November 1, 2012 at 10:43 am | Posted in Mind, People, Recreation, Society, Threats | 9 Comments
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Enter at own risk.

There’s a high chance you won’t like Bali.

The reasons are almost too numerous to describe, but here are a few.

When you land at the airport and stare bewildered at the queues, an airport official will spot your distress and approach.

But instead of helping you, he’ll extort money from you to ‘process’ your passport.

When he snatches your documents and vanishes through a door, leaving you to the hostile stares of a thousand angry, sweaty tourists, you’ll know the true meaning of fear.

If you get your passport back, another trial awaits.

When you see the luggage carousel with nothing on it, it’s not because your bag hasn’t been unloaded.

Rather, it has been taken hostage by a local ‘handler’ who also demands payment to give it back.

Then he’ll want to carry it for you. More exhortations for money.

Next, a deafening gauntlet of currency changers will harangue you for custom.

Next, the taxi driver who beats all the others to you will drive you through a sea of humanity moiling on packed, narrow streets with smashed, gaping footpaths.

On arrival, he won’t be able to change your smallest banknote, forcing you to give him a very large one.

When you finally gain the sanctuary of your villa, the close cries of rice farmers fending off birds will make you wonder what the hell you’re doing there.

Everyone told you Bali was wonderful, amazing.

But all you see is the chasm between rich and poor, and the endless devices of the latter to glean from the former.

You’d rather eat alone than have four staff fawn over your every mouthful.

You’d rather savour your accommodation in peace than traipse the steaming island to have temple monkeys claw out your eyes.

But if you stay put, the servile staff pile up at your door – desperate to please and stunned that you don’t enjoy lording it over them, like so many guests before.

They’ll get upset – though they hide it very well.

And the fact even you can detect their displeasure will make you realise how frighteningly deep it goes.

So you’ll get upset too, and feel trapped among foes.

And the positive feedback loop will continue.

Your sole, cold comfort (when the host, the receptionist, the gardener, the pool person, the path sweeper, the snake catcher, the house people, the deity offering preparer – and all their retainers – have finally left your compound) may be to transmute your pain and disappointment into searing, staccato verse:

I hate Bali

I hate Bali.

It is f*cked.

All the mopeds.

All the trucks.

All the bullsh*t.

All the scams.

Grin at me through

Praying hands.

Take my money.

Plus plus plus.

(Plus plus plus plus,

Plus plus plus.)

Yes I am a

First World prick.

I deserve your

Third Class shtick.

Bend me over.

Call me ‘Sir’.

Rough pineapple.

Now do her.

Charge us double.

Give us half.

Disrespect us.

Laugh and laugh.

Show us pictures

Of the sun.

Swipe our visas.

Wipe your bum.

All is fiction.

Nothing real.

Bait and switch and

Steal steal steal.

Send us packing.

With your curse.

Now we see there’s

So much worse.

Dress your gods, but

Strip us bare.

Wish that we were

Never there.

Despite your rage, you’ll know deep down that it’s not Bali’s fault.

This means the problem lies with you.

And the wait for your non-transferrable flight home will be very,




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  1. Hmmm … a culturally tricky one, AS. Perhaps just not the place for you (as you conclude). From my travels in India, where the situation can be much as you describe, I came to realise that the locals consider it just a ‘job’ to try and transfer wealth from us (who are rich) to them (who are poor, in the global scheme). We take it personally (how dare they), while for them it’s just business (why shouldn’t I). That said, it never feels great to be on the end of it (as my old jousting coach used to say). Thanks for the story!

    • I think you’re right, Ad. I’m perfectly happy relaxing by the sea 90 minutes by car from home. Not terribly exciting for travel agents. And I feel I ought to be out seeing the world. But there’s something like 6000 jets in the air at any one moment, so all this rushing about is not very ‘eco’.
      Re the income transfer, I also agree with you. If we could all be happy with less, there’d be so much more to go around. Perhaps, in my disability, I’ve stumbled on how to save the planet AND humanity. Aspies for sustainability and freedom! Many thanks for getting me thinking; it’s ace to have you as a contributor. 🙂

