FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – September 28, 2012
BRINGING BACK BALI’S BLISS
Bliss: Perfect happiness; extreme joy. Heaven, paradise. Peace, serenity, euphoria
Sanctuary: Refuge, place to hide, be safe
As we approach the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attack, forever known as ‘The Bali Bombings’, the Australian government has issued a travel warning for those visiting Indonesia.
But if Bali is so unsafe, then why did successful Australian businesswoman, Zoë Watson, move there 18 months ago to set up a unique accommodation and travel experience?
And not just any travel experience – Bliss Sanctuary for Women – a peaceful, well-being focused sanctuary, for women travellers who holiday alone.
Based on two years living within the Balinese community, and her own careful judgment, 37 year old Zoë Watson has chosen to fly in the face of the notion of Bali being unsafe. And her reward? Living and working in one of the most beautiful, relaxing and tranquil parts of the world.
Currently, more than 5000 Australians are holidaying in Bali at any one time of the year, with the majority repeat visitors, however these numbers are still not what they were just over 10 years ago.
At 11:20pm, Saturday October 12, 2002, the idyllic island paradise was rocked by a series of devastating explosions. Paddies Bar and the Sari Club on the main street of Kuta bore the brunt of the impact. 202 people died as a result of these blasts, including 88 Australians, international tourists and many local Balinese, and hundreds more were injured.
An act of terrorism, the Bali Bombings affected more than just the direct victims and their families. The fall out for the peaceful Balinese community was terrible. With tourism from international visitors down by almost 40%, over 100,000 locals lost their jobs. Emotionally and spiritually, they were equally devastated as their island and people had always been known for their ideology of peace and harmony.
But a lot has progressed since then, and Bali rebuilds.
Retired Australian expat Lizzie Love, who has lived in Bali for nine years, explains;
“Initially tourism dropped off and families were struggling to survive in this tourist based economy. But the Balinese turned to their faith and strong sense of community to heal. By not judging or looking to blame others, they showed the world that a community can and will survive by focusing on these basic beliefs. And the travellers came back, this terrorist act was defeated and the economy recovered and continues to thrive”.
As well as being a well known face within the local Seminyak and Canggu communities, Love is active working within rehabilitative programs at Kerobokan Jail, Karangasem Special Children’s Penitentiary and YPAC, an orphanage for handicapped children in Jimbaran. It’s within these gritty environments, so vastly different to the idyllic resort havens that most tourists would ever see, that she’s learnt firsthand how the people of Bali are moving ahead.
“Bali has moved forward by never forgetting what happened here in 2002, but rather learning from the bravery of those who were affected and their courage in overcoming horrendous injuries; not judging nor seeking revenge. The travellers and their families who have been affected by this tragedy, from so many countries , return to commemorate and celebrate the human spirit that enabled this magical island to recover; to demonstrate that the despicable acts of a few cannot prevail; that by remembering, goodness, forgiveness and tolerance will always win out”.
And this is all why businesses like Zoë Watson’s are so important.
“Like many expats, I feel honoured and blessed to live and work in the Balinese community. As such, I feel a real responsibility to give back to this community, whether it is through the funds we raise from our humanitarian accommodation packages that go to local charities, or through supplying jobs and traineeships.”
“At Bliss Sanctuary For Women, we look after the needs of our guests from the moment they arrive at Denpasar airport so we employ a team of local Balinese drivers, cooks, housekeepers, massage and beauty therapists, gardeners and security staff”.
And these days, security is tight.
Prompted by the bombings, the Indonesian government set up an elite police taskforce, Detachment 88, formed as part of an ongoing campaign against militants.
Meanwhile, many clubs, bars and restaurants have security scanners at the door or gate. Local taxi drivers will often refuse to take holiday makers to areas that don’t have these.
“Our country is beautiful and peaceful and we want to make sure it stays that way. Since the attack 10 years ago, we are all very alert. Just like America after 9/11, our security is much stronger now”, says Bagus Ketut Artha, Bliss Sanctuary’s Driver and Villa Manager.
The potential dangers in Bali today are probably not what you’d expect either.
“I read some of the sensationalist news stories of Bali being dangerous for tourists and then, when you look at the research, it’s actually often relating to self-induced injury by holiday makers who are silly enough not to take advantage of the incredibly cheap taxi fares but ride scooters while intoxicated, something they’d never do at home in Australia”, says Watson.
“Other hazards may be if you’re partying in the rowdy night-club areas like Kuta, but you could argue that going out in Sydney’s Kings Cross on a weekend could be just as risky. Of course, this is why Bliss Sanctuary for Women is well away from these areas. We ensure that the travel experiences for our guests are based on places and events that we personally know, love and recommend, so they simply don’t include those risky zones”, she adds.
Watson is the first to admit that relocating to Bali by herself wasn’t an easy road.
Suffering from chronic back pain and crippling migraines, the results of a car accident in Adelaide in 2006, combined with an onset of acute anxiety attacks, her decision to uproot from her family and friends and move to a foreign country was a difficult one. Add to this her fear of flying and it’s a wonder that her Adelaide to Denpasar flights were even booked.
“I was a burnt out, busy professional. I was unwell, not getting any better and began seeking a change in my life. I wanted to find a sanctuary, somewhere that I felt safe.”
And Watson also realised that she wasn’t alone.
A 2010 study by the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that 42% of women and 35% of men always or often felt rushed or pressed for time, leading to increased stress levels. And the medical research proves that being overstressed can result in physical illnesses, and psychological illnesses such as anxiety and depression.
“So what began as a personal, healing holiday to Bali ended in a business venture”, Watson continues.
“It wasn’t a decision I took lightly but, over all of the other countries I could have moved to, I chose Bali. There’s a real sense of community here that gathers you in. I feel loved and supported by both the Balinese and the diverse group of multicultural expats.”
Today, Bali continues to slowly but surely return to its tropical haven stereotype.
Travel site TripAdvisor recently revealed that Bali is again topping the list as the most popular travel destination that Australians are researching online and those who travel there are continually spoilt by the beautiful weather, cheap eats, yoga communities, meditation festivals, inexpensive shopping, luxurious resorts or, recently, fine dining.
While it’s very easy to “Bali bash” – the bombings, the bogan tourists – the majority of Bali is nothing like this. As one of our closest neighbours, it pays to get to know the real Bali, just like Zoë Watson did.
Zoë Watson is originally from Adelaide, South Australia and moved to Bali two years ago.
She is the owner of Bali’s Bliss Sanctuary For Women and is available for interview.
For further information please contact:
Bec Brown Communications, Sydney
Bec Brown PH: 0403 052 256 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Yanna Moutzouris PH: 0410 678 918 | email@example.com