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Condotels No Longer the Rage in Hawaii. Is Bali Next?
Problems in Hawaii's Condotel Market May Foreshadow Future Problems for Bali.
HonoluluAdvertiser.com reports that the recent sudden downturn in Hawaii's tourism industry has sent shock waves through the condotel sector, outlining a possible future vulnerability for Bali tourism where condotel investments are becoming increasingly popular. Condotels are tourist accommodations, either developed from scratch or through the conversion of existing hotel properties, in which rooms or suites are sold as condominium units to individual owners. As part of the sales transaction, the condotel units are assigned by their owners to a hospitality management company who market and manage the units as part of a larger holiday hotel. In Hawaii there are many of an estimated 3,500 Condotel owners that, due to reduced visitors to the island and depressed rentals, now find themselves in negative cash flow situations. Revenues generated through rentals are often insufficient to service mortgages and pay monthly maintenance or membership fees demanded by the management company. Making matters worse, management companies are claiming "force majeure" demanding higher commission levels from owners on already reduced rental rates. Obviously, those who once had visions of beautiful holidays homes paying handsome dividends are less than pleased. What does the developments in Hawaii's condotel sector portends for Bali is still unclear. If, however, the Hawaiian experience is any barometer, Bali condotel "owners" might someday expect their profits to be shaved by management companies confronted by a declining market. Should at some point in the future disputes arise in Bali between foreign owners and local condotel management companies, those disputes may be further exacerbated by foreign owners trying to assert legal rights and privileges under a complex and arguably "pseudo-legal" nominee structures in which title to the property are held by an Indonesian nominee. Related Article [Bali Artistic Leader Calls for a Stop to Condotels]
Bali: A 'Heaven' for Money Laundering?
Bank Indonesia Official Points to Bali's Property Sector as Ripe for Potential Abuse by Money Launderers.
Both BisnisBali and the Bali Post carry articles suggesting Bali has earned the dubious distinction of becoming a "heaven" for money launderers. The Head of the Bali branch of Bank Indonesia, Drs. Viraguna Bagoes Oka, speaking at a meeting on money laundering, said, "the potential (for money laundering) is very high in Bali, especially in light of the high level of investment activity." The Bank Indonesia official blamed imperfections in current "anti-money laundering" regulations for fostering these activities in the banking, hotel, foreign exchange and property sectors. "Transactions in the property sector are both numerous and large, with participants coming from various places," he explained. Viraguna called on his colleagues in the banking sector to act firmly in supervising and preventing money laundering in Bali. He also bemoaned the effects of money laundering on Indonesia's economy, society and law. "I call on banks to obtain detailed information on those making sizeable transactions," he said. When asked about the modus operandi for money laundering in Bali, Viraguna said tracking such activities is difficult. Such illegal transactions are often broken down into smaller amounts, using a wide number of brokers and nominees. To counteract these problems he called for clear personal identification, ensuring people do not employ two different sets of identity papers. Separately, the Vice-Chairman of the Law and Enforcement for the Center the Analysis of Financial Transactions (PPATK), Bambang Permantoro, highlighted property transactions as being ripe with opportunity for money laundering activities. To date, PPATK has referred over 700 cases of money laundering to the police for prosecution. Bambang told the press that while new technology has widened the opportunities for money laundering, that same technology has also opened new avenues for law enforcement officials to track such activities.
Bali Named World's Best Island, Again
Travel + Leisure Magazine's 2009 List of the World's Best Returns Bali to Best Island Slot.
