“THANK you for coming to Bali ... we love Australians ... we love what Australia did for Bali after the bombings,” were phrases my husband and I constantly heard during a recent trip to the popular Indonesian holiday destination.
In the two weeks we were in Bali, were heard it over and over ... from the many taxi drivers who ferried us around, to barmaids and publicans and even from a waiter at our resort.
Ten years after the first bomb ripped through Kuta’s Paddy’s Bar and Sari Club on October 12, 2002, the pain of that horrific night which claimed the lives of 202 people – including 88 Australians – is still very raw.
A memorial which stands on the site of Paddy’s Bar is sacred ground and off limits for the Balinese. While tourists are encouraged to spend time reflecting on the events of October 12, 2002, the Balinese people are forbidden from stepping foot on the memorial.
The Sari Club on the other side of Legian Street from Paddy’s Bar remains a vacant lot. As a tribute to those killed in the club, this plot of dirt will not be built on.
A new Paddy’s Bar, named Paddy’s: Reloaded, was reopened further along Legian Street.
But it is the permanent memorial to the 202 people killed on October 12 which is most chilling. Intricately carved from stone and set with a large marble plaque bearing the names and nationalities of each of those killed in the attacks, the memorial is flanked by the national flags of the victims.
As my husband and I stood solemnly reading each and every name on the memorial, a shiver went down my spine ... these people were just like us, tourists without a care in the world, enjoying themselves in a little bit of paradise.
Memories of that night are still etched in the minds of the Balinese who were there.
Nano, our regular taxi driver during our holiday, said the locals who had worked in the tourist industry, the lifeblood of Bali, were forced to return to the family farms in the jungles just to make enough money to eat.
“Thank you for choosing to visit Bali. We love Australia here and we are very sorry for what happened.”