Newsletter: Escapes: Some trash talk and then a trash walk in the paradise that is Bali

The long house at Rob Cohen’s Villa Campuhan in Karangasem. The roofline evokes the horns of water b
Villa Campuhan in Karangasem in Bali, a beautiful place that is besieged by trash.
(Robin Abcarian / Los Angeles Times)

In the 1967 movie “The Graduate,” Mr. McGuire (Walter Brooke) takes the aimless Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) aside to give the recent college graduate a piece of advice.

“I just want to say one word to you. Just one word,” Mr. McGuire says, then asks whether Benjamin is listening. Benjamin assures him he is. “Plastics,” Mr. McGuire says. Benjamin asks what he means. Mr. McGuire replies, “There’s a great future in plastics.”

Mr. McGuire was prescient, as it turned out, if not quite in the way he expected.

About 6.9 billion tons of it have become waste, National Geographic reports in its “Planet or Plastic?” series, which is described as a “multiyear effort to raise awareness about the global plastic waste crisis.”


Indonesia, home to Bali, is the No. 2 plastic polluter, the BBC says in a video that shows just how awful the problem is.

My name is Catharine Hamm, and I’m the travel editor for the Los Angeles Times. The issue of plastic waste reared its ugly head in our Jan. 20 cover story on Bali, by Times columnist Robin Abcarian.

This wasn’t top of mind when Abcarian planned her trip to the mountainous island. Cynthia Hardy, a longtime friend and an off-and-on resident of the island since the ’80s, invited her to visit.

Next thing Abcarian knew, she was doing a “trash walk” near Ubud.


“I was surprised by how vehement Cynthia was about the trash problem on Bali,” Abcarian said in an email after the story. “But once she took us on our first ‘trash walk,’ I could totally understand her distress.”

Cynthia and her husband, John, have an enterprise called the Green School, “a private-K-12 institution that teaches children about trash, recycling and sustainability as a core part of the curriculum,” Abcarian said in her mail.

“Two Balinese sisters from the school, Melati and Isabel Wijsen, launched a campaign, Bye Bye Plastic Bags, to eradicate plastic bags from Bali. They have received international recognition for their work.”

“I returned home with a renewed appreciation for efforts like the plastic straw ban, which seems to elicit lots of sneers and jokes but is a perfect symbol of the stupid amount of waste we produce as a society,” Abcarian said, adding that she had “an almost visceral reaction to all the plastic packaging” she saw in one warehouse store after she came home.

That is but one of the ways travel can change us. We may not go with that end in mind, but that is often the result.

The Bali story is one eye-opener, but we have another article that is dramatic, stunning and sweet by first-time writer (for us) Marcia Hackett. Also in the mix: a Weekend Escape about Seattle, where talking robots were a hit with the younger crowd; a great piece by Elliott Hester, the 30-plus-year flight attendant who talks about why flight attendants have second jobs; five hotels where nature and comfort meet; an unexpected result of the partial government shutdown; and a Disney/California Adventure update.

Read on and don’t forget to recycle.

A balancing act in Bali

“However you experience Bali, you will be intoxicated by its charming and spiritual people, its intense beauty, and its tropical mélange of fecundity and decay,” Abcarian writes. Like many places, Bali struggles to keep what is beautiful, keeping the encroachment of modern life at bay.


During a morning rice paddy trek near Karangasam, led by Emerald Starr, an American ex-pat who found
During a morning rice paddy trek near Karangasam, Bali, a local farmer plants his crop in the calf-deep water.
(Robin Abcarian / Los Angeles Times)

Seattle continues to be full of surprises

Raves continue for the newly remodeled Space Needle in Seattle, but writer Sharon Boorstin, a Seattle native, gave an enthusiastic thumbs up to the tower and to two new restaurants and a hotel “with killer views” on a Weekend Escape to the Emerald City.

SEATTLE, WASH. -- TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 2018: Shauna Bittle lays on the rotating glass floor and tri
Shauna Bittle lies on the rotating glass floor and tries to convince her daughter Stella Bates, 3, to join her, in the remodeled Space Needle in Seattle.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

On hold for now, thanks to the shutdown

If you were excited about the idea of an alternative airport to Seattle’s behemoth Sea-Tac, you’ll have to contain yourself, Mary Forgione writes. The opening of Paine Field in Everett, Wash., to commercial use has been delayed, thanks to the partial government shutdown. She details what has to happen next for the Snohomish County facility to start passenger travel.

