Top Sheilas & Dodgy Blokes

Mar 5th, 2012, in Featured, IM Posts, Travel, by

Bali Tourist PoliceAustralians across the archipelago impressing and dismaying the locals.

Tourists and expats in Indonesia are often the subject of stereotypes by Indonesians, both positive and negative.

Bali Tourist Police and Visitor

Some Australians are doing their best to break down barriers, while others appear to be less sensitive to local culture.

Top Sheilas

Australian diplomat Adelle Neary has endeared herself to locals with her appearances on Asing Star, a talent show where foreigners sing Indonesian songs.[1]

Some Australians might dismiss her as a "singing budgie". (This is a slang insult for a singer who is more popular for her good looks rather than her singing talent or musical ability, named after the budgerigar, a popular pet bird). However, Ms Neary has also shown her brains and local knowledge. When interviewed later by a local newspaper, Ms Neary described her experiences studying at Unversitas Gadja Mada in Yogyakarta, and named her favourite local musicians as Agnes Monica, Dewa and Peter Pan.[2]

Professor Margaret Kartomi, ethnomusicologistMeanwhile, over in Lampung (a province on the south coast of Sumatra), Professor Margaret Kartomi of Monash University recently received a royal title:

Ratu Berlian Sangun Anggun
(Beautiful Queen Jewel)

An ethnomusicologist, Professor Kartomi was given this honour in recognition of her work on the history of the Sumatran gamolan. While her compatriots visit Lampung for surfing or the Anak Krakatau (child of Mt Krakatoa) volcano, Professor Kartomi has researched Sumatran music for 40 years, and will publish a book on the topic later this year.[3]

Dodgy Blokes

However, new Kerobokan Prison Chief Warden Bowo Nariwono is apparently less happy with Australian visitors in Bali.

Mr Nariwono took some time out from controlling the recent Kerobokan Prison riots and allegedly taking bribes[4], to give this alternative travel warning to Australian tourists:

The story and interview is then padded out with footage of mostly male Western tourists being drunk and behaving badly during a typical evening on the streets of Kuta. Some can be clearly indentified as Australian by their clothing or accent, while others are of indeterminate origin.

Mr Nariwono also says:

If you cross the law, you must face the law, so you come to my prison.

Ironically, during the riot all the foreign inmates were moved elsewhere. Mr Nariwono has himself been dismissed moved also, pending investigation of prisoners' claims of preferential treatment for inmates who paid bribes and other illegal levies.

Regardless of your feelings towards Mr Nariwono himself, do you think his warning to Australian tourists in Bali is warranted? Why/why not?

More generally, what could Australians (and other visitors to Bali) do more/less to make a positive contribution to Indonesia during their stay?


21 Comments on “Top Sheilas & Dodgy Blokes”

  1. avatar ET says:
    March 5th, 2012 at 11:10 am

    More generally, what could Australians (and other visitors to Bali) do more/less to make a positive contribution to Indonesia during their stay?

    Don’t consider Bali as another Byron Bay or a suburb of Sidney, Melbourne or Perth. But anyway, I think it is already too late.

  2. avatar Oigal says:
    March 5th, 2012 at 11:48 am

    While you would get no great debate about the quality of tourist in Kuta from me, its not the fault of the tourist. You use squid bait don’t be surprised you catch squid.

    As for any Indonesian policeman or prison service officer lecturing anyone about morality and behaviour that’s just laughable. Don’t recall too many tourist beating a kid bloody for a pair of sandals or providing week long leave passes for corruptors for a couple of bucks.

    These creatures aren’t the solution but the problem, it’s common knowledge who runs the knock shops in Bali.

  3. avatar ET says:
    March 5th, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    If we may believe what is written in the books from the 1st half of the 20th century, Bali was a beautiful and unique place with a centuries long culture almost held for unbelievable. The the hippies came and one thing led to another. Who or what’s to blame? I don’t know. Probably the 2nd law of thermodynamics.
    Anyway, what once was called the Island of the Gods has now become a place full of demons, brown and white together. And offerings don’t seem to help.

  4. avatar Nay says:
    March 5th, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    Bogan Aussies only get away with being anti-social in Asia because they believe the local police to be soft. They wouldn’t do it in Australia because the police there would give them the beatdown pretty quick. In fact, it’s because of dickhead behaviour which makes it hard or near impossible to drink in public overt there.

