Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Paradise Paradox.

Having just returned from Bali for a regional conference, my thoughts are naturally dwelling on the whole concept of paradise and how it could be defined today.

Bali is an island that occupies a special place in the popular imagination. But, nice as it is, it’s become just a bit too everyday to really qualify as heaven.

I envy the people like Walter Spies or Geoffrey Bawa who discovered Bali before the Australian tour groups and busloads of Korean golfers. They would have been truly blown away by the discovery of somewhere totally different.

Today, Bali is a great place for a holiday, but nothing else - a place just like many others, with stylish hotels, good weather, and a selection of fine Italian restaurants. It’s a lovely place, but the sense of magic can never remain for long when around the next corner is a Peppermint Frappucino and Java Chip Muffin waiting for you.

I wonder if there is somewhere on this earth that would have the same effect today as Bali had in the 1930s: remote enough to be totally free from any reminders of home.

That’s the key. No triggers, no mental association with everyday life. Nothing to bring you back to reality from your holiday-induced dream state. If I see a Starbucks logo every day on my scoot to work, then if I see one on holiday then of course there is bound to be some detrimental effect on my mental state, however small. The ideal holiday discovery needs to be a place where you see different signs, read a different alphabet, eat different food, with no visual reminders whatsoever of the existence you left behind for a week. And yet with an indigenous culture of beauty - just like the Balinese can boast.

Where could this possibly be? Somewhere in Africa? Central Asia, somewhere west of China? Somewhere in the Himalayas north of India?

There has to be somewhere. Globalisation is fine by me, but if it interferes with my enjoyment of my holidays then something must be done.

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