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Schoolies in Bali Is Gross but Strangely Heartwarming

I walked around Kuta soaking up the heady vibe of adolescent celebration.

All photos by the author

Every year the news is littered with negative stories about Schoolies kids getting wasted, arrested, and occasionally killed. This year, 18-year-old Jamie Murphy scored centre-stage for being arrested over in Bali with a bag of white powder, which turned out to be "a mixture of caffeine and headache tablets."

Murphy was quickly released, and the bouncers who detained him even apologised for the way they handled things. It's the only time that a bag of fake coke has turned into a blessing.


I arrived in Bali just after that particular debacle simmered down, and I've found the party goers here surprisingly straight. Sure they drink saccharine-flavoured jungle juice and throw up in gutters, but most of them are dead against drugs. I know this because I've spent a few nights wandering around, taking photos, asking them about drugs.

I talked to Alex and his mates about the illegal drugs that are on offer here—cocaine, mushrooms, and MDMA—as well as the legal ones: pseudoephedrine, Valium, and Viagra. All of them agreed that Jamie Murphy's experience was a sufficient shock to scare them off dabbling with any drugs in Bali. They're not even risking the over-the-counter stuff. Alex explains, "We haven't hit the psuedos [pseudoephedrine] because back home that's what's used to cook meth. I don't want to fuck with that."

I was surprised at how sensible they were. Apparently, they're going to be engineers and marine biologists one day.

I actually met a couple of guys who admitted to doing coke in Bali, but when I asked for an interview with the promise of anonymity, they clammed up and left. They seemed pretty high and reluctant to talk with media, which was understandable. I got a photo of the main guy's cigarette though.

Over at Kuta's institute for style and refrain, The Bounty, an MC with a microphone was hyping the crowd for a drinking relay. A chain of buff young men were gulping cups of fluoro green liquid, with some confusion about who was supposed to go first.


The next event was some sort of drinking race. Competitors sat face to face and necked cups of green stuff. Each time someone won they stood up and flexed their teen muscles or blew kisses. The losers were banished into a pool.

The crowd cheered and drank. One guy wore a much-coveted "champion" sash. He was clearly a winner.

The competitive drinking got old quickly, so I headed outside to where these girls were losing their shit over a Bali street dog. One of them bought the dog some food but a guy warned them about rabies and they fell quiet and moved on. The dog ate his food and didn't seem to care.

Another guy told me he'd been hitting the pseudoephedrine hard. It's basically speed, except it's legal—and he seemed to be really enjoying it. He told me he was in the defence force and he got drug tested regularly, but he was certain that "pseudos don't show up on the test." Then he left, saying he was heading over to Engine Room.

I headed to Engine Room too.

And then I immediately left Engine Room.

There were cops everywhere outside, keeping tabs on things, but they seemed pretty relaxed. I wasn't sure how you'd get sprung in a club with a pocket full of fake coke, but I doubted it was because of these guys and their Bali-time approach to police work.

That's the mood of the whole place. Sure, the kids from Central Coast (everyone in Bali is from the Central Coast) are drinking loudly, smoking ciggies, trying to fuck each other, and eating over-the-counter drugs—but they're doing it with a certain sweetness. In fact, I found the whole Schoolies saga kind of heartwarming. I can't speak for the Balinese people who live and work in Kuta, but they too seem cheerfully unconcerned, like they'd seen it all a million times before.

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