    Besides, you put any string of nightclubs in one area and you’ll attract the crowd who goes for that sort of thing. Might want to ask Thailand how that’s working out for them.

  5. avatar Oigal says:
    March 5th, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Nay,
    That is not quite correct. A trip down Northbridge, Perth on any Friday or Saturday night would put the myth that drop-kick behaviour is only an “Idiot in Asia” holiday.

    Although the second part of the post is fairly robust but you could just as easily as Spain the same question.

  6. avatar stevo says:
    March 6th, 2012 at 6:22 am

    Bogan Aussies only get away with being anti-social in Asia because they believe the local police to be soft.

    I doubt even an Aussie Bogan would think of the corrupt and brutal Police of Asia as soft!

    Of course they may lighten up a bit for a fee.

  7. avatar Nay says:
    March 6th, 2012 at 8:00 am

    I’ve spent a good deal of time with the Aussie yobbo. They think they’re indestructible like Steve Irwin thought he was. That makes them likable larrikans generally, but when they see softness in security they’ll abuse it if they think they can bluff their way through it. Whether that means taking drugs, jumping fences, barging their way past door security, public drunkedness, getting in people’s faces and bullying them…etc. etc. of course, they don’t see anything wrong with this because they’re in their own little world where they’re the star of the show, and everybody is is “boring” and no fun and deserves their company.

    Anyway, where Bali differs from your Thailand and Ibizas and Cancuns, is that the prevailing morality of Indonesia has a real problem with partygoing behaviour. I don’t think the Hindu Balinese care that much (they welcome more chances for capitalism), but just imagine dropping them all in Jakarta outside a mosque to see if yobbo behaviour were to fly quite as easily.

  8. avatar Oigal says:
    March 6th, 2012 at 8:02 am

    but just imagine dropping them all in Jakarta outside a mosque to see if yobbo behaviour were to fly quite as easily.

    I dunno, pretty much a given that a rupiah is worth more than a principle

  9. avatar stevo says:
    March 6th, 2012 at 10:47 am

    Some good points are made about the behaviour of tourists in Bali. They do not always cover themselves in glory. But the people of Bali, and Indonesias generally, are better off for having them there. They spend money like water, providing an income for the locals.

  10. avatar agan says:
    March 7th, 2012 at 1:35 am

    ^Yes they get more bang for their buck in Bali than just boozing it up in Australia, a win-win situation for now.
    But in the long run I think Bali needs more quality tourists who show a little more concern and appreciation to local culture instead of dugeming 24/7 in 5 star hotels or just get drunk in the street corner.

    And at the end of the day it’s prolly the government-who ever the power that be- who need to fess up, just like it says in the song: Kembalikan Bali ku.

  11. avatar ET says:
    March 7th, 2012 at 7:57 am

    And at the end of the day it’s prolly the government-who ever the power that be- who need to fess up, just like it says in the song: Kembalikan Bali ku.

    Government? What Government? If the Governer issues a moratorium on building more hotels in south Bali in an attempt to spread the inconveniences of mass tourism more evenly and give everybody a piece of the pie, the Bupatis only turn a blind eye and go on having their pockets lined. Meanwhile traffic now is bumper to bumper on every thoroughfare, the roads are in a state of despair and disrepair, total gridlock lies ahead but the party goes on.

  12. avatar Nay says:
    March 7th, 2012 at 9:10 am

    pretty much a given that a rupiah is worth more than a principle

    …and that just about sums it all up.

  13. avatar ET says:
    March 7th, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    They spend money like water, providing an income for the locals.

    O, those poor Balinese. Miskiiin, aduh. But now tourism is going to help them get out of their misery and provide them with an income. How many times have I heard this fairy tale.
    People only forget that tourism never takes off amidst abject poverty. Tourists don’t come to see children with bellies swollen from malnutricion. They come to places where food and drink are plenty, with opportunity to relax and enjoy and where they can come into contact with cultures and events they’ve heard of but never experienced ‘in the flesh’.
    Elaborate cultures like the Balinese are never build on empty stomachs. The Balinese culture predates the arrival of tourism by hundreds of years. It was rooted in an agrarian society on top of fertile land where in between planting rice and its harvest there was plenty of time to develop what now millions are coming to see and admire. The myriads of daily offerings and religious paraphernalia meant to please gods and demons alike don’t fall from heaven but are all produced by hands that can afford it. Individually the Balinese may not have been rich by western standards but their communities were thriving and able to produce enough food to sustain what may be the most wasteful and extravagant lifestyle on earth.

