The Bali Bombings in Retrospect

By Nikolaj Jensen

12 October 2002 will be a returning date for the world and especially for the people living and working in Bali. It will always be a nightmare for many of the people who lost their loved ones and for the people and tourist industries that lost lots and lots of income on this terrible terror attack in one of Bali’s most popular “going out venues”.
     I have now been living here in Bali since October 2001 and just opened my own small Travel Agency – Nick Tours – in the small town of Sanur in July 2002. I want to tell you my look at the whole episode that has changed many things for the Bali tourism.
     I was supposed to be in Sari Club on this Saturday night, but my Guardian Angle helped me not to be there. I was in the northern part of Kuta in the area of Seminyak at the time of the bombing. We heard a big bang but did not notice any special, but suddenly people was getting phone calls and the rumor was about two bombs in Central Kuta at Sari Club and Paddy’s and another one in Sanur…. All bars and restaurants closed down and everyone went around in the street as in slow motion. There was no panic and chock, as no one knew how bad it was. The first news was 25 people dead but it turned out to be much more.
     I was driving back to Sanur, which is around 30 minutes drive away from Kuta. I could see the big red light in the sky above central Kuta. The only cars I could see on the road were police cars and ambulances. There was a very strange atmosphere and when I drove through Sanur, where I live, I was not sure where the third bomb had exploded. It turned out to be at the American Consulate a 10 minutes drive away from Sanur, but there were no injured people in this explosion.
     As news travel fast I went home directly to call my family to tell that if they saw the news about a blast in Bali, then I was ok. As we are not a big group of Danish people living and working in Bali we had no problem to call each other to find out if everybody was ok. They were. Early morning we met up and looked at the news and saw the horrifying pictures from the evening and night and pictures from the hospital.
     Through the day it was advertised on TV that the hospital needed blood donators and I went to Sanglah Hospital, which is the main hospital in Denpasar (capital of Bali). To my big surprise there were many people of all colors and origin there to give blood. They needed special blood types. There were also many people there for watching. When something like this tragic happens then there are always many spectators doing nothing. From my previous experience with Sanglah Hospital I was happily surprised about the organization and there were a lot to look after. People were standing in long queues to get their blood test taken. You would maybe think that the equipment they used was not sterilized, but it was. The people who had the wanted type of blood was taken aside for giving more and the ones, like myself, with an ordinary type was signed up to be called if needed.
     When I came out from the room I was put face to face with the horror of the night. A young woman was being moved from one place to another. Her eyes were in chock and most of her face was burnt away and the same with her arms. My thought was that if she survived this, then she had to go through so many operations, treatments and having nightmares about this night. I would still say that the people who deceased on this night were the lucky ones, as they would not be living with the nightmares and operations etc.
     In the evening I went to the hospital as a volunteer where I took care of the emergency phones. People were calling in to report missing friends, loved ones, daughters, sons, wives and husbands. The list of missing persons was growing. We were sitting with three lists; persons in hospital, missing persons and diseased. The list of the missing persons were getting bigger through the night and we knew that most of these people were the charred bodies that needed to be identified before ending up on the list of the diseased.
     There was one family of mother and father coming to the hospital to report their missing daughter and her girlfriend. They were here on holiday and they knew that the girls had gone out to Sari Club for the Saturday night. I just had to swallow a big “frog” and tell them to look at some pictures. Next to me one of the photographers who took pictures of the corps when they came in to the hospital was sitting. Some of them showed only the head, and on some you would not be able to see if it was a man or woman. He turned his computer around so the mother and father could look at them to see if they could identify their daughter or her girlfriend. None of them were between these photos.
     The next five nights I spend in the hospital as I in the daytime took care of my Travel Agency. In my lunch break I went to the hospital to give the food that I got donated from the hotels. All food to volunteers, journalists, families of hospitalized persons was given by hotels, restaurant etc. It was nice to see everybody work together as a big group. In each department you would find someone in charge, but many places volunteers had taken over. Some of the volunteers were tourists coming for holiday in Bali. Many were doctors in special field that was needed, nurses etc. Everyone was welcome to help out.
     The result of the bombing was horrifying. Tourists of all nationalities were running away from the island. After one week the island was almost empty of tourists. The hotels, restaurants, shops, taxi drivers etc had no customers. There was no income to any. To give you a brief knowledge about Bali, around 80% of the population of 3 mill. people live and work in the tourist industry. When something like this happens all sectors in the society become part of the crises. The Balinese people are also believers of good and bad. And just to give you an idea about the thoughts and believes I want to tell you an incident from the bombing area.
     Just beside the entrance of Paddy´s you will find a small shrine for the Rice Goddess Dewi Sri. Everyday the Balinese put their offerings and blessings for a good harvest. At the shrine you will also find a yellow umbrella. The two bombs that went of on the tragic night and made big damage of Paddy’s and Sari Club and buildings around had no effect on the small shrine. Even the yellow umbrella was intact and this gives the people of Bali hope. It was a sign that the terror was not meant for them but for someone else. They also believe that after something bad something good will come.
     Just a month after the incident on 12 October the Balinese held the Purification Ceremony to clean the area for bad spirit and to let the souls be free. It gathered thousand and another thousand of Indonesians in a huge ceremony that was held at the “Ground Zero” and on the beach. Preparations were made and the families of the diseased were invited to join this event. It took all day and people joined in.
     Now we have entered year 2003 and since October tourism in Bali has dropped drastically. Many hotels have joined together to find out how to get the tourist back. Over Christmas and New Year special offers were made for Indonesian and overseas agents. The result was good but it was just to get people to Bali. For the next couple of month there will be special offers for travel agencies on accommodation, flights etc. and hopefully by the end of March situation will be getting back to normal.
     This is where Bali is now. The Scandinavian market will hopefully be coming back in February but nothing is for sure. Though Bali is now as safe as other places a traveling ban for Indonesia is still maintained. It is sad to see, as it’s just as safe as so many other popular tourism destinations. As I am based and have my Travel Agency in Bali please do not hesitate to contact me for further information or for future booking for you and your families and friends. You will be able to look further on or write me on
     I want to finish by giving the words from the Balinese people.
     Come home to Bali – Our magic is indestructible.

About Gregers Møller

Editor-in-Chief • ScandAsia Publishing Co., Ltd. • Bangkok, Thailand

View all posts by Gregers Møller

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