Observations on Bali

Some of the slow changes that occur in Bali, are often more apparent to tourists than those of us who live here. Here are a few things I have noticed recently.

The wet season is coming to an end, but its still steamy as heck and there was some rain on the coast today.

Tourism levels:
Its no longer ‘deadville’ and tourism numbers look decent. Still there are plenty of businesses hurting. Gramedia bookstore inside Discovery Shopping Mall has closed. Nothing wrong with Gramedia, or Discovery Mall, maybe its a case of wrong product in the wrong place.

The roads:
Legian and Seminyak have thankfully had their storm drains updated and the hideous traffic conditions that created are a memory. Still the state of some of the roads (top end of Jl. Seminyak) and many of the small gangs (lanes) is a joke. Strips of tarmac, chucked down, stones thrown into potholes with more tarmac dumped on top. It pure third world construction and doesn’t help the image of the place. When this kind of thing starts to fall apart, you really end up with a road system that looks like downtown Baghdad. Here in Bali locals often fix up their own street, slapping on cement and raising the curbs.




Local honesty:
There is always a good and bad side to human nature. I recently heard about one expat business owner who was turned in to the immigration by the local partner! Thanks buddy, nice doing business with you. On the other side, this evening I stopped by Cafe Seminyak and the staff told me I had forgotten my change from this morning, handing me 40,000rp! Bravo Cafe Seminyak.

The way things are moving in the retail trade is towards a more customer focused environment. The typical Balinese local will have a shop in Kuta, buy a ton of junk and hire someone to sit there all day trying to flog it (‘ramming it down the customer’s throat’ as I like to say). Most of these people make little money and eventually go bankrupt. Visit any ‘art market’ in the Kuta area and you’ll see a mirror image of all the other art markets, small roller-doored shops, open to the elements, selling piles of unmarked goods. In Pasar Agung on Poppies Lane I, there is a place that has taken down the roller door, put in glass windows and added AC. Alvin, the owner of Secret Garden now has a cafe across from it. Come back in a few years and it will all be glass windows, tidy shops, catering to specific needs. You will examples of this in Seminyak too, where some of the old junkers close and bright shiny places replace them. By the way, the old location of Spy Bar is getting renovated, so we will probably be getting another addition to the night scene soon.

Sometimes its feels as if there are more crazy rivers on the road. I sometimes feel I’m doing all I can to avoid the speeders coming at me in the opposite direction. Two westerners were killed on motorbikes within the last month or so. In the last couple of months the government has done an about turn regarding headlights. In the past riders were only allowed to use their light after dark. Now they can use them anytime they want, in some places being requested to use them during the day. Any time there is cloud cover, tree cover or late afternoon shadows appear my lights go on.

Safe travels in Bali, its always changing in some way.