Theme Song: “Leaving On A Jet Plane”, Peter, Paul, and Mary
I woke up a moment before the alarm went off at 7:30 AM. My subconscious must have nudged me because I instantly realized I had left my passport at home. My heart sank and I felt sick. I had driven three and a half hours from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Chicago, Illinois, the night before to save money on airfare, and now I might miss my 11AM flight to Bali.
I called my wife Barb in a panic. She was an angel, willing to drive to Chicago to deliver the passport, but the timing was just too tight. Next, I called the airline and found that rescheduling was not an option as they were completely booked for the next week. My Uncle Dave was meeting me at the airport in Seoul, Korea, and we had a team of six waiting for us in Bali. This made the situation unbearable— they were counting on me.
A few minutes later Barb called with a crazy idea. Maybe she could convince an airline passenger traveling from Grand Rapids to Chicago to deliver the passport. It was a long shot given the high level of security at the airport and our limited time, but it was our only viable option.
Barb rushed to the airport, quickly determined the flights from Grand Rapids to Chicago, and made her way to the ticketing area. She was a little self-conscious in her workout clothes as she scanned the crowd looking for a friendly sympathetic face.
She spotted a young sharply dressed businessman and decided he was the one. Barb is one of those people everyone trusts so when she approached him and described the situation, it wasn’t long before he agreed. She gave him my cell number and described a meeting spot at Chicago’s O’Hare airport. Barb and I breathed a sigh of relief until we realized we did not have this gentleman’s name or phone number!
Meanwhile, I was back at O’Hare doing a trial run, taking the tram from where I would meet our new friend to the international gate to where I would be departing on Korean Airlines. I needed to know there was enough time for me to make my flight. Then I explained the situation to the agents at the counter for Korean Airlines, and they agreed to escort me through security to save time. It was going to be a miracle if I could pull this off. I was starting to feel like the old OJ Simpson commercial where he went sprinting through the airport.
I was relieved when our mystery businessman arrived. We made the passport exchange and I raced to the plane. When I finally sat down, I made a vow never to forget my passport again.
Finally, in Bali
I was traveling to Bali for a two-week visit to see the progress on our restaurant and first villa that were being built here, disassembled, and shipped to Bocas Del Toro, Panama, for our future over-the-water resort. We would also meet with several shop owners and artisans to furnish our Balinese style resort.
It didn’t take long after arriving to forget the passport debacle. The mystery and intrigue of Bali are unlike anything else in the world.
Bali is a friendly island near the southern tip of Indonesia, a short flight north from Australia. You won’t find many Americans there because of the extreme distance, but it is a thriving holiday destination for the Chinese, Indians, and Australians.
There is so much creativity and imagination throughout the land that it feels pleasantly mysterious. On our first day we had drinks on a beach sitting on brightly colored beanbag chairs under ornate Balinese umbrellas. It was like walking into another world.
One evening we visited a restaurant that was two doors down from our hotel. We entered through an unassuming entrance into the most beautiful surreal setting I have ever seen. The covered bar and restaurant, elegantly appointed, opened into an extraordinary garden with a long water feature illuminated with gas flame torches.
A beautiful sculpture of a huge red apple stood at the entrance of the garden, but it was the ducks that got our attention. Yes, the ducks. A team (according to Google, this term is appropriate) of ducks was enjoying the warm evening and the spectacular garden. At first, we thought they were real, but as we ventured closer, we noticed they had rainboots on. We decided then and there we would replicate this scene at our new Balinese style Panama resort.
A few steps from our hotel was another remarkable restaurant. The expansive bamboo interior and deck overlooked a rice field that lay as proud as if it were a mighty ocean. The perfect rows glowed under warm light, and the edges were lined meticulously with stylish umbrellas. The signature Balinese ambiance was simply magical.
You would think this land of charm and beauty would cost a bundle to tour, but once you get here, the prices are better than reasonable. The hotels are exceptional bargains. You can stay at a nice hotel that would cost $150 per night in the U.S. for $40 in Bali. It is a massage lovers paradise, as a high-quality massage that might cost $60 in the U.S. goes for $7 to $10 here. Restaurants are plentiful with fantastic food for every taste at a fraction of the cost in the U.S.
Artistry and Craftsmanship
Every designer, architect, and artist should visit Bali at least once in their lifetime. The island has made a major influence on world architecture and design with a distinct style of natural materials, open air space, and harmony with nature. The artistry, creativity, and craftsmanship are rooted in thousands of years of Hindu temple design.
The reason we decided to build our villas and restaurant in Bali was not to save money. Yes, the prices are extremely reasonable, but when you calculate the cost of building, disassembly, shipping, import taxes, and re-assembly, it is not as low as you might think. Then add the complicated logistics and enormous cost of time, and it becomes even less desirable. The reason we are building in Bali is the spectacular wood and stone carving along with the beautiful hand-crafted furniture and decor.
On the third day of our trip, we stopped to see the progress on our first villa. We were stunned by the beauty of the hand carving. The villas will each feature over 1,100 hours of hand carving, including a Balinese carved wooden structure called a tumpeng sari over each bed. The tumpeng sari along with other Balinese design elements will be instrumental in making Bocas del Toro, our Panama resort, unique to
In addition to wood carving, Bali is known for its stone-carving artists. Stone-carving skills have been passed down for many generations. Notice the intricacy of the umbrella fringe in the soapstone carving below. While we were in Bali, we contracted with a local artist to carve a jungle scene soapstone piece for each of our villas. The soapstone sculptures will be displayed above the women’s vanity in the bathrooms of each villa.
The Balinese People and Their Culture
Tourism drives 80 percent of Bali’s economy, so it is no surprise that the people are kind and the level of service is over the top. We learned the most about Balinese culture from our driver.
The cost to hire a driver for our two weeks in Bali was surprisingly low. Our driver was a friendly Hindu man named Ketut (pronounced “kay-toot,” which always made me chuckle.)
Balinese people name their children, both men and women, in the order they were born. The first-born male is named Wayan, the second Made, the third Nyoman, and the fourth Ketut. If there is a fifth child the cycle repeats itself, so Wayan is the most popular name in Bali!
Ketut’s family has lived in the same compound for many generations. When I asked him how many hundreds of years his family owned the compound he shrugged and said he had no idea. He said that they are limited on the number of children they can have by the number of bedrooms in the compound. Interestingly, the males stay in the compound they are born in, and the females move to their husband’s family compound.
The Balinese people are deeply religious, and their faith is interwoven into everything they do. Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country, but Bali, its most popular island, is 90 percent Hindu. Most houses have their own small temple and there are hundreds of large stately Hindu temples throughout the island.
Everywhere you go in Bali you will find small clumps of rice placed on banana leaves as offerings to their gods. There are so many that I accidentally stepped on one. Interestingly, we saw several offerings that included cigarettes, but we were not able to determine the reasoning.
The Balinese workers and their children blessed our villa twice each day during the construction process.
Our two weeks flew by much too quickly, as there was so much more we wanted to see and do. When the time came to leave, passport in hand, it was the people we would miss the most. And, it was the containers filled with the artistry and craftmanship of Bali landing in Panama that we would look forward to the most.
Did anything about my description of Bali surprise you? Does it sound like a place you would like to travel to?