In 1942 the Japanese landed unopposed Bali at Sanur (most Indonesians saw
the Japanese, at first, as anticolonial liberators). The Japanese established
headquarters in Denpasar and Singaraja, and their occupation became
increasingly harsh for the Balinese. When the Japanese left in August 1945
after their defeat in WWII, the island was suffering extreme poverty, but the
occupation had fostered several paramilitary, nationalist and anticolonial
organisations that were ready to fight the returning Dutch.
THE BATTLE FOR LOMBOK
In 1894 the Dutch sent an army to back the Sasak people of eastern Lombok in a rebellion against
the Balinese rajah (lord or prince) who controlled Lombok with the support of the western Sasak.
The rajah quickly capitulated, but the Balinese crown prince decided to fight on.
The Dutch camp at the Mayura Water Palace was attacked late at night by a combined force
of Balinese and western Sasak, forcing the Dutch to take shelter in a temple compound. The
Balinese also attacked another Dutch camp further east at Mataram, and soon the entire Dutch
army on Lombok was forced back to Ampenan where, according to one eyewitness, the soldiers
'were so nervous that they fired madly if so much as a leaf fell off a tree'. These battles resulted
in enormous losses of men and arms for the Dutch.
Although the Balinese had won the first battles, they had begun to lose the war. They faced a
continuing threat from the eastern Sasak, while the Dutch were soon supported with reinforce-
ments from Java.
The Dutch attacked Mataram a month later, fighting street-to-street against Balinese and
western Sasak soldiers and civilians. The Balinese crown prince was killed, and the Balinese retreated
to Cakranegara (Cakra), where they had well-armed defensive positions. Cakra was attacked by a
large combined force of Dutch and eastern Sasak. Rather than surrender, Balinese men, women
and children opted for the suicidal puputan (a warrior's fight to the death) and were cut down
by rifle and artillery fire. Their stronghold, the Mayura Water Palace, was largely destroyed.
The Balinese rajah and a small group of commanders fled to Sasari near Lingsar, and though
the rajah surrendered, most of the Balinese held out. In late November 1894, the Dutch at-
tacked Sasari and, again, a large number of Balinese chose the puputan . With the downfall of the
dynasty, the local population abandoned its struggle against the Dutch. The conquest of Lombok,
considered for decades, had taken the Dutch barely three months. The old rajah died in exile in
Batavia (now Jakarta) in 1895.
In Praise of Kuta, by
Hugh Mabbett, recounts
Kuta's early history
and its frenetic modern
In August 1945, just days after the Japanese surrender, Soekarno, the most
prominent member of the coterie of nationalist activists, proclaimed the
nation's independence, but it took four years to convince the Dutch that
they were not going to get their great colony back. In a virtual repeat of the
puputan nearly 50 years earlier, a Balinese resistance group called Tentara
Keamanan Rakyat (People's Security Force) was wiped out by the Dutch
in the battle of Marga in western Bali (p274) on 20 November 1946. The
THE TOURIST CLASS
Beginning in the 1920s, the Dutch government realised that Bali's unique culture could be mar-
keted internationally to the growing tourism industry. Relying heavily on images that emphasised
the topless habits of Bali's women, Dutch marketing drew wealthy Western adventurers who
landed in the north at today's Singaraja and were whisked about the island on rigid three-day
itineraries that featured canned cultural shows at a government-run tourist hotel in Denpasar.
Accounts from the time are ripe with imagery of supposedly culture-seeking Europeans who
really just wanted to see a boob or two. Such desires were often thwarted by Balinese women
who covered up when they heard the Dutch jalopies approaching.
But some intrepid travellers arrived independently, often at the behest of the small colony of
Western artists such as Walter Spies in Ubud (see p52 and p181). Two of these visitors were Robert
Koke and Louise Garret, an unmarried American couple who had worked in Hollywood before
landing in Bali in 1936 as part of a global adventure. Horrified at the stuffy strictures imposed
by the Dutch tourism authorities, the pair (who were later married) built a couple of bungalows
out of palm leaves and other local materials on the otherwise deserted beach at Kuta. Having
recently been to Hawaii on a film shoot, Bob and Louise knew the possibilities of a good beach,
which at that point was home to only a few impoverished fishing families. Robert left another
lasting impression by teaching local boys to surf.
Word soon spread, however, and the Kokes were booked solid. Guests came for days, stayed
for weeks and told their friends. The Dutch at first dismissed the Koke's Kuta Beach Hotel as 'dirty
native huts', but soon realised that increased numbers of tourists were good for everyone. Other
Westerners built their own thatched hotels, complete with the bungalows that were to become
a Balinese cliché in the decades ahead.
WWII wiped out tourism and the hotels (the Kokes barely escaped ahead of the Japanese),
but once people began travelling again after the war, Bali's inherent appeal made its popular-
ity a forgone conclusion. The introduction of jet travel, reasonably affordable tickets and dirt
cheap accommodation on beautiful Kuta Beach gave Bali an endless summer, which began in
In 1987 Louise Koke's long-forgotten story of Kuta Beach Hotel was published as Our Hotel in
Bali, illustrated with her incisive sketches and her husband's photographs.
fight to the death). First the princes burned their palaces, and then, dressed
in their finest jewellery and waving ceremonial golden kris, the rajah led
the royalty and priests and courtiers out to face the modern weapons of
The Dutch implored the Balinese to surrender rather than make their
hopeless stand, but their pleas went unheeded and wave after wave of the
Balinese nobility marched forward to their death, or turned their kris on
themselves. In all, nearly 4000 Balinese died. The Dutch then marched
northwest towards Tabanan and took the rajah of Tabanan prisoner, but he
also committed suicide rather than face the disgrace of exile.
The kingdoms of Karangasem and Gianyar had already capitulated to the
Dutch and were allowed to retain some of their powers, but other kingdoms
were defeated and their rulers exiled. Finally, in 1908 the rajah of Semarapura
followed the lead of Badung, and once more the Dutch faced a puputan . As
had happened at Cakranegara on Lombok, the beautiful palace at Semara-
pura, Taman Kertha Gosa (p213), was largely destroyed.
With this last obstacle disposed of, all of Bali was under Dutch control
and became part of the Dutch East Indies. There was little development
of an exploitative plantation economy on Bali, and the common people
noticed little difference between Dutch rule and rule under the rajahs.
On Lombok, conditions were harder as new Dutch taxes took a toll on
For much of the 19th
century, the Dutch earned
enormous amounts of
money from the Balinese
opium trade. Most of the
budget went to
promoting the opium
industry, which was legal
until the 1930s.