Subject: Bali - a suggestion for 2003!
Happy New Year, Dear Ziners!

My husband and I have just returned from a wonderful week in Bali and I wish to suggest that those of you who have considered the idea of going to this Asian paradise - go now...there will never be a better time!

The people of Bali are gentle, friendly, and kind and it is difficult to see them suffering so much due to the atrocities that were dealt to their beautiful island last October 12th. Tourism is their largest industry and almost all sectors of the economy are suffering due to the devastating effect of the bomb and, more recently, to associated tourism advisories.

This was our second trip and, since we travelled around most of the island four years ago, we decided to stay put in just one (our favourite) place this time. The relatively quiet town of Ubud is close to the centre and provides an excellent base for relaxing and enjoying all of the wonderful attributes of the island. Those who enjoy beach life would probably prefer to stay on one of their beautiful beaches but we prefer to swim in pools, walk through rice paddies, learn about the culture and arts, and be pampered in one of the many spas in the region.

We met some fascinating people this trip - one, a local woman who started one of the first restaurants in Ubud 29 years ago and now has 3 stores, a lovely 'hideaway' of three bungalows right in the centre of town, and a new property, her Villas, just north of Ubud that is, without a doubt, paradise. Not only has this fascinating woman, Murni, built up her business from nothing, but she has contributed to the training and employment of hundreds of local women who work in her restaurants, stores, and properties and make many of the crafts, art, and jewellry that she sells. Check out (we stayed in The Bungalow at Murni's Houses - a large, wonderfully private and relaxing suite).

Another fascinating person we met was Frank Olcvary, an American from Florida and NY, who told us he had gone to Bali for a vacation and has now been there 8 years. Soon after he arrived, he started the Bali Hati Foundation to provide schooling and medical assistance to underprivileged children and this has now expanded to a variety of other forms of assistance (including computer training). One of the ways that he funds these activities (besides donations from generous sponsors) is the Bali Hati Spa which caters to tourists and expats in Ubud. After the bomb hit his adopted home, he started the Bali Hati Project which included on-site assistance (he gathered a team together that arrived the next morning) and a Relief Fund to help the Bali victims and their families. If you are interested, check out: (unfortunately, their main site, is 'under construction').

If you have any questions about Bali - places to go, things to see - please don't hesitate to send me a note.

Cheers! Judy in Hong Kong