The importance of travel in our lives is the story you add to the story of your life. Some travel stories unfold before our eyes and write themselves into our lives.
Words by: Chris Parry
In Australian Aboriginal storytelling, there is a strong focus on the Dreamtime. These are the amazing stories about how the world was created and how animals came to sing, slither, jump or fly. There is a line in a song from an Aboriginal band called Yothu Yindi that refers to ‘Sunset Dreaming’ that says,
“It’s a story, planted in my mind, it’s so clear, I remember sunset dreaming”.
The world we live in is very different to the world we were living in two years ago. Recently, I’ve been doing my own sunset dreaming, thinking about the stories in my mind that are most important to me, the stories of my children. The best stories about my children are about the times we’ve spent together. I watched as Tom scored his first goal in hockey and I was so excited I ran onto the field and gave him a big hug and we tumbled over onto the grass. The umpire pulled a red carded on me and said,
“Parents are not allowed onto the field.”
I was there when Matilda flew in a Tiger Moth biplane, when she sailed away in a traditional three masted sailing ship and performed music recitals on her trumpet and performed as the lead singer for her rock band. These are the Dreamtime stories of my children. How they are formed and created. There’s another part of our Dreamtime that I have captured in my writing and radio stories but are locked in the past with an uncertainty about creating new stories.
I have been a fortunate father and fortunate traveller. I have spent time travelling. I have friends from cultures in other countries. I have eaten food I would never eat again and I have eaten food I long for again.
Quite a few years ago, we were staying at a resort in Bali that we loved very much and we made a decision one afternoon to do the rice planting activity. Many times we had seen the Balinese people working in terraced fields, planting and harvesting rice in the wet fields and hills of this island paradise.
We arranged with the resort to meet someone from their marketing staff who would take us to the rice fields used by the resort. This beautiful young Balinese woman arrived, dressed immaculately and laughing and hugging both of my children.
When we got into the field it was very muddy work and Tom was feeling a bit overwhelmed with the effort of lifting his little legs through the thick mud. Our new friend from marketing, Danti Yuliandari, quickly leapt into action and got into the mud as well. She helped Tom realise it was all for fun and a bit of mud wouldn’t ruin his holiday experience.
Jump forward a few years and Danti is now the Director of Marketing and Communications at Apurva Kempinski in Nusa Dua, Bali.
She is more important now than she was then and has even been requested by her government to present on hospitality strategies during the recovery from the pandemic but still enjoys spending time with her favourite Australian family. Her love of hugging Tom hasn’t gone away and I think Danti still enjoys jumping in to help people with problems just like she jumped into the mud to help Tom all those years ago.
In my Dreamtime, Tom and I visited Apurva Kempinski when it first opened and then about a year later we went back with the full family. We’ve seen how the resort has come together. We’ve seen how it was created not just with concrete but with heart. This is a resort that was built to tell the story of Bali and in so doing it provides staff and guests with an environment that is genuine and authentic in its efforts to marry luxury, culture, service and friendship.
Arrival at Apurva Kempinski is like no other. Beyond the grand and soaring spaces of the lobby area there are the Ladies in Red, the hallmark of Kempinski hotels around the world and the hallmark of memories when telling stories of great welcomes and great service.
The architecture is spectacular and immediately excites the senses upon your arrival but I’ve never returned to a resort because of the buildings, I’ve only returned because of the people. The Ladies in Red stand out because they are impeccably dressed and courteous but I think in both visits to Apurva Kempinski you could dress any of the staff in red and just call them, ‘Staff in Red’. This is because all the staff seek to engage you with a smile or conversation and there is a genuine feeling throughout the resort of pride in the resort and what it means not just to work there but to be a part of that complex process of making sure a guest is taken of, not just at reception or by the pool or at dinner but when they are waiting for the elevator, walking across the lawn or climbing those mighty steps that are inspired by the Besakih Temple.
It may be that in the stories still to unfold in the future, that is uncertain for all of us all over the world, that we will be able to have a sense of relief that things have returned to normal. It’s also possible that things won’t return to normal. It’s possible that the world has been changed forever but I think we still have many opportunities to shape it the way we want it to be.
I’m optimistic about the future. Maybe the era of the all you can eat and serve yourself buffet is over deserves to sink like a Munnar sunset over the hills laden with tea plantations. Maybe the era of small chef teams who cook private breakfast in your room is about to dawn like a beautiful Nusa Dua sunrise. Every problem is an opportunity. This is an opportunity to embrace ideas and explore and question why we love travel, why we love hospitality and why we want to survive.
They aren’t my words and many leaders have used them throughout history but they are so relevant right now; ‘The darkest hour is right before the dawn.’
Just as the sun blesses the terraced architecture of Apurva Kempinski each morning and blesses the staff with its warm rays of hope, so too must we accept that warmth as the energy required to not only get through another day but to make a difference each day.
Apurva Kempinski is spectacular. I felt when it was first built that what it did so well was connect to the story of Bali. Its design is inspired by the natural and cultural elements of Bali. It’s a resort that immediately feels alive and feels part of the environment around it.
As I’ve described in Just Urbane previously, I’ve climbed Mount Agung on two occasions. This 3000m active volcano is alive and to the Balinese people it represents more than just being the highest point on the island. It provides the source of life on the island itself by affecting the local climate, generating clouds that produce water that make the island soil so fertile.
Reaching the summit of Mount Agung is only half the challenge. Descending a mountain is just as dangerous as the ascent and often takes longer to achieve. Just like the pandemic, we still have a long way to go before we’re safely at the bottom of this challenge. If we stay connected, remember to be inspired by the good times and see the problems as opportunities then our future is safe, bright and exciting.
This is a very different travel story isn’t it? I could have described the comfort of the rooms, the meals in all of the restaurants that provided incredible dining experiences not just for adults but for children as well. I could have written pages about the swimming pools and listening to little Tom sit at the bar chatting with the staff about Marvel comic characters and watching Matilda try and focus on her meal in Koral, the world renowned aquarium restaurant, as a shark drifts by, sliding up the glass just centimetres away from her.
I have never known a resort quite like Apurva Kempinski. It is a resort that is grand yet intimate. It could be overwhelming but instead it is open and welcoming just like a traditional Balinese home with open spaces and smiles wherever you look.
As you sit in an open air setting overlooking the resort and the sea to the east, sipping from a selection of spicy and refreshing Jamu, remember to not only relax but know that your Jamu is rejuvenating your mind and body with cleansing and energy rich vitamins and minerals.
In the personal Dreamtime stories of my family, we have been rejuvenated by our experiences at Apurva Kempinski. We have reconnected from our busy lives of work and school in Australia and come together at this island resort that is connected to its community and inspired by its culture and environment.
Wherever your favourite place is and wherever your friends are in the world, I’m sure you will see them again. We will all come together again. I know it. We all have an Apurva Kempinski in our lives that was created to tell a story and there is much more of the story to be told.