Brides & Bali

Bali is the gate­way to par­adise, es­pe­cially for the throngs of Aussies who come to surf, party, re­lax or – in in­creas­ing num­bers – say “I do”. But this trop­i­cal isle is now bat­tling with its fame. Are we loving it to death?

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - COVER STORY -

WHEN AUS­TRALIAN writer and surf nut Phil Jar­ratt landed in Bali in 1974 he must have thought he had ar­rived in heaven. On his first night, Jar­ratt watched the sun set over a largely un­de­vel­oped Kuta Beach, drank Bin­tang beer bought from “a pretty girl in a sarong who seemed to glide along the sand with an ice bucket bal­anced on her head”, and then walked up the dusty beach track to the night fish mar­kets where he ate a whole fish with his fin­gers. Par­adise. The In­done­sians call it the Is­land of the Gods, and no Western tourist would ar­gue with that. Whether you’re a work­ing-class fam­ily look­ing for a cheap beach hol­i­day with a touch of the ex­otic, a for­mer Miss Uni­verse in the mar­ket for a lux­u­ri­ous pho­to­graph-wor­thy lo­ca­tion for a wed­ding, or a re­tiree look­ing for a trop­i­cal par­adise where your su­per­an­nu­a­tion dol­lar goes fur­ther, then Bali has some­thing for you.

It’s no sur­prise then that In­done­sia’s big­gest tourism hotspot be­came the new No.1 choice of trav­el­ling Aus­tralians book­ing over­seas ho­tels in the first half of this year, ac­cord­ing to Ho­, bump­ing New York off the top spot.

But Bali to­day is a very dif­fer­ent place to that which Jar­ratt first vis­ited.

In­creas­ingly this is­land par­adise is bat­tling with its fame – run­ning out of elec­tric­ity, strug­gling with sus­tain­able wa­ter sup­ply, sell­ing its arable farm­land to de­vel­op­ers, los­ing its cul­ture and chok­ing in the fumes of too many grid­locked cars and buses.

The tourists adore it, but the purists and many lo­cals fear Bali is be­ing loved to death; its cul­tural charm and nat­u­ral beauty im­pos­si­bly squeezed by in­creased de­mand for re­sorts, restau­rants and bars.

And some think Aus­tralians must take a big chunk of re­spon­si­bil­ity.

Back in May, SA Week­end colum­nist Susie O’Brien caused a mini storm among read­ers with her an­swer to the is­land’s prob­lems: make Bali a “bo­gan-free zone”.

Be­rat­ing the “16,000 rude, lewd Aussies and their badly be­haved chil­dren” head­ing each week to the is­land, O’Brien ar­gued they were not only a dis­grace to Aus­tralia but dam­ag­ing the lo­cal cul­ture. Hun­dreds re­sponded on­line, pum­melling or prais­ing the colum­nist.

One thing is for cer­tain, Bali’s plight is a sad state of af­fairs given it is home to some of the friendli­est peo­ple on the planet and, beyond the night­clubs of Kuta and end­less rows of re­sorts, is steeped in a rich and spir­i­tual cul­ture.

When my fi­ancé and I got en­gaged last year, our dis­cus­sion im­me­di­ately turned to whether we might get mar­ried in Bali. Beyond the ap­par­ent cost-sav­ing ben­e­fits, there’s the prom­ise of peren­ni­ally warm weather and the op­por­tu­nity to keep the guest list com­pact.

Yet, de­spite it be­ing a favourite hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion of ours and a great op­por­tu­nity to launch into a group hol­i­day with our near­est and dear­est, even we ob­sessed as to whether such a move might be a bit “bo­gan”. More­over, as en­dur­ing fans of the is­land par­adise, we too re­alised that

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