Asia's single females are reportedly a hit for Kuta's male
gigolos, who can say "I love you" in seven languages.
Greg Cruey, Asia For Visitors, checks it out.
Jan 2, 2004
won't find many cowboys in Southeast Asia. But on one small
stretch of beach they have become infamous.
a woman in Bali on your own, you can expect to meet a Cowboy,
or a gigolo - which ever you want to call them. The Kuta
Cowboys don't like that "G" word. They'd rather
be your boyfriend, your lover, your companion, or whatever.
marketing is half the reason they don't like the word "gigolo".
Kuta's cowboys think they have figured out what women want.
Kuta Beach on the southern coast of Bali has them. Lots
from the stories available, a female travelling alone in
Bali will probably be "hit on" at least a few
times a day. And if she simply goes to Kuta Beach, picks
a spot and stretches out in the sun, someone will propose
marriage before the day is out.
young "cowboys" of Kuta come by offering free
samples of conversation, then selling romance at bargain
prices, and soon afterwards selling themselves (in whatever
sense you wish to take that).
author called Bali the land of the "bronzed gigolos".
seems to be irrelevant; if anything, girls in the 18 to
25 age bracket are neglected a little in favor of women
who may have more resources, or may be more emotionally
1996 article on Kuta's boys, author Denise Dowling relays
"Sally is a married 36-year-old nurse from Queensland
who brought her teenage daughter to Bali as a graduation
present. She and the daughter were at a local disco one
night when the singer came over and sat with them after
a set. She thought the 26-year-old musician was after her
daughter until he invited her to his room that night."
Six months later Sally had dumped her husband and spent
over $7000 on a relationship with this Balinese boy. She'd
brought him to Australia and was still living with him.
beach and the town
Beach is by far the most popular strip of sand on the island
of Bali. Its three and a half miles of white sand and rolling
waves provide a good practice spot for beginner and intermediate
surfers to practice their skills.
games and other sand sports dot the beach and the barrier
reef gives snorklers a degree of protection
town of Kuta, though, is a touristy mess. Just a few miles
outside of the Balinese capital, Denpasar, Kuta's main drag
is a couple of miles of jam-packed commercialism designed
to prey on travellers.
has changed little since it was discovered by tourists in
the 1960's and absorbed the atmosphere of those times.
a tie-dyed dump full of t-shirt outlets, tiny restaurants
selling health food and booze in a society that was already
largely vegetarian, cut rate (or cut throat) travel agencies,
and stores selling bootleg music tapes.
and January, Kuta becomes very Aussiefied. Most restaurants
offer vegemite (a totally disgusting black yeast extract
that Aussies smear on bread) and cater to the Australian
school break crowd.
surf crowd grows and Kuta begins to resemble Fort Lauderdale,
Florida, at spring break. During the Northern Hemisphere's
summer Japanese, Germans, French, Spanish and other tourists
flood the beach.
looking for paradise, Kuta ain't it. By early evening (if
you don't choke to death on the smog first) you will have
been asked one hundred times or more to buy something.
falls the items sold on the streets get darker, too. Boys
on motorbikes dressed as a cross between James Dean look
and Fonzi from "Happy Days" will try and sell
you oregano and tell you it's hashish; or perhaps offer
to find you a girl for the evening.
beggars who asked for money during the day are replaced
by Indonesian transvestites after dark. The Western gay
scene develops at the beach itself.
looking for some place on Bali to soak up the sun, drink
beer 'til you're pickled, surf when you're hangover wears
off, watch the hardbodies boil in their sun tan oil, or
maybe be flattered nearly to death by the attention of a
much younger male with good muscle tone and better manners,
I have just three words for you: Kuta, Kuta, Kuta!
don't have to worry about being bothered by artsy dance
performances. No one will ask if you want to visit a temple
or watch a Hindu religious ceremony. Shadow puppets and
strange sounding music is definitely out.
tone of life bounces back and forth from the Beach Boys
to the haze of Hendrix to the malaise of Jimmy Buffett.
nightlife is non-stop and everyone expects a little hedonism.
Kuta is the armpit of Bali. But hey, some people don't mind
the smell and others even seem to like armpits
go to Bangkok or Pattaya, or maybe Olongopo in the Philippines.
Girls go to Bali...
Kuta's cowboys have figured out what women want? Dowling
puts it this way: "The story might have a happier ending
if sex was the only thing the women wanted.
you know women...some of us think sex should be wrapped
in love. That's the package these women buy, and the cowboys
have learned to sell it that way.
be a shoddy parcel in the cold light of reality, but Indonesia
is a Third World country with poor electricity, so it's
hard to see what you're getting. Bali is seductively dim;
even when the power's on, it's the flattering flicker of
generalising too much makes the situation sound more simple
than it really is. Not every guy on the beach is a complete
leech or a cynic looking to sucker a foreign woman. But
then, some of them have enough of that in them to make up
for the more tender-hearted cowboys out there.
cowboys sell romance, but falling in love is a hazard they
try to avoid until after the marriage license has been signed.
marriage - a way off of the island with the possibility
of life as someone's boy-toy (or maybe even partner) in
a more prosperous society - is the ultimate goal of the
guys on the beach.
don't see much hope of achieving that goal; for now they'll
settle for a vague relationship where they make a foreign
woman feel good about herself (or just plain feel good)
and get a little extra cash (or something) in their pockets.
