Monday, January 15, 2007

Bali, Indonesia wrap-up

Meant to post this a very long time ago (I finished my trip to Bali way back in May 2006 - talk about procastinating!) but just got back from Costa Rica and before that spent a month in Vietnam and Thailand, so I have a lot of posts coming up about my recent travels. That and keeping up with my other work as well as taking care of my rapidly involving and active 11 month old has made it difficult to keep up with the blogging. So this post will be brief so I can begin my posts on Vietnam.

Bali is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. The Balinese people are cheerful and they have a very unique culture with their own strain of Hinduism. I think that's why the terrorist attacks were such a shock, it's hard to fathom such an attack taking place in such a relaxing and peaceful environment. The loss of confidence in security and the multiple travel warnings from Western governments have kept the flocks of tourists away and the Balinese economy has suffered greatly. Walking down the quiet and lonely streets of Kuta and Legian Village being physically accosted at every turn by desperate stores and street vendors is a sad experience, considering those areas used to be jam-packed with shoppers. Tourism is the number 1 industry in Bali and the terrorists nearly destroyed it.

That desperation has shown itself in the unbelievable admonitions of the locals who repeatedly insisted to me that there were "no more terrorists" and that Bali was "perfectly safe" with please to personally encourage my friends and relatives to come back to Bali. While the tourist trade has been slowly trickling upwards over the past year, it is still a fraction of what it used to be. Hotels and some major tourist areas have made significant investements in security, but should the terrorists decide to strike again I doubt it will make much difference, considering Indonesia's inability to properly prosecute and convict terrorists and the endemic corruption (particularly at the police and local government levels).

That's not to say I won't be back - I hope to go back one day to enjoy Bali again. Some people say it's not worth the risk, but I lived through 9/11 in NYC, which was far worst than the Bali terrorist attacks. The bottom line is that you are no longer safer ANYWHERE you go - terrorists have and can strike anywhere, America and Europe are no exception. That doesn't mean you should strap on a backpack and go hiking in the mountains of Taliban-controlled Waziristan or take a walking tour in Anbar Province in Iraq, but even so-called "safe" destinations are no longer safe. While I would be careful in Bali, I wouldn't avoid it - it has far too much to offer and its people deserve better than what they are dealing with now.

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