BALI CULTURE INFORMATION

 

 
 
The Island Of Bali, Indonesia

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MODERN BALI AND THE FUTURE

" ISN'T BALI SPOILED? " is invariably the question that greets the returned traveller from Bali - meaning, is the island overrun by tourists, and are the Balinese all wearing shirts? The questioners are visibly disappointed to hear of big hotels, fine roads, and motor-cars; there is still enough of the Robinson Crusoe in travellers to make each one of them want to be the " only " white man among picturesque semi-naked, dark-skinned savages, although they would preferably see them from a motor-car or a hotel veranda.

Bali was only conquered by the Dutch, but long before that the libraries of Holland had been filling slowly with scholarly volumes on the literature, the archaeology, and the religion of Bali. However, the remote little island only became news to the rest of the Western world with the advent, a few years ago, of a series of documentary films of Bali with a strong emphasis on sex appeal. These films were a revelation and now everybody knows that Balinese girls have beautiful bodies and that the islanders lead a musical-comedy sort of life full of weird, picturesque rites. The title of one of these films, Goona-goona, the Balinese term for " magic," became at the time Newyorkese for sex allure. Visit FoxyBingo, suntan on the beach, swim or grill fish for lunch-- whatever people get up to in Bali, it just seems cooler than doing the same activities anywhere else. Bali has always been, and still is, very much the place to be. Mystical, beautiful, exciting and mysterious-- no wonder it attracts so many visitors. If you have yet to discover it, you had better plan your trip!

The newly discovered " last paradise " became the contemporary substitute for the nineteenth-century romantic conception of primitive Utopia, until then the exclusive monopoly of Tahiti and other South Sea Islands. And lately travel agencies have used the alluring name of Bali to attract hordes of tourists for their round-the-world cruises that make a one-day stop on the island. On this day the tourists are herded to the hotel in Den Pasar to eat their lunch, buy curios, and watch hurried performances by bored " temple dancers " - ordinary village actors who hate to play in the midday heat.

The show over, the tourists are rushed back to their ships in numbered cars, satisfied to have seen Bali. An average of five or six such cruises unload every winter some fifteen hundred round-the-world tourists that leave the Balinese puzzled as to why all these madmen come from so far for only a day. They would never willingly leave their island, and once an old woman remarked that surely the foreigners must have done something at home that forced them to leave their own lands.

The great cruise ships come with twice as many visitors as can be taken care of by the island's limited supply of motor-cars, and half the tourists have to remain on board ship until the others return. On one occasion it was planned to send a troupe of dancers and musicians to entertain those who had to remain on board, but the ship's officers objected; " they could not allow natives to overrun the ship; something might be stolen." They were persuaded that the Balinese were an honest people and they let them come to play and dance for the tourists, but when the show was over and the Balinese started packing to leave, one of their large bronze gongs in a carved wood frame was missing! The gong was never found.

Besides the cruises, every week two K.P.M. boats bring a handful of more enterprising visitors that stay for three days or even for a week or two. They land in the northern port of Buleleng, which has been under direct Dutch control for nearly a hundred years. There all the houses and all the temples have tin roofs and all the women wear soiled blouses, " signs of civilization," both supposedly made compulsory by official decree - to the joy of the importers of foreign cloth and of galvanized tin. After the Dutch occupation of Buleleng in 1848, someone decided that the morals of the Dutch soldiers needed protection, and a law was passed requiring the women to wear blouses.

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