Hotel K: The Shocking Inside Story of Bali’s Most Notorious Jail – Review


Rating: 3 Stars


Hotel K tells the stories of a variety of inmates of this Bali prison, from westerners imprisoned for drug related crimes to locals imprisoned for murder. It relates life behind jails, from tennis matches and sex nights to corruption, beatings and rife drug use.

The Good

Hotel K shows a part of Indonesia you don’t get to see often. It was an account that wasn’t easy to read because of the real-life implications of it. The jail is rife with corruption, violence and drug abuse.

Filo was out cold and turning blue. He was overdosing. No oxygen was getting to his brain. His body was going into spasm.

The different chapters all focus on different aspects of the jail or on the stories of different prisoners, detailing how they got where they are now and how they are dealing with prison life.

Almost all the westerners I have spoken to say the same thing; it’s a living nightmare that slowly eats away at you until the person you once were simply vanishes.

The stories I found particularly fascinating were those of the female inmates. In Kerobokan Prison, there is a small female block in the middle of the male prison. I thought the author does an excellent job in conveying the opressive, siege-like atmosphere of the block. I would have liked to read more about them and their stories.

One girl ran into the bathroom and saw two empty bottles of poison; one of insecticide spray and another of Vixal porcelain floor cleaner. Dani had drunk the contents of both. She needed a hospital fast, but it would be at least an hour before the guards arrived.

The keys to Block W were held outside the jail after 4.30 pm lockup. The time it took for the guards to collect the keys, return to the jail and unlock the women’s block varied between one to three hours.

Reading about the prison is not always easy and sometimes heartbreaking. The fates of some of the inmates particularly were difficult to read about. Not only what happened with them in prison, but also what happened to them before they got to Kerobokan.

The Bad

I would have liked to read more about the local inmates. While we get to know some of them, like the man who cut off someone’s head for money, the book in general focusses more on the western inmates.

While his brother drove the forty-five minutes back to Klungkung, Saidin sat in the front passenger seat, casually holding the warm head in the plastic bags as if it were a bag of goldfish. He’d promised to show it to his friend as proof of death.

Furthermore, it is sometimes difficult to know what inmate we are reading about. A lot of the inmates sort of blurred together, unless they had a very distinct voice and character, like the Brazilian Ruggiero. But a lot of the others were very similar.

As mentioned above, the different chapters focus on different aspects or prisoners. They often read like independent articles and I would have liked more cohesion between the different chapters. It would also have been interesting to get more background, for example on the drug laws and why they were created in the first place.


The Conclusion

A fascinating insight into Kerobokan Prison and the people living there. It isn’t always easy to read, because these are real people suffering. The most heartbreaking stories were often the ones that were only mentioned in one paragraph.


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