Thirty five years ago when I first came to Bali the only reasons for coming were culture and nature. The fabulous rice fields, the untouched vistas, the magical mountainsides were a magnet for weary city dwellers. The temples, dances and art were an eye-opener for those who no longer lived in “living” cultures. It was slow-paced…
Text by Alistair G. Speirs Photo by Ayu Sekar
Thirty five years ago when I first came to Bali the only reasons for coming were culture and nature. The fabulous rice fields, the untouched vistas, the magical mountainsides were a magnet for weary city dwellers. The temples, dances and art were an eye-opener for those who no longer lived in “living” cultures. It was slow-paced, magical and very simple.
Yes, there was the surf crowd and of course there were bars and restaurants but it was low level, unobtrusive and very Balinese.
But inevitably hotels were built to accommodate the interest that Bali’s beauty generated and the arrivals started, and as they spread, the surrounding areas filled with restaurants, spas, clubs and shops, pushing back culture and nature further from sight.
But the main interest was still culture and nature: “real Bali” if you will, until the real estate boom came and people wanted to stay on this magical island for longer than just two weeks and this time brought the deluge of builder’s yards, statue parks, furniture stores, interior decorators etc. that service the real estate industry.
Then the next round of restaurants, bars, clubs, spas and shops-and malls-arrived to cater to this more permanent, and wealthy, crowd.
All understandable, all following the basic interests of business, all forged by “necessity” and “development”.
Unfortunately however nothing was planned, nothing zoned, nothing regulated, nothing controlled, so this latest blitz of building, this tidalwave of new business, new hotels, new villas were built so far from the Balinese model, with no supporting infrastructure that southern Bali is almost a single conurbation, completely devoid of the culture and nature that were the origins of the attraction.
Now the main attractions of the island are the very things that were built to service those who came to find Bali, and who no longer can. Isn’t it ironic that travel agents and online sites are selling Bali more for man-made attractions you can find anywhere in the world, than the uniqueness of Bali itself? Not just ironic. Sad.
Nature and culture? Sorry you’ll have to look north, to Ubud and beyond, but be careful. Those are under attack too.
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