I just returned from my one-week vacation in beautiful Bali that caused quite a stir in the media while I was away. After I had the opportunity to look back at some of the reporting, I thought maybe it’s good to shine some light on my time there.
There won’t be anything juicy really, aside from the excitement on day-one this trip was just as plain as my previous 20+ times on the island without any impacts on my itinerary.
After the initial article about the long wait times at DPS Airport was published on Friday July 29th and the firestorm that ensued following the press conference of local officials, I didn’t pay much attention to the matter after that. Mainly because the reporting was in the local press, and I can’t be bothered to follow all that, let alone while I’m on vacation.
One of our readers did link an article to a local Balinese news source that quoted an official saying the individual in question (myself) was told to leave Bali immediately. It was really odd. I was in contact with the head of immigration the entire week I was in Bali after our first chat when he gave me statistics, and we chatted about what could be improved at the airport.
I asked him straight up what was going on, and he said not to worry about that. The press had misinterpreted some things, and I could stay for the entire time I wanted; my VOA wouldn’t be impacted. I ended up staying in Bali for the whole week and left on Thursday as planned.
Looking back, I think a lot started with the hastily assembled press conference by Bali politicians that weekend, where some off-the-cuff remarks were made. I had the impression they really regretted these later because the “Blogger gets kicked off the island” ended up being the headline everywhere which also made the authorities look bad. The headline should have been about the positive changes that corrected the situation. According to my contact and the reports from several people arriving in Bali internationally (including on TG431 flights) the terminal runs smoothly now.
I did express my concerns regarding the legality of these remarks, suggesting they issued a removal order when that was never the case. I did receive a semi-apology for that as well as thanks for reporting the improvements made at the airport.
What was in the comments?
I didn’t read all the comments, I responded to some on the second piece, though and as always some were filtered out by the software automatically, and I believe John also had to remove some.
A few people found harsh words towards either myself (fair game as long as it remains civil) or for the authorities in Bali on how they dealt with this matter. In the spirit of fairness, I want to shine some light on that.
The authorities and, in particular, the Head of Immigration Mr. Rachmad acted absolutely professionally and courteously. I did not feel harassed or intimidated at any time. On the day I had planned to depart, we got in touch, and he even came to the airport off shift to make sure I had no problems.
Now truth be told, when I was first offered that, I was indeed slightly concerned this “offer” would turn into some kind of friendly exit deportation, but I shouldn’t have worried. I asked specifically if there was any issue returning to Indonesia and was told absolutely not. I received my plain exit stamp, and then we headed to the Premier Lounge to wait for my departure. All these encounters were extremely friendly.
How to deal with authorities abroad?
This isn’t a case of Locked Up Abroad, and Indonesia isn’t some kind of third-world dictatorship where you’re thrown into prison just for criticizing the government. That being said, there are different interpretations of free speech and what constitutes libel in different countries, so be aware of that. Of course, if you have committed a serious offense that’s related to the strict customs or criminal laws, then you’re in for an unpleasant experience and should seek legal representation.
When talking to officials, be truthful about the events, act courteous, and be available in case of any questions. It also helps to get the contact of the person you spoke to initially. If you feel it’s serious, then contact your embassy or consulate. They have a list of trusted local law firms who can assist you.
Only in very few cases can you expect any help from your embassy itself. By then, it’ll already be too late if you’re really in trouble. I did send an email with material about the case to the German Honorary Consulate in Bali just for good measure, and they consulted Jakarta just to be on record. It wasn’t necessary in the end but always a good idea nevertheless.
Another reason why I didn’t really worry about any consequences here, those responsible knew it was true in most parts. Now, if that guy I talked to was really in that airport for five hours or 3-4 there is no way to verify that. Either way, it’s too long. That Friday might have been a bad day, but I’m hardly the only one who documented a DPS arrival situation, as there are literally hundreds of posts on social media from various days and experiences.
I’m actually glad this caused so much attention, the officials now gave the immigration department ample resources, and I still highly commend them for being approachable this way. Even government officials such as Bali’s Senator came back to the island to inspect the airport. This was taken seriously at the highest levels to bring about a solution. I wish Amsterdam, Cologne or Toronto would step up their game this way and actually care!
Watching bits of this unfold while traveling the island as normal was sort of comical. I didn’t pay much attention to it, as that would have probably ruined my vacation. After all, I only had a week that I spent in Nusa Dua (Grand Hyatt), Kuta (the new Aloft), and Ubud (Element and Alila). The matter didn’t impact me in the slightest, and I’m not bitter about the episode as I feel it helped Bali a lot to bring about improvements.
As far as media coverage is concerned, it gives me no pleasure to say that the vast majority of the reporting was factually and generally incorrect. It’s a problem when an article from some rather unknown local media outlet (in a different language) is not properly researched and then put into publication elsewhere based on hearsay. This includes fellow travel blogs and even some mainstream media sources. It’s one thing to try and seek clarification (such as Coconuts Bali did) and be told that at the present time there is no further comment, another to just publish without any due diligence.
Either way, this matter is now closed, and my next destination is waiting in September. I’ll return to Bali sometime after the G20 is over in November, they seem to be quite busy with that. If you do travel to the Island of Gods around that time, consider that most of the meetings take place in Nusa Dua where the dignitaries will be housed as well. Tough security measures are to be expected on that peninsula which is very suitable for such an event from a safety perspective.