Balinese culture faces rampant Westernisation as ever more Australians flock to the island and more Australian-owned venues open to cater to them.
Despite speculation tourists would be deterred by this year’s controversial execution of two Australian drug smugglers and the exclusion of Australia from the list of 45 countries whose residents can enter Indonesia without paying for a visa, Australians are still visiting in droves, says Simon te Hennepe, co-founder of The Bali Bible.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics shows Indonesia is Australia’s second most popular destination, with a 23 per cent increase in travellers to the island over the past 10 years.
Mr Hennepe, whose website and app are billed as “the ultimate guide to Bali”, said the increased availability of reasonably priced Western cuisine and accommodation was one of the factors responsible for attracting 650,000 Australians to Bali during the first eight months of 2015.
Cafes are increasingly offering favourites like chicken caesar salad and acai bowls while the style of accommodation is shifting from traditional Balinese design to sleek-looking modern resorts.
Mr Hennepe told The Newsroom that Seminyak, about 10 kilometres from the Ngurah Rai international airport, was the most popular spot for its 750,000 followers, with Petitenget and Canggu not far behind.
“The area caters for a wide variety of traveller but also has all the amenities people love from home [which] makes people a lot more comfortable,” Mr Hennepe said.
He also credits the quality of dining options in the area for drawing in visitors, saying The Bali Bible finds “a lot of people travelling to Seminyak are going there for the incredible restaurants and cafes available”.
There have been many notable newcomers to the Seminyak dining scene in recent years, particularly ones featuring Australian owners or embracing the Australian cuisine culture.
Sisterfields, a café located near the newly-built Seminyak Square, features an impressive Melbourne-style menu including iced lattes, “smashed avo” and selection of healthy juices, claiming to “represent the iconic café culture of Australia”. With a “love of good food and great coffee” according to its website, breakfast and lunch times often sees a line of Australian travellers that extends out the door.
Another Australian-owned newcomer Barbacoa, located in the neighbouring suburb of Kerobokan, features Latin American-style flavours, an industrial, rustic interior and is the only venue in Bali to boast ice cream made table-side using liquid nitrogen.
Its owners, who are also responsible for “Mexicano” on Sydney’s north shore, chose the Balinese location because of the success of other food venues in the area, according to restaurant manager, Murray Knowles.
Mr Knowles told The Newsroom that the potential profitability was also a consideration when selecting the location, with Bali having “produce that is cheaper and perhaps more tourists looking to spend money”.
Sisterfields Cafe in Seminyak.
It’s a similar story for Australian resorts opening sister venues in Bali, with profitability and the high number of Western tourists just some of the enticing features of the destination.
Sam Blair from Escape Travel told The Newsroom the westernisation of the island had become slowly obvious in the accommodation options being provided. “All the really new hotels being built are more modern then your traditional Indonesian infrastructure,” she said.
Wayne L. Moffatt, the general manager of Komune Resort, told The Newsroom the number of Australian travellers was a key factor in their decision to open a second location near Keramas on the east side of the island, after the success of their first in Coolangatta, Queensland.
He said the “regular, short flights from Australia” and the “attractive land and sea selections” were taken in account, in addition to the “relative parity (Bali has) with the Australian dollar for both tourist spend and our build cost”.
Mr Moffatt also believed Western-owned venues appealed to Australian travellers because of the “comfort of at least knowing they are being served or treated” in a similar way to how they were treated at home, with Komune’s facilities and surf break acting as two key draw cards for visitors to the hotel.
Affordability is another selling point for Bali tourism, as the destination often offers a level of service and cuisine that visitors would desire at a fraction of the price they would have to pay at home. This is particularly true for Australian travellers, given the currently strong exchange rate.
A price comparison of Bali venues to Australian ones of a similar standard reveals a substantial difference in cost for dishes that were comparable, if not exactly the same.
Seminyak’s Sea Circus offers “Quashed Avo” which its menu describes as “on toast with lemon salt and pepper” for roughly $4.10 and a latte for about $2.70. At Sisterfields a latte is slightly more expensive at $3.10 and a “coconut, mixed seed and currant muesli” costs $7.20. At Melbourne’s Top Paddock “Seasonal avocado with lime, sea salt and sourdough” is $12.50, a latte is $4.00 and muesli with poached fruit is $13.50.
“Everyone wants to go to Bali because it’s so cheap at the moment,” Ms Blair said.
Other restaurants and bars with Australian owners continue to find ongoing success in Bali, including Revolver, owned by Sydneysider Katie Allan, and Seminyak’s Motel Mexicola. It is reported Double Bay favourite Mrs Sippy will open a Seminyak venue early in the New Year. – Report and photos by Amber Greasley