Travel + Leisure Magazine has concluded its annual survey of the discerning travelers who comprise its readership asking them to name their favorite cities, islands, hotels, resorts, airlines, cruise ships and even rental car agencies. Bali: World's Best Island For many years, Bali consistently ranked as the world's best island in the prestigious poll, slipping momentarily in the 2008 polling to the number two slot. However, the 2009 Travel + Leisure survey has returned Bali to the coveted #1 spot, followed by Galapagos, which displaced Bali in the 2008 rankings. The World's Best Hotels In year's past, Bali has secured a number of hotels in the list of the world's best 100 hotels. However, the 2009 survey saw only one Bali property [Ayana Resort and Spa] listed in the "top 100." The Ayana Resort and Spa is the re-incarnation of the former Ritz-Carlton Bali, Resort & Spa, following a parting of the ways earlier this year between the Indonesian owners and Ritz-Carlton. In the latest survey, the Ayana Resort & Spa earned the "13th best" in Travel + Leisure's ranking of the "Top 15 Resorts in Asia." The entire list of the "World's Best" in Travel according to Travel + Leisure [:The World's Best]
Who Speaks for Indonesian Tourism?
Care Tourism Calls for the Department of Culture & Tourism to Appoint an Official Spokesman.
The Chairwoman of the tourism forum CARE Tourism, Wuryastuti Sunario, has called on the Department of Culture and Tourism to appoint an official spokesperson to keep both the general public and tourism circles informed on a number of issues, including the H1N1 Virus. According to Sunario, "the Department of Culture and Tourism needs a spokesperson to openly explain about H1N1 and other matters that threaten ongoing tourism operations." Sunario, a retired official of the Department of Culture and Tourism, said her forum had long told the Department to appoint a spokesperson who could collect information from all ministries of the government impacting on tourism. The need for such a role is made even more essential in the absence of the long-promised crisis center. "First, appoint a spokesperson, if we are not yet able to create the crisis center," Sunario insisted. Quoted in the Bali Post, pointing to the multi-dimensional problems that have plagued Indonesian tourism, ranging from the Bali bombings to the H1N1 virus, Sunario said: "There must be a government body empowered to make statements on H1N1. The Department of Culture and Tourism must be able to provide information to the public and the press, informing on the anticipative steps being taken to prevent the spread of swine flu." Calling on past experience, Sunario told of how Indonesian tourism was negatively impacted by "bird flu." She warned the same negative effects will be felt due to H1N1, despite the modest growth in national tourism recently achieved by Indonesia. Pursuing her theme, Sunario continued: "In the Department of Foreign Affairs it is clear that Teuku Faizasyah is the official spokesman. But who speaks for the Department of Culture and Tourism? Is it the Director General of Marketing Sapta Nirwandar or Secretary-General Wardhyatmo? Who has been appointed to the spokesman's role? This must be announced so when something happens, the people and the press can hear what steps are being taken." Sunario says that the problem of a spokesman cannot be put off indefinitely, particularly in the absence of tourist promotion board or the establishment of a crisis center. Sunario reminded that any spokesperson eventually appointed to that role should be multi-lingual, have access to government circles and government ministers in order to ensure that the Department of Culture and Tourism is not continually left out of the communication loop on matters affecting national tourism. Insisting that Indonesia has nothing to fear in providing detailed and accurate information, Sunario said: "Making statements regarding Flu A (H1N1) and mining in West Manggarai at the very time when Indonesia is trying to have the (adjacent) Komodo National Park named one of the world's natural wonders will not detract from Indonesia's image, but will, in fact, have the reverse effect."
Bali's Chief of Police to be Replaced
Inspector General Ashikin to Retire as He is Replaced by Inspector General Drs. Sutrisna from the National Police Headquarters.
Bali's Chief of Police, Inspector General T. Ashikin, is just days away from commencing his retirement and will be replaced by Inspector General Drs. Sutrisna, moving to Bali from his current position as an expert staff of the National Police Chief in Jakarta. The change of command was confirmed in an letter sent to Bali's police headquarters dated July 14, 2009. In what is a routine reassignment of senior police personnel a total of 41 police offices are being rotated or retired, ranging in rank from Generals (4 star) to Chief Commissioners. When, exactly, the handover of command for the Bali police force will occur has yet to be announced.
Bali Seeking Special Autonomy Status?
Bali's Desire to Obtain Special Administrative Status Receives Support from Indonesian House of Representatives.
