Inside the hellhole of a Bali prison

I got here a few weeks ago to shoot a documentary. Stepping off the plane is an experience in itself. A prickle of sweat confirms my arrival as I’m drowned in close to one hundred per cent humidity and stifling heat. Long queues of bored passengers, customs as basic as it gets. You have a passport and money, and Bali wants you to use both.

It’s by far Australia’s favourite holiday destination. Close to one million of us are expected to file through Denpasar airport this year, battle the hectic traffic and the street hawkers, and stand on those magnificent beaches framed by waves that every surfer dreams of. Hotels can be cheap, beer is even cheaper, and everything and anything can be bought on the street.

But we are not alone in our love of this place. When you add domestic tourists with international, Bali is flooded yearly with eight million people, a number that’s twice its population. Many feel that a growing desperation for the tourist dollar, fuelled by the chasm of disparity between the Rupiah and just about any other currency, has changed a place with a reputation of being one of the friendliest destinations on earth.

Consider this. In 2012 an Australian died in Bali every nine days. That’s almost one a week. A lot of it is from misadventure like motorbike accidents, or drug overdoses, but there is also a long list of murders. Add to this the number of assaults, rapes, and robberies, and Bali has a dark side that’s not advertised in the brochures.

Sometimes however, Australians are to blame for the trouble they find themselves in. The temptations are simply far too strong, especially to the party crowd.

They are drawn to the temples of excess that populate Kuta with flashing lights and competing sound systems that blare distorted music into next week. The pubs and clubs are legendary. Foam parties, rooftop bars, and barman who will never tell you you’ve had enough. Many of these places are either owned, or run by security teams connected to the many gangs that have carved up Kuta. We looked into a story where the security teams themselves are the ones spiking drinks, ripping people off, handing out gang bashings, and worse.

Fuelling all this is what you can buy on the street. Lets start with what’s legal, pseudoephedrine, otherwise known as speed, and hallucinogenic mushrooms which, incredibly, you can buy in milkshake form. Then there’s the other stuff. Cocaine, ecstasy, and ice. We walked the streets with hidden cameras, and caught the dealers offering, cajoling, showing handfuls of their product. At times following us aggressively, promising low prices like we were bartering for a Bintang T-shirt. Add this to copious amounts of alcohol and it’s no wonder the hospitals here do a roaring trade with banged up Australian’s. In the time we were there, we saw numerous patients with black eyes, broken noses, a split lip that required more than 20 stitches from a king hit.

The ages of those flooding the streets are mostly young and about to get younger. The Gold Coast, once the mecca for schoolies week, has cleaned up its act so much, has come down so hard on hell raising kids, last year saw a record number head to Bali. No pesky door checks for smuggled booze, no tedious lines to scrutinise I.D. no barman telling you, you can only order a few shots at a time. Just hit the go button, and hope you get home. With some luck the spirits won’t be laced with the local and sometimes deadly vodka known as Arak, or like a recent survey found, ethanol. Apparently it works just as well in your blood stream as it does in your car, except it’s an accident waiting to happen.

And while Bali can seem like a place without rules, without boundaries, if you do find yourself on the wrong side of the law, you’ll find out just how wrong you are. Indonesian law is not like it is back home. It’s a different legal system, harsh laws, and even harsher penalties. Just ask Schapelle Corby, or any member of the Bali nine, or the families of the ten drug smugglers that have either been executed, or due to be, this year alone. Each will be tied to a post, alone, on a remote island, in the dark, waiting for the orders from the firing squad in standing front of them. (

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