My love affair for Bali started in 1978. I was just 18 years old going on my first overseas holiday with two girlfriends Coralie and Dot.
We stayed in a small Losman just outside of Kuta. The roads were just dirt and tuk tuks and trishaws were the local transport. Only a small amount of shops and restaurants down Poppies Lane existed. Poppies restaurant was one of our favourite's and is still open today and of course Rum Jungle which was the local night club.
We had an amazing time and got on well with the locals and spent most of our days at the beach bargaining for clothes, paintings and statues, having massages and purchasing freshly cut pineapple. Life in Bali was simple and so different to Australia and for our first overseas holiday it was such fun. We felt quite safe although we did get robbed while we were asleep so this was quite a frightening experience as an 18 year old. It was a little stressful to wake up and find I had no passport, no money and no plane ticket home. I was walking around the streets crying as I had been told if you had no identity or plane ticket you were put in jail, not sure if this was true but it was a scary thought. Some local Balinese women saw me sobbing and ushered me to follow them, I was quite numb really and just followed them not knowing where I was going but I felt maybe they knew something. It was raining and they took me to a building site nearby where my bag had been dumped. It was soaking wet so I had a soggy passport and plane ticket however my traveller's cheques and money were gone. At least this was not so bad as traveller's cheques could be cancelled and refunded. We were all still safe and felt lucky we did not wake up when they were in our room. We did not let this ruin our holiday however it did teach us a valuable lesson to be more careful. The longer we were in Bali the more trusting and relaxed we had become. They had broken into our room through a louvre window and then opened the door while we were all asleep. They fished our things out with a long bamboo pole and a hook on the end which they had left behind so maybe we had stirred and disturbed them. We had been locking our bags in the cupboard but had gotten lazy and I had thrown my bag was under my bed. Although this was not a great experience it could happen anywhere and it was a good lesson for us young girls to be a bit more careful in the future. We talked about this trip for many years as we had lots of funny stories and all of us fell in love with this beautiful island called Bali.
The next time I came to Bali was when I was 21 with my boyfriend Steve (who later became my husband). We left Australia in the middle of winter and I still remember it was 0 degrees and we were wearing Jeans, hand knitted wool jumpers and desert boots with a one way ticket to Bali. This was the start of our overseas adventure going overland to Europe. Alby Mangels who was travelling the world making documentary films was popular on tv back then and was my inspiration.
I was intending to head off on this trip on my own but then met Steve and he wanted to come along so our journey began. We arrived in Bali and it was so hot we quickly had to open our back packs and find our thongs and get rid of our jumpers and boots. We had no accommodation booked so this was the start of our $10 to $20 dollar a day budget. This was actually a silly idea looking back as Steve had not been overseas so he was in culture shock and we were being hassled for a tuk tuk and also everyone wanting us to stay at their accommodation. He was hot and not handling being hassled by everyone at all. There was one man Freddy who I think could see he was stressed so just talked quietly and we followed him to get away from the crowd. We stayed at his place down poppies lane it was cheap and really not very pretty. It was mostly full of local travellers and there was only 2 westerners Bernadette and Caroline from Holland who became our friends. Caroline had been living in Jakarta with her family and spoke Bahasa so she was great to hang out with to teach us the ropes. Our room was just a bed, squat toilet and shower and pretty run down it was in need of a good paint. In the morning you would get a thermos of tea and some bananas delivered to the small table outside your room. This was budget accommodation and once Steve got over the culture shock he started to embrace the Balinese and the culture and the start of our overseas journey began.
