Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Beach Too Far...

   It seems obvious to me that you can't have a store in your town called 'Jimmy Fucking Hendrix”, while simultaneously claiming to be paradise on earth.
   Such is the state of affairs on the Indonesian island of Bali, or Kuta Beach, specifically. This tourist hub at the southeast corner of the island is like an aging hooker- trading on her reputation and former good looks, she has to get her clients drunk as possible before parting them from their money.
   Our cab weaves its way down a narrow alley. Tourists cling to the walls on our approach, and motorcycle drivers somehow find the room to squeeze past. We're dropped off in the dusk and car exhaust, at a sleepy hotel. It's made momentarily beautiful by the orange glow that fades even as we walk to our room. We drop off our bags, wash up and head out onto the street.
   We enter another William-Gibson dystopia- broken sidewalks, sewer holes that can swallow a child, locals hustling and jiving for your rupiah. The low walls of the storefronts, busy with slogans and brand names painted with crude brushes, seem to close in. We are the ones dodging the cars now. Avoiding eye contact with locals to avoid the pitch that inevitably follows- hustles for fake pearls, or swimwear, or dope.
   Hot blonde Australians wander in groups, in muscle shirts and flip-flops, halter tops and sarongs. Energy and beauty to squander. Their eyes red, almond-shaped and unfriendly, reflect hours of self-abuse.
  The beach, we are told, should be avoided in the evening; the streets even less safe, for pickpockets and muggers. Rabies and dengue are both in epidemic in Kuta. More than one mother, her child a poignant prop, holds a hand out for change. For the first time since Bangkok, I put my hand on my wallet in my pocket as we walk down the street. Starbucks and KFC and Body Shop offer to take our money back to North America ahead of us.
   This was not the Bali I had anticipated, even when told Kuta was Australia's Florida. To attract people who seem culturally incapable of speaking in an Inside Voice, the beach town has become loud, drunk and obnoxious. That has curdled with desperation and hunger into a poisonous and sad stew, where people with no hope for tomorrow serve those who party with no mind for it.
But then, I was only there 12 hours.

1 comment:

  1. there are more places in Bali to relax