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What To Do When Faced With A Life-Changing Decision: Build A Luxury Villa In Bali!

By : Stacie Broek (Discover Out Loud)

From New York, to London, to Zürich to Tokyo and all of the stops in-between, I have always felt that one of the most enriching facets of my life is the diversity of the people I meet.

They come with varied backgrounds, cultures, interests and dreams. Some exotic and others mainstream.

"And they all have real and vivid stories to tell."

The people I tend to meet have all had handfuls of experiences, which have brought them to that very place in life. That is the story I find intriguing.

When I met Nilesh and Audrey, the founders and owners of the luxury rentals company Villa Seriska Bali, I was instantly drawn to them. They were relaxed and happy. They were confident. They were welcoming and sweet and I immediately wanted to know more about them.

During my stay in Bali, I had the pleasure to sit poolside at Villa Seriska Satu Sanur and chat with them about their life, their business and their journey.

It turns out that that calmness they were vibing comes directly from the fact that they are exactly where they want to be in life and never look back at the decisions which brought them here.

Ten years ago, Nilesh and Audrey found themselves in a less than perfect life situation and had the gumption and the bravado to take a leap and make a change.

No stranger to hard work, success and failure, Nilesh has a degree in Economics and had started up businesses in far away places like Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. He is confident in his risks and calculated in his approach.

"Today, the elegant duo admits that they’ve never worked harder and never been happier."

What was a typical workday like for you before you moved to Bali?

Like many people in the corporate world, we were working six days a week, eight – nine – ten hours per day. I was the CEO of a language training school start-up in China and business was booming.

When I graduated from college, we were telexing – not texting! Now, business is competitive and global.

We worked under huge amounts of stress, with all of the pressures of the modern life.

Can you pinpoint the moment that you decided to make a change?

Absolutely. We were a growing, thriving business. In two and a half years, with limited resources, we had built fifteen language schools in China.

But, at the end of 2008, we found ourselves in the middle of an economic stress in China and around the globe. In an uncertain environment, spending becomes more conservative and nice-to-have add-ons such as English training, suffers. So business got stressful. Costs were hard to cover.
We had already found the villa in Sanur (Bali), which was standing empty. We built a simple website and had received a few holiday bookings. So, on some level we knew we had a potential.

Something happens, your mind is perhaps toying with this idea and then there is a catalyst, which is the tipping point. So, we made the decision to leave China and moved permanently to Bali.

What were your considerations?

Our first and most serious consideration was income. We knew we could make something – we wouldn’t starve. And we didn’t have to be well off but we wanted to enjoy life. We believed in the business and believed that we were taking an educated risk as we had already seen a rental potential. It was only a matter of “how”?

Thru our experiences – both successes and failures – we believed we had an advantage. We knew we would learn from our mistakes.

One of the biggest mistakes I have always made is expanding too fast. When you do this, it is like a house of cards. It can all fall down. This time, I am more careful. In the ten years we are here, we only have 5 villas. We could have more, we certainly have the infrastructure and the know-how, but we want a nice pace.

Did you make a plan?

Not as such. We made a decision more than a plan. We made a decision particularly due to historical pressures in our lives. We wanted balance. We built slowly. After the first villa in Sanur, we found three others in derelict condition in Semiyak, which we renovated and now manage.

We grew our staff from two people to twenty-five solid, committed team members. And then we grew again, by building another villa in Sanur. Each step we’ve taken has been laced with an underlying promise to deliver service at the highest level.

What challenges have you faced?

Tourism in Bali has enjoyed double-digit growth recently, so competition increases as the business becomes more interesting. So, it’s again a question of “how”? How should we change? We know that if we are not flexible and look for change, we will be closed.

We are always open for and adapting to new business models. For example, we’ve just built and opened a five-bedroom villa in Jimbaran, in collaboration with very old friends of ours from Malaysia. We manage the rental when the family is out of the country and open the villa for them when they return. Likewise, we need to invest in areas we do not know. I know marketing. I have a long background here. But, it is moving and evolving so quickly that I know I have to invest in this area or be left behind.

Where are you in executing your life plan? Does this match your initial vision?

We don’t have a typical business plan, no five – ten – twenty year road map. We have a life plan and it is a question of seeing how it goes. We know we have to be flexible and adapt. At the end of the day, we are foreigners in Bali and things can change. We want to stay as long as possible, but have to be flexible.