The Indonesian House of Representative (DPR) has joined the island's governor, Made Mangku Pastika, in calling for the province to be declared a special autonomous regions (Daerah Khusus Indonesia) or a special province (Daerah Istimewa). Such status, which accords special rights and privileges to the provincial or city government, is currently enjoyed by the capital of Jakarta, Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, Papua, West Papua and the city of Yogyakarta. The Deputy Chairman of DPR Commission II. Sayuti Asythri, told the press during a visit in Bali that the change of status for Bali should be seen as "something normal." Governor Pastika has termed the bestowing of special status for Bali as essential to preserving its unique cultural status and enhancing the island's basic infrastructure.
Is it Time to Rethink Bali's Response to H1N1?
Editorial: The Changing Character of the H1N1 Epidemic Will Compel New Tactics in Confronting the Disease.
Bali's transparency and aggressive steps to thwart the spread of "Swine Flu" or the H1N1 Virus are worthy of praise. From the earliest days of the most recent outbreak in Mexico - Bali, together with the rest of Indonesia, has tried to stem the spread of the disease by establishing screening procedures at international airports and providing free-of-charge medical care at special isolation wards in leading hospitals. Masks are also being issued and special medical containment teams deployed to help fight the plague. At the same time, money and talent are being expended to educate the public about the disease in an effort to prevent widespread panic and maintain normality in the lives of people living in Indonesia. Change Ahead? The changing face and character of the H1N1 epidemic, however, may dictate the need for a new response to this global health threat. The decision last week by the World Health Organization (WHO) to no longer publish or minutely track new cases H1N1 cases and the abrupt change from a trickle to a flood of new patients coming to Bali's Sanglah General Hospital every day for treatment, reflects the sad fact that the disease is spreading at an increasingly rapid pace. The Bali hospital's isolation ward is nearly filled to capacity, causing doctors to rightly wonder what they will do when, and no longer if, the number of new cases escalates further. It now seems inevitable that Bali will be compelled to adopt a medical response resembling that taken by its near neighbor, Australia. In Australia, where confirmed cases of H1N1 now number in the thousands, people suffering from "Swine Flu" are not hospitalized but, instead, told to go home, rest, avoid human contact and take Tamiflu. Australian isolation wards are reserved for treating only those H1N1 cases in which life-threatening complications are also present. That Indonesia may have to abandon its hospitalization and isolation policy will soon move beyond choice; the carrying capacity of isolation wards are being overwhelmed by new H1N1 cases. New ways of dealing with this disease are urgently needed. The Country's medical experts must join forces with other sectors of society if Indonesia is to develop a coordinated and genuinely humane response to the changing face of H1N1. Effective measures to limit the damage inflicted by this disease won't be easy. Creativity, generosity and transparency will form core themes in any intelligent "new" response to "Swine Flu." Those measures will have to contemplate how, in a country where poverty is a fact-of-life for many, to help people stay at home, take their medications and avoid human contact until the infectious period of around 7 days passes. Smart solutions may include means of delivering food and medications without charge to people who would otherwise be compelled to earn a living or make a daily trip to a local marketplace. Bali, as a leading world tourism destination, will also have to determine how to deal with a tourist confirmed with H1N1. Will hotels in cooperation with the government offer free accommodation during the infectious period? Will each hotel need to set aside a separate wing to house these visitors? Will staff undergo special training and learn to use special equipment to protect themselves and others from contamination while serving ill guests? How will hotels and police deal with infected visitors who stubbornly refuse quarantine? Clearly, there are tough choices ahead, And, H1N1, as with the remedy for any human tragedy, requires massive dosages of leadership, wise thinking and human compassion.
Jakarta Bombing: The Sounds of Distant Thunder
Bali Goes on High Alert Following Bombings at Jakarta Hotels.
