Tag Archives: Alison Bone

Sarinbuana Eco Lodge

At One With Nature

“The beauty of the  Eco Lodge is  that it can be enjoyed on so many levels , hide away from the world in a secluded mountain paradise, or put yourself out there as you immerse yourself in the nature, culture and  community.”

With a picturesque setting on the slopes of Mt Batakaru Bali Eco Lodge provides a genuine haven for those looking to immerse themselves  in nature and to experience the true essence of  Bali.Charming, secluded bungalows with names like Tree House and Jungle Lodge cling to the hillside, wooden verandas offer birds eye views of  steep valley walls blanketed in thick rain forest; far below you can see the sprawling coast of Kuta – so near,  yet  a world away. The first thing you will notice is the bird song– woodpeckers, kingfishers and  parrots are at play in the forest canopy, black eagles streak across the sky ,  the looming peak of  Mount Batakaru creates a dramatic backdrop. Natural building materials include local timber, like coconut and jack fruit,  while floors are made of hand crafted terracotta tiles. Fresh cut flowers, colourful woven textiles, and warm patchwork quilts (the nights are chilly!) create homely comforts.

Being Green

The lovechild of dedicated environmentalists, Linda and Norm Vant Hoff, the lodge is about as  ‘eco’ as it gets, with well documented  green credentials, including the ‘Responsible Tourism Award’ in 2007 and 2010 (www.wildasia.net) The tenets of sustainability, low impact building techniques , effective resource and waste management, are all faithfully adhered to, everything is in perfect balance with nature; but we sometimes forget that there is more to the environment than  physical factors.  From Norm and Linda’s point of view,  an eco lodge is “Sustainably connected to the natural, built and social environment”; and the lodge has become a valued  extension of the village and community of Sarinbuana. While you enjoy the magical surrounds, delicious healthy cuisine and a range of activities, you can also relax in the knowledge that   your stay  here contributes to the local economy on a number of levels: The lodge employs  26  staff from the village and have trained locals as trekking guides and massage therapists. Ongoing community projects include extensive tree planting, free English, martial art and football classes for village children, the sponsoring of a university student; and ongoing additions and  improvements to the school. It also  acts as a role model for responsible tourism; promoting low impact activities, with an emphasis on walking, bike riding, and swimming in the waterholes. Enormous value is placed on the preservation and promotion of  local culture, with popular workshops providing genuine insight into everyday life in Bali and the chance to learn traditional skills.   Learn Balinese Calligraphy, Indonesian language, and how to play a traditional instrument, or join the  village ladies who teach the art of  creating beautiful temple offerings, table settings, and cooking;  while Pak Ketut, a remarkable and inspired wood carver (responsible for  the ornate carvings in the bungalows) shares his craft and his wisdom.

A walk in the garden

When Norm and Linda first took over the property it was dominated by wild grass and coconut trees,  eighteen years on the gardens are flourishing with over 100 edible and medicinal plants. The garden tour is a   fascinating and informative journey with Manager, Putri, pointing out all manner of herbs, spices and plants, and explaining their traditional uses. Look out for the fiddletip ferns  – they make a great salad served with shredded coconut and Lombok chili, while the dainty  ginger flowers are equally tasty.  Much of the produce served in the restaurant is picked fresh from the garden, or sourced locally, including coffee and cacao, and home made ice cream is flavoured with the vanilla that grows here. A meandering path leads down to the water holes passing sweetly perfumed orange trees, dense thickets of mulberry  bushes ,  dangling passion fruit vines and a plethora of heliconia. Wooden benches and open air pavilions are scattered about the property, ideal for yoga, meditation and soaking up the silence. If you are feeling more energetic take an early morning hike up to the top of Batakaru, the track leads through the largest rainforest in Bali, home to luwak (civet) leopard cats and monkeys, emerging at a peak with  view stretching over to Lombok and Java .

The beauty of the  Eco Lodge is  that it can be enjoyed on so many levels , hide away from the world in a secluded mountain paradise, or put yourself out there as you immerse yourself in the nature, culture and  community.  Make sure you spend some time with Linda and Norm so you can learn about their various eco projects around the island, including saving the Bali Starling, permaculture, solar energy.  For Linda the Eco lodge has provided “A chance to give back” but she makes it clear that she gets back as much as she gives.  For her the greatest joy is, “To be connected to the environment, the people and the  land,  making a living and a life with local people who are incredibly talented.”  Here the Balinese concept of life, known as Tri Hata Karana is firmly in place – the three forces of happiness – harmony with god, harmony with man, harmony with nature.

