Ayu, internet cafe staff | Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
January 19, 2010
Ayu is a young woman in her 20s who works at an internet café and restaurant in Ubud.
Surrounded by lush rice fields and home to ancient temples and palaces, picturesque Ubud is the center for arts, dance and music in Bali. Conde Naste Traveller named Ubud as the most favorite tourist attraction in Asia in its January 2010 issue.1
LPT: What do you think about tourism in Ubud?
Ayu: Yeah, first of all, tourists bring change, especially for our economy in Bali. And second maybe….how can I say it…it makes us know about the world because we meet other foreigners like from Australia…
LPT: So local people get to know other cultures?
Ayu: Yeah, other cultures like from Japan, America, or Canada, yeah. Makes people, local people, open minded than before. We used to have a traditional mind and now we’re a little bit more open.
LPT: What is the traditional mind? What did people used to think?
Ayu: Not sure, but for example, sometimes we work until late and traditional older people would think, “Oh, what are they doing going home so late?” They think we’re…we’re doing work that’s not good, like prostitution for girls, yeah.
So, other traditional things in Bali, we have classes of people – a caste system.5 It’s an influence from Hinduism, yeah. And now, as a result of tourists coming here, it makes local people, not all, but a small percent, change their mind and think that people are the same.
Ayu: Yeah, there’s no caste. Maybe when we visit the home of someone from a high caste, we still use the polite language in Balinese.
LPT: So there are different or special languages for different castes?
Ayu: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, special language, it’s more smooth…no, no…more, more…
Ayu: Polite! Yeah. And than when they’re outside of their homes and we’re the same age we just call each other by name. We speak like equals, like that.
LPT: So by interacting with more international tourists, how does that change local people’s thinking?
Ayu: Because they’re (tourists) modern. They’re modern and sometimes they teach us about how to enjoy life. It’s very, it’s very…it’s very, sometimes very….strange, no?
But, yeah, we know that money at this time is very important. And they…they…they… influence, they tell, local people, especially the traditional people or everybody in Bali, how to enjoy life and take vacations.
Usually Balinese do ceremonies, traditional ceremonies, but now we have birthday parties, we celebrate Valentine’s, yeah, like that. It’s like there are more special occasions than we used to have.
Balinese people used to always think about god and earth and not more intimate like people to people. It’s just always…<thinks out load in Indonesian>…it’s always…about how we can give to our gods, like that.
LPT: What are some not so good influences on the local society?
Ayu: I think, I’m not judging foreigners…
LPT: Sure, it’s just what you think, your opinion.
Ayu: Their clothes, yeah? They always wear whatever clothes they like. Never think about how someone…someone… someone else feels inside.
LPT: Like how local people think about the way they dress?
Ayu: Yeah, because Balinese are different. We are not used to short skirts or open (revealing) t-shirts.
If you dress like that, people will think “Oh, what are they doing? She is too sexy.”
LPT: So when tourists are wearing something that locals don’t feel comfortable with, do locals tell them?
Ayu: They want to but they’re scared.
Ayu: They’re scared? Why…not scared…what is it in English? “Scared” maybe, because they can’t speak English well so they’re scared foreigners will misunderstand them. And then second or additional, they’re lazy to ask the foreigners. Another reason, maybe local people know they get their money from tourism so they just let tourists do what ever, yeah.
But I’ve seen a tourist walking around in only his swim shorts in Ubud once.
Ayu: Yeah, it was near the temple and I saw the local people ask him to change clothes because Bali is a holy island. Maybe if they wore swim shorts on the beach, it’s ok.
LPT: And how did the tourist react?
Ayu: At the time, the tourist understood, apologized and went back to the hotel. Because it was not just one local person but many who told him.
1Danasari | http://www.danasari.com/ubud-favorite-tourism-in-asia
2Indo.com | http://www.indo.com/destinations/bali_info.html
3BBC, Poverty ‘surged’ after Bali bombing, October 13, 2003 | http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/3186436.stm
4The Jakarta Post, Bali’s tourist arrival record of 2.2m difficult to break | http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2010/01/09/bali%E2%80%99s-tourist-arrival-record-22m-difficult-break.html
5Murni’s (description of Balinese society & caste system) | http://www.murnis.com/culture/articlenamestitlesandcaste.htm