Mermaid on Kuta beach, face paint ‘prank,’ and privileged foreigners: The quintessential Bali stories of 2021

Like in many parts of the world, life in Bali in 2021 was never far removed from COVID-19 matters.

Yet that’s not all that mattered in Pulau Dewata this year, as our beloved island was teeming with stories about outrageous behavior, defiance towards authorities, and controversies that have made Bali what it is, for better or worse.

These stories make up the majority of the most popular Coconuts Bali articles in 2021. This public health crisis ain’t got nothing on our vibes, that’s for sure. 

In case you missed any of the fun, let’s revisit the most read stories on Coconuts Bali from this year (in ascending order). 

#10 No Backpackers: Top Indonesian minister wants ‘clean’ Bali when foreign tourism restarts

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard Indonesian officials singling out the backpacker crowd, but for it to come from a senior minister like Luhut Pandjaitan was undoubtedly what it took for this story to make its rounds. Quality tourists only, he said. 

However, a spokesman from the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Investment later provided a clarification, explaining that Luhut only meant prohibiting those who violate health protocols and immigration laws. 

#9 Hundreds of Bali hotels up for sale on online marketplace

Times have been tough, and in May we saw hundreds of hotels in Bali going up for sale, as listings on real estate marketplace Lamudi showed. Low hotel occupancy rates persisted for much of 2021, though things are decidedly looking better as it gets closer to the end of the year, with the public health situation improving. 

#8 Foreigners defy authorities in Bali, refuse to leave restaurant despite curfew

Many of Bali’s local residents, and Indonesians across the archipelago, have been incensed by how some foreigners are behaving on the island, as they seem to have zero respect for rules. It was only a matter of time until such defiance became surfaced online, and a video depicting this quarrel at a restaurant in Petitenget where foreigners refused to obey existing curfews circulated widely at the start of the year. 

#7 Foreign nationals make bulk of Bali’s mask rule violators in Badung regency

While Bali residents have generally been pretty obedient about the mask rule, the same praise can’t be extended to some of our foreigner friends, who made up the bulk of violators on the island, authorities said. That eventually triggered a higher fine for the group, who are now subject to IDR1 million if they are caught without masks in public places. 

#6 Pacific Ocean island dubbed ‘New Bali’ for Australians

Any place branding itself as a “new Bali” or being referred to as such is likely to gain some attention. The same goes for Saipan, the largest of the northern Mariana islands located in the western Pacific Ocean. The destination is reportedly seeking to position itself as a post-pandemic choice for wanderlusting Australians. 

#5 Komodo dragon tears off toddler’s hand while he was playing

Earlier this year in nearby Komoda Island, a 4-year-old boy tragically had his hand bitten off by a Komodo dragon while he was playing in front of his home. The unfortunate incident eventually led to a probe, as authorities from the Komodo National Park began stepping up security around the area. 

#4 American woman who ‘unsettled the public’ with Twitter thread will be deported: official 

We are approaching one of the biggest stories to come out of Bali this year. It’s that of Kristen Gray, an American digital nomad whose controversial Twitter thread about moving to Bali went so viral that authorities got involved and decided that she should be deported from Indonesia. 

#3 Authorities seize passport, mull possible deportation of 2 influencers over face paint mask prank in Bali

We gotta give it up to immigration officials this year, who have been much stricter during the pandemic when dealing with ignorant violators. Two foreign influencers drew flak online after they pulled off a face paint mask prank in Bali, and Indonesian immigration immediately launched an investigation, with one of them eventually deported from Indonesia. 

#2 On foreigner privilege, gentrification, and racism: How one American digital nomad’s Twitter thread about Bali sparked backlash

This was Coconuts Bali’s explainer on a heated debate that took place on Twitter back in January. It started off quite simply as a digital nomad posting a guide on “how you can thrive in life” (in Bali) but quickly derailed into something else altogether. When it comes to foreigners in Indonesia, there’s a huge amount of privilege that people may not realize, and her thread sparked discussions that have long lingered under the surface. 

#1 Photo of mermaid on rubbish-filled Kuta beach welcomes Bali’s tidal trash wave this year

Our most read story this year took off only a few days into the new year, when a “mermaid” decided to lie amid a pile of rubbish on Kuta beach. It’s the sort of sight that one wouldn’t have imagined encountering, and we suppose that’s exactly why it quickly became so viral. We even interviewed the woman behind the costume, who told us that it’s part of her efforts to raise awareness on the issue of plastic waste.

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