We travelled to Java by ferry and went overland on local buses which were often so crowded people were also travelling on the roof. The seats were small and so close together, certainly not designed for westerners with long legs. Often animals like chickens and roosters were also on board in bamboo baskets. It was always interesting and we had to stay alert to look after our possessions after my previous experience in Bali I was now much more careful. It was so bumpy and uncomfortable and hot with no air con back then just an open window. In one part of Sumatra the bus trip sounded too dangerous as the roads through the jungle were flooding in the wet season and stories of mud slides and buses going over the edge. The next section was going to be 5 to 6 days by bus through the jungle. We decided it may be safer to fly over this section. We took a Mandala Airlines flight however we have never been so happy to land. We flew in the biggest storm and thought we would be struck down by lightning. The plane was a small propeller plane and I serioulsly thought we were gonna die it was so bumpy with the sky lighting up and things moving in the cabin. Back then the locals bought so much excess luggage onto the plane that things were falling and moving which made it even more scary. We were so thankful to finally touch down and when we reached our accommodation we met a couple who had caught the same flight the day before us and they were actually struck by lightning and did think they were going to die.
We stayed at Lake Toba in gorgeous batik huts on the edge of the lake called Tuk Tuk Timble with no running water or power but so so pretty. You did your washing and bathing in the lake and at night we would sit on our veranda and watch the storms in the distance the lightning was like an amazing light show. This was our last stop in Indonesia and we then flew out of Medan for Malaysia, Thailand and then to Europe. On our way home we visited India, Sri Lanka and then back to Thailand and Bali as we loved it so much. We had left Australia with a one way ticket to Bali and returned home 14 months later with our last stop back in Bali Paradise. This was an amazing trip and such a great life experience.
The next trip to Bali was our honeymoon Steve and I got married in March 1985 and what better place to spend it than back in Bali and once again we had an fabulous trip and were known as “honeymooners” at the Blue Ocean Resort where we stayed.
After our honeymoon we had three beautiful children Jayden, Tess and Kale and money became tight as we had purchased a home and also an investment property. It was about 20 years before we returned to Bali again.
In 2006 I convinced Steve we needed to redraw on our mortgage to take an overseas family holiday as our oldest son was 18 years old. I felt soon he would no longer be holidaying with us as he would be off with his friends. It was on this family holiday that the seed was planted for Bali Abundance. My daughter sat next to a lady on the plane who was selling jewellery wholesale to country Victoria shops so we became interested in her story. Then at our resort there was a loud American man who was boasting about how much money he was making exporting clothes from Bali to America. He spent most of his time in Bali enjoying the Bali lifestyle. Not sure how accurate his stories were but he did get me thinking. I loved Bali so much that the thought of creating a business with Balinese people excited me. Steve was more excited about relaxing by the pool but I have an active mind and was constantly trying to think what I could sell. I had seen a buddha painting in the Moonee Ponds Frame Shop before I left that were quite expensive and I really liked this painting so that got me thinking maybe paintings could work. I started to bargain for buddha paintings on the beach and purchased a few then went searching for some more in the shops. I also bought a few metal buddha statues on the beach to try to sell. Our two youngest children Tess and Kale got sick towards the end of the trip so I did not get a chance to get any more paintings.
When I got home I went to the frame shop to see if I could sell my Bali Paintings and my Bali Homewares and to my surprise they were interested and bought everything I had and this tripled my money. This got me excited so with this money I decided I would reinvest this in more paintings. I had taken some photos of paintings I liked in a shop so I text the man from a number on his business card. I had not met him as he was in Java when I was in Bali. We both were a bit unsure about trust and if I sent him the money would he send the painting etc. After a few days of texting I decided to just send the money in full and trust he would send them and luckily he did do this and my small business began. Well sort of lol!! Again I headed off to framing shops but this time was not so lucky. When I look back now I had all buddha painting different colours and design but just buddhas all similar. I had some on consignment in some local gift shops and really got a bit disheartened and found myself making excuses like “I work full time I don’t have time to get to the shops to sell my painting etc.” The reality was, I did not like being knocked back as I was excited about this new venture but now it had taken the excitement out of it when no-one was interested to buy them.
I would say my business was put on hold until something happened in 2007 to get me out of that hole so stay tuned for the next episode to see how I got my passion back….
Click the link below to watch our video series Behind Bali Abundance