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Married to Bali

Media Release – Garuda Indonesia – November 2003

Married to Bali

Wedding organiser Katrina makes a personal commitment to a wonderful future post Oct 12

An Australian who has arranged the marriage ceremonies in Bali of thousands of her compatriots is wedding herself even more closely to the island’s future as the anniversary of October 12 passes.

Katrina Simorangkir is one of the hundreds of expatriate Australians and New Zealanders living on Bali who have total faith in the resilience of the Balinese people to rebuild and expand the attractions of their “Island of the Gods,” holiday home to millions of Anzac visitors over decades.

So settled is she in Bali that just this month she and her Balinese husband Berman adopted a weeks-old Balinese baby girl, Khalisha, to be a sister to their own first child, Brianna.

“We’re already seeing people coming back in increasing numbers,” says Katrina, who established Bali Wedding International more than a decade ago. “It’s not just that people come here to marry because it is such good value, so romantic and they can escape influences on their weddings that they don’t want. It’s also that Australians and New Zealanders have forged a real family link with the Balinese and they know the Balinese were not responsible for what happened here a year ago.

“People now are beginning to appreciate that October 12 was as much a crime against the people of Bali and humanity in general as it was against Australians and New Zealanders in particular.

“Everyone knows how the Balinese themselves suffered – in fact, families there are just finding out now the full Balinese death toll as villagers find their sons and daughters aren’t coming home after working in the city for a year. They are only just understanding now that some of them will never be coming home, that they were among the unknown and uncounted victims of October 12.

“But, in addition to the economic and family costs, October 12 dealt a spiritual blow to the people of Bali that goes deep into their national psyche and makes them resolutely determined to recover their dignity, their identity and to protect their guests, which is part of this identity.

“As an Australian or New Zealander you only have to visit a shop or hotel to understand this – when the Balinese find out where you’re from, they will apologise to you personally and express deep gratitude that you have returned. They will stop you in the street to apologise. It’s a personal thing, not a material thing – it is a matter of dignity and determination. These people are reaching down into themselves as an entire community after a tragedy and coming back determined to restore things, to take back something that was taken from them, to make it right and to emerge even stronger than before.

“Bali now in many ways is safer than it has ever been. Apart from the increased physical security – the outstanding upfront and behind-the-scenes work of hotels and police to make people feel both welcome and safe – the Balinese themselves as a total community are supporting efforts to locate strangers in their midst, to check that guest workers are on the island for legitimate purposes.

“Visitors are reporting regularly to Balinese community leaders so they know who they are and what they are doing. What’s happening is very comforting both to the large expatriate community and to the visitors they serve. I wasn’t planning to stay In Bali when I originally came here but this place and these people just draw you in. There are hundreds of expats here and we’re staying put. We’re very comfortable.

“This is a wonderful place, a place with a wonderful future, and I feel it in my bones that 2004 will be one of our most positive yet,” says Katrina, who came to Bali in 1998 after living and working in Sydney and Darwin for Bali travel wholesaler Garuda Orient Holidays, for whom she organises weddings in Bali.

Seeing a largely unserved market for people who loved Bali so much they wanted to marry there, she gradually began to expand into an independent business the network of contacts she built up meeting the needs of people wanting a truly memorable wedding without extraordinary costs.

“It’s got to the stage in Australia and New Zealand where young couples very nearly have to raise a mortgage to get married – sums like $20,000 are commonplace for a pretty basic event,” she said.

“Over here nearly everything is cheaper, often half the cost, plus you’re on honeymoon even before you get married. Even on a limited budget, you can afford to make your wedding very different and very stylish indeed, to make it the very special day every romantic person wants it to be.

“If you want to get married at a private shrine by a waterfall in the jungle, with just a few very special people there, then you can do that. If you want to have a cavalcade riding behind an elephant, then you can do that. Or if you want the full formal thing in a beautiful tropical setting, then that’s easy too. We get people married in settings ranging from the sophistication of some of the world’s best hotels (two Balinese hotels were recently rated in the world’s top 20) through to the simplicity of beach or temple ceremonies, maybe at sunrise or sunset.”

Katrina says that a bonus of getting married in Bali is that brides especially can escape from over-zealous in-laws and put their own mark, their own style, on their wedding.

“We do get a lot of people saying they just had to escape people who kept interfering with their plans, often with the best will in the world, but their bullying was spoiling it for the bride. Sometimes the couples to be married were happy that only the people who really valued them would take the trouble to attend – they made a present of their presence.

“And, with Bali holidays available now for as little as $1199 for a week including flights, transfers, accommodation and other goodies such as massages and tours, guests can afford to take a second honeymoon too.

“We also get a lot of people getting married for the second time who want it to be really different from the first. They want to make a clean start, a new commitment in a new setting that symbolises a bright new future after what might have been a trying relationship or sadness in the past. They don’t want to be reminded of the past sometimes – it has its place, but they want to make this marriage just the best in its own right and to focus on new happiness and a new future,” says Katrina, who has handled up to 400 weddings in a single year.

Making a strong point of employing Balinese people while providing services her international customers are accustomed to, Katrina recently deepened her commitment to Bali by the adoption of a beautiful child from the village of Ubud.

“It was a total surprise. A Balinese whom we had got to know a little just came to us one day and said he knew of this beautiful little baby, just born, who needed a better future with people who would care for her. Within a couple of days she was with us. I barely had time to sit down with Brianna and ask her what she thought of the idea. Actually, she was over the moon. She cut short my little speech and said, “Mum, I would love it”. And when she arrived, Kalisha looked just like Brianna did when she was born to Berman and I.”

“Kalisha’s arrival has deepened even further our love for Bali, if that’s possible. It is just heavenly here. No outside troublemaker can take away the soul of Bali, because it is built into its people and into the very island itself. That’s what gives me such faith in the future.”

Garuda Orient Holidays can organise any style of wedding you like, and feature a range of wedding options and ideas with Bali Weddings International, in their ‘Bali on ANY budget’ brochure. For further information, see any travel agent or call Garuda Orient Holidays on 0508 650014.


Prepared by: Amelia Edwards whytepr@bigpond.com

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