Corruption

Bad Bali

We’d been warned that Bali was corrupt, but I don’t think I fully appreciated what that meant until I came here.  There were some German Masters students (Masters in Bali, really?!?) in our hotel who were full of stories of just how ‘bad’ Bali is. I expected police corruption, but I was surprised to hear that corruption was even present in the universities. They told us how they could bribe a professor to turn their C grade into an ‘A’ grade, or get a copy of the final exam, with a slab of German chocolate! It was so easy to bribe teachers that one of the students, Thorsten, NEVER showed up to lectures.

They warned us about police pulling over Westerners to check if they had an international driver’s licence. One German guy told us that he was pulled over once and told if he didn’t have an international driver’s licence that he’d have to give them some money. Unfortunately the German guy didn’t have any rupiah on him and was taken to this random house to be ‘questioned’. They left him locked in a room until he eventually handed over some money. He found 5 american dollars in his wallet…. and was free to go. 

Thorsten told us that he’d been stopped by the police so many times that he immediately hands over 50,000 rupiah (about 3 quid) and the police send him on his way. Apparently 80% of a Balinese police officer’s income comes from bribes! You’ll find more police officers ‘checking Westerners’ for an international driver’s licence, or a helmet strap that’s ‘too loose’, towards the end of the month (go figure). One of Thorsten’s friends had been mugged twelve times in 6 months, and each time he’d had to bribe the police to even take down his statement!

We were also told this story about how somebody on their course had knocked over a dog with their motorbike and made the mistake of checking it was alright. He was suddenly surrounded by 40 Balinese screaming at him because he’d killed their father (reincarnation and all that). The Balinese demanded he pay 7 million rupiah (350 quid) for killing their ‘dad’, or they’d hurt him, so he handed over the money.

The Germans also advised us not to drive after dark in Bali as an international student was killed a couple of months ago. The Germans were so scared of Bali that they never really left the hotel. They were too afraid of travelling long distances on their motorbikes, or venturing out into the unknown. Thorsten, for example, would ONLY go to places that he could reach in under 10 minutes!!

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Kuta, Bali

After nearly 3 months in South East Asia, our final stop before Australia was Indonesia. We’ve decided to head to Australia and find some work for a couple of months, travel around Aus and New Zealand, and then come back to Asia – there are still so many places I want to visit. Whilst I’m relieved to be going to Australia and finding a job (travelling gets quite tiring after a while) I’m also a bit nervous.

Anyway back to Bali… We flew from Singapore to Bali and we’d booked two nights in an area called Kuta to start off with. We’d heard that Kuta was VERY touristy and full of hawkers, but with the lure of surfing on the cards we decided to set up shop for a couple of days to see what it was like. We spent the morning walking around Kuta and it looked like a big clubbing destination like Ibiza. It was full of bars, clubs and pubs, and shops sending you the usual tourist tat. You couldn’t walk a metre without somebody trying to sell you something.

We thought if we went to the beach the hawkers wouldn’t bother us that much… we were SO wrong. Within minutes of arriving at the beach, hawkers were coming at us left, right and centre trying to sell us a massage, real pearls, sarongs, leather bracelets, and even a bow and arrow! One lady even sat down on the sand next to us trying to get us to buy some rings and jewelry, we kept saying no but she kept saying ‘cheap cheap’. She then noticed I was wearing rings and asked me where I’d bought them from and I stupidly told her I got them in Thailand because she then said ‘Why buy Thailand but no buy Bali? Buy Bali! Buy Bali!’ She then just sat there and started to cry, we felt awful but really didn’t just want to buy something out of pity. We were about to get up to move when she finally decided to pick up her stuff and bother some other tourists. Later on Kyle went and bought a bottle of water from one of the beach stalls and the stall owner said, ‘I give you bracelets instead of change’. Kyle said no and told them he just wanted his change and the woman said ‘ok buy one bracelet or for change I give you all of the bracelets’. (The woman had about a huge bunch of bracelets). Kyle was pretty annoyed by this point and gave back the water and asked for his money back. The woman then changed her mind and quickly gave up the change in the fear that she might lose a sale. It’s absolutely ludicrous that they think it’s okay to do that. Women are constantly going round trying to make you buy one bracelet, or 100 bracelets for 5 pounds. They don’t quite understand why you wouldn’t want to buy 100 crappy bracelets!

We met two young Americans in our hotel who’d come to Kuta for a little ‘soul searching’ and culture. They told us how they were ashamed of being American and American culture. They said they preferred being in South East Asia because it’s so rich culturally compared to the US. I can see why people come to Bali to do some soul searching as it was made popular in the film ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, but not quite sure what ‘soul searching’ he could possibly be doing in Kuta, Bali. Kuta consisted of pubs, clubs, bars and beaches – not sure how these are culturally enriching…

It was also at this hotel that we heard first hand of the corrupt police and bribes. We heard one guy saying he’d been stopped by the police for no reason whilst riding a motorbike and they threatened to take him down to the station if he didn’t give them a bribe. The guy was pretty nervous and handed over 150,000 rupiah to the police (approx £7 approx) when the ‘standard bribe’ seems to be about £2.50. The same guy also paid £5 for a LITRE of petrol from one of the many roadside petrol sellers when the standard price for a litre is less than 50p! Doh! Luckily we’d heard all about the scams people pull and the corrupt police before we arrived in Bali so we’d been separating our money. We keep about 50k in our wallet for police bribes and keep the rest elsewhere… that way we can pretend we’ve only got 50k. Apparently the official police officer wage is less than £100 a month but they can bring home an extra £50 a month from bribes alone. We haven’t been stopped by the police yet…. Fingers crossed!