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[Standing in a Long Line for Paradise] our coverage of new, time-consuming fingerprinting and photography requirements imposed at Bali's Ngurah Rai Airport brought emails in record numbers. Fortunately, the 4-hour plus delays were partially remedied on the orders of the Minister of Justice and Human Rights who on Monday, May 3, 2010 rescinded the requirements for fingerprinting and photos. Here's what people had to say before government retreated and removed the unpopular new policy.
• Bob. K. from South Australia wrote :
"Hi, with all of the hassle of arrivals now with the finger printing and photos it's now a complete blunder/night mare . Nowhere on this planet, and I've traveled all over the place, does this (kind of) incompetence happen. Before most of the booths were open to process the passports, and that took long enough, now what they have decided to do is close off some of the booths and us them to take photos, so now we have fewer booths to process passports while the others take photos and fingerprints. Now it takes 3-5 hrs from arrivals to outside instead of 30 min. So what is being done to speed up the process or don't they care? What first impressions does this make to arrivals, just read the Bali Travel Forum."
• Fred contributed:
"May 1st 17:30 hours. I was at the front of the plane and dashed for the passport immigration line - I am a resident of Indonesia - while on the hand phone telling those persons that would meet me I would be at least 30 minutes more due to immigration "macet" - a man five persons in front of me said they had already been in line for 2 1/2 hours. It was also quite hot with all the people trying to fan themselves with their passports. My final time was 1 hour."
"As I left the immigration desk I looked back and saw a new group of people 20 meters long. I really felt sorry for them. Bali and Indonesia survived for decades without this ridiculous facial photography and fingerprinting. In a time when Thailand is in turmoil and Bali can benefit, who would want to come here? If I was on Holiday - I would never come back. First being ripped off for $25 because there is no other efficient manner of taxing and then to wait for hours to escape a 1960's style building. How much can people stand who have a choice of where to Holiday."
• Noel from Australia:
"I have been to Bali every year since 1995. I have traveled the world's airports. I won't return to Bali until this mess is fixed. Given the VOA and number of tourists the airport, staffing levels and technology should get a priority upgrade."
• Bruce Wyder wrote to say:
"On my last visit, March 2010, I waited 70 minutes to get through immigration and I have a visa. Inadequate staffing was the problem. The officers are very polite and do their best, but they need a lot more on duty. Then we had to put our luggage on the x-ray conveyor, this after a journey of almost 24 hours. I was tired and fatigued; an elderly Chinese gentleman almost fell into the conveyor. They need strong young men to put the luggage on and off the conveyor. I hope the Government is able to do something about this situation as I come three to four times a year for four to six weeks."
• Bhagawati Morriss, a resident in Bali, wrote the following:
"I was lucky to fly into Bali before this undeveloped scheme of DNA(sic) and fingerprint checking was launched. However, we still had to wait in line a long time (with a KITAS) - with only very few immigration counters staffed. However, after customs we tiredly walked out and counted 16 (!) money changer booths, ALL staffed, waving people on to change money. No traveler that I could see stopped, everybody too tired and eager to get out of the airport. Accounts of long lines and frustrated visitors have made the rounds for years now. How is it possible that all this is being ignored, that no officials take action? One quick look at Singapore can show how professional and painless entries there are conducted."
• David Quibell had the following points:
"I have made nearly 30 visits to Bali over the last few years but NEVER NEVER NEVER again with this completely disorganized non-system at the airport!!! "Welome to Paradise""!!! No way and never again. I suggest that everyone tries "Malaysia truly Asia" and see what they have to offer!! It puts Bali's arrival experience in the stone age!!"
• Oliver Chervet wrote from Dublin, Ireland:
"A frequent Bali visitor from Europe, I landed at Ngurah Rai last Saturday May 1, at around 9:40 PM. I was amongst the first to exit the plane and it was useless as the arrival hall for immigration was already packed."
"It took me 2 1/2 hours to get to the counter and only photos were taken not fingerprints . . .It was very hot in the building, 30 degrees according to my watch. I saw families with very young children, even toddlers having to wait in these conditions."
"At one point people started to cheer every-time an arrival was announced. Overall spirits were not too bad, but around me first-time visitors coming from Europe also were surprised and very annoyed. Some felt they were not welcomed.
