Diane and Beth, proprietors of Taman Rahasia Hotel "The Secret Garden" Boutique Resort Spa & Restaurant Diane, from Florida, stresses that she wasn't trying to get away from something as much as coming To something when she made her move to Bali in 1994.
Two years ago, daughter Beth joined her and together the two built the 8-room hotel Taman Rahasia. Diane says, "Bali attracts a high percentage of creative types - artists, writers, and designers. Living here," she says, "has allowed me to express myself in ways that I never knew I could."
I ask the women to talk about some of the challenges of living in Bali.
"I've heard plenty of stories about people who came here with their western thinking intact and were thoroughly disillusioned," Diane says. "The different concept of time, what we call rubber time, is a big one."
Beth adds, "It's key to remember, that no matter how long you're here, you're always a guest in this country." "Are there any gaps in services which might be filled by someone interested in starting a business in Bali?" I ask.
Diane says, "We could use a good deli." Beth adds, "Or a good bookshop. But you can successfully run an "old" business if you add a unique twist."
I ask them about the high number of single western women who live in Bali, many with Balinese partners.
Beth says, "Women are attracted to Bali because they are safe here. You can be walking alone through the rice fields in pitch black with a man walking right behind you sharpening a long curved knife, and you know he's just a man going home from work in the rice fields."
"What is the biggest difference between life in the U.S. and life in Bali?"
Beth says, "We have so many attachments to things we think we have to have. Living here you realize how complicated we make our lives, and yet how simply and well you can live."
Diane says, "I just bought my first TV a few months ago, and that was just so that we could watch videos."
"Would you recommend Bali to everyone?" I ask them.
Diane says, "You have to be a person who is not attached to things and people. Those who come here tend to be people who let life lead them rather than trying to control it. The Balinese don't have a word for future - they don't think about tomorrow the way we do. And the truth is, we don't know. If change is hard for you and if you have big control issues, you don't belong here."
Martial, 42, from France, owner of the Highway Internet Cafe and PT Bali Kreasi Bisnis Martial's expertise, in addition to the computer business, is land and property acquisition and all things visa-related in Bali. He also has a software and printing business. Martial left France and a prospering real estate business because he says,"I worked like an animal to make 600,000 francs a year ($100,000 U.S) but the government took 425,000 of that in taxes!"
"I work with many foreigners who come here expecting to make a fortune. The problem is that while building costs are low, land is very expensive. With 250 million rupiah ($25,000U.S), you can build a very nice house with marble, fine wood, and a pool. But land costs are between 100 million to 200 million rupiah per era. ($10,000 to $20,000 U.S. It takes about two era to build a typical house.) And so foreigners come to this beautiful island and they hear, 'Darling don't you want to build a house on my land?' So you build a house on the land of your boyfriend and after five months or two years, your boyfriend says, 'It's over.' Who is the owner of the house then? The owner of the land."
"Only an Indonesian can own land in Indonesia. On the other hand, the highest right that a foreigner can have here is a lease agreement - a contract which allows you to build on leased land for 25 years and can be renewed another 25 years. After that the land and whatever is on it belongs to the landowner. In my business we provide not only guidance, but loan and lease agreements to secure acquisitions."
"There is one way a foreigner can purchase land and that is to create a PMA, or a foreign company. It costs some money and is a complicated process, but it can be done. However, you will still be a foreigner in Indonesia without the same rights as Indonesians."
"Is now a good time to invest in Bali?" I ask Martial.
"I will say one thing; there is only one Bali in the world. And so if you buy a piece of Bali, it is likely that it will appreciate in value."
Excerpted from "Let It Go And Let Bali: Looking At The Expatriate Scene In Bali" in Escape From America Magazine, Issue 40.