Over the years, I’ve come to love Bali. The island has given me creative sanctuary when I’ve needed inspiration to complete my writing projects, or generously granted me asylum from stress while I put myself back together. It’s a place to work, and heal.
During these recent summers in Bali, I rekindled my passion for handmade jewellery, a hobby I adored as a teenager and considered much too seldom in my adolescence and young adulthood. I started dabbling in producing small batch artisan silver and semi precious stone gem jewellery, handmade by Balinese silversmiths in Celuk. I was thrilled with the results.
There’s a creative spirit that lives in Bali’s electric green rice paddies and inspires its people, and anyone willing to be touched by its pure energy. It’s difficult to articulate why one is more creatively charged in Bali, that’s just how it is.
No matter where I went in Asia; Thailand, Sri Lanka, Vietnam – I never found the perfect balance of serene coastlines, rustic countryside, urban conveniences, wonderfully affordable living, great restaurants and a thriving creative community in one place.
However, living in Bali is far from an orientalist fantasy. Day to day life moves at a familiar pace, it’s modern, and it has its downsides. Like late evening traffic and unnerving interactions that disrupt one’s sense of confidence from time to time. But Bali still holds more of the good things in life and fewer of the bad than any place in Asia.
Weekend getaways to ubiquitous fishing villages and splendid small islands are a gratifying delight, without being intoxicatingly exotic to the traveller’s palate. There’s an ease of which life flows harmoniously with the pulse of the island. It makes so much sense.
Bali’s artisan hub
Ubud is Bali’s heart of creativity, and the headquarters of the Bali Centre for Artistic Creativity and the annual Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. The district is home to a thriving concentration of working local and international artists, and unique galleries filled with primitive art and modern works.
Detour off the main thoroughfare and you’ll stumble upon small neighboring artisan villages where painting canvas and batik has been a way of life for centuries. In Tegallalang, you’ll find homewares and antique reproduction wholesalers, while Mas is known for woodwork and Celuk for silversmiths. In Campuan and Kedewatan you’ll find handmade leather goods.
For custom orders, bring plenty of examples and your own raw materials when it comes to semi precious stones and leather. The craftsmanship is never in question, however, the quality of leather can be underwhelming and good stones are hard to find in Bali.
The funny thing about the creative profession is the introvert’s need for complete solitude to create, and the opposite extrovert’s necessity to connect with peers to ignite ideas and solve perplexing problems.
In Bali, you’ll find an inspiring group of writers, photographers, fashion designers and gallery owners who make Bali their spiritual home. The creative community on the island is made up of expats in their 30s and 40s, many of which have families unlike the younger backpacker crowd on post colonial nostalgia trips, which tends to make a place too transient.
Thriving shopping district
The shopping scene in Seminyak and Ubud has never been more vibrant. Shelves are stocked with an abundant array of unique handmade items, stylish clothes and quality homewares. The boutiques change, editing themselves through a natural process that’s governed by consumer demand.
If you’ve always dreamt of owning a boutique, then Bali offers unbeatable rental rates, even along the main shopping strips. These days, however, you can afford being set off the beaten path as long as you have a great website that people can find online – they will come looking for you on foot.
A diverse mixture of expats, seasoned travellers and first time tourists also makes for a real time market research laboratory. Very quickly, you’ll be able to determine which Balinese treasures you can successfully take to market overseas.
Proximity to Asian and Australian markets
In a world of fast-fashion and mass produced goods that fall apart like a cheap suit, consumers are starting to wake up from the “cheap but good” fantasy. They’re looking for the middle ground between well made and affordable. They’re looking for interesting products, crafted with care and the allure of a unique creative proposition.
Those markets are well established in Australia, and on the rise in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong. Markets that are merely a few hours away from Bali where you can distribute your wares to local shops and boutiques.
Everyone needs a healthy work-life balance, whether they realize it or not. And while this is something that’s become a non-negotiable standard in Australia and Europe, it’s far less common in Asia’s emerging capitals where the iron is hot, and the competition to strike is gruelling.
There’s a lot to be said about overpopulation in Asia; the growing pains of an emerging economy where the horizon holds so much economic prosperity and threatens socioeconomic divide at the same time. Who’s got time to catch a few waves in the ocean at noon on a weekday when they’re consumed by that revolting rat race?
In Bali, things are done differently than the rest of Asia. People here think of their lives differently. They value creativity and spirituality, and their collective consciousness of these values draws like-minded people, investors and entrepreneurs. They are lifestyle capitalists who respect Bali’s ancient traditions and seek to harness and enhance Bali’s eclectic ecosystem, rather than detract from it.