Sarinbuana Eco Lodge

Mount Batakaru, Tabanan, Bali



Back to Fiji

Life is funny, one minute you are striding down a certain path, and the next, tragedy strikes  like a metaphorical avalanche and the path is swept away from under you. But all the cliches are true…. out of the darkness comes the light…..as one door closes another opens…… And so it was that a disaster on the harsh rocky island of Gran Canaria  in Spain seven years ago would change my life in ways I never could have imagined.

Fate, and the trade winds blew me to Fiji where I landed a job on a remote island in the Yasawas.  Here I worked with a local, tradition-bound community domineered by a powerful autocratic chief, and answered  to a wealthy and eccentric American billionaire (owner of the island where Blue Lagoon was filmed). It was a crazy time typified by cyclones, a  coup, and suffocating heat, of sabotage and skullduggery….where cheeky spirits roamed by land and sea, and tales of cannibalistic forebears were shared over many a bowl of kava.   But what i remember most is the laughter, the singing, the awe inspiring beauty and the big beautiful smiles of the Fijians who welcomed  me to their island home.

Two years passed and my life became totally entwined with the community….All my friends told me how lucky I was to live on a coral fringed island, but paradise is a lonely place and slowly island fever took a grip – it was time to go.  Leaving was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but  knew I would come back, Fiji was a part of me and I had come to love these islands fiercely and unconditionally . And now, five years later here I am. Oddly enough, it is like nothing has changed, and memories, like the incoming tide, roll in relentlessly. My time here is brief – just one month –  as  I ‘resort sit’  Navutu Stars, a boutique resort owned by my amazing Italian friends Maddalena and Freddy. Actually, the timing has been extraordinary, as I am writing a book about my time in Fiji but had lost the freshness of the experience and had been thinking of ways I could return – when out of the blue Madda called and asked me to come.

I am remembering so well the isolation, and the peacefulness, it seems so incredibly still after the chaos of Bali and it has taken me a while to adjust to the pace of Fiji time. The rhythm of life is so slow here, but this is the magic.


24 hours in Jakarta

24 hours in Jakarta

Jakarta doesn’t enjoy the best of reputations ,but anyone who spends any amount of time in Indonesia is bound to pass through the sweltering capital at some point. I have 24 hours and am determined to find something endearing about the city which is home to ten million people. I arrive two weeks after the bombs, but apart from the area directly around the Marriot and the Ritz Carlton, life has continued as normal.

I fly in to Soekarno-Hatta Airport, and drive straight into one of the city’s legendary gridlocks. Slowly the traffic clears, and an hour later I am in the traveller’s enclave of Jalan Jaksa. It’s hardly Koh Sahn road, but the string of budget hotels, bars, restaurants, and travel agents, make it a convenient base.

Armed with a map, I set out to find the flea market in Menteng. I am expecting urban squalor and thick smog, but find myself walking down wide leafy streets filled with beautiful houses and lush gardens. The market on Jalan Surabaya is truly bizarre and crammed full of ethnic oddities from around the archipelago; scary tribal masks from Papua; antique shadow puppets; elaborate jewellery; as well as an eclectic mix of ancient typewriters; antique telephones; brass dive helmets and  worn out suitcases. It’s all so random. One stall sells battered golf clubs, tennis rackets with broken strings, and has a great collection of Led Zeppelin framed photos, as well as vinyl records with soundtracks from obscure 80’s films.


I could browse for hours, but there is an entire city to explore, and only 20 hours left, so I get on a train which zooms across the city. One minute I am passing over a clean, orderly street scene, the next, graffiti covered slums littered with trash and open sewers. In Jakarta, you never know what’s around the corner.

The city brims with contrasts and contradictions. Ancient mysticism meets mass commercialism; rich meets poor; old meets new; east meets west. It is also a true microcosm of Indonesia and all the nations’ religions, cultures and people are represented here in one great seething mass of humanity.

I arrive at Kota, the old city and push my way through the throng of pedestrians, motorbikes, cars and street vendors to Taman Fatahillah (Fatahillah square). The plaza, one of the few remaining colonial relics, is ringed by old  Dutch buildings which now house Jakarta’s finest museums. Historically, the entire area was surrounded by a fort and moat, but the Dutch destroyed much of the city in the early 19th century in a bid to wipe out the disease that plagued the filthy streets.  There are balloon sellers, food vendors and people milling about as they do in city squares all over the world. I sit to drink a coffee and chat amiably with the old man sitting next to me. Out of the blue he tells me that his wife is older than him and he is worried she will die first. “What will I do for sex when she dies,” he asks, “Are you married?”


