By Gary Dykstra/Cover photo by Vitto Christaldi
WELCOME to Bali. You’ll need cash.
New adventures take one to far-off lands where everything is fresh, exciting and novel. People dream of travel- ing to Southeast Asia to experience the breeze and lush jungle settings. This is especially true when landing for the first time in Bali, where art, music and architecture infuse the entire island landscape with a sensory experience like no place on earth. What a pity that today’s traveler has no choice but to confound this beautiful experience with the hassles of money.
In Bali, you need cash. The island’s shops, restaurants and home-stays run on colorful Indonesian rupiah banknotes and coins. Credit cards are accepted but coverage is spotty and transaction success is anything but certain. Cash is unavoidable. The largest denomination is the pale pink 100,000 rupiah note worth roughly USD $8. You will need a pile of them for your stay in beautiful Bali.
We live in a connected, modern world full of immediacy and convenience in all areas of life. This is true in Bali as well, with many places advertising free WiFi and Internet. We can shoot photographs with our phone and send them to mom halfway around the world in a second. We can chat with friends or even video conference from a café overlooking beautiful rice fields. So why must we carry around a wallet full of unhygienic, insecure, un-modern cash?
The sad truth is that today’s international traveler does not have many good options when it comes to money. Carrying large amounts of cash can be quite dangerous in any tourist destination and Bali is no exception. So one is forced to use ATMs which charge fees; travelers checks, which are antiquated and inconvenient; or credit cards which are expensive and not accepted everywhere. Every option available to the traveler skims a little off the top. Anytime money is exchanged and spent, one loses 2 -3%; and in some cases much more in hidden costs. It’s the modern world of money but it is anything but modern.
It won’t be long before people look back with incredulity at the antiquated and expensive analog money we still find ourselves using in the 21st century. It will become painfully obvious that paper notes or even plastic cards did not leverage the power of the interconnected world that furnishes so many other conveniences. One might even wonder why we put up with the old system for so long when many better options were technically possible, yet still delayed or unavailable.
Deep in our heart we all know that money could work in a better way. Money could be modern and digital. Money could work everywhere without the need to exchange it. Money could be secure in a digital wallet—for example on our phone where we already store everything else digital. It could be instant, cheap and convenient, available 24/7 with no middleman and no crazy fees or hassles. Picture a world where you don’t need local currency and where moneychangers don’t take advantage of you. Where you don’t leave the country with a bunch of useless coins. Picture a world of money that just works, anywhere, like all other aspects of our technology-enabled lives.
“I’m a big fan of Bitcoin. Regulation of money supply needs to be depoliticized.”
Al Gore, former US VIce-President and winner of Nobel Peace Prize
What if we had Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is the technological answer to the aforementioned problems of money. Bitcoin is transnational, apolitical, totally transparent, secure and nearly instantaneous travel-money. Bitcoins are created and tallied by tens of thousands of computers cooperating to provide a system of money. These computers voluntarily run the bitcoin software which is free for anyone to use. Computers running this software miraculously synchronize to maintain a global ledger that effectively replaces the worldwide banking settlement system we normally rely on for international money transfers.
MP3 was to the music industry, and what Skype was to the telecommunications industry. Bitcoin replaces the entire banking system for a fraction of the cost. Amazingly, Bitcoin has no employees. No buildings. No impediments to innovation. As a consequence, bitcoin is faster and cheaper than any alternative.
Reducing these costs opens up whole new economic possibilities for emerging markets like Indonesia. And it’s all beginning here in Bali where tourism ties this country to the international market.
Building a Bitcoin Economy in Bali
Bali is poised to inspire the world to adopt Bitcoin. Over the past six months, Bali has gone from zero Bitcoin adoption to capturing the world’s attention as a Bitcoin-friendly destination. A small group of dedicated Bitcoin enthusiasts has been growing on the island. Through steady community outreach and education, the Bitcoin economy is taking shape. Business owners and community leaders meet every week to talk about the latest developments in Bitcoin and how they can be leveraged to help local commerce and local people to serve the global traveler. An effort is being spearheaded at bitislands.com, to create a friendly environment in Bali for Bitcoin. It is now possible to begin using Bitcoin from the time you land at Ngurah Rai Airport.
Digital currency is growing, however, it is still early for Bitcoin in Bali. There is a buzz on the island and the world is taking notice. By next high season, Bali will have well over 100 merchants who accept the currency and will be recognized as one of the global destinations in which the burgeoning new world economy is made up of digits not dollars. As more merchants and tourists participate, network effects take off and a new economy is born.
Where to spend Bitcoin:
Your bitcoin (located on your mobile phone) is accepted at a number of places on the island including:
- Delicious Onion in Ubud
- Nyoman the taxi driver (+62 819 9950 1167)
- Viceroy Bali in Ubud: viceroybali.com
- Sepeda Bali in Nyuh Kuning: sepedabali.com
- Hubud in Ubud: hubud.org
- Cinta Bahasa cintabahasa.com
For updates on participating locations see: www.coinmap.org
Learn more about Bitcoin here: https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Main_Page
Bitcoin education resources can be found here: http://coinacademy.co
Buy bitcoins in Indonesia here: https://www.bitcoin.co.id
What is Bitcoin? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U- m63OQz3bjo
- There’s a vending machine at Hubud in
- At the co.id Information Center, Legian Kaja Street, No. 455 in Kuta.
- Online at coinbase.com, www.kraken.com, or www.localbitcoins.com.
- You can also buy them directly from other Bitcoiners. Findthem at a weekly Bitcoins in Bali meet-up group-. facebook.com/groups/bitcoinsinbali
Gary is a technology veteran with 20+ years experience in software development tools and methodologies. He has a degree in Economics from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and has done graduate work in Computer Science at Harvard University’s Extension School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Gary first discovered Bitcoin in the fall of 2011 while working on internet payment systems in the video gaming industry and now devotes his efforts full time to Bitcoin related projects. Gary is spear-heading Bitcoin adoption in Ubud and hosts the weekly BITCOIN FILTER Meet-ups, focusing on the economics of crypto-currencies and the basics of Bitcoin.