Bali…Bogans, Tattoos and the Ugly Australian…

Balinese temple (photo LP 2010)

I have returned in the past few days from a holiday in Bali, Indonesia, with my sister.  Unlike my trip in 2010 when I stayed more remotely in the north west at Pemuteran and  the north east at Amed, this visit was to a five star resort in Legian.

What a difference!  The streets of Legian were very busy, the locals almost outnumbered by the Australian tourists.  I heard very few languages other than “Aussie” spoken and it reminded me that when I travelled with my French boyfriend to the northern part of Bali, I was told by the Europeans I met that they tended to avoid the tourist hubs of Kuta, Legian and Seminyak because of the loud, rude and crude Australians…yes a generalisation about the Aussies, but unfortunately, as I was to learn, a correct one.

A friendly local trying to sell us a toy (photo LP 2012)

It is difficult to write this post without appearing a “snob”.  But having canvassed my ideas with friends, acquaintances, colleagues and clients, and fellow holiday makers in Legian and Seminyak, my opinions have resonated widely, and with agreement.

Western Australia, and in fact any of the areas in the country which have vast mining wealth, is enjoying “boom time”. Those who choose to work in the mining industry, whether as cleaners and cooks, or as engineers and construction workers are being paid enormous amounts of money.  Many of them are Fly In, Fly Out (FIFO) workers who endure 12-14 hour days on rosters of 2 weeks “on”, 2 weeks “off".  It is a tough but very lucrative life.

No room at the pool bar for the ladies (photo LP 2012)

So-called “cashed up bogans” or rough, ill-mannered, inappropriately dressed men, and women, have infiltrated Bali, or at least the southern part of this beautiful island.  In our resort there were heavily tattooed men regularly taking all the stools at the pool bar, drinking excessively, swearing, allowing their children complete freedom to splash, scream and swear.  My sister and I chose to sit away, almost wary of these people who displayed so little respect for their fellow holiday makers, and their gentle Balinese hosts.

Not pretty (photo LP 2012)

That is not to say that everyone was ill mannered.  I have learnt over the years never to judge a book by it’s cover . As neither of my children have tattoos, and I am unfamiliar with the culture of body art, on one occasion I plucked up the courage to ask one man the significance of his tattoos…his body was almost completely covered.  He said every one of them meant something to him, except for the ones he had got when drunk!  His wife said he was addicted to the pain and the pleasure of seeing the finished product;  maybe I'm just too old, but I don’t get it.

Melbourne Cup Lunch, Biancos Restaurant, 2012

When we tried the shopping strips the situation was worse.  My sister, who has been staying at the same resort for 21 years and is obviously familiar with the area, was even shocked…”It’s never been this bad” she observed. Men and women, from about  20 to 75 wandered the streets, yelling, dressed in “Bintang” tank tops, or if it was too hot for them to wear even such a small shirt would walk around bare chested.  The women, dressed in the Balinese dresses which could be bought for $6.00 screeched at the local Balinese trying to entice them into their tiny, meagre shops, and yelled at the taxi drivers.  It was not unusual to see the men urinating in laneways…where is the respect for the local population we asked ourselves?  We were ashamed by our countrymen and women.

These "sentinels", outside our room,  protected the ladies! (photo LP 2012)

Somehow the Balinese, so in need of tourism, are able to tolerate this disrespectful behaviour…perhaps out of necessity.

Welcoming music Padma Resort  (photo LP 2012)

 We did discover some lovely restaurants, away from the maddening crowd...

Sip Wine Bar, Seminyak  (photo LP 2012)

...and beautiful florists...

Heliconia Florist, Seminyak   (photo LP 2012)

We often read opinion pieces in the newspapers here in Australia about lack of respect in the schools, towards the police, the violence in the streets stemming from our lack of respect for ourselves  and an overindulgence in alcohol fuelling that violence.

If the people I saw in Bali behaving the way they did, with scant regard for the personal space of others, are an indication of the way many Australians travel overseas; and on my many travels to Europe I have also seen bad behaviour on aircraft, largely fuelled by the free alcohol…then the label of the “ugly American” abroad has been usurped by that of the “ugly Australian”. 


  1. Thank you for the compliment of our shop :) Heliconia

  2. I am honoured as a Heliconia staff
    thank you once again for your compliment

  3. It was a great pleasure to mention your very beautiful florist shop. Thank you for your comment. Louise

  4. Hi Louise, I just popped in to say hello, I saw your profile link on your comment over at My French Country Home.

    I can certainly say I've seen my share of 'Aussies Behaving Badly' in many trips to Bali. For various reasons we haven't been for about 8 years (after very regular trips for nearly 20) and I'm not too sure I'd like it too much anymore if this is what's going on! That said we generally avoid the Kuta/Legian strip anyway so we'll certainly keep this in mind for future reference and avoid it like the plague now!

  5. Hi Norma...thanks for popping by! There are some lovely other areas of Bali to visit such as the Amed Coast, and up north at Pemuteran...Seminyak is not as bad as Legian...such a shame though that like you I just want to avoid it altogether...

