Back from a Bali refresher

We spent a week in Bali between Christmas and New Year.  A couple of things have changed back here but it is worth commenting on some of the noticable differences between Dili and Bali.

It was only days before we left that an Australian government advisory came out warning about potential trouble in Bali and advising against non-essential travel.  We didn’t even bat an eyelid over that one.  Arrived in Bali and had the fastest airport movement (through immigration, I meant !) I have ever had in Bali.  Later it became clear that the tourist numbers were well down.

I am not a Hawaian shirt wearing, zoom lens toting tourist with a bag of souvenirs under my arm so I don’t have a lot of time for kazillions of souvenir shops and the buying of another “I’ve been to Bali” t-shirt.  But I was gobsmacked at the staggering number of souvenir/art shops and not a tourist in sight.  It turns out they are hurting really bad.

At the remote hotel we stayed at for part of the time, there were acceptable numbers when we were there but no bookings after 8 January.  And they had spent 3 months during last year without a single guest.  As for the staff, they just went back to tending the family rice paddy or whatever.

We spent New Year in Ubud and again, I was gobsmacked.  Hardly a single tourist on the streets after dark.  3/4 of all restaurants empty.  Restaurants who had decorated themselves with balloons etc. for New Year and not a single customer.

Only the flash trendy upmarket foreigner restaurants seemed to making any headway.  Definitely no backpacker types looking for the best cheap eats in town. But it did mean eating a wonderful meal at New Year at 2/3 of Dili prices (and infinitely more exquisite) and not having to book.

A lot of Balinese are doing it really hard.