A Boeing KC-46 tanker for the U.S. Air Force takes off from Paine Field in Everett, Wash., in April 2018. Opening of the airport for commercial flights has been delayed because of the partial government shutdown.
(Marian Lockhart / Boeing)

A new take on life after a near-death experience

Marcia Hackett and her sister Penny were on holiday in Sri Lanka, not a care in the world on that December day. On their way to the beach, they were lifted up and slammed down on the beach by what they would later realize was the tsunami sweeping across Asia in 2004 as a result of a powerful earthquake. She and her sister escaped, but life went on to do what life often does.

Destruction in Sri Lanka is seen several days after the 2004 tsunami that killed more than 225,000 people as it swept across the Indian Ocean.
(Indranil Mukherjee / AFP/ Getty Images)

Nature and nurture at these five hotels

Price alert: These places aren’t inexpensive, but they give us something to dream about as Mary Forgione lays them out in this piece. I was especially taken with the Cabin in Sweden and the resort in the Philippines’ Nay Palad Hideaway.


Nay Palad Hideaway on Siargao Island in the Philippines features villas nestled into mangrove stands and white sand beaches.
(Nay Palad Hideaway)

They have their feet on the ground

Flight attendants aren’t in it for the money. Really. Elliott Hester writes about how some of his colleagues have gigs on the ground — coroner, firefighter, psychologist. Fascinating.

A flexible schedule means flight attendants sometimes can take on a second job.
(B&M Noskowski / Getty Images/iStockphoto)

To tide you over until Galaxy’s Edge opens at Disneyland

Can’t wait until the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland? You’ll have to hold your horses; it’s not scheduled until summer. Meanwhile, there’s plenty to keep you busy, including Mickey and Minnie’s 90th birthday, Lunar New Year celebrations and Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival, Brady MacDonald writes.

"Mickey's Mix Magic" lights up the night at Disneyland with a new high-energy projection show that adds fireworks and a dance party.
(Joshua Sudock / Disneyland Resort)

And under these big tops in Vegas

Two new shows — Cirque-like “Celestia” and “Fuerza Bruta” — are coming to Vegas in tents near the Stratosphere and Excalibur, respectively.

Celestia uses acrobats, dancers and live musicians to tell an ageless love story. It opens in late February outside the Stratosphere.

What to do, what to do

Our weekly calendar of events gives you some ideas, some free, some not, of what’s cool and close to home. Sara Cagle scouts out SoCal events, many family friendly.

Browse art from all over the world in a 200,000-square-foot space at the five-day LA Art Show.
(Bryan Birdman Mier / Birdman Photo)

What we’re reading

If the Gates of Hell doesn’t sound like a particularly appealing place, take a look at this piece by Atlas Obscura about the Shipwreck Lodge, 10 chalets along the Skeleton Coast of Namibia. Sign me up, please.

Likewise, I wouldn’t necessarily think about a ski resort in Kashmir, but Jeffrey Gettleman writes in the New York Times about Gulmarg, a resort in the Himalayas “where the powder’s thick and the crowds are thin.”

Film festivals make for fun travel, Lois Alter Mark writes in USA Today. She leads off with the Palm Springs Film Festival (which just wrapped up) and segues to the True/False Film Fest in Columbia, Mo. (home of the University of Missouri), Sun Valley, Idaho, and more.

30th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival - Day 10
Brian Tyree Henry (left) and Michael Lerman, artistic director of the Palm Springs International Film Festival, attend a screening of "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse."
(Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Palm Springs International Film Festival)

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Sunday’s cruise issue

If you like to cruise or are considering one, check out the Jan. 27 Travel section. My jaw is still dropped at the Celebrity Edge, which seems to have set the standard for the future of the industry.

End paper

Next week’s newsletter will be handled by my colleague Chris Erskine as I take my own advice and take a cruise. Yeah, don’t even think about robbing my house. I have attack cats, a killer alarm system and a house sitter who was a sumo wrestler in a previous life. But if you do hear about a disturbance in the Caribbean, please stand by with bail money. This is a family gathering.

Eight of us are embarking to celebrate a landmark birthday of a sister I call my identical twin but 10 years older. Most of all, we hope to celebrate that we’re all still here.

As we do that, I’ll be thinking of Marcia Hackett, the writer of the Departure Points article mentioned above, who explains why and how her perspective changed on life after a near-miss with death. What she doesn’t know is that she changed at least one other perspective: mine.

All of us need reminders that life is meant to be savored, not squandered on stuff that doesn’t matter.

Here’s what doesn’t matter: It will be a hassle getting to the port and I’ll probably overpack and ruin a blouse or two and lose something. I always lose something.

Here’s what does matter: the excitement of being in new places and trying new things and most of all, those seven other people waiting for me and the new shared history we will inscribe together.

I promise to travel safely and well, and I know you will be here to welcome me home. Then we’ll switch places and the universe will be right again. See you Feb. 7.

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