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Aussies "push the limits" in Bali

You couldn't blame the Balinese for writing off Australians as obnoxious drunks and druggies with questionable morals.

While more than 16,000 Australians a week pour into the island seeking sun and fun, the recent newspaper splash of another Aussie in the clinker dominated the news.

Last month, Queensland man Matt Christopher Lockley was escorted off a Virgin flight by a dozen heavily armed Bali police after sparking a hijacking scare.

He wasn't charged by Indonesian police and insisted he wasn't drunk, but his on board "panic attack" after reacting to pain killers and coca-cola has earned little sympathy in the local press which has tagged him the "Virgin airplane drunkard".

The 2002 Bali bombings only momentarily stalled Australia's love affair with the Indonesian paradise and visitor numbers are now at a record high.

But on Bali's palm-lined beaches, cultures collide daily.

Tourists in skimpy bikinis party alongside Indonesians, who – whether they're Muslim or Hindu – prize their modesty.

Indonesians continue to welcome Australian travellers warmly and for Aussies, a Bali holiday has never been so attainable.

For Western Australians it's cheaper to holiday in Bali than anywhere in their own state and a breezy Bali villa – the perfect place for a group to party all day and all night – is also inexpensive.

One long-time expat reckons there are "three classes" of noisy Aussies.

There's young parents whose little kiddies are the ones running amok, young revellers – especially during "Schoolies" season – and the surfers who have always been lured by the island's waves.

It's the second group that has made the Kuta-Legian area a "no go zone" for many at night, he says.

The drunk, loutish behaviour peaks on Fridays and Saturdays, he says, "but actually except for the motorbikes it's not much worse than Kings Cross in Sydney or Northbridge in Perth".

The difference? "The drinking culture (is) totally alien to most Indonesians".

Nigel Mason, an Australian who has been in business in Bali for 35 years, has seen the tourism industry evolve.

Since the bombings, there has been a massive increase in security, he says.

Local "pecalang" – traditional village guards – are still used though and luckily for Australians they share a similar sense of humour.

"They're very patient with Australian drunks and they'll always try to pacify them," he says.

"Every now and again Australians do push it to the limit."

Mr Mason says it's unfortunate that Aussie stupidity in Bali so often makes the headlines, when the island has much more to offer.

For many, Bali is a place of a non-stop partying, but it can quickly turn into a living hell.

Drugs and alcohol fuel many accidents, while nightclub fights are among the biggest causes of trouble.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) figures reveal 32 Australians died in Bali in 2012-13. A total of 90 Australians were hospitalised.

Last year, in Indonesia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) provided consular assistance in 391 cases of Australians facing difficulty. Of that total, 301 cases were in Bali.

The Kuta emergency department sees a steady stream of Aussies after drunken assaults, motorbike accidents and suffering the side-effects of experimenting with drugs like magic mushrooms.

Craig Beveridge, executive chairman of BIMC Siloam Hospitals Group in Bali, says Australians think they're invincible in Bali, when they're not.

"We've seen three guys on one motorbike, three big Aussie blokes who've hit a car, drunk, at 4 o'clock in the morning," Mr Beveridge says.

"Why don't people don't wear helmets here?

"Do they think the road is softer in Bali?"

He is frustrated that so many tourists go to Bali without travel insurance, despite the fact medical evacuation back to Australia in an emergency costs around $60,000.

A University of Queensland study of 864 Australians flying out of Brisbane in the Christmas holidays two years ago found that those travelling to Indonesia thought they would be more at risk compared those travelling to other countries.

But, they didn't take any extra precautions.

The number taking out travel insurance, getting vaccinated or registering their trip with DFAT was the same as those travelling to New Zealand.

"They think they can deal with these type of things themselves," Associated Professor Brent Ritchie said.

Despite mishaps, tragedies and convictions, little can deter Australia's love affair with Bali.

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