Just before 9 a.m. Bali time on Friday, July 17, 2009, terrorist blasts rocked the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Jakarta and the adjacent Marriott Hotel. It will be days, and perhaps weeks, before police investigators manage to unravel the mountains of evidence that will eventually expose those responsible for what is widely assumed to be the latest chapter in that ultimate oxymoron a "holy war." Gruesome facts are already emerging. We now know that 55 people were injured and at least nine died in the blast. Two of those who died are assumed to be suicide bombers who may have been dispatched from an 18th floor guest room, serving as a terrorism command post, before their final rendezvous with mayhem. Distance from the blasts dictate that the people of Bali followed events in Jakarta via TV broadcasts and other electronic media. And despite an intervening distance of 1.5 hours away by plane, Bali has taken a number of steps related to the Jakarta bombings, including: Bali's Governor Made Mangku Pastika, the former Police officer credited with resolving the 2002 and 2003 Bali bombings, immediately convened an emergency coordinating meeting with the Udayana IX Military Command, Bali's provincial police, local prosecutors and Bali-based intelligence agencies. The island's security status was raise to the highest level of "siaga satu" by the island's Chief of Police, Inspector General T. Ashikin Husein, putting some 12,000 security personal on duty and at the highest state of readiness. Bali's sea ports and single airport were tightened up with careful checks introduced for both materials and people traveling to the island. Within minutes of the blasts in Jakarta, the Bali Hotel Association (BHA) told its members to raise their security levels to "red" bringing pre-existing security screens and surveillance procedures to their highest level. Within hours of the Jakarta attack, members of the BHA met with the Chief of Police to enhance coordination with the security forces. During that meeting, the Chief of Police indicated that no credible threat to Bali's security had been detected at this time, but, in response to the Jakarta attacks, the island was now on "high alert." Hotel, restaurant and travel agency staff have been briefed by their respective stakeholder organizations to remain calm and focus on the comfort and safety of island visitors, avoiding speculation and rumors in connection with the Jakarta attacks. A check of several hotels and the Bali airport do not provide proof of any mass exodus of visitors following the Jakarta bombings. The Governor's office has issued written instructions to mayors and regency heads, ordering heightened security measures and complete cooperation with the police in introducing security checks in every district of the province. The regional administration is moving "full ahead" with plans to enhance security measures by a self-imposed August deadlines that will see 33 emergency service units distributed across the island, the installation of 1,000 closed circuit TV and the operation of a crisis center charged with crisis management for Bali.
Yak Awards 2009
Bali's Leading Style and Life-Style Magazine Holds its Annual Awards Party.
Bali's leading style and life-style magazine "The Yak" held what has become one of the island's leading social events of the year - The Yak Awards - on Saturday, July 18, 2009, at the Sentosa Private Villas and Spa, in the Pettitenget area of Seminyak. After guests passed an extremely thorough security screening at the gateway to the complex and again at the actual entrance to the venue, the evening sparkled with many guests dressed in "psychedelic chic," body painters, Playboy bunnies, and live musical and dance performances. Copious quantities of quality wine and drinks, delicious canapιs and a fresh oyster bar - all flowed in defiant rebuttal to any suggestion that Bali may be running short of imported food and drink. Punctuated by a live dance performance by Bali's premier contemporary dancer, Nyoman Sura, the main business of the night was the presentation of the 2009 Yak Awards.
Click Images to Enlarge
And the Winners are . . . The Winners of this years Yak Awards were: Best Newcomer: St Regis Bali Best Retail Space: Quarzia, Oberoi Bar of the Year: The Living Room Best Villa: Villa Bali Asri, Seminyak Best Spa: Como Shambhala Best Resort: The Bale Best Sunset Venue: Frangipani Lounge at La Lucciola Best DJ: Nina Yak Man of the Year: Michael Franti, Ubud Yak Woman of the Year: Rosalina Norita, Bali Creative Community Fashion Designer of the Year: Putri Mertaningsih N., Dinda Rella Chef of the Year: Oscar Perez, St Regis Bali Ad Campaign of the Year: Envy at Holiday Inn Baruna Best Community Services Award: Eco Bali Recycling Program, Bpk. Ketut Mertaadi Best Event: Earth Day Outstanding Achievement Award: Aldo Landwehr, Designer/Architect (Awarded Posthumously) Shown on balidiscovery.com are some pictures from the gala cocktail party held at the 2009 Yak Awards. Related Article [Yak Awards 2008]
Sanur Village Festival 2009: August 12 16, 2009
Plans Taking Shape for a Memorable Four Days of Village Celebrations in Bali's Oldest Tourism Community of Sanur.