In terms of building the business, we still feel we can build a few more villas and keep the personal feel, as well as a manageable cost base. Last month when the volcano became active, bookings stopped for a couple of weeks. When I don’t get bookings for a couple weeks, I know I am in trouble. If the volcano goes and we have a long-term problem with dust clouds, etc. we will suffer. So, we are conservative.

If everything runs smoothly, we can see perhaps five to seven more villas. We still want to enjoy the Bali life.

What advice would you give anyone who is thinking of making a life change?

I talk to my friends from Uni and some complain that they want to change their lifestyle. The problem is, it is not that easy. I always ask, are you at the right time of your life to do this? You must be at the right time for you. How open to risk are you? It is always a risk (to start over), but it should be an educated one. And, finally, if you are not flexible you will fail.

How has your life improved through your experiences?

People don’t believe us when we say this, but we are still working ten hours a day. Perhaps three to four hours intensely and the rest is relaxed. I might get an inquiry at ten o’clock at night that have to follow up on it, but our time is ours. We don’t have stress like we had before. Here, we have blue sky, nice environment and smiling people. It is not a job. It is a pleasure. It’s a lifestyle. And almost the perfect balance of life.

We have the chance to meet so many different people. People who are on holiday and have come to relax. They are happy. We get joy from seeing the guests’ reaction when they see the villa. It is a big joy showing guests their rooms and seeing the smiles on their faces when they see the master bathrooms. This is more than earning money. This is satisfaction.

What does a typical day look like for you now?

We develop each villa, but once it is up and running, the team takes over the day to day operations and we focus on the marketing and finance. Of course, we try to welcome every single guest when they arrive and perhaps one other time during their visit. We are always available for emergencies, but Putra, our property manager handles all guest relations during their stay.

For the most part, we work within our own agenda. We have the chance to take the dog for a walk on the beach or to go to visit friends and relatives. We can work from anywhere on our computers. But if we’re away and cannot say a personal say hello to a guest, we apologise ahead of time. It is a perfect balance of life.

Last question, where does a couple based in the Island of the Gods go on holiday?

We love culture, food, history and nice people. We have a lot to look forward to – our plan is to travel and to see the world. We go to London a lot to see my parents who are older. Our favourite in Europe is northern Italy. Last year, we met some friends in Italy and then went skiing in Switzerland with them. We have many friends in Australia, Audrey loves Japan and Korea, Malaysia is like a second home me and Audrey luckily Audrey likes it too. We haven’t been to Canada together so that’s on the list. Scandinavia we would love to go to see the Northern Lights.

We have many plans!

[read more]

Bali named as world's best tourist destination for 2017

Famous for its volcanic mountains, iconic beaches and coral reefs, Indonesia's resort island of Bali has topped TripAdvisor's best destination list for 2017. The crowd-sourced travel guide has named it the best tourist destination for the first time despite being a popular travel hotspot for many years. The Indonesian island was described as a favourite destination for both adventurers and those in need of a little relaxation, with its white beaches, great diving and dense jungle treks contributing to its popularity.

The Awards also highlight current travel trends. Last year, London took the first place, but this year it dropped to the second position. Unsurprisingly, given its enormous cultural impact, history, cuisine and number of spectacular landmarks, Paris has been a mainstay on TripAdvisor's destination awards for years and is on the third spot this year. The city of Rome moved three notches up to take fourth position. Elsewhere, New York continues to be popular with global travellers, climbing four places to fifth position.

"We're excited to reveal our community's favourite travel destinations for 2017 and recognize these iconic places with Travellers' Choice awards," said Barbara Messing, chief marketing officer for TripAdvisor in a press release.

Award winners were determined using an algorithm that took into account the quantity and quality of reviews and ratings for hotels, restaurants and attractions across destinations worldwide, gathered over a 12-month period.