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  7. Unfortunately i think this is a generalisation of Australians in bali. yes there are yobos with and without tattoos and people yelling in shops and drunks in the streets. But i believe they are the loud minority. Mostly i see family's here on an adventure holiday to relax and let there kids "run free" in a controlled and supervised environment. I have had some unfortunate experiences with my one year old daughter crying in breakfast while "well mannered" people stare holes through myself and my wife for ruining their vacation. We have since seen this many a time with other people hiding in corners of complimentary breakfast buffets to ensure they don't feel the evil eye of the people i call "the Bali millionaires". I would much rather be in the company of bogan families who are positive and enjoying Bali, then silence my children for people who are not embracing the true spirit of bali. People may not be able to stay at the same resort for 21 years as they do not have the financial ability to come that frequently. This trip may be there one in 5 or 10 year trip they have saved for so letting their hair down and drinking during the day may have been 10 years in the making and it may be another 10 years before it happens again.

    I am currently living in Bali and the locals love Australians, we are considered kind, generous, fun loving and friendly. Most of my Bali friends consider Australians and Balinese brothers due to the relationships as nations we share.

    Sorry for the rant, but it frustrates me when Australia as a nation is portrayed as rude, especially when from my understanding this is not the case.

    btw.. I am a tattooed ex miner, who has a psychology degree. i do not swear and look after my kids like any other dad. please do not tar all people with the same brush.

    1. As a fellow Aussie, thank you for this response. It frustrates me when people jump to conclusions due to a loud minority as you put it.

  8. ^^ Of course it's not all Australians. Probably less than half. But it's still galling to fly to a tropical country with a completely different culture, language, and history to ours -- and have to sit listening to that grating Aussie accent at breakfast. Bogans have no class (and no shirt half the time) ... "10 years in the making"? Just letting their hair down? ... No. These are the kind of people who drink back in Australia, if not every day then at least "gotta get smashed on FRI-DEY and SAT-DEY nights mate!!!! Bin workin all week ya know!!"

    Sorry for the rant myself, but it frustrates me when people believe this rough behavior is in any way appropriate in Indonesia. It's not. Having said that, it's usually possibly to find a quiet place with intelligent people, provided you steer well clear of Kuta, Seminyak et al.

    (For the record it's kind of hard to believe that the poster above me has a degree of any sort, with all of the spelling errors.)

  9. I live in Australian and I personally would never go to Bali as I am aware many people go there simply just to party. It is a popular destination place where a few Aussies like to celebrate and have a good time. Most of these people you wouldn't even notice as they are respectful, but yes, there are "bogans" who go as well and aren't as much fun. Most aussies will tell you that they can't stand the behaviour of this group of people either. But thankfully, they are a very small minority in our country. They just happened to stand out. I work in a grocery store near a scummier part of town, and even then, out of the hundreds of customers I serve every day I would probably only come across one or two so called bogans. All things considered, I still wouldn't judge a book by it's cover, as even though most bogans seem rude and rough, some of them are some of the nicest people I know, they just got brought up in unfortunate circumstances. So please keep this in mind and don't jump to conclusions about what we are really like. As an Australian I felt somewhat offended reading this blog. In saying that though, I am sorry that your holiday got ruined by rude, disrespectful people. Notice how I said "people" not "Austalians" cause, let's face it, there are rude people everywhere, no matter which country they are from.

    1. No disrespect for your opinion, but go the Bali and see the "ugly Australians" for yourself, people tend to behave differently away from home and some think them being in Bali is somehow doing the Balinese a favour.

  10. I have just returned from Bali/Legian and much of the original posters comments are true, my first visit to Bali in 1991 and it has got worse!! perhaps because of the affordability I paid less this year than I did in 1991, more airlines more hotels competing in the Indonesian market.

    Basically I believe there is a huge difference between a traveler and a tourist, Bali appears to be for the tourist " I'm spending my money I'll behave how I like" mentality.

    It also amazes me how a large majority of Australians dress in the bingtang singlets and locally bought dresses and think they look cool, and probably never wear them at home, so why bother wasting money on useless attire for a short holiday and buy something more meaningful in the way of a cultural souvenir to display at home as a lovely reminder of Indonesia.

    Oh I hear someone say "buying clothing supports the local people" supply and demand!!!

    Go to Bali, respect their culture, respect yourself :)

  11. I must agree. I am staying in what was a quiet little hotel with 12 rooms. Never heard a soul. Then 3 nights ago an Australian couple arrived. They start their party on the balcony about midnight, then skinny dip in the public pool. They yell and scream, dive and splash and have loud domestics till around 3am. The first night I called down to them and politely pointed out that the 11 other rooms are full of people trying to sleep. I asked them to please keep the noise down. They agreed, then brought down their ipod, had that blaring and continue night after night. I am disgusted with their complete disregard for anybody else. They are the King and Queen of Bogans!

  12. Bali has had a reputation for ugly Australian tourists since the late eighties/early nineties. Obviously it has become much worse with discount airlines and the mining boom. Personally I have never been to Bali and based on all I have heard and read about the place over the years about the types of people who go there I have zero interest in ever going to Bali. Bali is for Bogans.


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