Bali's 4th Sanur Village Festival August 12-16, 2009, is shaping up to be bigger and better, inspired by its declared theme of "Life Marine." This year's event will be centered on a new four-hectare beachside venue on Jalan Mertasari to accommodate a full range of entertainment, culinary and other events. Cultural and Water-based Activities Cultural activities will continue to dominate this year's festival via a series of traditional arts performances, parades, live music, water sports and a non-stop food festival. Included in the celebration this August will be a numerouus sub-aqua events aimed at protecting and preserving Bali's coral reef. Culinary Temptations A total of thirty booths will participate in this year's 4th Sanur Village Festival presenting the wide range of food and drink available to Sanur visitors throughout the year. And, as in past years, prizes will be awarded to the booth presenting the best food with the best booth decoration. Celebrating the Arts Sanur has always been a preferred "home" for Bali's artists, both of the local and imported variety. In recognition of this fact, an extensive arts program will celebrate the best of local paintings and sculptures through a series of exhibitions and street-art presentations. Sports Activities Also on tap for this year's Sanur Village Festival will be a full schedule of sporting events. Sporting enthusiasts will have the chance to watch the Asian Beach Rugby Championship, street ball and a new event the Sanur Quadrathon comprised of cycling, running, swimming and canoeing. [2009 Sanur Festival Website]
EU Lifts Ban on Four Indonesian Airlines
EU Ends 2 Year Blacklisting of Indonesian Aviation Opening Way for European Flights by Indonesian Airlines. Europeans Travelers No Longer Discouraged from Flying Domestic Carriers.
The prestigious Indonesia Digest published by Wuryastuti Sanario reports: On 15 July 2009 EU officially lifted its ban on 4 from 51 Indonesian airlines from flying to and from Europe which the Union imposed in July 2007. Although Garuda Indonesia had suspended its flights to Europe before that, the ban has practically affected not only the trust and image of Indonesia's airlines safety but has stopped European tour operators from selling tours to Indonesian domestic destinations served by Indonesian carriers because of the lack of insurance coverage. With the lifting of the ban, European Tour operators may now resume selling destinations served by Garuda and Mandala airlines on connecting flight from Singapore, Malaysia, Jakarta or Bali to Semarang, Lombok, Medan, Padang, Makassar, Moluccas and other preferred destinations. In a press conference held by the Minister of Transportation, Jusman Syafii Jamil and EU Ambassador Julian Wilson, the Minister said that EU has assured that the ban on other airlines will be lifted after re-certification to obtain the AOC (air operator certificate) as stipulated by Law No. 1/2009 on Air Transportation. In July 2007 EU banned all Indonesian airlines from flying to Europe in the wake of a slew of air accidents. In two years Indonesia has made large strides in correcting the 121 findings by ICAO in 2007, said the Minister. The new Air Transportation Law strengthens the role of the government in regulating air transportation. It has been confirmed that Indonesia has made a great achievement by improving its air safety. I think at least two more airlines will be removed from the EU ban in the near future. Very possibly, [they will be] Lion Air and Air Asia Indonesia," Wilson told The Jakarta Post in a prior interview. He said the EU would consider taking other Indonesian airlines off the list when the Indonesian directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) recertified them. The four airlines immediately released from the ban are: Garuda Indonesia, Mandala Airlines, Airfast and Premi Air.Garuda Indonesia and Mandala are scheduled airlines, while Airfast and Premi Air are charter operators. This does not mean that other Indonesian airlines are not safe, assured Minister Syafii. Following the lifting of the ban, Garuda Indonesia plans to fly to Amsterdam via Dubai before the end of the year using A330-200 aircrafts, said Garuda President Director, Emirsyah Satar. Further on, the airline plans to expand its Europe routes to London and Frankfurt. Meanwhile, Mandala Airlines President Director, Diono Nurjadin said that his company has as yet no plans to fly to Europe but will focus on serving European travellers to Indonesia through interline connections. Since the ban, a number of favoured Indonesian tourist destinations, such as the Moluccas, Lombok, on Kalimantan, Java and Sulawesi not directly served by other international airlines have suffered a dearth of tourists since European tourists on package tours have stopped coming there. Compared to tourists from Asia who stay in Indonesia for a maximum one week, Europeans used to stay more than one month travelling across the archipelago. Four airlines likely to be lifted from the ban soon are: Lion Air, Batavia Air, Sriiiwijaya Air and Indonesia AirAsia.