I take this as my cue to leave and make the short walk to Sunda Kelapa. Jakarta’s origins lie in this harbour town that served as stop on the lucrative spice trade for hundreds of years. It was conquered by the Dutch in 1619 and renamed Jayakarta, City of victory. The crumbling old port gives a glimpse into a by gone era, with its fleet of graceful Phinisi schooners ─ the last wind powered sailing ships in the world. These colourful wooden ships are the traditional vessels of the Bugis seafarers of Sulawesi and continue to ply the island trade route, as they have done for centuries.



A fisherman points to his small row boat and offers to row me up the river. We float slowly upstream, the tiny row boat dwarfed by towering hulls. There are at least 40 ships lining the dock, a truly magnificent sight. The same cannot be said of the port itself which is decaying and squalid with dilapidated stilt houses crouching over the putrid canal – this is Jakarta at its worst.


Night is falling as I climb back on a train. It is dark, hot and crowded, but all the doors are open as we lurch at high speed across the city. I worry about people falling out, or falling off, as the roof is also crammed with people.  We stop for ten minutes on the middle of a bridge, which is fortuitous as we are in front of the National Monument which shines like a beacon against the night sky. The giant obelisk, Jakarta’s best known land mark, is topped by a glittering golden flame, and rises 137 meters from the spacious gardens of  Merdeka (Freedom) Square. It symbolizes the nation’s strength and independence, and was envisioned by Soekarno, the flamboyant first President, who had a penchant for building extravagant monuments. It is rather phallic in nature, and is often referred to as Soekarno’s last erection.


I have a quick meal at a street market, then its back into the night. This time I hail a taxi, the traffic is heavy but I enjoy the chance to relax in the comfort of an air conditioned cab, and it feels like I am getting a private tour of the city. At one particularly fearsome intersection all the traffic lights are out and a lone policeman is trying to direct the traffic, its absolute chaos. We pass the glitzy Mangga Dua Mall, the biggest shopping centre I have ever seen, the opposite side of the road is filled with humble dwellings of corrugated iron.

Driving under a giant archway we leave Jakarta behind and enter into another realm, that of Ancola, ‘Dreamland’. The immense recreation park is home to Dunia Fantasy (Jakarta’s answer to Disneyland); Sea world; a Water Adventure park; as well as a beach park; hotels; restaurants; golf courses; and my destination, Pasar Seni, a stylish and charming arts village set amidst lush tropical gardens.  Its 10.00pm and things are winding down. A lively rock band performs for about 40 people and I wander alone through the market which is full of incredibly inspired art work. Many of the stalls also operate as studios and I see a number of artists at work. One is making life size replicas of animals out of thin silver and gold wire, another paints in a studio filled  with three meter high portraits of head hunters from West Irian.


I arrive back on Jalan Jaksa at midnight to find it heaving, the bars are noisy and overflowing and people are spilled on to the sidewalk.  My Indonesian friend calls and asks if I want to go out.  I am tempted, I have heard the clubs in Jakarta are pretty wild, but exhaustion wins, so the nightlife will have to be sampled on my next trip.

Early the next morning I am in yet another taxi, this time driving down Jalan Thamin, an impressive shopping and hotel district, which is smart, modern and filled with shiny sky scrapers. My destination is Taman Mini Indonesia Inda (beautiful mini Indonesia park) a sprawling cultural park. Once again Jakarta has me gob smacked, this place is incredible!  There are 26 full-scale traditional houses and pavilions, representing each of Indonesia’s provinces. A total of 15 museums showcase themes as varied as; heirlooms; sports; oil and gas; and transportation. There are also 11 parks and gardens. Each pavilion is like a mini museum and filled with artifacts, photos and traditional costumes and many have cultural performances under way. I explore the round houses of Papua; visit the Batak boat-shaped houses from Toba; get a glimpse into the life of the Dayaks of Kalimantan and the Toraja of Sulawesi; and watch a traditional dance from south Sumatra.  It’s kind of overwhelming, like doing a whirlwind tour of the entire archipelago in just four hours and I realize just how diverse this nation of islands is. It is Sunday, and the park is packed with local tourists, without doubt all of Indonesia is represented here on some level.





I wander through the herb garden and the flower park; discover a great second hand book stall filled with old picture books of Indonesia and a dog-eared Indonesian version of Men are from Mars Women are from Venus. I have a quick peak at the aquarium, which is interesting, but the tanks are depressingly small. At the Doctor Fish Spa three women are perched on the edge of a tub, feet dangling in the water which is filled with hundreds of tiny fish nibbling all the dead skin off their feet.