I'm aware it's a teething problem, but Bali's image is at stake and this program should be suspended until the airport is able to deal with the flow of passengers."
• From Australia, Carol Fleming-Phillips said:
"What about the elderly and young children??? 4-6 hours waiting is totally unacceptable. I intend coming to Bali with my daughter and 7month old granddaughter, I hope the problem will be rectified by then."
• To which Rob van Wely added:
"When I arrived at Bali, 30 January, there were 2 counters open for foreigners, and at one counter for locals & crew. Five people were sitting doing nothing. Could they not open another counter ?"
• From Holland Jack Warnars has the following thoughts:
"Our family will probably visit Bali in August with about 20 people, adults and children. Is this human traffic jam is true, we will certainly not come to Bali and we will inform all travel agencies that it is ridiculous. Tourism is growing and good for the economy. We spend the money! Buy more equipment. The return on investment will be a couple of months. Think of the people who spending their money in Bali."
• Bill said:
"Why the sudden need to finger print and photograph visitors? It will not work. There are NEVER even enough Immigration stations open now to handle even visitors for VOA alone, and to add these other activities? NO WAY! The visitor flow into Bali will be seriously hurt when these 'queued up' people go back home and tell their friends about the arrival hassles. Oh wait, then there will be fewer visitors to photo and print, so the lines should move faster!"
• Pamela Burt from Australia wrote to say:
"Last December I had to cancel our holiday just two days before leaving when I was admitted to hospital with a stroke. I have a very weak right side and cannot stand for long. I was thinking of coming next month, but if I am forced to stand for hour or more, then no more Bali for me."
• Sandie, angrily wrote:
"Thank you for this information. I have forwarded this to all the major travel agents in Hong Kong. That way they can inform prospective tourist to Bali, especially people traveling with young children to anticipate long delays. This I do feel will lead tourist, to perhaps changing destinations. Vietnam is a truly growing tourist area, not only the cities, but the beach areas as well. May be a better choice for tourists. I shall certainly be considering a trip there instead of Bali."
[Will Tourists Abandon Ubud?] – our report on traffic jams in Bali's hillside community of Ubud and threats by travel agents to boycott that destination brought some thoughtful comments:
• Gerald in Indonesia:
"This is something going on for years already. Simple solution; NO tourist buses or vans allowed in the small streets of Ubud. Give residence a permit card to drive in Ubud, create a huge parking place before the center where shuttle buses apply the route to Jl. Monkey forest and Jl. Hanoman."
• Ian Wedding had these suggestions:
"Having lived in Ubud, on and off, for many years, I believe there is only one real answer to Ubud's increasing traffic problems. The area comprising Jl. Hanoman and Monkey Forest Road, which includes the popular market area, should be made a no traffic zone. That includes motor bikes. The whole area could be made very beautiful and easy for tourists to walk around, and the locals would still be able to do their business easily. Of course, this would require adequate parking areas just outside the main city area (there is plenty of land available for this), and would also need the support of the local people. Everyone can benefit from this. Ubud can be wonderful again!"
• Kevin Bell who lives and works in Bali wrote:
"The single biggest problem with traffic in Ubud, apart from a total disregard to traffic rules by locals both Balinese and expats, is the market. A possible solution would be for the Gianyar government (they own it) to rent some space outside of Ubud for 2 years, set up a temporary market there and demolish the current market, rebuild it with underground parking including entries and exits for buses. Then there would also be available evening parking for those who attend the evening Bali dances at The Palace and the surrounding restaurants."
• Marie said:
"I fervently hope that the large tour buses DO abandon Ubud. Not only do they cause huge traffic jams but they bring package tourists who spend very little time actually enjoying the culture of Ubud and mostly spend time at the commission shops and restaurants that pay large commissions. On another note, why can't Ubud have a continuous shuttle service loop that goes around town that would help relieve congestion and relieve tourists from tripping and hurting themselves on the broken sidewalks! Sorry, my comments are disjointed but this space seems too small for what I want to say!"
[I Got Spurs that Jingle Jangle Jingle] that covered the controversial film "Kuta Cowboys" depicting Kuta Beach's gigolo industry got one letter:
• Anne Delane asked:
"Are you kidding? This will increase tourism 10 fold! The Kuta Cowboy story is as old as tourism itself here. The main thing is: Don't believe a word these guys say, because as soon as one girl is gone, they are on to the next one."