There isn’t much talk about holidays going on at the moment as the entire world – well quite a lot of it – is actually stuck indoors, locked down or social distancing or whatever the local discipline is called.  But maybe many of those people are already beginning to get the urge, possibly stronger, a real desire bordering on desperation, to get out, pack up ,take off and get right away. Probably yes, and I have no doubt that will get stronger tomorrow and then keep on building until the green light goes on and we are finally let out to play, like school kids who have been grounded and sent to their rooms, dash out to the playground.

Yippee !

So, we’re out, where are we going to ? We need peace and tranquility, no loud noises , not too much activity , no blaring music or roaring traffic, keep it soft, keep it gentle keep it real.

We want to walk everywhere, no taxis, no buses, just walk to the shops , the restaurants, maybe for a drink. No traffic please, no jams, no waiting, no parking problems. And no TV or videos – I have OD’d on Netflix!

And we need the place to be fresh and clean, no garbage, no air pollution, the sea has to be sparkling, the rivers pure enough to drink. We need to free ourselves from city air and find fragrant scents on the breeze, we need the smell of the sea, the tang of new mown grass, the mingled aroma of joss sticks and sizzling grills.

Does this describe Bali? Well it did 30 years ago, and it does today as the corona virus keeps us firmly locked indoors and far from the madding crowds, unable to travel and unable to enjoy the peace that has descended on Bali during these pandemic days, which would be perfect to enjoy the fabled Bali of  yesteryear!

But wait. If that’s what people want for their holiday, why isn’t that what we are providing ? Why are we giving them crowded streets and motorcycles everywhere? Why are we giving them blasting music and non-stop club life night and day? Why are we giving them streets and beaches littered with trash and the air laden with fumes not fragrances? 

We have allowed ourselves to be seduced by very smart businesses who say “Come, this is the life!” We have allowed them to build their businesses wherever they want and failed to regulate the size and nature of their buildings , and failed to organise the spatial planning to keep areas uncrowded and fresh, and failed to make parking spaces and recycling plants and regulations that organise and discipline these most intrusive and destructive of activities.

That’s what we had when Bali closed down last month. Is that what we want when Bali opens up again? The same things that have been negatively reported in the world press. The same things that families say to each other as they leave Bali, after a disappointing holiday. “ It’s not the same any more , let’s not come back”.

I hope not. This is the perfect time to say, “let’s fix it now while we are quiet, let’s take advantage of this enforced downtime to do some upgrading!“ The hotels are doing renovations, the restaurants are spring cleaning, the parks are doing maintenance. Let’s do the same, let’s get together and revitalise Bali while the tourists are away.

Maybe then when we ask them to “Come back to the NEW clean, fresh , organised Bali” they will say “That sounds perfect, I will give it a try”. But we need to act now. Are you ready?

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.