$600m Lombok Resorts Scrapped

Citing governmental paralysis and hinting that too many officials had their hands out, Dubai’s state-owned Emaar Properties PJSC has cancelled its massive $600 million property project that was to turn the pristine island of Lombok into another Bali.

“We have closed our office in Jakarta starting Friday,” said Elly Savitri, Emmar Indonesia’s human resources manager. “Emaar has pulled out of its operations in Indonesia because the government cannot comply with the terms of the agreement with our joint venture company.

“There have been too many delays on the realization of the project and the company just could not wait any more.”

Elly also said Emaar had spent Rp 50 billion ($4.2 million) in consultancy fees on master plans.

Winarno Sujas, the Tourism Ministry’s director for businesses and investment, told the Jakarta Globe on Friday that Vice President Jusuf Kalla had summoned the related ministries for a meeting this coming Wednesday in a bid to save the project.

The cancellation of the project — announced with great fanfare in May 2007 by Kalla — is an enormous black eye for the Indonesian government and the local government of Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara Province.

The announcement of the failure of the project follows the recent pullout of the Saudi Binladin Group from a project to invest as much as $4.3 billion in developing rice crops in Merauke, Papua Province.

Indonesia named Asia's second best travel destination

Indonesia ranked second in the Go Asia Award in the ‘Best Travel Destination’ category behind Thailand and after Malaysia, the Foreign Ministry reported Friday.

The award was given by German tourism institution Go Asia, which invited travel agents from all over to participate in the voting process, on Wednesday in Berlin.

Go Asia also gave awards for Asia's best tourism organizations or tourist boards, airlines and tour operators. The Go Asia initiative was founded in 2003 in order to enhance marketing in German-speaking regions.

Sapta Nirwandar, the Culture and Tourism Ministry’s director general of marketing, said Friday that the award was a proof that tourism, which contribute US$7.5 billlion to the country's income, was able to stand out even during the global economy downturn.

What Fatwa? Bali’s Yoga Tourists Follow Their Bliss

Hundreds of yoga tourists in Bali have now joined author Salman Rushdie in an exclusive club: those who have defied a fatwa. This week’s International Bali-India Yoga Festival—which drew participants from the U.S., Germany, Sweden and Japan—proceeded as planned despite a recent edict by Indonesia’s Ulema Council banning the practice of yoga for all Indonesian Muslims.

The New York Times reports that festival organizers initially conceived the event to boost spiritual tourism on the island and decided to go forward with it as a public show of force against the fatwa. Bali’s governor, no doubt aware of the island’s growing yoga tourism potential, has said he will not enforce the ruling.

Who knew sun salutations could be this fraught?

Nadine to give kebaya a whole new look

It has become something of a trend among Indonesian celebrities to wear a traditional kebaya on festive occasions, but wearing one under water hasn’t quite caught on.

Nevertheless, that is what actress and model Nadine Chandrawinata hopes to do.

“I admire kebaya and I would like to be photographed wearing a kebaya under water,” the former Miss Indonesia told Okezone.com on Wednesday. “It will be so unique and interesting.”

Nadine said many women were reluctant to wear kebaya out of fear it would make them look older than they actually are. But not this 24-year-old German-born beauty.

“For me, it’s different. I feel more confident when I wear the costume,” she said.

“I feel pretty when I wear kebaya. It reflects an aura from inside.”

Nadine was Miss Indonesia 2005, and represented Indonesia in the 2006 Miss Universe Pageant. She was the second Miss Indonesia to participate in the pageant after a long hiatus from 1996. The first was Artika Sari Devi in 2004.

Bali Hotels Association Offer "Bali Bonus Nights" for Stays Through June 30, 2009

Bali Hotels and Resorts are world renowned for offering outstanding value for the most discerning travelers. True Balinese Hospitality in combination with one of the world's most vibrant traditional cultures HAVE caused Bali time and again to be named the world's favorite tropical island destination in prestigious international surveys.

In response to the uncertain global financial situation and encourage travelers not to delay their Bali holiday plans, more than 40 leading Bali hotels have joined forces to offer "Bali Bonus Nights" on new bookings for hotel stays through June 30, 2009.

An initiative organized under the Bali Hotels Association (BHA), that Chairman of the group of Bali star-rated hotels, Robert Lagerwey, said "Bali Bonus Nights" is a "world-wide tactical promotion intended to drive further awareness and drive additional business to the island."

Lagerwey explained the existing promotional platform of "Bali is my Life" will be used as a backdrop of "Bali Bonus Night" promotion, emphasizing the central role played by the Balinese and their rich culture in Bali's continuing success.

The "Bonus Night" scheme will apply for participating properties through selected wholesale, travel agent and direct booking channels. "Bali Bonus Night" bookings must be made between March 9 and April 30, 2009, valid for holiday stays in Bali through June 30, 2009.

World-wide Offer

"Bali Bonus Nights" are available from participating hotels with the qualifying room night levels to earn a bonus night determined by the guest's nationality or country of residence.

Indonesia's Green School in the jungle

The past few months have seen the global economic crisis push the issue of climate change into the background.

But for one school in Indonesia, protecting the environment is the very reason it is open.

It's called Green School, and is an experiment of sorts in training the next generation to be stewards of the planet.

Hidden within the jungle in central Bali, just by looking at it you can tell it isn't your average place of learning.

Instead of concrete classrooms, open air bamboo buildings sit nestled within the trees.

It's all the creation of jewellery designer John Hardy and his wife Cynthia.

"Green School is a seed, a school centred community in nature in Bali, the idea is sustainability, the idea is a minimal environmental impact, the idea is a small carbon footprint," Mr Hardy said.

More than 100 students from 17 different countries, including 20 Indonesian scholarship holders, are now studying at Green School - from tiny kindergarten kids to precocious high schoolers.

Eugene Wallensky moved his daughters from Australia to go to Green School.
Green School's philosophy is in part based on some of the controversial ideas of 19th century thinker Rudolph Steiner, who believed learning should combine elements of the artistic, practical and theoretical.

The school also draws from American Professor Howard Gardner's theories that intelligence isn't just something that can be measured by IQ tests but is made up of many different abilities, like being talented at music.

Director Ronald Stones says in practice that means producing generations of people who think about things differently and are willing to look at things in different light.

"Its getting a blend, its combining the essential skills are going to need to get through the system, particularly in English, Maths and science, all the way through from the youngest kids right through and then blending in this green curriculum, so evolving a curriculum from nature studies, to ecology to sustainability that flow," he said.

Bali golf tourney a strategy to reach out to tourists

Having spent Rp 6.5 billion (US$539,500) of the city’s budget sponsoring the Enjoy Jakarta Indonesia Open golf tournament in Bali, the Jakarta Culture and Tourism Agency defended the decision as key to reaching a wider audience expected to also be interested in visiting Jakarta.

Agency head Arie Budhiman said the Bali tournament was part of an effort to promote Jakarta’s golf courses and facilities globally.

“Promoting our golf facilities to the world is not an instant move. We have to attract potential visitors, especially foreigners, with international coverage,” he told The Jakarta Post in a phone interview Friday.

He added that moving the venue to Bali was done for this reason.

The tournament, co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour, was held in Greater Jakarta in the last four years. This year, it moved to Pecatu, Badung regency, Bali, where event regular Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand claimed the title.