EDITORIAL: Melting into Madness

It took a man and his wife two and a half hours to get through airport immigration and customs. He described it to this newspaper as “the most arrogant and understaffed service of any airport I had the misfortune to be processed through.” He said it was the worst in the world, and “My wife and I will never return to Bali while there is the slightest chance that we’ll be treated the way we were.” He added that the experience had “left the wrong impression about Bali.”

This, increasingly, is not a rare sentiment.

Elsewhere, tourists — the lifeblood of our economy — are being chased around the streets in fear of their lives, by the vicious street dogs that the island is riddled with. Many have written to us with their stories of holidays ruined and vow never to come to Bali again because of the hazardous dog problem. And that’s not all: close to 100 people are now known to have died in the rabies outbreak in Bali, now two years long, and this week more foreign media warned of the crisis here and included in their reports government warnings for people to stay away.

Meanwhile, our beaches are covered in rubbish, despite ephemeral attacks on them by bulldozers and the civic-minded; our public transportation is non-existent; and our traffic is a voluminous mess that is set to be cast into total bedlam with the impending construction of an overpass in the Tuan-Kuta area — though even that plan has itself been plunged into chaos by differing officials’ desires.

This is the serene image of paradise that the authorities attempt to promote? Just what are people coming here for? It is a battle to get into the island; a fight to stay alive; and a struggle to get around. Indeed, from what we are hearing, many people can’t wait to leave.

Glossy travel magazines can award Bali the “best island” in the world all they want — purportedly voted as such by the publications’ own readers. The unfortunate reality points to anything but.

It is a collective and shocking indictment on the management of Bali and that of the tourism industry. If this is where we are now, how will Bali look in five or 10 years’ time?

These issues do not stem from a lack of funding. The visa-on-arrival facility, for instance, raises tens of millions of US dollars annually for the central government. Monthly salaries of immigration officials are less than $200 — yet when the immigration arrivals hall fills up with hundreds of exhausted people many of the visa desks are empty.

A major Hollywood film has done the promotional work of Bali that the authorities here have consistently been unable to perform; and as Eat Pray Love opens worldwide, the spotlight on Bali will be drastically dimmed by the fierce outbreak of rabies. No one here seems concerned: Great packs of stray dogs still roam the island unfettered.

Perhaps when foreign tourists begin staying away in droves the authorities will finally begin to act. But by then it may be far too late.

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6 Responses to “EDITORIAL: Melting into Madness”

  1. Maurice Says:

    My wife and I have just retuned from three months in Bali and Lombok. I am sorry to say that every visitor we met during this time complained of the long delays in getting through the immigration system at Denpasar airport. On average they would have waited two hours. One was only 90 minutes others more than two.

    The staff were friendly enough, its just that there are not enough on duty to handle the crowds.

    We took the precaution of obtaining a visa before we left home so we sailed though – no problems.

  2. livingonbali Says:

    I am living here now since two years as a foreigner with foreign experiences and business experiences in the holiday industry.
    What i saw in my time to stay here, let me come afraid about the future of Bali !
    Here are so much missing things for a proper working and growing tourism industry … the rubbish every where, the dogs, the low education of the staff in a lot of hotels, the aggressive sellers all the streets along, the to small Airport, the not working arrival procedure and other thing what belong to the tourism business …
    The sum of this all let me see – If Bali is not changing A LOT in the near future another region in Indonesia will take all the tourist away from Bali …

    Indonesia has a lot of other beautiful places – only Bali was starting 20 or more years earlier with the tourism – but the competition is open and the world is much faster going around than Bali ….
    WAKE UP HERE – Peoples, Government, Tourism Industry, Hotels, Banjars, Kebala Adat all together who are interested in a future for Bali – think,plan, decide and invest into the future of this Island. Otherwise another island around will do it ….

  3. michael Ludin Says:

    I have been coming to Bali several times a year for almost 4 years now. I don’t agree with any of you — or, the article. Bali is what it is. There are inconveniences around the word, including the US — on arrival. Some are remarkably better, some worse. Anyone here ever landed in Mumbai? Atlanta in the US for it’s wee hour transfers to South America, on and on. Sure it is a bummer waiting for anything — I’d rather wait an hour to get into to Bali then 2+ hours to do anything at Disneyland anytime!!

  4. Edward Says:

    I am so sick of the whining! Of course there are problems in Bali, like any other place.

    The reason for so much whining is that these pampered, gadgetized, relatively-rich tourists have unrealistic images in their minds of what to expect.

    If you are stupid enough to want to drive around in traffic jams all day while on holiday, well, what can be said??

    I urge all these cranky whiners to step away from their Facebooks and go and make a positive difference in your life and in the lives of others. Get a life people.
    Edward

  5. Wilson Says:

    I completely agree with Michael. Bali has been like this long before many tourist’s came. It’s not just Bali. It’s Indonesia as a general. You could say its part of the culture. I am not saying its right, but what right do foreigners have to come and complain about a culture that has existed since the start. I was born and raised in this country, nothing has changed. I don’t agree how some things are run in this country, but the feeling is mutual in the UK. Bali is not as horrible as this article describes, it has always been like this but yet there has been an increase in tourism. It’s a wonderful place but nothing is perfect. Which is similar to anywhere in the world. You have to take the good and the bad.

  6. Tony Says:

    Have been to Bali now over 5 times. I love it, the people and country. I have always been lucky upon arrival. I was frequently frightened by the packs of dogs around tho. I think authorities managed to stop the ones on the beach at dusk – excellent, but I was still worried about the ones harrassing you late at night on Jl Legian.
    The rabies issue is of extreme importance though.

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