What about those footpaths in Bali?
Trip Start Jul 20, 2013
22Trip End Sep 07, 2013
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Before I came to Bali this time, I had several discussions with people who said ... Bali is 'ruined' .. lost its charm, sold-out to tourism, not like it was in the ?70s, ?80s, ?90s.
And yes, they are right, to an extent.
Bali has changed.
Many changes have been ugly, detrimental to the culture and the environment. Huge piles of rubbish litter the streets in the towns and many of the rivers. The roads are so congested in some places that traffic jams are the norm.The state of the footpaths and roads seem to get worse. Just walking along the footpaths is a constant challenge to avoid deep holes or unstable pavers.
Dozens of shops aimed at the lowest end of the tourist market line what used to be charming tree lined streets such as Monkey Forest Road in Ubud
But over the same time, Australia has developed and gone through changes in some very similar ways to Bali and of those changes in both places, some have been ones that I like, admire, and are positive, but others have been detrimental, ugly, environmentally negative.
While some admire the mega development along the Gold Coast of Queensland, it has been at a huge environmental cost to the area. Dozens of artificial inland waterways were dug into the hinterland and filled with seawater to provide waterfront houses for thousands. Now those waterways back up into the septic systems of those luxury houses when the area invariably floods during the wet season. The stunning beaches are shaded in the afternoons by 30 and 40 floor high rise hotels. And huge numbers of post school, post football finals celebrators stagger in drunken mobs in the streets at end of year/season celebrations. In exactly the same way we see Australian 'schoolies' line the streets of Kuta in Bali every year now.
A walk along the beach front shopping area of Bondi Beach (surely one of the most beautiful beaches in the world) is to me so ugly in its architecture and tourist trinkets trash that it's not that different to the aesthetics of the Kuta strip in Bali
But leave these tourist spots in Australia and do a bush walk in the Blue Mountains behind Sydney or in the Lamington National Park behind The Gold Coast in Queensland, camp in the spectacular gorges of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia or the Kimberley's in Western Australia, and the beauty and integrity of these places are untouched.
In much the same way, there are places in Bali that are as beautiful as ever, the rice fields of Jatiluwih, the views of the sunrise over Mt Agung, the temples in the villages decorated for the current ceremony. Then there are, of course, the Balinese who slip easily from western dress for work, mostly connected with the tourist trade, into ceremonial dress to go off for a few hours to take part in one of the ever-happening temple ceremonies. At work they smile, go about their work at a pace that never seems urgent, and with a grace that is part of that original 'something special' that drew the first cultural tourists here in the 1920s.
The first written complaint that Bali is 'changing for the worse' was written in a Magazine by a visiting European writer, " It's already too late to observe the charms of this enchanting island, tourism is spoiling it." This was published in 1930
I had begun this entry earlier, with a tirade against the terrible state of the pavements - photos to prove the hazards. Then I decided to find out who is supposed to look after the pavements, who pays for them, who pays the taxes.On paper their taxation system looks well structured but it also looks very complicated and there are rumours that either taxes don't get paid or if they do, the money never gets to where it should.
Well .... What a big surprise!
I have also just read an article about the Taxation System in New Zealand. It was in a magazine lent to me by a very interesting New Zealand couple who have been visiting Bali for years. They too have witnessed the deterioration of the roads, the bad developments, the crowds where once the lucky few strolled. They still come back year after year though, and there's a reason.
In that article the NZ tax system looks OK on paper,but in fact it is hugely unfair. The bulk of the tax burden is paid by PAYE workers. The wealthy, the big companies (particularly the spectacularly devious Apple company) pay laughably little, if any taxes
And here's another big? surprise ... It's just about the same in Australia .... Not to mention Greece!
This brings me back to my research about Bali and why there doesn't seem to be money to repair the footpaths.The terrible condition of most footpaths, in Ubud, anyway, is one of the big grips of tourists. And rightfully so, because so many people have such terrible accidents stepping into big holes or on to unstable blocks.
By maintaining them and fixing the broken bits, one of the tourists' big gripes would be solved, not to mention how much safer all the Balinese will be.
Who is responsible for their maintenance and repair?
At this stage I have still not found an answer. The online research has revealed a can of worms.
Not only is the system hugely complicated, being all organised from Djarkarta for the whole of Indonesia's 18,200 islands- but as to whether many of the taxes actually get paid and arrive at the right government dept. is open to speculation.
So far none of the Balinese I've asked have a clue about the pavement responsibility and those regular travellers to Bali say it's a mystery to them too.
So now I'm not so critical of the Bali Tax system anymore after reading about New Zealand's system and I still don't know much about who pays what.
And a final balance to the Bali footpath problems, I'm putting in a photo of the footpath outside my sister's home in Double Bay, Sydney
Meanwhile Dick ( an old friend from Hong Kong days) has arrived from England and he is filling me in on 10 weeks travelling around Europe with one of his gorgeous daughters, Megan. I've told him he needs to tell me in 2 week chunks so he'll get through his travel diary before I leave... But best of all, he has a pair of binoculars!
Yay .. Off to do some even more intensive gazing.