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The Island Life

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Living in an island has its highs and lows.

The highs are definitely the beauty of the island, the interesting places to go to, the eateries (there seems to be always a new hip and happening restaurant opening every month), the culture and the festivals.

The lows are the beauty of the island, the interesting places to go, the culture and the festivals.

Before you go “Wha..?”, let me explain.

Yes, Bali is beautiful. But do you remember what Aldoux Huxley said about paradise? The moment a paradise is found, it immediately turns to hell. And it’s true. It used to be beautiful, until everybody wants a piece of it. Approximately 164 hotels will be¬†opened in 2016 – as if Bali does not have enough hotels already. Water shortage is an ongoing crisis since forever, and yet they keep on building, developing, and the reclamation project in Benoa still lies in the grey area – nobody knows whether it’s going to happen or not. Soon, pictures of rice terrace can only be seen on postcards, as they become extinct and are only there for the sake of decoration.

Yes, there are interesting places to go, some new hip and cool eateries to try – but they are all trying to be unique and different that they end up being the same. The cliche decor, the taste of the food (no doubt adjusted to the Westerners’ tongue which is bland bland bland all the way), the music, the fresh-graduated servers with their bule-worshipping attitude. Not a local patron in sight. I guess I am safe because I am not Balinese, and I carry that non-chalant Jakartan attitude. But you will never find a Balinese family eating in those diners, expensive five-star Michelin-wannabe restaurants. I’ve tried to find out why but I can’t seem to get the proper answer. One of my friends works in an upscale Indonesian-fusion restaurant in Seminyak and he told me that Balinese do not find the whole thing enjoyable. It is not in their culture to dine out and have wine with their dinner. Yes, they will drink alcohol, but together with their friends at the Banjar, or at the comfort of their own home.

And yes, the culture and the festivals are definitely still a magnet to the tourists coming from all parts of the world. It mesmerises me how the Balinese are so dedicated to their rituals, and that the ceremony and the offerings are still the most important aspects of their lives. But it is declining, and slowly losing its spirit. The younger generation do not try to preserve the culture as much as the older generation does. The young Balinese men are more interested in noisy motorcycles, wearing gangsta rapper outfit and showing off chunky, expensive accessories and body art to attract girls. The girls, in return, are interested with men who ride noisy motorcycles, prancing around in hot pants and taking about one-hundred selfies on their iPhones showcasing their pushed up cleavage on the social media. Innocence is gradually losing in the way that they are more interested to the material world, which is in total opposite of what attract people to Bali in the first place. The ritual is there, but so is the overdevelopment, the piles of bin liners full of trash¬†that are thrown into the bushes (as if they will magically be swallowed into the earth!), the stubbornness of the people who demand for jobs because a hotel is built in his village, never mind if he can actually work or not. Somehow, I don’t see the connection of this whole attitude with the rituals and the religions.

But my Italian friend loves it here. He comes from Milan and is deeply fascinated and addicted to the beach, says he can’t get enough and he will definitely come back. I did ask him why he wouldn’t stay in Europe, and he says Bali is much better.

Perhaps my rose-colored glasses have been broken, somewhere between 2013 to 2015.