Niko Tiliopoulos

Don’t Go To Bali - Poem by Niko Tiliopoulos

Don’t go to Bali my friend.

Even if the whales whistle you the way,
even if the dolphins dance for you to stay,
even if the spirits possess you when you pray.

Even if the sun is king or the winds are fair,
or even if the sea currents take you there,
and even if you are charmed
by the gamelan music in the air.

Or the dancers of barong
and the outfits of sarong,
or the feasts of spice
and the paddies of rice,
or the volcanoes of light
and the temples of white.

Come what may in the end,
don’t go to Bali my friend.

Comments about Don’t Go To Bali by Niko Tiliopoulos

  • Daniel Brick (1/2/2015 9:45:00 PM)

    Bali has fascinated me since 1972 when I came across a book in my college library called THEM ISLAND OF BALI by Miguel Covarrubias, an American travel writer who wrote his massive book as as alabor of love in the 1930s, And then there were the Nonesuch recordings of GAMELAN MUSIC by Robert E. Brown in Java in the 1970s and by David Lwiston in Bali in the 1980s (reissued) and I was hooked for life. I haven't gotten to Indonesia but it came to me in Minnesota, The Schubert Club which sponsors western classical music commissioned the building of its own gamelan orchestra and a master musician moved here with his family to teach us Minnesotans to play in it. This has been on-going for over 30 years! Now to the poem: The imagery certainly caotures the tropical appeal of Bali, but the warning NOT to visit - Does it stem from the terrible terrorist violence there some years ago? Is it the fear that a peaceful island was plunged into chaos by haters that makes the writer warn us? I was phsically and morally sick when that occurred, Something sacred had been defiled. That is, a place of peace had been invaded. Right now I am playing Robt. Brown's recording of the Javanese Court Gamelan, the singers are extolling flowers symbolic of Hindu-Javanese philosophy - of peace and beauty. (Report)Reply

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  • Kim Barney (1/2/2015 8:43:00 AM)

    this is a beautiful poem, and thanks for your comment of 5/19/2007 explaining why you wrote it. It is much more meaningful with that explanation, and the same could be said about many other places around the world, not just Bali.
    By the way, congratulations for having it selected as poem of the day on January 2 for three consecutive years now!

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  • Rajnish Manga (1/2/2015 12:45:00 AM)

    Beautiful Poem. It is great to see the poet describe the enticing scene of Bali before the beloved entreats the lover to dissuade him from going there. Thanks. (Report)Reply

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  • Lyn Paul (1/2/2014 8:55:00 PM)

    I not long returned from Bali and after 20 years I saw no change. I can easily wait another 20 years for my return. Though You have brought out the peaceful paradise of Bali in your words so well done, (Report)Reply

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  • Savita Tyagi (1/2/2014 11:38:00 AM)

    I appreciate the poem very much after reading poet's comment. Humans have natural desire to explore and enjoy Nature. Only thing as a society we can do is not to offer too many modern conveniences that pollute and spoil natural beauty just for the sake of tourism. Thanks for sharing. (Report)Reply

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  • (1/2/2014 9:28:00 AM)

    Reading your comment, Mr Tiliopulos, I have to say that without it the poem appears ironic and almost an advert for the Bali Tourist Board! You have Sunprincess desperate to go: -) (Report)Reply

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  • (1/2/2014 3:58:00 AM)

    All the Doubts

    It’s all the doubts I have:
    the doubts are my belief system, like
    when a robin comes
    up close to me in the garden
    to feed at my side while I dig
    the weeds out,
    or when the moon appears to me
    in an odd kind of way

    Sometimes in the toilet at work
    A tap is dripping; slowly, each drop
    falling down to join the others
    Each becomes whole again; one

    In the small wicker basket
    where the socks are kept
    there is not always a matching pair,
    but when there is,
    it’s a sign and I accept it and know
    today is going to be fine

    In the office without papers
    for rolling cigarettes
    I search every drawer
    empty the contents
    I sit staring at the screen thinking,
    there must be a half packet, somewhere
    In the letter tray, under Louise Glück
    the papers lie

    It’s little things like the water drops,
    the robin or matching socks
    that gives me hope, makes me
    believe in my existence

    Sometimes all the lights are green
    on my drive to work; this is enough
    for me to smile at the dull brickwork
    in Belfast and love my life again

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  • (12/16/2013 4:58:00 PM)

    This poem would benefit from including the poet's explanation of why you shouldn't go to Bali as a subtext. The poem would be much richer with the conflict between experiencing Bali and leaving Bali untouched (unpolluted) by tourism. (Report)Reply

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  • (1/2/2013 8:33:00 AM)

    Liked your poem but what have you got against bali? (Report)Reply

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  • Paul Brookes (1/2/2013 3:29:00 AM)

    Yes I understand perfectly.......................................: O) (Report)Reply

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  • (12/13/2009 9:53:00 AM)

    A real paradox, you describe a magical kingdom so inviting I feel like packing my bags Beautiful writing! (Report)Reply

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  • (5/20/2007 2:34:00 PM)

    Very strong point, and now I'm also glad you did not make it explicit in the poem. (Report)Reply

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  • (5/19/2007 10:56:00 AM)

    I have been asked repeatedly by other fellow PH dwellers about the meaning of this poem. So I decided to post a general reply. I have taught at the Udayana University in Denpasar, and I have been studying aspects of the Balinese culture since at least 2000. Lovely-lovely people! I have so many friends there, and I go and visit them at least twice a year. Thus I have lived Bali from, more or less, the Balinese perspective and frankly never as a tourist. And there is a big difference between what the Kuta or Sanur tourist sees and what the 'real' Bali is. In my poem I am not suggesting to people not to go to Bali because of terrorism or any other bad things that have happened there. NO. I am saying not to go there because of the things I mention in the poem. Now you may ask 'But all these things sound sooo good, why should I not experience them? '. These things are still good, because to an extent they have not been touched by us westerners. If you want to allow them to be good, then just let them be. It is a common attitude among the Balinese that we from the west are the number one pollutant of their culture, and frankly a number of them would 'blame' us for every evil that has befallen upon them, from the bombs to paedophilia to the increased incidents of mental disorders. And to a degree I can see their point. So basically, all I am saying in the poem is that if you find Bali fascinating, please let it be. (Report)Reply

    Daniel Brick(1/2/2015 9:56:00 PM)

    I see and I am humbled. I did not see your message until after I typed mine. What you have said here reminds me of something Walt Kelly put in his politically informed, left of center comix POGO. Pogo said during one of the many escalations of the Vietnam War, WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US. Sad but true. Your phrase LOVELY-LOVELY PEOPLE is heart-breaking if we outsiders are truly polluting the land, its lifestyle and its people. Shame on us for bringing our evil into paradise instead of bringing their good into our troubled societies. It would appear my dream of Bali and Indonesia always was just that - a dream - something the Hindu-Indonesian philosophers and poets would freadily understand and lament.

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Poem Submitted: Saturday, October 7, 2006

Poem Edited: Thursday, October 14, 2010

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