Things Bogans Like: Bali
Abdul Qowi Bastian
I think it goes without saying that Bali is a paradise … for bogans.
Before I go any further, if you don’t know what a bogan is, you are probably not from Australia and may need to do some background reading on the bogan-dedicated Web site thingsboganslike.com.
To give you a quick rundown, in Australia the term bogan denotes an individual who comes from a lower class of society with limited education. The term is usually used in a pejorative manner in daily conversation. The bogan is similar to America’s redneck or the “alay” in Indonesia.
Bogans can be easily spotted by their mullet haircuts, love of bad-tasting local beers, the cigarette permanently dangling from their hands and their tendency to swear like sailors.
A couple weekends ago, my friends from Melbourne came to Bali for a week. Unlike many Jakartans, who seem to visit Bali almost every weekend and public holiday, I have never been to Bali. I did when I was 14 with my family, but that doesn’t count.
You know how family trips are: kids just can’t escape their parents’ supervision. If they did, bad things might happen — just look at that 14-year-old Australian kid busted for drug possession. In any case, it had been almost 10 years since my first trip to Bali, so I had barely any recollection of the Island of the Gods.
It was late when I arrived, so I took a cab from the airport to the hotel in the Legian area where my friends were staying. The next morning, after having breakfast at the hotel, my friends and I were ready to roam the Legian-Kuta streets, but my goodness, what a sight! I couldn’t help thinking, “Where on Earth am I?”
Was this Bali? It certainly wasn’t the Bali I had heard about — the most popular destination in Indonesia, the province our government is so proud of. The image of Bali as Indonesia’s main tourist attraction soon lost its appeal as I strolled the streets of Legian-Kuta. It was as if I was back in Melbourne’s outer suburbs, like Dandenong or Frankston. There were the tribes of bogan males everywhere sporting the ubiquitous Bintang singlets, shorts and thongs with tattoos covering their pale, hairy arms.
Bali has lost some of its popularity as an international tourist destination in recent years due to a series of unfortunate events — bomb attacks and Schapelle Corby’s widely publicized drug charges, to name a few. But from personal observation, I would say these events have not put off the Australian bogan one bit.
On the Saturday night of our trip, my friends and I decided to visit one of the many clubs in the area. The pub band at our chosen venue was playing the latest Top 40 hits. And who was dancing on top of a table in a large group but Australia’s own bogans? Immersed in their own self-importance, the bogans apparently assumed they owned the place. Oddly enough, the local patrons seemed to enjoy watching said bogans make fools of themselves.
Clutching a bottle of Bintang beer, I overheard one bogan saying to another, “Oi mate, this Bintang kicks arse, tastes bloody good, mate.” The other replied, “Sh*t mate, these touts are rippin’ youse off. Them Balinese oversell everythin’ to people like us.”
Despite feeling “ripped off,” I could tell the bogans were enjoying their time in Bali, where they can clog up the footpaths, ride motorbikes with limited protection, go into bars shirtless, find cheap food on every corner and basically indulge in all the other things they can’t afford do in Australia. Cheap flights, a strong Australian dollar and close proximity to the land Down Under makes Bali the perfect getaway for any bogan.
But this wasn’t what I signed up for when getting on a plane to Bali. I was looking for an exotic place to take my mind off work and reminisce with my ex-flatmates from Melbourne about our uni days. Instead, it felt like we’d all taken a trip back to Melbourne’s outer suburbs.
I was beginning to worry my trip wouldn’t be as terrific as I’d hoped it would be, but that all changed when I hopped in a local friend’s car for a trip to Ubud the next morning. In Ubud, the foreign tourists have better manners. Ubud is also home to many sophisticated traditional art forms. I loved it there. This was the Bali I had been longing for.
I’m aware there is more to Bali than bogans versus beauty. There are other parts of the island I have yet to visit, that I still hope to discover one day. In the meantime, I can only sum up that my experience in Legian-Kuta was not impressive to say the least, as the overbearing bogans sort of ruined it for me. Ubud, on the other hand, made up for everything.