What On Earth Were They Thinking? The Worst Of Trends In Bad Tourist Fashion.
When I was originally commissioned to write this piece I pondered for a while on the word fashion and, to be absolutely sure of it’s actual meaning I gravitated to my trusty Oxford dictionary to look it up, and found this definition:
Fashion (n) a popular trend especially in styles of dress and ornament or manners of behavior.
It seems most did not do as I did and look up the meaning!
To find out just how bad tourist fashion has actually become, I spent the day in the charming village of Ubud in Bali to see if even this part of the island had fallen into the realm of bad dress.
Unfortunately it would seem that the charming streets of this delightful village now pay homage to some of the worst fashion examples around and, believe you me, some were particularly bad.
I could of course have chosen Kuta for my research, but really that part of Bali is the absolute apocalypse of truly bad taste so I left that ground zero fashion disaster area well alone.
( My apologies for using this image of Hillary but, you have to agree she looks like one of the janitors cleaning up after a convention rally!)
Taking a seat at a pavement café on Monkey Forest Road one can watch at one’s leisure the throngs of visitors who amble by wearing outfits so bad that you have to wonder whether some of them are on a break from a travelling circus.
As a starting point I used a recent poll conducted by some travel group or other, which rated the worst dressed tourists who visit this island and their unfashionable habits, which made for interesting reading.
Apparently, when it comes to packing outfits for vacations, Russians beat the rest of the world hands down with their outstandingly tasteless dress sense, the poll revealed. The Dutch earned a creditable second in the bad-style department while the Germans and Swedes earned third and fourth positions respectively. Australians, astonishingly came in a miserable sixth while the English and the Americans did not in fact make it into the top ten.
For years the Germans were the undisputed champions of holiday rudeness and bad dress sense but after a long and unchallenged stay at the top, their long reign has at last come to an end handing the title over to their eastern neighbours who toppled them from their lofty perch.
The Russians are now considered the most unpleasant holidaymakers in the world, the survey revealed. They won first place, thanks to their appalling taste in fashion, terrible table manners, and – worst of all –their habit of hiding sun loungers in their rooms overnight to ensure a spot at the pool the next morning!
They are now known as, ‘Rude Ruskis’ even by the Germans!!
I am constantly amazed that so many of the travelling public tend to leave their dress habits, manners and any sense of taste they might have at their departure point as, once they arrive they do everything in their power to stand out like a sore thumb.
I have, on numerous occasions had the unfortunate experience of being in an airport check in queue surrounded by a group of men who for all the world looked as if they had, until an hour before, been working underneath a greasy car then collectively looked at each other and said, “ Hey, lets go to Bali!
Shall we have a shower? Nah, we can have a swim when we get there.”
Unfortunate but true!
Ubud for me has always had a unique sense of style, sporting splendid emporiums selling items that would not be out of place on the streets of Paris or Rome. Why is it then that so many men ignore these offerings and head straight for the gaudy Bintang T-shirts, overlong shorts and those dreadful thongs? (The colloquial term used to describe flip flops and not the swimming attire that so often resembles a piece of gaudy dental floss)
When night falls and it's time to visit a fashionable restaurant and therefore to smarten up, one can almost envisage the male holding up his thongs and asking of his beloved, “What do you think babe, the green or the blue ones?”
I have singled out the men so far however I have witnessed women heading out for an evening having spent hours grooming, only for one to remark, “Why, that’s a simply stunning outfit you’re not quite wearing”
What one wears, be it in daylight or after the sun has gone down should be a sign of respect to the local inhabitants who have to witness this gaudy spectacle day after day. I am yet to see a badly dressed Balinese woman (or man for that matter) in all the years I have lived here.
A few years ago Elizabeth Gilbert turned out that ghastly novel, ‘Eat Pray Love,' which unfortunately inspired a tide of middle aged women from across the globe to toss their husband's, family and any sense of good taste they may have had aside, and headed to Ubud to seek spiritual enlightenment (and perhaps a Balinese lover) In their haste to get here it appeared that all they packed were gaudy Kaftans and brightly coloured yoga gear.
How I wish the title of that book had read, “Eat Pray Leave”
Within months of the novel hitting the bookstores the streets of Ubud were filled with billowing fabric as women of all shapes and sizes headed for the mysterious Balinese healer who would somehow magically turn them into a Julia Roberts. Many of the Kaftans looked as if they were acquired from stores with names like ‘Rent a Tent’.
Thankfully the Kaftan phase seems to have passed to be replaced by something altogether more sinister; Yoga outfits.
These pieces of fluorescent lycra wander the streets and lanes in ever increasing numbers worn with apparent reckless abandon by women (and men) who should, in hindsight have perhaps chosen a loose fitting track -suit.
To be honest many of the Lycra creations look splendid on some, but on others it can make for a sight for sore eyes. There is nothing like Lycra to accentuate the ‘bulgy bits’ of the human body and really, do we need to see that when taking ones breakfast at a sunny street- side café?
Now that the era of cheap international flights is with us to stay, there is no doubt that Bali and other exotic destinations will continue to be flooded with tourists who appear as if they have shoplifted their holiday attire from the discount aisles of a Wal Mart store.
And so, for the foreseeable future we will have to endure men wearing sandals with socks and their wives in dresses that look as if they were created from the off- cuts of the living room curtains.
Perhaps the local government might one day create a new division within its ranks.
Now there’s a thought. Just saying!
Paul v Walters is a full time novelist who, when not cocooned in sloth and procrastination also scribbles for several leading travel and vox pop magazines around the world. His latest novel Scimitar was released in September 2016.
First published in Bali & Beyond September 2014