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Bali's Kuta Cowboys

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Conversation, Romance, and Selling Yourself

In the portion of the US where I now live, the rodeo comes to town twice each year - complete with bulls to ride, calves to rope, steers to bulldog, all the right smells, wild horses to break, young cowboys chewing tobacco, old cowboys dressed up as rodeo clowns, young girls chasing young cowboys, and (of course) people selling stuff. One of the regular vendors specializes in t-shirts; and hanging on his racks each year is a shirt with a picture of a mean, tough bronco-buster with three days of beard growth and a wad of Skoal in his mouth, holding his saddle on his left hip. He's enough to scare the Marlboro Man. And the caption underneath him makes a simple offer: Forget the Bull, Ride a Cowboy.

You won't find many cowboys in Southeast Asia. But on one small stretch of beach they have become infamous. If you’re a woman in Bali on your own, you can expect to meet a Cowboy, or a gigolo -- which ever you want to call them. The Kuta Cowboys don’t like that "G" word. They’d rather be your boyfriend, your lover, your companion, or whatever. But marketing is half the reason they don’t like the word "gigolo". Kuta’s cowboys think they have figured out what women want. Kuta Beach on the southern coast of Bali has them. Lots of them...

Judging from the stories available, a female traveling alone in Bali will probably be "hit on" at least a few times a day. And if she simply goes to Kuta Beach, picks a spot and stretches out in the sun, someone will propose marriage before the day is out. These young "cowboys" of Kuta come by offering free samples of conversation, then selling romance at bargain prices, and soon afterwards selling themselves (in whatever sense you wish to take that). One author called Bali the land of the "bronzed gigolos".

Age seems to be irrelevant; if anything, girls in the 18 to 25 age bracket are neglected a little in favor of women who may have more resources, or may be more emotionally vulnerable.

In a 1996 article on Kuta's boys, author Denise Dowling relays this story:

"Sally is a married 36-year-old nurse from Queensland who brought her teenage daughter to Bali as a graduation present. She and the daughter were at a local disco one night when the singer came over and sat with them after a set. She thought the 26-year-old musician was after her daughter until he invited her to his room that night."

Six months later Sally had dumped her husband and spent over $7000 on a relationship with this Balinese boy. She'd brought him to Australia and was still living with him

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