After just a week in Bali I’ve quickly figured out there are many sides to this diverse island. There’s brochure Bali, with the beach-side cafés, relaxed vibes, and rice paddies. Then there’s fuck-up Bali, a lawless subculture that has seeped into existence, much like the open sewage into the otherwise beautiful beaches.
I call it ‘fuck-up Bali’ because everything seems to be designed to get people to do just that. Bad decisions lurk around every innocent night out, just waiting until you’ve downed enough $1 beers.
For many, the fuck-ups start at a particular bar that attracts a huge number of tattooed, perfectly cooked, (in both the drunk and tanned sense) Australian Instagram models. ‘Taco Tuesday’ is the drawcard because for $10 you get a taco, a beer, and a free tattoo. Not the wet rag type, the needle type.
Since the number of free tats is limited to ten a night, there’s always a massive crowd competing to change their bodies forever. Although I’m sure some in the mosh have thought long and hard about the design they’re about to get, (which is limited to a 20 minute sitting) a number have literally Googled ideas minutes before needle hits skin. My favourites include a unicorn with an ice-cream cone for a horn, a jellyfish with a smiley-face, and a scooter key forever inked on an arm.
Which brings me to the next terrible idea waiting to happen: drunk scooter-riding. With taxis totally and utterly on island time, the long skinny roads are best suited for 150cc death-traps. If you’re safe, stay out of the rain, and are sweet with the ever-flowing pipeline of craziness that is South East Asian traffic, you might be OK. However, no one is here to be OK. We’re here to fuck up.
Well over half the people I’ve met here have fallen off. Some I haven’t met because their injuries were trip-ending. Unfortunately too many of these crashes happen completely drunk. The thought of a sober night out or walking back to where you left your scooter the next day in the blistering humidity is too great a turn-off. Instead we end up a band of brothers, scarred and bruised from a losing battle with the asphalt.
Then there are the drugs. When they sell magic mushrooms literally on the side of the road, it’s no wonder Bali gets the best of some. We had a visit from an infamous American meth-head, who was adamant someone from our hostel had stolen his iPhone charger. He paraded his tastelessly-tattooed frame in front of our movie completely uninvited, and got aggressive when someone politely told him to move. This sparked a near brawl, which wouldn’t have been his first this week.
I almost felt sorry for him as he was escorted off the property by security. But this is also the same guy that threatened to rape my friend just to teach her a lesson. He didn’t and they had lunch together the next day. Honestly I don’t understand this place.
If I manage to leave unscathed whether it be from road rash, free tatts, or meth-brawls, one might wonder if I was ever in Bali. If we travel while we’re young to make mistakes, learn from them, and become better people, consider Bali an escalator to becoming a really great person, because you’re bound to fuck-up eventually.
They leave a lot out of the brochures.