6 pm and the sun has disappeared into the jungle. The night cicadas have relieved their afternoon colleagues from the concert shift. While I sit in a luxurious open-air lounge, sipping on my sunset drink, I cannot help but feel something I can only describe as “colonial”. We arrived here from busy Ubud where we stayed at a little homestay B&B, rode around on motorbikes with locals, and ate simple food for about one quarter of the prices here. But “here” is a resort in the cool woods, where 4 bellboys fussed about our arrival and luggage, whisked us onto couches for welcome drinks and registration, and then showed us the way down to the spa – using an elevator in the jungle.
I cannot help but think of how far from reality this place is, and what kind of experience Bali is for those who only come to stay here. Most of the average Balinese could not afford a dinner here, not to mention a 3-night stay like ours. Laundry service costs 10-fold compared to our bungalows downtown. Water costs 12-fold (because there is no other way to obtain water without a drive down to Ubud). For day guests, access to the spa and a Balinese massage costs 4 times more than a very good Balinese massage in Ubud. Starters here cost more than mains in a very good, organic, Western-style café in Ubud. The prices for some menu items cost more here than back in my home country, Finland. I cannot help but wonder what the Balinese think of this ridiculous opulence. Indonesia gained its independence from the Netherlands in the 1940s, right after World War II. I understand that here it is difficult for a resident foreigner to own anything; everything has to be held in the name of a Balinese partner. It makes much sense. With the invasion of the Westerners who, like me, fall in love with Bali and want to stay, they would quickly outnumber the Balinese themselves and their capital, in practice reversing the sovereignty of the Balinese and their claim on their island and administration.
As I savored my drink amidst all the beauty (and before check-out and settling the balance!), I wondered if the Balinese silently resent us Western Bali lovers, or shake their heads at us, while offering us drinks with a smile? Do they think of the Dutch colonials and resent in particular Dutch tourists? I doubt I would love to constantly share my hometown and streets, and often my day, with tourists.
This lovely night, as the stars come out, I am grateful that the people who meet me here are openly proud of their island, and at least do their best to welcome me amidst them. I hope to be able to meet their expectations as a visitor and contribute my share so that we visitors are still welcome back in in the future.(Maya Ubud resort, Bali, Indonesia; September 2016)