On the plane back to KL there were a few moments to reflect on what is happening to Bali. Always a favorite place, we just had one of our best ever times here, celebrating the *0th birthday of our dear friend M**k, along with the chickadee and her hubby. But it may be one of our last visits. Bali has become strangled by uncontrolled development, and the sheer difficulty of moving around, plus the feeling of complicity in the destruction of a unique place will keep us from too many return trips I fear.
Bali used to be publicly and privately beautiful – a green and open vista of paddy fields and temples, with the occasional villa and hotel tucked away behind the trees. Now it is largely only privately special. While the villas remain gorgeous, the paddy fields are being filled in at an alarming rate, by roadside eateries or tat shops, or worse, by concrete villas of a startlingly hideous nature slammed in at random in the fields. The selling point of these vile compounds is always the paddy field views – but the view is now of a shrunked and isolated series of patches of field separated by the grey concrete walls of these new and often empty bunkers.
Moreover the infrastructure is not just failing to keep up with this development, it is not growing at all. The same rabbit warren of tiny (and very English) lanes now has to handle ten times the traffic. And the vast increase in the numbers of workers in the hospitality game has resulted in a rush-hour in the mornings and evenings of epic proportions. So moving around is more or less not possible during those times, and very time-consuming the rest of the day. A round trip from Canggu to Jimbaran to buy fish took 4 hours. It can take 2-3 hours to get to Ubud on busy days.
So a vacation or stay here has to either involve extensive bike usage – not for everyone – or careful choice of location. There is really only one area to stay now if you want to access the surf, the beach and at least some of the great restaurants of Seminyak and Petitenggit. I’m not going to say where that is, and in any event, it will be overrun in 2 years again, as the whole monstrous procession grinds its way up the west coast. North of the island, if surf and haute cuisine are not important to you, its a different story, but all in all, its a here we go again story. The Balinese are still gentle, patient and lovely, and their island is still unique, but they themselves, the developers, the Western entrepreneurs and restauranteurs and we the visitors are turning it into a choking and ugly caricature of its old self.
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