Subject: Re Zine Bali recommendations.
G'day Marghe and Marty, What magic to hear the carefully modulated and dulcet tones of fellow Australians. I'm not sure whether others do this but as soon as I open each Zine posting, I scroll down to the bottom of the contribution to see where it's from and imagine the accents of the writer. Of course I work strictly with stereotypes that have been reinforced by the media. The regional dialects can be a bit tricky, and sometimes my guess has me on the wrong continent, so I'm sorry if my interpretation is a bit off key. We Down under are stuck with that darn Paul Hogan drawl. When we open our mouths while in Europe (or even in Nth America) you can see the doubt in people's eyes - 'this guy is not authentic'. Now I believe we've got to live down another clown - the crocodile man. As my sister-in-law in Oakland complains, Jeez! You lot have plenty to answer for.

But I'm here to sing the praises of Bali. This island has become a suburb of Perth even though it's 2,500 km away. It has just been announced that 22% of Western Australians travelled overseas last year. A large proportion would have gone to Bali. I just checked the travel section of the newspaper to find that the latest typical offerings are; 10 days, 3 star accommodation, plus airfares and a daily breakfast come in at less than $1000 (in U.S. dollar terms that's about $3.47).

First of all you both have to decide why you're going there. Bali can be taken on so many levels; shopping, relaxation, food schools, cultural, sport, and of course, a general good time. Many Australians were concerned about their reception by Indonesians after the East Timor debacle. Bali remained the friendly place to go. That tension has eased on Lombok but I'm not sure about other areas within the archipelago.

On the island of Bali there are four main areas to look at; the Kuta side, Sanur, Nusa Dua and Ubud. As a rough summary, the Kuta side provides lots of restaurants, shopping and a wonderful beach. It can be noisy if you choose the busy sections as this is where the night life is. However the north section is a great place to be so that you can sample all the delights and retire to your own oasis at night.

Nusa Dua has some of the great hotels of the world. I'm not exaggerating. Some of the settings are breathtaking. If you want to experience luxury, great service and a relaxing time this is for you. The problem we found with it is that you are removed from the myriad of restaurants and shopping delights. You are also largely confined to what is on offer at your compound unless you are prepared to rely on taxis. Sanur attracts an older clientele. There are some superb restaurants and the shopping is less hectic. The beach doesn't compare to the Kuta side and there is a quieter nightlife.

Ubud is in the hills. It is cooler and the countryside is very beautiful (lush jungle, rice terraces etc). This is the centre for the arts. Some wonderful markets with the craft work and art you generally associate with this island being sourced here. There are some exclusive hotels in idyllic grounds but the range of accommodation is spread through the whole range.

Please note Lou's memory of villages that specialize.

The population of Bali is largely Hindu which is a surprise in this, the world's most populated Moslem nation. As a result there are many temples of significance that are well worth visiting. You'll find the general population lives in close proximity to their religion with small shrines everywhere.

On a tourist and commercial level, Bali has really got it's act together. Unlike many other countries, you do not get hard sell from street pedlars. Gone are the days when you were beseeched by a mob whenever you appeared on the beach. There are strict laws for any one hawking a product. There must never be more than two sales persons working together, once their offer is rejected they must not persist with their pitch, and someone has instilled in everyone the importance of a smile. Where ever you go you'll find they are VERY au fait with the Australian sense of humour and have all the smart sayings down pat.

Most of all, it is a very safe place to visit. The greatest danger is from fellow tourists particularly close to bars and night clubs. As we've never been out beyond the bewitching hour we've never seen an occasion to make us feel uncomfortable - and that includes walking home at night after trying out yet another restaurant. Many people on this side of the country spend a week at Sanur to unwind, set off for a few days in Ubud and finally come back to the Kuta side of the island (Legian is a very good suburb) to catch up with shopping and beach life.

As to other places in the archipelago. We've not been to Lombok but it gets raves in the press. Yogyakarta (pronounced 'Jojakarta') is the cultural heart of Java. Two of the world's most impressive Buddhist temples (Prambanan and Borobudur), the centre for batik, Ramayana ballet, puppets - the list of things we were impressed with goes on and on. We spent a week in this city and could have stayed much longer. Please check out how well Australians are being received here now. Being a university and cultural centre there was a good deal of antagonism after Australia's involvement in East Timor - this could well have changed now.

Finally, Bali is one of the great value for money countries I know. Surprisingly, for such a small island, the choices are endless and designed to fit most people's pocket. The food is exceptional (you can eat safely almost any where) and the people welcoming. Just one word of warning; DO NOT TRAVEL TO BALI DURING THE W.A. SCHOOL HOLIDAYS. Regards, James.