New Director of Sales & Marketing for Westin, Nusa Dua
Jason Leung Head Sales at Westin Resort, Nusa Dua.
The Westin Resort Nusa Dua, Bali have appointed Jason Leung as Director of Sales and Marketing. Responsible for meetings, incentives, conferences & events (MICE) as well the leisure market segment for the 342-room resort as well as Bali's largest conference facility, the Bali International Convention Center. Prior to joining The Westin, Jason was Director of Sales for MICE at the Four Points by Sheraton Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia. His resume contains a number of strategic roles within the hospitality industry, including a four-year stint as Business Development Manager for the MICE Market at Star City Hotel and Apartments. Prior to that, he was the Business Development Manager for the Australian Technology Park Conference Center for three years. Leung told balidiscovery.com: "I am excited to join The Westin Resort Nusa Dua, Bali and am personally looking forward to sharing the uniqueness of the Westin Brand with our partners globally. Westin has always been an innovative brand, with fresh new initiatives that help guests feel their best. I am passionate about how the brand is focused on inspiring guest programmes that encourages wellness through travel." Adding, "I am confident that the resort itself, which is along side the Convention Centre and located right on the tranquil Nusa Dua beach, is an exceptional product that will continue to satisfy both, our Leisure and Meetings guests."
Garuda : No Thanks Linus Airways and Star Air
Lion Airways and Star Air No Longer Attractive as Acquisition Targets for Garuda Indonesia.
Garuda Indonesia has abandoned plans to acquire either Linus Airways or Star Air following the formal revocation on July 26, 2008, of the operating licenses of the two air carriers by the Indonesian Department of Civil Aviation. The CEO of Garuda Indonesia, Emirsyah Satar, said any thoughts of acquiring Linus Airways disapeared when that airline's route permits were recently yanked by the government. Emirsyah commented: "Linus acquisition is cancelled. Their licenses are revoked, why would Garuda want to acquire them?" According to Bisnis Indonesia, Garuda was considering a 100% purchase of the shares of Linus or Star Air as a means to pave the way for a fast track acquisition of needed operating permits and licenses for Garuda's low-cost subsidiary Citilink. Related Article [ Garuda Finalizing Acquisition of Star Air ]
Currying Your Flavor in Bali
Three Outstanding Queen's Indian Restaurants Awaiting Bali Visitors.
