style hatchet job, and even if you tried hard to resist that, you’d inevitably end up a persona non-grata with both the locals, and the floaty dippy Ubudy expat crowd too.

    On those locals-only night spots, in Bali they seem usually to have names like “Cafe Flamboyan” or some-such, and they are grim places.

    Malcolm/Jakartass – that Degung Santikarma is fascinating, and disturbing. Thanks for the link.

  23. avatar Jakartass says:
    July 20th, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    Although not exclusive to Bali, one major concern for expats here is the potential loss of virtually everything if they marry locally then end up in a messy divorce.

    Several of us can tell the tales of friends and acquaintances who’ve been deported without their businesses, the homes they’ve built, access to children ++.

    All it takes is for the wife to have good connections, be they ‘tribal’, the police, or, as in one case I know of, the future and hopefully soon to be ex-Jakarta Governor.

    Does anyone know this guy?

  24. avatar Jakartass says:
    September 17th, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    A recent article in ‘Inside Indonesia’, Time bomb in Bali, by a member of Taman 65, adds to one’s (i.e. my) knowledge of simmering resentments in families dating back to 1965.

  25. avatar Raja Arak says:
    January 2nd, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    Let me first start out by saying that I enjoyed reading this book and found it thoroughly entertaining.

    That being said I couldn’t help but wish it was fiction. Or at the very least that this book left about the introduction about trying to expose “Bali’s true colors” and just let it be a Kuta expat’s diary. Then I would actually be able to recommend this book to people.

    After reading all the stories, I can hardly blame Bali but rather the author for all of the situations he found himself in. The author’s family hired known gangsters and people who have been in jail for stabbings to work for their company. Hiring gangsters to work for you anywhere in the world is bound to have bad results.

    The author and his family get in several fistfights throughout the book and while in each story they seem to getting picked on for no reason, we all know there are two sides to every story. I won’t try to pretend I know the real stories or accuse them of being the aggressors but in just about every story, the author was the first one to get physical and start throwing punches. Also, I know about 100 expats living in Bali and couldn’t introduce you to a single one that has been in more than 1 fight in Bali. Most haven’t even been in 1.

    As far as other seedy things, the author is hanging out with prostitutes, not just for their services but just as friends too. Normal people don’t hang out with sex workers and expect not to beexposed to sleaze.

    The point I’m trying to make is that this book isn’t an expose of the underbelly of Kuta. People know there are gangs and pimps and prostitutes around.

    Misspellings of very common Balinese names (Wayan spelled as Wyan and Wawan spelled as Wowan) also suggests that the author knows very little of what Bali is actually like, which is probably why he used his “talents” to write a book about hiring gang members, getting in fights and hanging out with prostitutes, all while blaming Bali for his problems.

    Also, the author claims to be 35. Seriously? Time to grow up!

  26. avatar Debra says:
    January 26th, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    I agree with Jakartass.
    I so disiliked this book that I gave it to a friend of mine who is an anthroplogogy lecturer in Asian crime. I really just wanted it out of the house!
    It was the view of a man who will alkways look for the seedy side of anywhere . He was most likely smoking bongs and watching porn with his deadshit mates in a badly furnished loungeroom in his own suburb growing up…while other kids were playing tennis, mixing with nice friends and just generally having a life.
    I have been to Bali around seven times, and maybe being a woman have never been offered drugs.
    I think Bali is a beautiful destination if you stick to the the things you love and embrace the beauty there. Yes, you have to be careful and you have to count your money every time you exchange some…however as it is a 3rd world country where people have to make a living.

  27. avatar timdog says:
    January 27th, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    Debra,

    Have you read this article from The Australian? http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/shadows-over-paradise/story-e6frg8h6-1226555780771

    The point that has to be acknowledged is this: no matter how much one may resent it – whether through starry-eyed “love of Bali”, or because of vested interests – the Bali presented in this book and others does exist, just as much as do the various other Balis involving “timeless” life amongst the rice fields, sophisticated frivolity in the top-end fleshpots of Seminyak, art and brown rice in Ubud, and whatever else besides.

    As I said in a previous post:

    What I’d really like to see, of course, is a book looking at the “raw” side of the Balinese Bali – the endless petty violence out in the villages, the ready mob violence between community, the corrosive inter-village politics of jealousy with its violent upshots, the alcohol and drug abuse out in village-land, the pervasive prostitution culture – not in the tourist bars of Kuta, but in the locals-only “cafes” on the outskirts of every small town in the hinterlands, and the associated HIV occurrence amongst unsuspecting housewives. And lots more besides.

    Sadly, I suspect neither Malcom Scott nor the floaty white women with their new lives and beautiful people have the qualifications for such an undertaking…

  28. avatar kingwilly says:
    May 26th, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    I think the review is fair, these books are a dime a dozen and really dont interest me much.

  29. avatar Chris says:
    July 20th, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    Australian residents can watched a similarly-themed TV show on Sunday 21 July at 7:30 on Channel 9: “Bali: The Dark Side of Paradise”. I’m not sure how good/professional this show will be, but I’m guessing – being Channel 9 – it won’t be top quality. It will also be interesting to see whether they mention the #1 cause of Australian tourist death: driving motorcycles without helmets.

    On a more positive note, the recent episode of “Q&A” on ABC/Australia Network that was filmed in Jakarta was really good.

  30. avatar Chris says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 9:05 am

    I watched the aforementioned show “Bali: The Dark Side of Paradise” last night.

    While it was better than expected – it did mention that most Australian deaths in Bali are often from their own careless accidents while drunk and/or on motorcycles – it did seem a bit one-sided. Some of the stories included:

    - An Australian surfer being strangled and hit in the head 30+ times, but local police treated it as a traffic accident despite e.g. the autopsy, the motorcycle being neatly parked at the side of the road, etc.

    - An Australian expat working as head of security at a nightclub having a gun pulled on him by the local gang after sacking some bouncers (in an attempt to clean up the place’s image).

    - An Australian tourist ending up in Kerobokan jail for a year over an unpaid hotel bill because he refused to bribe local police. On the inside, he saw drugs, beer, prostitutes, weapons, jail guards watching while prisoners beat each other up, etc.

    I wished it mentioned about Indonesian police’s low salaries and work ethic, many people who attack tourists aren’t Balinese, Indonesian jails often being overcrowded, etc.

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