If the threatened re-introduction of fingerprinting for visitors to Bali goes ahead, it may be the final straw for many who have kept faith with a destination that has tested our loyalty.
Australian visitors have returned to Bali in record numbers following the Bali bombings of 2002 and 2005 despite warnings from the Australian government that it continues to “receive credible information that terrorists could be planning attacks in Indonesia and that Bali remains an attractive target for terrorists”.
We have suffered the long immigration queues at Ngurah Rai airport - which Travel and Leisure magazine has named as one of the “12 Ugliest Airports in the World” - waiting to fork out US$25 for a visa, our patience sustained by the thought that beyond immigration lie fabulous hotels and resorts, and an unmatched value-for-money destination.
Our patience has been further tested by the knowledge that the move by Indonesian authorities to scrap the US$10 7-day visa-on-arrival fee, and charge all visitors for a 30-day US$25 visa, is being linked to efforts to stamp out corruption among Bali’s immigration officers.
In 2009, immigration officials at Denpasar Airport immigration office were caught embezzling US$300,000 in visa fees through the misreporting of 7-day and 30-day fees.
We have grudgingly slipped a $20 note to a Customs official who has “fined” us for a second bottle of wine in our hand baggage, but then pocketed the cash and allowed us to proceed.
We have coped with extraordinary high taxes on alcohol, which has created shortages of alcoholic beverages, and unrealistically high prices for very average wine.
We have put it down to experience when we have been rorted by unofficial money changers.
We have tried to ignore the over-development of villas and resorts that is stripping the cultural heart out of Bali.
And we have tried to ignore that once-tranquil Ubud is now chocked with traffic.
All this and we might yet have to stand in queues for hours waiting to be fingerprinted and photographed.
If this happens a lot of people will be saying Bye, Bye Bali - it’s been good to know you.
By Ian Jarrett