[Published in Zoom in Business Magazine 2018]
Salty hair, sandy toes and red wine lips was the sign of my recent Indonesian archipelago escape.
If the winter blues or grey skies have your soul aching for a bit of sunshine, a trip to Bali will do the trick: with an average of twelve to thirteen hours of sunshine a day, the prescription of sun, sea, and sand will brighten up your world.
I have to confess, while the tripartite mantra of ‘eat, pray, love’ inspired this issue of Zooming in Business: Zooming Around the World, my mind slips straight to holiday mode at the mere thought of ‘Bali’.
Arriving at Ngurah Rai International Airport on the red-eye kicked off the first Indonesian adventure with my daughter, Makkedde. What we didn’t expect was waiting for 2.5 hours in a stagnant, snaking line just to clear customs and get our passport stamped. That, in itself, was quite an adventure. Fortunately, we didn’t have any delays with transport hiring a local driver (with the patience of a Saint) to meet, greet and take us to our villa at Legian Beach.
As soon as my feet touched the ground, I could immediately feel a special vibe in Bali. One of the furthest outposts of Hinduism, and the only island in the whole Indonesian archipelago that isn’t Muslim, the Balinese believe in the constantly opposing forces of good and evil. Here, the general flow of life necessitates daily worship and devotion. Amongst the congestion of every market shopfront I saw piles of Canang Sari, daily offerings to the gods, little baskets woven of palm or banana leaves, filled with rice, flower petals, and little trinkets within. These are offered as the day begins and swept away by the days end. Families (and even our hotel) had small shrines and many areas of worship for the Gods.
Every woman with a heartbeat wants to shop up a tropical storm in Bali, so our first two days were spent strolling down the streets of Legian, Kuta and Seminyak for the quintessential Bali shopping experience. The “cheap, cheap” markets type stalls that litter the main roads, side streets and every conceivable space in between were mind-bending. Each neighbourhood had its own unique offerings. With millions of Rupiah cash in our purses, we were in the mood to splurge.
Despite the desperation and poverty on the streets, we did find a treasure trove of sophisticated malls with high-end clothing and jewellery boutiques, luxurious homewares, stone carvings and custom-made furniture. I was warned to pack light and by the end, my suitcase was bulging with pinch-me-cute camis, gorgeous kaftans, new bikinis, shoes, jewellery, leather bags and accessories. Unlike our typical Australian malls, many boutique shops have a beach club at the rear so when the shopping got all too much, we took a break for a massage or swim and a well earned bevvy.
Amongst our travels, we went merchant shopping in downtown Denpansar. I found it a modern and traditional approach and my negotiating was much more civilised. I experienced street hawkers for the first time in my life. Oh. My. God! In the beginning, I found it difficult to say “no” however I learned quickly that say ‘singh sooksuma’ firmly and politely and not to slow down or make eye contact – the minute I did, I would be toast!
On day three, we escaped from the frenetic buzz of congestion to a much slower pace of life to the Hai Tide Resort at Mushroom Bay on the south east coast island of Nusa Lembongan. We stayed in a private traditional lumbung on the beachfront, which fused natural beauty and luxurious amenities. We snorkelled in crystal-clear waters amongst coral reefs, turtles and manta rays, and rested our sandy feet and salt-tangled locks in our private space. This place was as easy as a Sunday morning by the sea. Neither hawkers or traffic interrupted the experience of sitting on stripey deck chairs, sipping cocktails, gazing at a glittering horizon. Island-vibes were a-plenty here on the Island of Nusa Lembongon, embedding a deep craving to return again soon.
On our last day, we travelled to Ubud to experience the ephemeral sunset at the internationally renowned Rock Bar at the Ayana Resort. We joined several hundred others for the sunset, watching the colours and landscape change constantly in mere minutes as the sun fell into the horizon. There’s no denying the sense of peace and connectedness to nature just watching a sunset at Ayana Resort. This was a highlight of our Bali adventure.
In less than a week, we experienced many elements of the evolution of Bali, proving to me that it has significant momentum within the Indonesian tourism industry which shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. I recently read that Indonesia is currently projected to become the world’s seventh-largest economy during the next 20 years, ahead of nations such as Germany and even the UK. Economic growth of this proportion will only encourage a growing number of businesses to start-up or expand to Bali, establishing it as an international hub that includes multiple markets, driving a higher level of reinvestment. Who knows… Bali may even rival Dubai as the commercial capital of the world!