Here is the complete list of traveller's destination choice according to TripAdvisor:

1. Bali, Indonesia
2. London, United Kingdom
3. Paris, France
4. Rome, Italy
5. New York City, United States
6. Crete, Greece
7. Barcelona, Spain
8. Siem Reap, Cambodia
9. Prague, Czech Republic
10.Phuket, Thailand

Tourism to Bali continues to accelerate

Bali, the Island of the Gods, continues to enjoy healthy growth in international visitor arrivals which increased 23.2% year on year on growth as at YTD July 2017 to reach 3.4 million. All of the top ten source markets to Bali registered notable increases in demand except for Australia (-1.1%) and Malaysia (-5.7%). Albeit from lower volumes, significant growth was also registered from Russia (+62.9%), Canada (+28.2%) and the Philippines (+23.8%). At this pace, international visitor arrivals are expected to exceed the 5.5 million target set by the government.

Mainland China was the top tourist market for Bali, accounting for 26.3% of all international visitor arrivals. Mainland Chinese arrivals were up by 57.4% year on year. Second to Mainland China is Australia, which accounts for 18.9% of total arrivals, followed by India with 4.6% of the total. Arrivals from India enjoyed a notable increase of 44.0% y-o-y. Other major markets enjoying double digit growth are South Korea (+24.6%), USA (+19.4%), Germany (+18.6%) and the UK (+14.0%).

Recent improvements in air connectivity and new flight routes, notably from Europe and several Chinese cities, to Ngurah Rai International Airport have helped to support the strong growth in international tourism arrivals. Indonesia is targeting 15 million international tourists in 2017, and Bali is expected to account for around 40% of these as it remains the prime destination for foreign tourists.

Some great reasons to come to Bali in October/November !

If you want to experience the Balinese culture and religious festivals, late October and early November is the perfect time to visit Bali:

Galungan and Kuningan is a Balinese holiday that occurs every 210 days and lasts for 10 days. Kuningan is the last day of the holiday. Following are the details of days that lead up to the celebration of Galungan and Kuningan falls on November 2017.

Sugian Jawa falls on October 26’ 2017

Six days before Galungan Day which falls on Thursday (Wrespathi). It is the day to purify ‘Bhuwana Agung’ (bhuwana means world; agung means big), the day when Gods and Goddesses accompanied by holy ancestral spirits (pitara) come down to earth to bless the universe. On this day, Pengerebon offering and puspa wewangian (fragrance flowers) are dedicated to the Gods and holy ancestral spirits in the family shrines.

Sugian Bali falls on October 27’ 2017

Five days before Galungan Day which falls on Friday (Sukra). It is the day to purify ‘Bhuwana Alit’ (alit means small) or human’s body and soul. During this day, Balinese people purify themselves by praying and concentrating minds to God Almighty. On this day, it is suggested to visit temples for praying and learning more deeply about the holy book of Weda.

Saniscara Umanis Sungsang falls on October 28’ 2017

Four days before Galungan Day which falls on Saturday (Saniscara). It is the day to prepare the celebration of Galungan Day, the day to prepare mentally and physically in peace, patience, alertness and devotion. On this day, the women usually make ‘banten’ (offering made of young coconut leaves, flowers, and others).

Penyekeban / Penapean falls on October 29’ 2017

Three days before Galungan Day which falls on Sunday (Redite). It is the day when Balinese people start meditation (yoga semadhi). It is believed that on this day, Sang Kala Tiga Wisesa or Bhuta Galungan is around humans to seduce them to do bad things.

This day is called ‘Penyekeban’ because on this day, people start to make cakes and keep the banana to be used as offerings on Galungan Day. The word ‘penyekeban’ is derived from ‘sekeb’ which means ‘keep’.

This day is also called ‘Penapean’ which is derived from ‘tape’. On this day, the women make ‘tape’, a typical food for Galungan celebration, which is made of slightly fermented rice or tubers.

Penyajaan Galungan falls on October 30’ 2017

Two days before Galungan Day which falls on Monday (Soma). The word ‘Penyajaan’ is derived from ‘jaja’ which means ‘cake’. On this day, various cakes in shapes and colors are made for offerings.

Penampahan falls on October 31’ 2017

One day before Galungan Day which falls on Tuesday (Anggara). The word ‘Penampahan’ is derived from ‘tampah’ which means ‘slaughter’. It is the day when people slaughter their bad behaviors, bad thoughts, bad manners and bad words which is symbolized by slaughtering animals for offerings, mostly pig.

