PANDORA'S Box (TV) or Trojan Horse (tourism) - which will lead to the greater corrosion of Bali's still vibrant, unique culture? After spending nearly a year on the "Island of the Gods," I must give a cynical nod to video.
TV has only recently appeared in Bali. Now, at dusk, the women still are occupied making glorious palm leaf and bamboo silver decorations and rice-cake and fruit offerings. But what will happen when their eyes become glued to the "box"?
Will lamacks and tjilis still be lovingly prepared for the infinite festivals and ceremonies which are forever occurring and which are the visible expression of the unique Bali-Hindu culture?
It is unlikely that poverty will prevent the appearance of TV sets in the villages. Everything the Balinese do, from drinking tuak (palm-wine) to flying kites, is organized communally through the aegis of the banjar . The banjar, a loosely knit association of upwards of a score of families, thrives today as it has for hundreds of years.
One can envisage every Banjar center with TV rather than a ping-pong table. However, possibly the wisdom of the elders will limit viewing hours and - at least for the present - most banjars lack electricity.
How about the Trojan Horse? This is, at present, limited to DC-8s and DC-9s, although DC-10s and jumbos are on the horizon. Last year, for the first time, dozens of charter flights carrying mainly Japanese or American visitors arrived in Bali. But, contrary to widespread fears, they had very little impact on the island's culture.
Coaches took the tourists from airport to hotel. There they lolled around the pool. Occasionally it was back to the coaches for a tour of the unsurpassable countryside, or a performance of the famed Bali dances, or shopping for paintings and woodcarvings.
Indeed, there are those who claim that, because of tourism, there is a renaissance in at least some of the island's culture. Without tourists, would the magnificent new Arts Center (built in traditional Balinese style and containing, among other things, a 5,000-seat theater and handsome buildings to house the island's finest paintings and carvings have been more than a dream?
Still, fearful of the impact that mass tourism might have on Bali, the Indonesian government has proposed that Nusa Dua, a desolate peninsula at the island's southern tip, be developed into a tourist center. Tourists will be lodged, kept apart from the "natives" and permitted to carry out any indiscretions they desire - nude bathing, for example. During the day they will be released from their cage to tour the island in buses.In the evening they will return to Nusa Dua. Bali will then become one vast open-air anthropological museum.
But even Nusa Dua will not prevent the disruptive influence caused by tourists failing to dress correctly when visiting temples and attending celebrations. This does not mean jacket and tie for men and long gown and stole for women. Generally, it implies nothing more than wearing a brightly colored sash around the waist. (Something like a man covering his head when entering a synagogue.)
Balinese are very clothes-conscious and would consider it chic if the tourist appeared in blue jeans and sneakers plus the sash. But it is insulting for visitors to appear at a cremation or a temple festival while unkempt and dressed in a bukini or bathing trunks, albeit with a sash.
The development of Nusa Dua finally began last July and should be concluded in the fall of 1978. The cost, half of which is borne by the World Bank and half by the Indonesian government, is expected to be $36 million. A hotel school, also under construction, will cost $1.25 million.
The government is being pressured to build a major hotel to encourage international corporations, but those corporations have shown no interest. Tourism in Bali is not big business. Contrary to common belief, relatively few tourists visit the "Morning of the World" and it is doubtful whether the island has over boasted more than 150,000 foreign visitors in any year.
Rumor has it that a number of small Sanur hotels, built in a moment of euphoria for a 1974 travel conference, are in economic difficulty. Meanwhile, the three big chain hotels - the Bali Beach, the Bali Hyatt and the Sanur Beach - are doing reasonably well.
Even before the Nusa Dua experiment begins (if it does), another experiment - though uncontrolled - will have been under way for several years. Bali's resorts are clearly divided. There is Sanur, about five miles east of Denpasar, the island's capital. This is where well-to-do foreigners (about 100,000 annually) stay at large hotels for an average of 3.5 nights and spend about $50 a day.
Then there is Kuta, the same distance from Denpasar, but to the west. Kuta is a haven each year for about 50,000 shoe-string travelers who often stay till their visas can no longer be extended. That is three months. Most live on less than $5 a day.
Until a few years ago Kuta was a sleepy village. Then the locals began to rent out rooms. Now, there are literally hundreds of losmens (rooming houses).A room (note, a room, not a bed) with simple private facilities (no hot water) costs less than $1 a day. This includes breakfast, a constant stream of tea or coffee, and laundry. Dozens of small, unpretentious restaurants provide good meals for around $1.25.
But this mini-boom has brought real tourist pollution to Kuta. Pimps, prostitutes and thieves abound where, even 18 months ago, they simply did not exist. Mention this to a Balinese and he, Pavlovian-like, immediately responds: "These people are not Balinese: They are from neighboring Java."
Motorbikes, exhausts roaring, race up and down Kuta's superb sands, adding to the pollution. Incidentally, motorbikes are the de rigeur mode of transport among the Kuta crowd. They rent for about $25 a week. (You would think that the large number of walking wounded would depress the market, but not a bit. It is mandatory to pass a driving test, but even if you fail, a pack of cigarettes does the necessary.) Finally, cassette players, each attempting to out-decibel is neighbor, blare from everywhere.
But the young crowd does not consider all of this as pollution. Rather, they point the finger at the high-rise Bali Beach Hotel at Sanur, still the island's No. 1 hotel.
By and large, the ills that have beset Kuta as a result of its kind of tourism have not reached Sanur. Not that the latter, with its different clientele, has remained untouched. Just last summer the gaily colored sails of its djukings (outriggers) with their mythological fish-elephant bows started to carry advertisements for beer. Soon after, the various soft drink bottlers joined in the desecration. Clearly, it is only a matter of time before billboards appear.
And then, there is the incessant importuning. As you stroll the beach, young assistants to the boatmen will approach with their chant of "one hour's sailing, good wind, only 1,000 rupiahs." Other children tout wood carvings, shell necklaces and picture postcards and with consummate skill cajole and confuse you into buying. Somewhat older girls plaintively call: "Come and look at my batiks: good price." And, as an afterthought, when they note the potential customer is not interested, add: "No need to buy: just look." (Clearly, the beach vendors at Acapulco who I had thought were at the top of the class are those who failed to make the grade on Bali.)
Others with nothing to sell demand, "What are you going to give me?" and point to clothing or simply state: "Gimme monnie."
All will demand of you, not only at Sanur, but throughout Bali: "Where are you going?" For months, the impudence of these people, especially the children, irritated me. What right had they, complete strangers, to ask where I was going? But then I learned that "Where are you going" is no more than a greeting comparable to "How are you?" Still, it requires an answer and so I replied politely in low Balinese (there are three forms of Balinese): "Ti'ang ke swarge" (I am going to Paradise).