  2. I’m really sorry to read your blog. I’m indonesian, and I have asperger. I got to admit that it is hard for aspies to live in Indonesia. Let alone a tourist who does not know a thing or two about it. Airports are troubling, and I’m sorry to say, even I hate airports. Too many people too many distractions. But then again they are just trying to make a living. You can say “No” to the local handlers. Although they are very pushy. And about the taxi, we all learn to have small changes every now and then. They use the same tactics with the locals. I don’t know you, but I am very very sorry you have such a bad memories about Bali.
    I guess it is the custom in Indonesia not to let people be on their own. They say it is not polite to leave the guest alone. I can only imagine how awkward you felt. I am too learning how to juggle between my world, and what is ‘normal’ in Indonesia. And it is not easy. Too many things happens at once and apparently being different doesn’t make it easier. So there you have it, a bunch of people with a ‘normal’ mindset, and forcing us to understand them.
    Hope this will help. Have a nice day

    • Dear Hayu, how lucky we are to have your feedback! An Indonesian aspie who hates airports! You couldn’t be more authoritative. Your comment is highly illuminating. I didn’t know it was custom to keep the guest company. That certainly explains a lot! I’m glad I added my closing paragraph about how the problem lies with me. Tourists shouldn’t expect destinations to be just like home. Otherwise, what’s the point of going? But it seems we agree there are elements of Bali that are quite difficult for the Asperger sufferer. Thank you so much for taking the time to provide such a valuable perspective. Best regards, Paul. 🙂

  3. Driving up the Bali vulcano on a little motor bike in 1979 (yup) was one of the high points in my life. Now I arrived by train and boat, spoke indonesian and found that the being deliberate and reserved and a bit introvert is not a problem in that culture. Many people are.

    As a student I travelled light stayed in cheap hotels and had a wonderful time. But stay away from the taxis and big hotels in deed We are money trees there.

    • Great comment, Peter! Just as I’m trying to smash common conceptions of ‘typical’ aspies, you’ve just smashed one of mine. I’m impressed (and not a little jealous) at your ability to move so freely in the world. Thanks very much for sharing your perspective. 🙂

  4. I am of Indian descent, and have recently come to recognize that I have a lot of symptoms that might be considered aspergers. I suspect I went undiagnosed because of my culture’s refusal to accepting that anyone in their family has any challenge of any sort. They can have tunnel vision and immutable expectations. For instance, whenever I questioned traditional customs that made no sense to me and refused to conform to it, instead of helping me understand and/or respect my choice not to follow something, I’d be beaten and yelled at for being disobedient and for making life hard for them. For them! What about how hard it was for me?! I guess it didn’t matter to them. That’s just one example. Tons more in the story of my past. Too worn out from it to retell it here. Suffice to say, it has taken me a very very long time to forgive my parents and people of my culture for not accepting me for who I am, and for me to try and accept them for who they are.

    I didn’t grow up in India, but in my 34 years of existence, I have lived there for the first 2 years of my life, another 4 years during uni (I’m pretty sure it qualified me for a huge waive on my bad karma for the last 10 lifetimes), and have visited India for about a month every year for 17 years. Every time I visit, I have gone through what you describe in your post here. I still get upset when people don’t respect my space or my choices, and I learn to assert myself with a little more authority each time. I’ve also learnt to tune people out for the most part. If they don’t like it, too bad. I gotta do what I gotta do to protect my neural system from burning out.

    I think people need to learn to frikkin listen and pay attention when someone has taken the effort to express themselves. I don’t expect people to read my mind. I tell people what I prefer. Most Indians will still override my preference with what their culture has ingrained in them. I no longer care that that’s how the culture is. I think it’s time people stop living with their heads inside their own cultural igloos and start opening up to respecting others for their individual preferences.

    Regardless of whether I receive an official aspie diagnosis, the thing is I’ve never seen myself as less than another human just cos I’m different. People might treat me better if I did have a diagnosis. I just wish I didn’t need it to earn people’s acceptance. I wish people would start accepting themselves and each other with less judgement and more respect just cos we’re all human and we all deserve it.


    • Every now and then, we receive a comment that transcends the original blog post. This is one of those times. I’m so grateful for your candid, heartfelt, articulate and comprehensive response. You write so well, I can feel the pain and sorrow in your story. It sounds to me like you’ve really been through the mill, but that you are a survivor. Thank you so much for sharing your journey which, I feel, can be best described as one of hope. Kind regards and come back soon! P. 🙂

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