will rob you, some won't even ask for anything, but most
are very good at begging once the relationship has a little
depth to it.
can end up buying him the motorbike he needed, the new surfboard
he wants, or clothes to wear for the next woman - and you
can walk away thinking it was your idea.
yet to stumble across an explanation of how the young men
of Kuta came to be called "cowboys". How you think
of them depends on your perspective. One sources explains
that the phrase Kuta Cowboy is a euphemism for "beach
are more generous, describing the sparseness of the local
job market and the desperation of young men in Bali; a college
education in the field of business or economics will set
you up with a stall selling beads to the Finns and Swedes
who visit the island.
expose on Kuta's cowboys is insightful: our paradise is
their purgatory. I don't think Hinduism has a purgatory,
but the image communicates the feel of life on the island
pretty accurately. The cowboys want to escape.
women are the way out. Or maybe Swedish women, or Canadian
women, or Italian women, or Japanese women, etc. Most cowboys
can say "I love you" in seven or eight languages...
woman travelling alone on Bali you can feel relatively safe.
Rape is an uncommon event in Bali. Your pocket might get
picked. You will probably get some unwanted attention (and
some of it may be crude). But physical harm (or any kind
of confrontation over sex) is unlikely.
said this, you should realise that if you ask someone to
walk you to your room, they will think it is an invitation
because they know you are unlikely to be harmed on the way
to your room (or the beach, or wherever).
should also keep in mind that Balinese women just don't
travel alone, so Balinese men don't know what to make of
it in Western women.
even lovers in Balinese culture do not touch each other
in public. Men touch men, women touch women; but for a woman
to touch a man in public is very confusing, sexually, in
Balinese culture and is usually taken to be a strong message
to the Balinese man that the woman is attracted to him.
can minimise the amount of unwanted attention you get by
dressing conservatively in town.
should also keep in mind the most obvious, yet obscure,
threat to your safety while in Bali: AIDS is as common on
some parts of the island as it is in Thailand.
looking for some first hand conversation on the subject
of the Kuta cowboys (or most anything else to do with Bali),
the Bali Travel Forum has a huge searchable archive of messages.
common Balinese guy-tourist girl romance have become is
clear from reading the board.
girl recently posted this question to the board: "I
was wondering if any Aussie girls have Balinese/Indonesian
boyfriends or if anyone knows of someone who does. I met
a nice guy in Bali and I wondered if they work out, but
I've never really heard of many girls having Balinese boyfriends,
or am I wrong?"
she was wrong...
board's contributors on the subject of Balinese boyfriends,
or Kuta cowboys, can be divided up into three main groups:
who have recently found a Balinese boyfriend and have questions
about the relationship.
2. People who want to warn such women about the hazards
of such a relationship.
3. Women who have had a positive relationship with a Balinese
man and want the forum to know that not all Balinese men
contributor from category two advised women with new boyfriends
from Bali to evaluate them in much the same way they would
a guy back home because (according to her) they don't change
much once you get them out of Bali:
he work (very important, that he has a fair work ethic)?
Is he self-sufficient (to show he's not a free loader)?
Have you met his family (mother, father, etc)?
pay for everything (or does he sometimes buy you things)?
She also advises taking a look at his passport before buying
him a ticket to anywhere.
been telling you he's just an average Balinese guy who happened
to see you on the beach and thought he'd stop to talk, and
then you look at his passport and figure out that he's been
to Stuttgart, Helsinki, Vancouver, and Auckland in the last
three years, well... ask questions.
the cowboys of Bali are gigolos or not is really something
that gets determined, in part, by you the tourist.
speaking, if you meet a Balinese guy who is brave enough
to try and start a relationship with you, he was looking
for you (whether he manages to make it look like an coincidence
are, you aren't his first tourist. Is that okay with you?
guy is probably hoping to get something out of the relationship,
but that doesn't necessarily make him a leech or a parasite;
you'll have to decide for yourself what he has to give in
a good chance that he hopes to profit from your relationship;
but in the framework of a third-world economy, that hope
does not necessarily mean he's a scam artist.
Ultimately, he probably has a fairytale in the back of his
head - only he's the damsel in distress and you're a frog
he's kissing; he knows you probably won't rescue him from
his island-prison, but if he doesn't kiss you, he'll never
leave you with a few more comments from people who have
the Bali Travel Forum)...
* Most of the so-called "boyfriends" are only
opportunists looking for a ride on the"gravy train"
from a naive woman who will pay his way out of the country
and to a better life in the West. There is no true love
on the part of the guy in most of these relationships. Of
course there is the rare exception, but the exceptions are
very, very rare.
* I once had a Balinese boyfriend and now he is my husband.
We often visit Bali but live in Europe. At least our relationship
has worked out very well...
* I really loved mine. We were together for 6 months and
I gave him 2,500 Swiss Francs so we could buy land and build
a house. Then I found out he was married. I don't think
they are much different from the female Thai prostitutes
we read about in the news who steal their Western boyfriends'
* I confronted my Javanese boyfriend on the phone with the
stories you have of your bad experiences. He seemed genuinely
hurt that I could think he was the same as these other Indonesian
men. I have to believe him.....how can I throw in the towel
when I truly believe we are in love and that this could
* I am married to a Balinese and we have a son as well.
I have never been happier in my life. Good Luck. Just trust
your instincts. Don't try not to sugar coat anything and
you should be alright...They really know how to treat their
women; at the worse you will come home with heaps of great
memories, and photos.