Bali debunked

The following piece ran on an Australian media site. I’m not linking to the piece, sorry. Story is in italics, my thoughts bracketed. I’m doing this only because I envisage a whole strong of ranty, ill-informed pieces like this to run in the Oz media in the coming weeks. They totally ignore the challenges the local population face and also seem to fall down at acknowledging the efforts people are making on the ground to try and alleviate the situation.

There are worse things in life than being stuck in Bali for a week.


A tropical paradise with no shortage of pools, cocktails or hot weather.


But it comes at a price and so far it’s upward of $5000.

[The $5k is generally optional]

I came to Bali for a five day getaway with my mother and sister. We came here to relax, swim, eat and soak in the sun. All of which we did, very well if I do say so myself.

[Great, glad to hear it went well, Bali really can be quite awesome]

But all good things must come to an end and we were set to fly home on Sunday night, however Mount Agung had other ideas.

[I hate that]

As the volcano continued to spew ash we were being told we wouldn’t be on a flight until December 4 at the earliest, leaving us stranded a full eight days longer than planned, and even then, as every airline employee repeatedly reminded us, “there’s no guarantee”.

[Unfortunately volcanoes are not timetabled]

Now I’ll be the first to admit sitting by the pool for another week is hardly stressful, but every minute I’m stuck here costs money.


Accommodation, food, international phone calls to every airline we can think of, even water, which isn’t safe to drink out of the tap and has to be bought.

[Well, depends on the hotel or house, but generally true. A large 1.25 litre bottle costs a bit under A$1 ]

After five hours dealing with various engaged airline helplines, desperate to try and find a way out of this mess, I realised I was going to have to pay a taxi to take me to the airport.

[Taxi to the airport? Outrageous!]

And while sitting by the pool waiting for news may be peaceful, Denpasar Airport is anything but.

[On this point I totally agree, DPS international is a dump (domestic is ok tho!)]

Hundreds of people from all over the world were lining up at airline desks in queues that never seemed to move.

[This sounds like a totally normal day at DPS to me]

The airport is cavernous, there is no aircon, and the humidity was at 78 percent.

[The airport is fully air-con]

I spoke to people from Thailand, Sweden, Croatia, the US and Britain – some of whom had been sleeping in the airport for three days.

[Given you can get a room in Kuta for $5 I don’t really understand why people would do this, but yes, you are allowed to sleep at the airport]

One mother from Adelaide told me she’d left her two young children home with her mother, tearfully informing me she had “no idea when I’ll see them next”.

[When she gets a flight home?]

Qantas had originally cancelled all flights until next Tuesday, with some stranded travellers not rebooked until December 27.

[I find the Dec 27 date just about impossible to believe, tho assume it was the said travellers being dramatists rather then the author ]

I witnessed more than one person make a tearful call home to tell loved ones they won’t make it back for Christmas.


It didn’t seem to matter what ticket people held, a first class seat with Emirates or economy with Tigerair, no amount of money was going to make the airport reopen or the volcano stop erupting.

[Agung is not for sale. Sorry.]

Here, in this sweaty, sticky mess, we were all in the same boat.

[Yup, you and 100,000 people living in camps on the slopes of the volcano]

And boat seems like it may be the only option.

[Not really, well, a boat+ other stuff—full instructions here]

Hundreds of people lined up for a bus set to take them on a 12-hour drive to a ferry at Gili Manuk which would take them across to Java, where they’d hop on another bus to Surabaya airport.

[It is actually 12 hours to Surabaya (on a good day) Gilimanuk is about 4 hours (depending on traffic)

From there they hoped to get a flight to Jakarta from which they could fly back home safely.

[Indeed, or fly internationally, or a train or a domestic flight to Jakarta (for eg), there are plenty of options to the west. Look in a guidebook. ]

The trip could cost hundreds of dollars, and people with young children and quivering bank accounts were unsure if they could make the journey.

[The airport bus to Surabaya cost 300,000 rupiah, so around A$30. I guess if you has a family of seven it could cost “hundreds of dollars”, but for a single traveller, $30 seems kinda reasonable for a 12+ hour bus trip ]

Not to mention, bad weather in Java saw flooding and landslides take the lives of 11 people yesterday.

[The deaths were in a southern strip of Java and I think were related to the Cempaka cyclone (which has faded away for now). There was some flooded on the road to Surabaya, but I’m not aware of any deaths related to the bad weather on the route to the airport—I could be wrong on this though! ]

People are being forced to measure risk, cost and desperation to make it home to their families on Christmas.

[Christmas is a month away. A volcanic eruption has been on the cards since September. That is risk management. ]

Meanwhile, we laughingly looked up private planes and helicopters, wondering if maybe even that might be cheaper than a month’s accommodation.


Plenty of observers, safe in their homes back in Australia, have been passing judgement on those stranded here.

[Plenty in Bali (also safe) too]

Accusations about holidaying without money for emergencies are flying left, right and centre.

[Flying to a destination known for a potentially-about-to-explode volcano with insufficient funds to carry one over in the case of an eruption could be construed as being irresponsible, or at least, lacking consideration.]

But I bet they’d be singing a different tune if they were here.

[I live here]

Many of the people I’d spoken to were here on their last dollar, trying to give themselves a much needed break after years of saving.

[I get this, but I also get being financially responsible and doing your research. People have been waiting for Agung to blow for months and the Oz media have been flogging it like the second coming of Schapelle. Seriously. Read a paper, do your research. If you are short of emergency dosh, don’t travel to a potential disaster area without some loose time (and loose money). Go to Thailand—no active volcanoes there]

Another was here for a friend’s wedding, where she was the maid of honour.

[Congratulations to her friend!]

A third was here for work.

[Hope they had the right visa! (that’s a joke for Bali expats, sorry)]

No one goes on holiday expecting an act of god to throw their plans into chaos.

[Yes, agree, but this “act of God” had been reported almost daily in Oz paper since September!]

As my mum and I video-call our partners back home, we can’t help but feel our hearts twist for everything we are missing.

[You should bring them with when you return!]

Mum has already missed a prepaid trip to Melbourne with my dad.

[Bugger, sorry to hear it.]

We missed my other sister’s birthday, and were unable to farewell her as she left for Vietnam.

[Lucky your sister missed cyclone season in Vietnam as that wrapped up last month—hope she enjoys it, fab country.]

My sister has missed out on a training session at work which would have assured her a promotion, and I’m using up my painstakingly saved annual leave so I can afford to keep a roof over my head.

[Well hopefully your travel insurance (you had some right?) will cover you for the accommodation costs, and sorry to hear about your sister missing the course.]

I’m sorry your trip had a rough ending, as it seems like it was great until it wasn’t. Really, I mean that. But also, it pays to do some research, read the newspapers, get some travel insurance, and travel in a more informed fashion than you appear to have—and certainly a bit more fact checking on the above story would have been prudent.

We all hope the volcano chills out, which will give considerable relief to those who have been evacuated and so on, and also free tourists to arrive without needed to get a PhD in volcanology and ash cloud patterns.

Good travels


Still stuck in Bali? Read this!