There is so much to see, but my time is up and with a final wistful glance at the IMAX Theater which is playing Road to Mecca, I am in a taxi bound for the airport, where, ironically I learn that my flight has been delayed by four hours. I treat myself to a reflexology massage at the Kedaton Airport spa which proves to be the perfect place to fill in time, with its comfortable sofas, herbal tea, healthy food and free internet.

Finally my plane is boarding and I feel a little sad to be leaving. I can’t pretend to really know Jakarta after just 24 hours, but my ‘taster’ has left me with a lengthy list of things to do on my next visit. I am surprised at how much I enjoyed my time here, but after all, it is a city that is full of surprises.


Fivelements, Puri Ahimsa sits at the end of a narrow country lane surrounded by rice paddys and fields of ripening corn. Thatched circular buildings with conical roofs reach for the sky, the gardens are filled with lush foliage, and the gushing of a fast flowing river  intermingles with birdsong. It is the ideal setting for a healing sanctuary and from the moment I enter the spacious grounds I am immediately aware of a shift of energy, a kind of higher vibration.

I have a traditional Balinese healing treatment that is a mix of reflexology and chakra balancing with Pak Dewa, a wonderful and powerful energy healer. At times the session is painful and I shed tears,  but by the end my spirit is soaring. Afterwards I sit on the verandah drinking ginger tea and reflecting on my life and my need to restore balance.



This led me to Desa Seni a boutique resort/arts village in Caggu that offers a variety of yoga classes. I have practiced yoga in many beautiful places around the world  but the Desa Seni experience is unique. Traditional wooden houses from all over Indonesia have been transplanted into a fairy tale like setting with pretty vegetable gardens, lush tropical foliage and an atmosphere that creates a sense of well being  from the moment you enter.


Bombastic plastix


from this



to this.....


They are handed out gleefully by cashiers the length and breadth of the island, used once and abandoned. Their fate − to float down rivers, ride the waves, wash up on the beaches or smolder in black smoky fires.…. In Bali there is no escaping  plastic bags.   But there is always hope, and a small company called Bombastic Plastix  is hard at work turning plastic trash into  funky fashion accessories.

Recycled products often get a bad wrap (no pun intended) because they are produced poorly with little thought for design. But Bombastic Plastix has turned recycling into an art form and their products – bags, purses, wallets,  are attractive in their own right, regardless of their ‘greenness’. Let’s face it, most of us want to do our bit to save the planet but there is nothing wrong with looking good while we are doing it.

It all started a few years ago, on Bombastic founder, Sam Miller’s kitchen floor. He was a man on a mission, armed with an environmental conscience, a keen sense of design, a heap of plastic bags and an iron. Through trial and error he discovered a way to fuse plastic bags into sheets of plastic fabric, which form the base of all his products.  “Its hardly like we are using all the plastic in the world,” he tells me, “but at least we are using some of it; and we are taking something that has a service life of 30 minutes  and converting in into something that lasts years.”

Check out the website, its great fun and really informative, and you will love Sam – he is one super cool dude!


BAWA and Bali Dogs

BAWA (Bali Animal Welfare Association) was founded by Janice Girardi, a Californian native who rescued her first Bali dog in Kintamani 27 years ago, so beginning a one woman crusade to improve life for man’s best friend across the island. Her passion for animals and their welfare is consuming, and she is an inspiring example of how one person really can make a difference. For years she has been feeding street dogs and rescuing sick and injured animals, loading them on to a makeshift stretcher and driving them to the vet in Denpasar. In 2007 she formalized her position and along with one of Indonesia’s top veterinarians, Dr Dewa Dharma, created BAWA. Finding homes for puppies is just one of BAWA’s programs: The not-for-profit charity also supports a 24 hour clinic; an animal ambulance; a mobile sterilization clinic; an education program; and a range of community projects.

The care centre in Gianyar is run by a dedicated team of volunteers and staff and houses an average of 50 dogs and cats at a time. The level of care is heartening and eventually BAWA will find homes for all these animals, even if it means paying impoverished farmers with monthly rations of rice to take them on.

Dogs have not always fared well in Bali and the notion of having a dog as a pet is a new concept, but one that is slowly catching on. Janice describes education as, “The only hope for lasting change,” and her staff are active in schools and in the local communities. “The Balinese are learning that if you love a dog, it will return ten-fold,” she tells me.

