Bali in Imagination

Bali in Imagination


“There is something very special about Bali...

...and special about Uluwatu Lace.”


I know, because I wrote those lines and used them in marketing for Uluwatu Boutiques for years. They were very effective.

I created a whole world around them, a vision of an idealized Bali, and tourists loved it.

At the center of it I created a fictional character—named after my wife, Ni Made Jati—who courageously founded and built Uluwatu Boutiques with her sisters through years of hard work. The entire story of the Uluwatu marketing campaign can be found HERE.

The story is fictious, of course, but through the events related in Eleven Demons the story became real, and as it turns out, it was not so hard to do. All of us—expatriate and Balinese alike—want to believe so much in a place like Bali.


Bali really is a special case

But Bali really is a special case if we consider legal problems. Throughout Indonesian legal institutions Bali is often regarded as the most corrupt, collusive, and resistant to oversight from the reform commissions in Jakarta.

The reasons are clear; we discussed them earlier in the Mafia Hukum. A tremendous amount of money flows into Bali, both legally from tourists and expatriates eager to invest, and illegally from money laundering and narcotics.

The investors don’t speak Indonesian, don’t understand Indonesian law, and are uniquely naive and ready to believe.


Bali as we would like it to be...

Bali is

  • spiritual,
  • creative,
  • trendy,
  • safe,
  • artistic,
  • honest,
  • natural,
  • eco-conscious,
  • friendly,
  • stylish,
  • sensual...

or whatever else you like.

And because Bali is so special, everyone who visits Bali wants a little piece of it, to experience a special smile, to meet a special person, to receive a special insight into a world of spirit closed to us in our ordinary life .

We want to believe. But what we end up believing isn’t Bali; it is a world of our own making, a reflection of ourselves.

Can’t we buy a little of that?

That’s what makes us such easy victims; we come along willingly.


It broke my heart...

I have been ripped off by a driver I hired while in Bali.

This exchange appeared recently in my LinkedIn group forum:

David: He emailed after I returned home and offered to ship me some Bali coffee. I never received the coffee after I sent him the money via Western Union. He then began begging me for more money claiming his son was sick. I have this person’s address, email, phone, a photo of him and his employers information. Should I report him to the police in Bali? Is there any hope of getting my money back? I feel duped. He was very friendly in Bali and seemed honest.

Desley Keys: Dear David, I have lived in Bali for 20 years and have operated my own sourcing company here to Western standards of accountability. I continue to be amazed at the number of visitors that trust drivers and “friends of friends” they have just met to handle business for them. In the West, would you EVER talk to a cab driver about your business intentions and send money to their personal account? For some reason, people coming to Bali do it in a heart-beat without using any of their usual common sense. The police will not help you and neither will his employers. There is no law here as we know it from back home. Sorry to say that one of the reasons being a driver is a good job here is because of the opportunity to schmooze gullible foreigners. Their friendly attitude and luminous smile goes a long way. If you need assistance with any future projects, I would be happy to help you. Of course, I charge a fee but I have an office, staff and follow the right principles. In the end, employing people who do this sort of work reputably saves you money and headaches in the long run.

David: After we returned home a friend said she was approached by a tour guide about his daughter's school tuition and wanted $300.00 or more to help out since he was so “poor”. I wonder just how poverty stricken these shysters really are? My driver even took me to his home to show me how bad his living conditions were. It broke my heart: one room, small TV, no furniture to speak of and I met his wife who was skinny and wore what looked like second hand clothes. Being American I was grief stricken and decided to help the guy make a little money on the side. I feel like a sucker of course but these people were destitute. Thank you Desley for setting the record straight.