Jane Marsden

Jane Marsden runs C Licence, a Singapore-based publisher that has just released an extensive new guide to Bali and Lombok, Shopsmart Bali & Lombok. The 39-year-old Australian, a former newspaper journalist, was headhunted from her homeland to edit luxury magazines in Hong Kong and Singapore before going it on her own.

How many people were involved in writing Shopsmart Bali & Lombok?

Apart from me, there were six other writers, all of whom live in Bali.

How did you select the writers? What were the criteria?

They had to have strong local experience and contacts; knowledge about the particular field they were writing about – antiques, textiles, art, fashion; and a respect and love for the culture, environment and people of Bali. Most of them are highly experienced writers.

Did they visit places anonymously or announce they were coming?

Generally speaking, the writers visited places they were reviewing anonymously in order to be able to objectively rate them in terms of the criteria of price, service, range, quality, value-for-money and overall (experience).

Often the writers had been to a particular establishment several times even before reviewing it for Shopsmart Bali & Lombok. Having said that, occasionally it was important to reveal the reason for the visit – to be able to ask in-depth questions about, say, the personalities or history or rationale behind a venture.

It’s a very comprehensive, lengthy guide. How long did it take to compile, edit and print?

More than four years. Shopsmart Bali & Lombok was actually conceptualized before the first title in the series, Shopsmart Singapore, but due to a variety of factors it was felt that 2006 would be an ideal time to launch this guide.

It all began when my girlfriend and I were planning a trip to Bali in 2002. We wanted to buy some furniture and stone carvings but had no idea where to go, what to pay or what to look for in terms of quality. Thank goodness I had some local contacts from my Vogue days, including landscape architect Made Wijaya, who pointed us in the right direction. But I started thinking, “Wouldn’t it be great if people with no contacts in this part of the world could have an insider’s guide to where to get items reflecting the best of Bali’s heritage and craftsmanship?” The Shopsmart series was born.

What does this guide have that others don’t?

Unlike most travel guides, Shopsmart Bali & Lombok is written specifically with the shopper in mind. It doesn’t just say “go to this market for good shopping” but actually hones in on specific shops and services. These are grouped in categories – for example, furniture and homewares – as well as geographically, in areas including Seminyak, Ubud and Denpasar.

That having been said, the book has enough “après-retail details” on accommodation, nightlife and restaurants as well as nearest tourist destinations and cultural insights to be a complete resource for most visitors. And unlike other so-called objective shopping guides, it is written by people who want to impart not just where the bargains and best finds are but also the rich traditions and skills behind, say, a piece of ikat or a woodcarving.

It has a respectful, authentic approach which doesn’t have the superficiality or perhaps flippancy of smaller shopping guides. To underline this, 10 percent of all profits from the book are committed to local charities.

Is Lombok becoming more commercialized or is it still the same sleepy place?

Lombok is now much more accessible with direct flights from Singapore, so the potential is definitely there to become more commercialized. But it’s still a much more peaceful alternative to central and southern Bali, which is reflected in the smaller space given to it in the book.

Any more Shopsmarts planned?

Shopsmart Shanghai, Shopsmart Beijing, Shopsmart Hong Kong, Shopsmart Bangkok and Shopsmart Dubai are all in the pipeline. (BT/WJF)

Filed under: The Big Questions

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