Mapping Bali #4 : Metro Bali

Culture | Written By, Life on the Island |

City Lights
There is a heavily developed area in the southern tip of the island, it is densely populated and has an enormous economic importance for all the people living in Bali. Urban Bali is a dense, sprawling, visually saturated environment of businesses and residences. Some visitors to the island spend their time here exclusively, whether during holidays of several days, or establishing themselves here for many years. This is an insulated, self-contained place capable of providing a full and satisfying life to its residents. Very clearly an island within an island.

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Even though some Balinese consider urban Bali home, it was largely built due to the efforts of other people, Indonesians from other islands, and visitors from around the world. This remains a place where most Balinese feel like outsiders, a place to make some money and establish careers, and then return to more familiar places. The majority of these Balinese migrant workers will insulate themselves from this alien world and return home relatively unchanged. Others will attempt to engage the foreign community on a deeper level and form relationships within its social parameters. And an extremely small minority will embrace internationalism fully and reject their own culture altogether. But while each person is charting their own course, they at least have the opportunity to witness the carnival of international life, amusing and sometimes inexplicable, that has arrived at their shores.

Urban Bali is a study in itself with its own rhythm and nuance, but for this brief look will be divided into 3 sections; Nusa Dua, Kuta, and Denpasar.

Nusa Dua
This is where the Indonesians first learned to implement the concept of paradise onto Bali, it is a place where everything becomes well considered and coherent. Nusa Dua was first planned in the 1970s as a tourism center in an area at the southern tip of the island that had been declared under productive. It was a very self-conscious attempt to create an image of what the outside world thought Bali should look like. The entire landscape is micro managed, every detail has been considered. Water is pumped in, wastes are pumped out. Truckloads of dancers and musicians in full regalia arrive each night to perform; nocturnal gardens are illuminated from strange angles, seemingly creating new hybrid species of botanica.

And it all works very well. Nusa Dua is host to many of Bali’s visitors and is also the site for major international conventions and governmental meetings. The image of Bali as a hotel in paradise has been firmly implanted in the global imagination, the standard reference to Bali by news organizations around the world is ‘the resort island’. Many visitors go no farther than the confines of this area, enjoying the fabrication of the place, and are well satisfied with their trip. Who wouldn’t want to be a modern day Adam or Eve strolling around in the garden- especially after all the serpents had been carefully removed?

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