How the definition of hospitality and ‘tourist friendliness’ changed for me when I met Balinese people.
The first of the things that comes to one’s mind while going on a foreign trip from India are cleanliness and high rise buildings. Did I say that right? Yeah, no wonders that first time travelers bear an impression that entire US skyline is blocked by megastructure and every nook & corner is spic-and-span.
Having spent more than half a decade in the western hemisphere and many visits to the VIP areas, one fact that stamped itself as true was the cleanliness factor. Well, only until I visited Bali. A pleasant and yet shocking surprise that they can put any western counterpart to shame when it comes to being spotless, and I mean it to the levels of small cigarette butts that ‘margins’ the US highways as much polythene bags do to ours. Definitely that cannot be the sole factor to tempt you, it is the much talked about & never followed concept of ‘Atithi Devo Bhav:’ in India (translating to: Guest should be treated like God or God sent) – Hospitality. To the extent I have walked across the globe, this place stands out when it comes to being ‘tourist friendly’.
“Namaste-astu” is how they greet, hands folded just like Indian Namaste and with a smile they are always happy to help you. Be it with directions, or places to see, where to eat, paying tolls, ordering your food & explaining you the ingredients of what you are ordering, safety factor (they are really proud of the secure environ they provide to the visitors & own every right in the world to do so, they live up to that hype) and clicking photos for you – they do everything right, warm & way beyond international standards. Nowhere else in the world they treat you like this – (we were on honeymoon) Are you recently married (Yes), on honeymoon (Yes), First time to Bali (Yes) – (Smiles) Congratulations, wish you a happy married life, how may I help you! Wonderful gesture, almost everyone wished me first before starting the conversation again.
Intrinsically, it appeared that they are a shy race but responsible at the same time. I noticed a few people who were smoking, hiding their cigarettes when we were clicking pictures (thinking that they might be in the background), which I regard as high moral standards. Hotel staff is generally polite because maintaining a clientele for revisits is the primary agenda, but in Bali, you don’t feel that business is the reason behind their courtesy. The level of association our Scuba instruction team showed was more than heart-warming. Over the time, they have managed to learn a few Hindi words & thanks to Bollywood, talk about megahits like DDLJ. They tried their best to converse in Hindi with us, talked about a few movies & actors and even sang a couple of lines of ‘Tujhe dekha to ye jana sanam…’ from DDLJ for us (saying that we make a great couple like SRK & Kajol).
At first, I thought that hopes of a fat tip was the motif behind, only to be floored by their friendliness again when I was told that it is not what they wish for (unlike Western world where they expect to be tipped for every smile they throw at you, this is reverse polarity in Bali, no tips expected although if you do, they look happy).
All I can say is – thank you Balinese people. It was wonderful staying there, you made my trip unforgettable.