Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How Green is My Bali

FEW DESTINATIONS HAVE BENEFITED FROM MODERN TOURISM QUITE LIKE BALI. BUT WHEN YOU SELL CULTURE FOR PROFIT, ASKS JOHN BOWE, CAN YOU REMAIN TRUE TO YOURSELF?

I have a neighbor named Richard. He’s a prime example of what I call a Baby Boomer Bummer. Richard was a globe-trotter in the late ’60s and ’70s, before exotic travel became popular with the masses. When I pass him in the hall with my suitcase, he always asks where I’m going — then interrupts to wax euphoric about how much better my destination was back in his day. Evidently, food and sex were not only free, but better and unlimited.
When I told Richard I was going to Bali, I braced myself for the worst. Few places provoke baby-boomer rhapsody like this Indonesian island. It makes them so sad: hundreds if not thousands of years of cultural evolution undone by a few decades of modern, Western-style development, much of it of the globalized luxury persuasion. But this has always struck me as a na├»ve, not to mention selfish, point of view. Yes, of course, Bali was a different place before it had a Four Seasons, a Hard Rock Hotel, two million tourists a year, terrorist bombings and so on. And, of course, at some level I — like all travelers — want every quaint corner of the world to remain untouched. Yet whom does t

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