Kuta offers three excellent dining options for Bali visitors hankering for a lunch or dinner of quality Indian cuisine. All operated under the "Queen's" brand, the three Bali eateries form part of a chain of company-owned and franchised restaurants operated by "Queen's" in Jakarta, Singapore, the Philippines and Saudi Arabia. The Bali restaurants provide a superlative range of Indian cuisine available for enjoyment at any of the three addresses or also available for home delivery. The newest Queen's of India, located in front of the Bali Dynasty Resort, also offers a separate private dining-meeting facility on its second floor. At a special press briefing held at his new restaurant, Mr. Puneet Malhotra, the manager of the popular group of Indian restaurants, said that the consistent flow of loyal customers over times in which Bali was both booming and not, provided the incentive to take the calculated business risk of expanding the Queen's Bali business base. And, the simple fact that reservations are generally recommended for evening dining at the Queen's Tandoor or Queen's of India is vindication of both the excellent quality of food served and the business acumen of Mr. Puneet. The third star in Queen's crown of Bali restaurants is the more relaxed "Indian Fast Food" dining option - Queen's Tandor Indian Xpress, now in operation at the Seaside Food Court on Jalan Pantai Kuta. Queen's Indian Restaurants in Bali Queen's Tandoor - Jl. Raya Seminyak No. 73 (Gallery Seminyak), Kuta, Bali. Telephone ++62-(0)361-732770 Queen's of India - Bali Dynasty Resort, Jalan Kartika Plaza, Tubam, South Kuta, Bali. Telephone ++62(0)361-765988 Queen's Tandoor Indian Xpress - Seaside Food Court, Jalan Pantai Kuta, Kuta. [Queen's Tandoor Website]
Burgers That Make Bali Visitors say ' Wah'
WWW - Wah Wah Gourmet Burgers. Hamburgers as an Art Form.
I have to admit I was skeptical. I had heard rumors of legendary hamburgers. "Zero-fat" gourmet burgers being served near Seminyak beach. The J. Wellington Wimpy in me mumbled, "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today," as I ventured into the seductively-lit WWW Wah Wah Gourmet Burger Wine Bar located on Jalan Laksamana in Seminyak, roughly across the street from The Legian. In keeping with a restaurant that coniders burgers an "art form," every wall of this elegant road-side restraurant is covered with bold and striking beautiful paintings done by Mr. Wah - the same man who also composes the hamburgers I came to sample . I was expertly guided by my "hamburger helper" - a waiter named Dewa from Jimbaran, who explained a menu that offered an eight-course tasting menu, exotic cocktails and fine wines. Relaxing with a pre-dinner drink, the amiable Mr. Wah suddenyl arrived to introduce himself. After that meeting, I am unsure if the 62-year-old Shanghai-born artist's real name is "Wah" or merely a moniker that stuck after some many people exclaimed "Wah" after meeting this remarkable man. To say that an artist is a person of conviction and passion is to perhaps state the obvious. But, in truth, Wah is both these things. The Son of two Chinese "Foodies" who could fondly remenise at length about great meals enjoyed years before, Wah left China as a well-fed young man to spend nearly three decades in London working as a part-time chef and full time member of the fashion industry. Wah told me of a 38 year-old Son who "loves to sing" and another Son, just four-years-old and waiting upstairs for his evening burger, suggesting that Wah's passions have operated on a number of levels during the course of a interesting life's journey. The Burgers Over dinner, Wah shared his uncompromising views on the absolute necessity of using only the very finest ingredients in creating burgers that can include slices of Foie Gras, Wagyu tenderlon, quality cheese, procini mushrooms and organic rocket. Defying the widely-held view that "the taste of a hamburger is in the fat," Wah assidiously cuts away all extraneous fat from the Wagyu tenderloin that he chops for his signature burgers. Later, any hubris I felt for dining on a low-cholesteral plate of four different gourmet burgers got put to shame by my unabashed enjoyment of choclate truffels presented on Chinese soup spoons containing small ponds of Absolut Vodka. Purist who insist that burgers must be served with fries, have the choice at Wah of mashed or friend potatoe sections, the latter served with a side of salt, pepper and truffle oil. The price? Well, let's just say that Wah bears no resemblence to MacDonalds in either product or price. Wah makes no apologies for this. He persuasively argues that the quality of ingredients used results in low-profit margins for the owner and high-value meals for his diners. My dining experience and the satisfied oohs, aahs and, yes, "wahs" sounding from adjoining tables of diners lends credence to Wah's claims. The hamburger as an art form? Tasting is believing at