Crafted and cu­rated to per­fec­tion

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

On hol­i­day in Bali a fort­night ago, a ho­tel’s “leisure concierge” ac­com­pa­nied me on a “tai­lored” shop­ping ex­cur­sion around the hot new shop­ping precincts. What fun it was, es­pe­cially as our ve­hi­cle was thought­fully equipped with roof racks sturdy enough to stow, say, a dozen batik bed­spreads. Ev­ery­thing is “tai­lored” these days in the funny old world of tourism and hos­pi­tal­ity and rarely does it in­volve a nee­dle and thread. Ditto for be­spoke, which is no longer the pre­serve of Lon­don’s Sav­ile Row.

I had a be­spoke break­fast omelette in Bali, too, which means it was “cus­tomised” just for me by re­mov­ing the ba­con and adding chilli. You can just imag­ine the staff train­ing man­ual. This agree­able “out­come” would have been “fa­cil­i­tated” af­ter my “en­gage­ment” with the waiter, aka the “ser­vice ex­ecu­tor”.

The leisure concierge no doubt re­ported di­rect each cheery morn to the “cul­tural en­gi­neer”, the traf­fic-con­troller chap with the Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble head­set who over­saw ev­ery as­pect of the ho­tel’s 24/7 “guest de­liv­ery ex­cel­lence”. My hol­i­day was full of crafts­men and ar­ti­sans, too, and not one of them had a tool kit or, say, a pot­ter’s wheel. Sight­see­ing tours were hand-crafted, the bricks at an al­most-fin­ished ho­tel were ar­ti­san-made. In ho­tels, bars and beach clubs, menus were “cu­rated” by culi­nary “creatives” and mixol­o­gists. When a ly­chee mar­tini I had or­dered failed to ma­te­ri­alise, the lovely young wait­ress whis­pered to me that it was “still un­der con­struc­tion”. I looked across to the bar, half-ex­pect­ing to see heavy earth-mov­ing equip­ment. The or­ganic free- range mixol­o­gist en­gaged me with a wave, I think, but it was so hard to tell in the half-light.

Oh, yes, the light­ing. At one re­sort, path­ways and gar­dens were so poorly il­lu­mi­nated that guests could ven­ture forth at night only if armed with a torch or iPhone app. Around din­ner time, the whole es­tate flicker-flashed as if colonised by fire­flies. The owner claimed it was all about “at­mos­phere” and seemed as­ton­ished that guests would in­con­ve­niently twist their an­kles or de­mand stan­dard lamps be brought to their cab­ins so they could read in bed or find the patchouli-scented mac­ro­bi­otic soap.

Ah, patchouli. Retro is all the rage but it is dis­con­cert­ing to re­alise the 1980s are back, when it seems like yes­ter­day that we farewelled shoul­der pads and pow­er­charged hair. Who knew we should have kept those Marimekko cur­tains? Even tiki bars are fash­ion­able again, all lava stone, glass floats and lurid drinks served in chopped-top pineap­ples and co­conuts.

At the al­most-fin­ished ho­tel, the ar­ti­sans were up at spar­row’s yawn en­gag­ing with their bricks, fin­ish­ing the top-storey gue­strooms and ter­races. The noise of hand­craft­ing was tremen­dous, in­volv­ing saws and drills and jack­ham­mers. But it didn’t mat­ter as there was a beach to be walked along, heart-starter cof­fees to be en­joyed at sun­rise, and long, full and en­joy­able days ahead, try­ing to avoid us­ing cre­ative as a noun, side-step­ping dis­carded hula maiden swiz­zle-sticks, and be­ing care­ful not to re­cline too long in lob­bies and bars. So easy, you see, at a cer­tain age, just to dis­ap­pear into the mid-cen­tury decor.

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