Bali’s Got Your Back

Ryan Auberson-Walsh

Ryan Auberson-Walsh is a sassy Sydneysider who enjoys cocktails and writing from opinion. A student at the University of Technology, Sydney, he was the 2013 editor-in-chief of annual Querelle, and has previously interned at SameSame.com.au and Australian Traveller. His work has also been published in Cream and Vertigo.
@ryanaubiee on Twitter & Instagram.

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One has to admit that every time a glorious getaway is lined up for the future, a little, nay giant, chunk of you can’t help but do everything to make you fuck up until the date arrives. You’re chaotic, disorganised, and at one point frantically rustling through your overstuffed cupboards in search of your world class mugshot/passport.

I for one thrive for these times – it’s the days following your trip when I’m most uneasy. There’s swearing and heartache, your life feels dull, and you just can’t function when glancing at a travel poster without bursting into tears. Homesickness is one thing, but missing the buffet-style spread of colours, noise, and of course foods, really tugs at my heart.

Recently returning from a two-week expedition to Bali, white Australia’s Mecca, I’m already beginning to lose proof that I have the ability to actually tan.

Sunset at Seminyak
Sunset at Seminyak

At first excited, then later a little unsure of what to expect in terms of a gay-friendly island, I came to fall in love with the sprawl, seaside and sewer smells. The boutique-lined streets and deluxe beachfront resorts that tear through Seminyak in the southwest were homo magnets.

To the point where I was onstage performing a saucy shirtless samba with a Local drag queen in front of a full house of heavy drinkers just hours after landing in Denpasar, it’s safe to say that in Bali you get what you give. And by that I mean putting on a show will guarantee you get just as good of a show back – so lose the shirt, down a few daiquiris and enjoy the furore.

Australia Day performers at Bali Joe's, Kuta
Australia Day performers at Bali Joe’s, Kuta

The LGBTQ-friendly street known as Jalan Camplung Tanduk is not indifferent to Sydney’s Oxford St or the Castro in sunny San Fran. Bustling venues line the strip at the hip, bar patrons pouring out into the open air for a friendly flirt with drinking neighbours. This is a place worth getting to know.

Just twenty minutes from Ngurah-Rai Airport, rainbow paradise awaits. So long as you’re one for sequins and fabulously tacky stage divas, there’s much to love. Drinks are relatively cheap – at least by Australian standards – and free pouring is all the rage, so expect to party hard.

One fascinating layer to Bali’s openness is its ability to reel in gay and lesbian folk from countries around the world that aren’t anywhere near as tolerant. Men from the Middle East and a blonde Russian made excellent conversationalists despite the language barrier, rightly justifying why this Indian Ocean landmass has been a haven for a good decade.

Misty mountains of Amed, East Bali
Misty mountains of Amed, East Bali

Peering outside the expansive urban stretch of the Kuta-Legian region, life is a lot quieter. It makes for a fresh change from shopping, wining and superbly fine dining, but much alike any largely uninhabited part of your own motherland, beyond the edges of rapidly developing suburbia lies the unknown – a place that has always been deemed traditional and quaint, but drastically more homophobic. Fair to say that this might be the case in some small towns and villages Down Under, it’s certainly not the case when it comes to this tropical delight.

After a few days heading inland and then further east to the mainly tourist-free Amed coastline, a band of black sand beaches and lush greenery, all experiences were free of any discrimination. Perhaps it might be in the confusion with being from overseas, or the fact that my girlfriend (gurlfran) and I were touchier than a married couple. Either way, it’s comforting knowing that my sexual orientation didn’t adversely affect my time when backpacking from beach to bar.

Colours at a market in Ubud
Colours at a market in Ubud

A spot of snorkling, shisha and singing along to some classic tunes at a local’s reggae bar were all included – and a friendly boat captain (who we affectionately named Big Boy Benny) confirmed that he couldn’t give two hoots as to who I went to bed with.

Ignoring any insults thrown my way is semi-standard back home, but over there the only words being hurled towards me were “Cheap, cheap” and “Taxi?”

Foyer of the W Hotel, Seminyak
Foyer of the W Hotel, Seminyak

Loud, exotic and very sexy, Bali is a gem just as passion-filled as any thumping nightclub. Coast to coast, and any micro-islands in between, this land really does ensure that Bali Bliss is found. My one word of advice? Pack a bit of medicine in with your toiletries – Bali belly doesn’t exactly make the greatest departing gift.

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