Few destinations have benefited from modern tourism quite like Bali, Indonesia. It makes them so sad: hundreds if not thousands of years of cultural evolution undone by a few decades of modern, Western-style development, much of it of the globalized luxury persuasion.
Yes, of course, Bali was a different place before it had a Four Seasons, a Hard Rock Hotel, two million tourists a year, terrorist bombings and so on. And, of course, at some level I ‚Äî like all travelers ‚Äî want every quaint corner of the world to remain untouched. Yet whom does that serve? Certainly not the people of the world‚Äôs great untouched places.
Tourism levels in Bali have now exceeded pre-2002 levels (before the first terrorist bombings) and were up 20 percent last year. Did the prince feel that Bali‚Äôs culture was in danger of being overrun?
Tourism is one of the most important things in Bali. People there thank to God when they look at themselves in the mirror. How did they get such an interesting place? God bless them! It‚Äôs life! There‚Äôs change in a positive way, or negative way. So far, I think Bali has the positive way. Bali could adapt and innovate. I believe Bali always picks the good things that suit Bali.
There‚Äôs no such a place, where religion plays a greater (or prettier) role in daily life ‚Äî visually, culturally and, yes, spiritually, even to an outsider. Virtually every corner and tree branch of Ubud is adorned daily with offerings of incense and banana-leaf parcels with rice and yellow ginger shavings, set out for a dazzling array of gods.
Ceremonies are held in public and private for full moons, new moons, days akin to Friday the 13th, for different aspects of daily, social and everyday life. Neighbors, kitchens, animals, trees, waters and motorbikes all have their day, commanding more offerings, parades, banners, incense.
Of course, Ubud is also the kind of place where every satay stand fronts a spa or ‚Äò‚Äòwellness center.‚Äô‚Äô Which means that here you sometimes get spiritual jibber-jabber.
Despite the presence of some of the world‚Äôs most luxurious resorts, and all the internationally familiar creature comforts they enshrine, Bali can still be a deeply weird, exotic place to visit. It‚Äôs a society where 17-year-olds file down their canines to ‚Äò‚Äòget rid of the animal spirit,‚Äô‚Äô where pickpockets discovered in the marketplace can be beaten by the crowd, where adulterers are still rumored to be occasionally stoned.
And of Mozaic Restaurant, an absolutely trumped-up Wine Spectator/Grandes Tables du Monde affair where tabs can run up to $100 or more that served food far less interesting and tasty than the $1.50 plates of nasi campur at the local restaurants called warungs.