  14. avatar stevo says:
    March 7th, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    ET, your letting reality and empirical observation blind you to the glorious idea. (You’re clearly not a socialist).

    I agree with what you have said, but surely all those tourist dollars must do some good, or at least create opportunity. It may not be a panacea and tourism alone is unlikely to lift the standard of living in Indonesia generally. However it does not need to detract from that standard either.

  15. avatar timdog says:
    March 7th, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Interestingly, Balinese people will often tell you that “culture” has gotten stronger since the tourism boom. Seriously, go and as someone in middle age, and I bet they’ll tell you that people were less observant in their youth, made fewer offerings, that some of the lesser festivals were neglected, and the bigger ones weren’t as spectacular.

    Culture, especially a culture as showy as that of Bali, costs money.

    It’s one of the interesting things about the claims that “tourism destroys culture”. In a country like Indonesia “culture” is much more vulnerable in the poor places than in the richer places like Bali. Go to somewhere like Sumba, a place that was deeply, deeply traditional a generation ago, and you’ll find a culture crumbling, a foreign religion (Christianity) on the rampage, and a tragic inferiority complex, in which adherance to the local traditional culture in its entirety is synonymous with being “backward”…
    Now compare that with Bali…

  16. avatar ET says:
    March 7th, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    timdog

    I disagree (how else could it be?). First not all of Bali is tourism-infested and you will find as much culture high in the mountains of Buleleng, Bangli and Karangasem – even more like some old traditions of drama, dance and trance – as in the lower parts of Sanur, Kuta and Ubud. Besides what is presented as culture in these lower parts is merely the rehashing of some classic performances, devoid of soul and creativity. When the legong dancer in Ubud flashes her nyeledet (you know, the spectacular eye movements) you can clearly see the reflection of the $ sign in her pupils.
    Also, most of Bali’s culture is religion based, a religion so intricate and supported by age long traditions that are still daily practiced by a majority, that, unlike in other parts of Indonesia, its extinction without the so-called support of tourism is highly improbable. Moreover Bali has always been successful in warding off the monotheist religions of Islam and Christianity which are per definition tradition destroyers in order to replace them with their own brand.

  17. avatar timdog says:
    March 8th, 2012 at 3:12 am

    ET, I’m not disputing that stuff. And I would also add that in terms of its “resilience” Bali’s culture had an additional pre-tourism external boost in being privaleged by the founders of independent Indonesia, who picked up a line from European orientalists about Bali being a “living museum” and a receptacle of the nation’s epic pre-colonial Majapahit history…

    But seriously, go try out that conversation with someone tomorrow…
    I first came across the line years ago – was asking a bunch of old ladies running those ramshackle beach cafes at surf spots, that are increasingly being cleared away for villas these days – what was it like with religion when you were kids? I was, naturally, expecting comments about how much more spiritual and all that people were back then, but to my surprise the answer was quite the opposite – Oh people are much better Hindus now; everyone does all the offerings; there are ceremonies that had pretty much vanished forty years ago that are now done on a grand scale, the temple events are much bigger and better now, because there’s more money.

    It was such an unusual response, that I’ve repeated the question dozens of times over the years, and heard the same thing many, many times…
    It’s just an interesting counterpoint to the idea often voiced – by bules – that tourism is eroding culture, something I’ve never been convinced of…

  18. avatar ET says:
    March 8th, 2012 at 11:16 am

    timdog, it contradicts my own experiences. Ceremonies may be more lavish in the tourist areas because there is more money, but I hear many Balinese people, especially the older ones, lament the days when life was arranged around planting and harvest, according to the rhythm of the Pawukon calender, from one odalan to the next.

  19. avatar abdi says:
    March 15th, 2012 at 9:43 am

    I hope foreign tourists has always been to Indonesia because Indonesia immense charm

  20. avatar Rob says:
    March 20th, 2012 at 7:27 am

    I’ve not been to Bali for a few years. Do the bogan types referred to in the article still largely just frequent the Kuta area, or do they now venture further out?

  21. avatar Chris says:
    September 9th, 2013 at 11:09 am

    Professor Kartomi has researched Sumatran music for 40 years, and will publish a book on the topic later this year.

    This book – called “Musical Journeys Through Sumatra” – is now published. This review is positive.



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