It is believed that the hardest seduction from Bhuta Amangkurat occurs on this day. Therefore, Bhuta Yadnya (holy sacrifice) is done for the harmonic balance between the visible and the invisible world.

On this day, people also should make ‘penjor’, a bamboo pole beautifully decorated by young coconut leaves and various ornaments. It is put up in front of every house and building, symbolizing the great Mount Agung, and the presence of God Almighty. Various leaves, plantations, crops, fruits and traditional cakes in diverse shapes and colors beautify the bamboo pole which means that every element of the world is represented in ‘penjor’. It also shows the gratitude upon God Almighty because all things available on earth come from God.

Galungan falls on November 1’ 2017

Galungan Day, which falls on Wednesday (Buda), is a joyful day to celebrate the victory of goodness (dharma) against evil (adharma). On this day, offerings and praying are made to God and holy ancestral spirits who come down to earth. People who live in the city usually go to their hometown to visit their family and the elders.

Umanis Galungan falls on November 2’ 2017

One day after Galungan Day which falls on Thursday (Wrespati). It is the celebration day, the day to enjoy the blessings. The offerings are taken out from the shrines and the people may enjoy the offerings of fruits and cakes. It is also the day to visit family, relatives or friends, to apologize for anything that may went wrong as well as to forgive others’ mistakes.

In some areas in Bali, there is a tradition of ‘ngelawang’ (art performance around village) which usually features ‘barong ket’ or ‘barong landung’.

Pahing Galungan falls on November 3’ 2017

Two days after Galungan Day which falls on Friday (Sukra). It is the day when Balinese people are still in alert with pure heart. During this day, people pray in temples or family shrines.

Pamaridan Guru falls on November 4’ 2017

Three days after Galungan Day which falls on Saturday (Saniscara). It is the day when Gods and Goddess return to heaven, accompanied by the holy ancestral spirits (pitara). It is the day when God bestows prosperity to mankind. On this day, Balinese people do tirtha yatra (visit to temples), making offerings and prayers.

Ulihan falls on November 5’ 2017

Four days after Galungan which falls on Sunday (Redite). It is the day when Balinese people honor the holy ancestral spirits (pitara) who has left earth and continue their duty to fight for the truth (dharma). On this day, people concentrate their mind to God Almighty and to holy ancestral spirits, asking for blessing and keeping away from disasters or bad things.

Pemacekan Agung falls on November 6’ 2017

Five days after Galungan Day or five days before Kuningan Day which falls on Monday (Soma). The word ‘pemacekan’ is derived from 'pacek' which means the middle. On this day, Balinese people are in the middle of the purity of the heart. It is the day to pray for good will and the purity of the heart. As this day is considered as the highlight of holiness, Segehan Agung (big offering) is put in front of the main gate.

Anggara Umanis Kuningan falls on November 7’ 2017

Four days before Kuningan Day which falls on Tuesday (Anggara). It is the day when Balinese people do various preparations for the upcoming Kuningan Day.

Pujawali Bhatara Wisnu falls on November 8’ 2017

Three days before Kuningan Day which falls on Wednesday (Buda). It is the day when the protector of the universe, God Wisnu, comes down to earth. On this day, Balinese people worship God Wisnu, the Great Preserver of the Universe, for the protection of the world.

Penyajaan Kuningan falls on November 9’ 2017

Two days before Kuningan Day which falls on Thursday (Wrespati). It is a preparation day for Kuningan.

Penampahan Kuningan falls on November 10’ 2017

One day before Kuningan Day which falls on Friday (Sukra). It is the day to do various preparations especially the offerings for the religious celebration of Kuningan Day.

Tumpek Kuningan falls on November 11’ 2017

Kuningan, which falls on Saturday (Saniscara), is the day when Gods and Goddesses accompanied by the holy ancestral spirits (pitara) come down to earth again to bless the people and the universe. It is believed that they will return to heaven in the midday.
On this day, Balinese people do self-introspection by doing a meditation for human's prosperity. Segehan Agung (big offering) is put on the house yard and offerings for the family members are also served.

If the above sounds interesting, why not come and stay at Villa Seriska and we will help you enjoy these festivals. If you make a booking to stay at any of our villas before the end of November 2017 and book directly with us, please mention "festival season” and we will give you and your family/friends a complementary Balinese traditional dinner for free during your stay with us :)