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Published: December 2nd 2018
It’s a question I’ve been asking myself the past ten days, and I’ve had plenty of time to think about it, with nothing to do but stare idly at the white sandy beach in front of me, with its swaying palms and aquamarine waters.
It certainly has the cards for it. A plethora of brilliant beaches that seem to have dropped right out of some glossy travel magazine, offshore coral gardens, dreamy islands, a mini-mini-mini-Raja Ampat in the form of an isle dissected by the turquoise seas and split into a jigsaw puzzle of tiny rocky islets in strange forms and shapes that reflect in the clear blue waters, begging you to swim down one of the secret channels to find out what is hidden there, or to walk on top and look down on the wondrous scene, fresh water caves which reminds one of the cenotes in the Yucatan where you can take a refreshing dip in the azure and crystal clear liquid that silently demands you to bathe, undiscovered waterfalls on Kei Besar which flow down from one clear pool to the next, presenting you with plenty of options to cool down, or for the daring, to jump
From the jetty
into from above, friendly villagers in beautiful hamlets, a sleepy capital with a rainbow coloured district overlooking the sea on one side and a red-and white one on the other side, and very few tourists to spoil the idyll.
Yes, there is plenty for the tourist to love here. And it’s certainly true that year on year more are discovering Kei, as accommodation options expand. At the moment mainly on Pasir Panjang which is the trump card that Kei is hoping to use to lure in more tourists. It is still quiet, there are tourists here and there, but not many. More are coming, but the numbers are still low. For now there are two things standing between Kei and the hordes: ease of access, and publicity. To get to Kei isn’t overly difficult to be honest, they have an airport, all you need to do is fly to Ambon and change on a smaller plane for the final hop. But that is enough for most not to bother. The masses are lazy. A direct flight however? From Bali? Shudder! It’s best not to think of it. It would ruin Kei. If posters of Pasir Panjang would hang in
Yohana's Cottage,where I stayed the first week
hostels in Denpasar, promoting it, if the average backpacker could simply book a flight and accommodation at the guesthouse in Bali for some sister guesthouse on Kei, all would be lost. They would come, they would trample and paradise would disappear to another island in the vast Indonesian archipelago.
The question remains, do I think this likely to happen? I don’t know. I hope not. I hope it will remain obscure enough not to be overrun and ruined, but not so obscure that none shall visit. I wish, in short, that it will receive enough tourists to better the lives of the islanders and bring in some revenue to isolated communities, but not so many as to change the place for the worse. It can handle more than it’s currently got, if spread out and wisely done it could benefit the locals immensely. The problem is, once word gets out, how do you control it? That puzzle is not for me to solve. And I am not worried that my blog will do much damage. It will inspire some perhaps, but, like Kei, it is too obscure for it to have any impact for good or for bad. Besides,
I like to think that the people who read it are a different kind of folk, who are not seeking the hedonistic pleasures of Kuta, but the tranquil desires of a simple life away from the hustle and bustle, the parties and the banana pancakes. Who don’t need a yoga retreat, an infinity pool, a massage parlor, a cocktail bar, a nightclub or restaurants serving western staples. Who are happy with a modest wooden cottage by the beach with nothing but Indonesian food on offer, with no entertainment other than listening to the waves lap against the soft sandy beach in front of them, or watch a brilliant sun disappearing behind the Banda Sea, setting the sky ablaze in reds, oranges, pinks and purples. However they don’t need my blog to find places like Kei. Those who seek shall find. Let the others remain in blissful ignorance.
Perhaps you find me haughty for distinguishing between the one and the other, as if wanting a wholesome massage, or finding spiritual solace in a yoga retreat, or sensual pleasure in an excellently executed meal, or carnal pleasures at a nightclub is somehow inferior to a shack on the beach with none
Starting on a tour to some of the islands around Kei
of these options. If so, excuse me, it’s not so. I don’t feel one is better than the other, I enjoy a good massage as much as the next person, and sometimes I crave western food, or wish for a gin and tonic on the beach as I watch the sunset, but if I personally had to choose between one or the other my choice would be for the other. I fear the power of the gin and tonic, and the yoga retreat and the fine dining options, because they never come alone, they serve as a magnet for more to come. More tourists, more resorts, more restaurants, more nightclubs. I feel there is enough room for both out there. Let there be a Bali for when we want the one, and a Kei when we long for the other. Let there be a Kuta for those who are not interested in silence and simplicity, and a Kei for those who are.
I go now to my next destination, taking another slow boat towards the rising sun in the east, a slave to my insatiable curiosity, which drives me on and on and on, never satisfied, always wanting more.
Aka, Snake Island, so named because the sinuous shape of the low tide sandbank that juts out of the island
A demanding master it is indeed!
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