Just a generation ago Bali was a rural farming community where the seasons dictated life, where the connection with nature – and God – was direct. People lived simple lives, understood their community, their religion, their role, and were relaxed and happy.

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Then came the opportunity to make money, to jump on the bandwagon and develop villas, hotels, shops & malls, real estate, shop houses and restaurants. The village soon became a town and the sarong was traded in for a batik shirt. The ceremonies were attended a little less and the business meetings a little more, but that brought more success and a move to a substantial five bedroom home with a very nice Toyota parked outside.

Fortune favoured the brave and the businesses continued to flourish, the holdings multiplied, the land bank accumulated and then turned into hotels and apartments. The ceremonies interrupted the overseas trips and the prayers fell away. The batik became the business suit and the Toyota became the BMW 7 series. Life was fast and furious.

But then the heart attack struck, the business was left behind, the orders were to slow down, relax and enjoy what’s left of your time. The sarong is dug out of the cupboard and the move is made back to the village – what’s left of it – and the search for the old time values begins.

But the village is now a bustling city, created by you, there’s no banyan tree to sit under, no sound of gamelan from the Banjar Hall as the dancers practice for the nightly dance, just the roar of motorcycles and the blare of music from bars and cafes.

You’re annoyed and upset “where’s my old village?”, you ask, “what’s happened to this community? Why is the river clogged with garbage?” “Well”, comes the answer, “this is all your work, you brought us prosperity, property and possessions, but the old ways have gone.” “But why did we have to lose the old Bali too?” you cry. “We didn’t need it anymore” comes the answer “there was no room for it, we needed parking spaces, malls, hi-rise offices and more!

“But now I want it back” you say “I want to end my days in peace, surrounded by nature, be part of my village”. “Then you’ll have to go north, way north, to where the fields are still green, the rivers still clear. But be careful. There’s some one like you who lives there too!”

Alistair G. Speirs

Alistair G. Speirs

Alistair G Speirs, OBE, is the Publisher of NOW! Magazines. He has been in the publishing, advertising and PR business for the last 25 years. He started both NOW! Bali and NOW! Jakarta as each region's preferred community magazine.