"You make one mistake on any of the meals and we will not pay!"

I couldn't believe what I was seeing. A brutish Russian lad built like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson stabbing his finger in the air at the little Balinese staff behind the counter. This was unreal. I wish I could say it was a one-off, but ask any local who works in hospitality or as a taxi driver in Bali and they respond with zero surprise and then with a similar yarn or two of their own.

To any Russian friends or readers, none of this is written with any relish in what will undoubtedly sound like a broad cultural generalisation. It's merely what I've seen and heard time and time again in Bali, and places like Koh Chang in Thailand and Goa in India.

To be clear, if New Zealanders had this reputation as tourists then I'd want to know.


Back to Bali. I was eating at a place that did everything from Western-style burgers to Thai dishes. Midway through a green curry, I looked up to see a party of about 10 come in and sat down. That is, all except one. Before even a solitary word had been uttered by either staff or guests, the most alpha of the group walked up to the counter and introduced himself with the shouted threat of almost a dozen freebie meals.

He then took his place at the table and immediately started cracking jokes with his friends, both guys and girls. I remember thinking that surely one of his friends would scold this bully for being so rude, but none at the table acted as if anything had happened at all. Nervous staff took orders, their anxiety surely heightened by being treated like flies to be swatted away by a bunch of tourists who clearly felt superior.

The food arrived and thank God, no complaints were made. Phew. Then as the group finished their final bites, they pushed their chairs back, stood up and started towards the door. As they moved, the brute raised his voice about a burger that was meant to have no cheese or tomato and how useless the restaurant was for getting this wrong. This time the staff tried to stand up to him, but his friends were already out the door. And it's not like they did a runner. They'd committed a crime and sauntered away like it was standard practice.

"I told you if there was one mistake we would not pay!"

I loathed this man. Sharing the story with a taxi driver that afternoon, his response made me feel as much sadness as anger: "I've lost count of the number of times Russian tourists don't pay me."

Meeting Horrific Wannabe Singer-Songwriters

Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty Images

In the common room of a backpackers hostel in Santa Monica in 2006, a young American guy with a guitar asked the handful of strangers if they'd like to hear some of his songs.

"This one's called Rio de Janeiro and I wrote it in Brazil last year." Only he didn't say "Rio de Janeiro", but insisted on something closer to "Hio he Haneiro". I held back my laughter.

This earnest chap had decided to be so down with the local pronunciation of one of the most famous cities in the world that he'd invented his own name for it. My main memory is of a lot of 'h' sounds.


Next came an overwrought wail about losing love in "Hio he Haniero". He was comedically awful, but the best was yet to come. At the end of "Hio", this David Brent-like specimen told the stunned crowd of seven or eight that he knew it was his destiny to be famous.

Not only that, his mother had already agreed to handle all the fan mail that would soon be pouring in so he could concentrate on his songwriting. Good ol' mum.

Sometimes when you travel you meet the coolest people. People so intelligent, interesting and inspiring you thank your lucky stars that fate allowed your paths to cross. This was not one of those times.

Tim Roxborogh hosts Newstalk ZB's The Two, Coast Soul on Coast and writes the The Roxborogh Report.