A Bali Readathon #3: Snowing in Bali

Here’s my 3rd and last book review from the Bali readathon, which I actually finished after getting back, but I’m sure it still counts.

Snowing in Bali is a very well written book and a fantastic first hand account of the drug landscape in Bali.

In a series of interviews of the Bali drug-lords, we see their stories bound together and intermingling – from the start of the drug golden age in Indonesia all the way to 2005 and beyond – when things started turning grim for both users and dealers.

The stories in the book are those of seemingly regular people, who were drawn into the whirlwind, glamorous, scary and dangerous life of drugs, their rise and fall and current predicament.

Reading the book will really make you do a mental double take and wonder: was it really that much worth it?

I really enjoyed the objective, yet humanizing tone of the book, which does not simply show the leaders of the drug scene as bad-ass, dangerous criminals, but as humans as well: young surfers, sons or fathers.

The really scary thing is that they could be anyone.

Tourists going to Bali will be mostly oblivious of this previously prolific drug scene.

The stories of the lives of drug dealers take you on a roller-coaster up the glamour of orgies with models and all the way down to the dark hell of prison and death penalty, once they get caught.

A cool factor point is the fact that the author is a woman, Kathryn Bonella.

Though it’s not hard to imagine all those drug traffickers stuck in prison some for life, some waiting for their death, and choosing to open up to her, in an attempt to immortalize their past Playboy lifestyles.

“Bali can be heaven one minute and hell in the next.”

Beyond the glamorous, coke covered life these people were boasting in their jetsetting Bali villas and clubs, you’ll learn about the frustratingly corrupt and dirty legal system in Indonesia.

I really got some mixed feelings towards all the naive expats & tourists who, caught using drugs, were often ripped of tens or thousands of dollars by the rigged Indonesian system, in return for a more lenient punishment.

With the average monthly Balinese salary not much over $100, even for those working in the big hotels, it’s not surprising that corruption is endemic.

Tourists were the cash milking cows of the small police agents, lawyers and prison wardens, while the core of the problem – the big drug lords –  were the cash cornucopia of their bosses and left intentionally unfixed.

If you’re into realistic thrillers / documentaries, this is the book to read.

Let me know what you thought about it!

Happy reading!


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