Bloodshed, chaos and corruption, free love, great surf and high times under the Banyan Trees.
Phil Jarratt's memoir/travelogue Bali: Heaven and Hell should be compulsory reading for those who frequent the island. Add it to your reading list if you are planning a visit.
Bali is an endless source of fascination for Australians. Mention you are heading to Bali for work or play and everyone has an opinion.
I'm heading off at the end of the month for the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival and people are either envious, supportive or write Bali off as a tourist nightmare.
Is Bali a cliche?
A Mecca for tight-a*se Australians seeking cheap accommodation, all-you-can-eat food courts, massages, manicures, endless happy-hours, one-night stands and way, way too many hair braids?
Or is Bali paradise?
A place of deep spirituality ... where people can explore ancient religions and rituals alongside a long culinary history and spice trade?
Bali has long been idealised as a place to mend heart, body and soul. People choose Bali to meditate, heal, write, paint and do yoga in a magical and supportive environment. It is thought to be an island, indeed a community, who support restoration.
The answer, of course, lies somewhere beyond all these cliches.
Journalist Phil Jarrett has made a decent job charting the history of Bali: the spice wars, terrorism, surfing, missionaries, tourism and development, the hippie trail and the expanding expat communities.
Interwoven with this history is a personal memoir of Jarratt's time living and travelling in Bali as both a surfie and journo. He charts his own love affair with Bali, alongside funny tales of Charlie Chaplin and verbal and written accounts from Indonesian leaders and royalty, developers, Dutch spice trader and artists. It's a serious piece of investigative journalism and all sources are annotated. Get a copy of this book for a deeper understanding of the rich history of this island.
If you are a regular visitor to Bali please write and tell me why in 25 words or less you love it. Best comment wins a copy of Phil Jarratt's book (Australia Only for this comp ... sorry!)
Phil Jarratt audio on ABC Drive Sunshine Coast
Upcoming appearance at Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2014