BAWA survives soley on donations and the recent outbreak of rabies in Bali is consuming enormous amounts of resources as Janice and her team embark on an island wide mission to vaccinate dogs. For more informaion or to make a donation check http://www.balibawa.com


A different side of Singapore

Singapore, a gleaming metropolis of soaring skyscrapers, manicured gardens, and people in suits; where shopping malls are supersize, electronics are truly king, and chewing gum is illegal. I have passed through the city many times, but never considered it as more than a brief stop on my way somewhere else. Now I have a three-day visa run and am determined to get a glimpse into life beyond the shiny facade. I catch a bumboat to Pulau Ubin, a small island that is home to one of the last remaining kampoengs (traditional villages in Singapore).

I rent a bicycle and pass through palm groves and rubber plantations and soon find myself in thick rainforest; sunlight peeps and teases through the leaves, interspersed with drizzly rain. It is disgustingly humid and I feel like I am trapped in a steam bath, the gentle rises in the road have me pedaling madly and I regret not paying the extra for a mountain bike. A giant − almost komodo size − lizard stalks across the road in front of me, and monkeys swing through the canopy high above. Eventually I come to the Chek Jawa wetlands, a conservation area that is home to Singapore’s richest ecosystems. The timber boardwalk starts on a pretty boulder strewn beach, and winds around a seagrass lagoon. In the shallows I spot cowrie shells, shrimp, star fish and a pair of tiny seahorses. It leads on through giant mangroves and mud mounds, built by the illusive mud lobster, then back onto a path through dense coastal forest. I reach the parking area and find that it has been overrun by monkeys, one perches on the seat of my bike another sits in the wicker basket. Thunder rolls in the distance and the sky has turned black. I really don’t want to get caught in a tropical storm and once I regain possession of my bike I pedal furiously, passing small farm houses surrounded by fruit orchards, trees laden with ripe durian and fields of tropical flowers. I arrive back at the kampoeng with its quaint houses and Chinese lanterns, just as the rain sets in. I find shelter in a quirky restaurant swamped in pot plants and twisting vines and wait out the storm. It’s dark by the time I get back on the boat and the bright twinkling lights of the city beckon across the water. The natural jungle of old Singapore is left behind and I am soon back in the concrete jungle that is modern Singapore. The bus passes through suburbs filled with colonial mansions and then right through the heart of Geyland, the vibrant and garish red light district with sleazy massage parlors, night markets, and xxx girly bars with pumping music.

Little India
Refreshed and showered I head out into the labyrinth of streets that make up Little India which is buzzing with all the trappings and trimmings of the Southern Indian Tamil Culture. The streets are rowdy and chaotic with hawkers selling garlands of yellow flowers and kitch Hindu iconography; Bollywood music blares out from loud speakers. I take a seat in a sidewalk cafe and am soon eating aloo gobi, palak paneer and chapatis, washed down with a mango lassy. The air is thick with the smell of cardamom, and women glide by sheathed in bright saris and laden with gold jewelry. I wander past ornate temples swathed in garish colour and am overcome with nostalgia for my days spent traveling in India. I am easily lured into a costume jewelry shop filled with sparkling adornments, and eventually leave with a bag filled with gaudy earrings, hair trinkets and jingly jangly anklets.

The Evolution Gardens


Located at the famous Botancial gardens, This 1.5 hectare area provides a journey through time and depicts the evolution of life through the ages. The entrance is marked by a column of petrified trees and the path leads through different areas, starting with the barren, desolate ‘Lifeless Earth’ 4,600 million years ago. Onwards through time, I pass prehistoric plants and trees that look like something out of a sci fi film, as well as giant dinosaur footprints, and a magnificent grove of Cycad palms, modern survivors from the Jerassic era. Then on through the first flowering plants that sprang from the earth 144 million years ago.

Kampoeng Glam
I have just a few hours left and one item remains on my agenda, and that is to visit Kampoeng Glam – the heart of the Muslim community with streets named Arab, Kadahar and Bhagdad. The breathtaking Sultan Mosque acts as a landmark; it’s design was influenced by the Taj Mahal and it is composed of a mesmerizing swirl of minarets and turrets topped with a shiny golden dome. A pedestrian street lined with tall palm trees leads up to the mosque and the area is imbued with a quiet, lazy charm. I spend my last hour exploring the alleyways and small shops filled with spices, Persian rugs and rolls of shimmering silks and rich brocades. And then my time is up, and its with more than a little regret that I make my way to the airport. A city that I had dismissed as boring and soulless has turned out to be multi faceted and endlessly fascinating