Tracing the empty streets of Bali during the pandemic

Bali has always held a special spot in my heart. It was where I made some of the best memories with my family. Almost every school break growing up, we’d catch a one-hour flight to this island paradise. When I had to fly home this summer due to the pandemic, we simply could not miss the chance for our annual holiday tradition. But airports are risky and flying is just too arduous during this time. So, we decided on a road trip.

Off we went, the five of us and a heap of luggage, starting our journey from one side of Java to the other, where we’d later take the ferry to Bali. The trip itself took nearly 24 hours. With frequent breaks, navigating with Google Maps (which is arguably not actual navigation), exploring new towns and an overnight stop, it really did not feel long.

Arriving in Bali felt like coming home, in a way. After almost a year in rain-stricken Norwich, waking up with the beach just outside your doorsteps was a dream. For two weeks, constant sunshine, good food and surfing became my daily routine.

Of course, it was a bittersweet homecoming. Coronavirus had sealed international borders and the crowd today is only a fraction of how it used to be. Local shops and businesses had closed down – some for good. Hotels went bankrupt, restaurants barely break even and many struggle to make ends meet.

For a place that thrives on tourism, Bali is definitely not in good shape. As someone who owes many a good time to this island, I can’t help but feel a throbbing grief.

While on one hand I’m grateful to be able to enjoy my slice of paradise in its natural glory, it’s a shame to witness first hand the devastating effects of this pandemic on the travel industry.

Sure, many claim Bali to be overcrowded and way too overrated to be worth a visit, but having walked the dead streets and empty shops recently, I can only hope that it will soon again be teeming with tourists.


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Erica Thajeb

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October 2021
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