Radical Indonesian left-wingers — inspired, no doubt, by the poetry of that old champagne socialist W.S. Rendra — have started complaining about Kuta being called ‘Little Aussie’.
“That moniker is a compliment,” I explained, in a recent post on the Metro Bali Facebook page, and a reminder of the excellent relations enjoyed between the Australian hippies and student travelers (Proto-bogans) in Kuta during the 1970s. I mean you won’t find the Balinese naming anything ‘Little Surabaya’ or ‘Little Jakarta’, mainly because, most Jakatans used to think that Bali was dirty and primitive during the formative years of Balinese tourism. It was only the cultured Indonesians and aristocrats who loved Bali, with her old world Hindu ways and rustic charm.
Now that Bali is all about glitz and furry bits, Indonesian urbanites flock here; but very, very few are truly touched or moved by the place. And the Balinese hate being cast as an underclass and being called “Mas, Mas” (Jakartan word for servants).
Most ‘turis domestik’, as they are called, have a Balinese adventure hit list which goes: 1. See some sumur (naked white girls titties (sumur=susu berjemur)) on Kuta Beach. 2. Buy whacky T-shirt at “Jogger” shop. 3. Visit Beachwalk or other mega mall or ‘oleh-oleh’ outlet. 4. Visit Tanah Lot to chill (just so you can say you’ve been there).
The Aussie tourists list goes something like this:
1. Matahari or Hardy’s, to buy next year’s casual wear, DVD, tennis balls. 2. Get tattooed. 3. Get pissed.
In this mildly-inebriated, exotically-decorated mode the Aussie tourist has thus endeared himself to generations of friendly Kuta losmen-owners, masseurs and hair-beaders on the beach.
It cannot be denied that there is a big Kuta-Australia love affair. It was legendary Aussie he-man Kevin Weldon who founded the Kuta Surf Life-Saving Club (Indonesia’s first) in 1975, and Ozzie film-maker David Elphick and Albie Thoms who made the world’s first surfy film “Morning of the Earth” in Kuta in 1969.
Throughout the 1970s the QANTAS office was the ex-officio consulate for all nationalities; and the banana jaffle was Kuta’s national dish.
Many Australians remember Kuta as the first foreign place they ever went to and where they first felt mysticism and felt the warmth of an extended family home.
“Love as long as your Visa lasts” was the theme of the 80s in Kuta and the suburbs of Melbourne, Sydney and Perth are rife with half-Balinese to prove it.
For the teenage Kuta Balinese their Aussie mates and girlfriends are as rough and ready as they are, and loved a good lark.
Now that the island is awash with day-trippers, don’t put the boot into the pioneers, I say: those loyal Aussie back-packers and surf enthusiasts put Kuta Balinese into board-shorts and taught them to high five.
Whenever I miss the Australia of my sun-burned youth I head down to ‘Little Perth’, the beach zone between the Discovery Mall (named after Captain Cook’s Kelpie) and the Kuta Surf Club, where I find corobarees of day-feeding marsupials; all bonding with pedicurists and beefy beach boys.
Through the smell of menthol cigarettes and coconut oil basting product I can still got a whiff of cheap under arm deodorant — the scent that satisfies (now sprayed through the singlet section of Jet-star airplanes prior to landing in Bali).
Even the new airport has been redesigned with the ‘Little Aussie’ in mind. Just in case he comes to in the airport arrival area, after he’s staggered off the plane, he will be greeted by the familiar sight of stained R.S.L. carpet and chrome-trimmed counters.
Most ‘Little Aussies’ now avail themselves of the concierge-service at the airport which comes with discount vouchers for drinks at all ‘Hooters’ bars and a booklet on the soon-to-be-implemented Sharia Law.
Little Perth will then be renamed ‘Little Rabat’ and all Australian women will need to wear burkahs with non-alcoholic beer insignia and keep beading to head hair only.
Only last week on Muharam, the first holy day of the Muslim new year, there was a small group of friendly Jakarta educators in Arab dress with banners and megaphones preaching the virtues of Sharia Law in front of a Kuta temple.
As an Australian I was embarrassed when my scantily-clad country-women ambled past this moralistic protest group, with stubbies firmly clenched in their fists.
I gently herded them down to Little Perth and away from a potential confrontation, with promises of free beer and crisps.