Clean Up And You Might Just Clean Up

The Bali Hotels Association (BHA) deserves a big Gold Star for its initiative to help improve the hygiene standards of individuals and groups providing massages on Bali’s beaches.

As reported last week in The Bali Times, some of the BHA’s ritziest star-rated members are supporting a new Bali Spa & Wellness Association (BSWA) education programme to clean up the process of beach massage and reduce its potential health risks – risks such as skin disease, infection of abrasions and transmission of viruses.

All participating resorts operate their own upmarket spas. They could easily have refused to support the BSWA programme on the grounds that beach massage operators lure clients away from resort spas.

Instead, the resorts graciously acknowledged that, for many visitors, beach massage is an integral part of the Bali holiday experience and that joint efforts to improve practitioners’ standards of hygiene will benefit the broader tourism industry.

Seventy women beach masseuses showed they are receptive to change and improvement by turning out for the first education session at Tanjung Benoa, near Nusa Dua, exceeding attendance expectations by 50 percent. They, too, should be congratulated for embracing the programme.

Many of them, for whom a fairly random income from massage may be the sole means of supporting a family, would have decided to forgo the prospect of earning money from a customer of two while they attended the session.

In doing so, they demonstrated a capacity, often not evident in island thinking, to look beyond the present to ensure a better future. They showed that they respect their craft and their clients enough to want to offer a more professional service.

On our less-developed beaches, where massage ladies may spend long days with little shade, no running water and no toilets, it will be harder to achieve acceptable standards of hygiene. But even the introduction of liquid antiseptic detergent will help reduce health risks.

Few things can be more thoroughly relaxing than a good massage by a caring therapist, in a balmy breeze with a view to sparkling ocean and the sound of the sea. This hedonistic experience is available right around Bali’s coastline and is undoubtedly a tourist drawcard.

Let’s hope the new programme brings an end to clients lying on sarongs sodden with other people’s massage oil and sweat, being spluttered at by therapists with flu and having their faces and heads massaged by hands that have just explored their dirty feet, and possibly someone else’s.

Perhaps our restaurant associations could take a lead from the BHA and provide basic hygiene education for the staff and operators of our more local eateries. You see some shocking things, and not always in the local cafés.

Come on, guys: that fork and bread roll you dropped on the floor must not be returned to the table; I don’t want the crusted remains of someone else’s meal on my plate; please handle my spoon by its handle; and don’t emerge from the kitchen with your finger up your nose or scratching your backside. 

Last week, ILAND discussed the potential for ongoing and official health warnings in Western Australia, a huge tourism market for Bali, to cripple the island’s tourism industry if we don’t clean up our act. Recent warnings have included gastroenteritis, often contracted through insanitary food preparation. Education and adherence to basic health standards would greatly reduce the risk.

Then there are the toilets. I’m sorry, chaps, but if your want to attract tourists to your businesses you must provide clean toilets. Tourists need toilet tissue, running water and detergent to wash their hands. They’d prefer a disposable towel to dry them on rather than a bedraggled rag that looks as if it hasn’t seen a laundry for a month and has been used to swab the floor. And if it’s a flush toilet, please make sure it flushes. A toilet door that closes would be good, too.

I’m not sure who to call on to give some tips to our supermarket operators, but some of them haven’t yet realised that most of us just won’t buy green chicken, black cauliflower, pungent yellowed broccoli, weeping tomatoes or slimy lettuce. If there is a market for this rotten produce, could it not be conducted away from the main array of fresh food so that it, too, is not prematurely contaminated?

Being one who gets unbearably cranky without a regular and fulsome intake of fresh, crisp leaves, I find the weekly search for good lettuce both time-consuming and frustrating. Through a process of elimination I am currently favouring loose lettuces – the ones you know have been mauled and damaged, dropped on the ground and hurled back on the shelf. Any good bits are diligently washed and dried at home.

I’ve given up buying the packaged mixed leaves of that outfit which thoughtfully washes them in pure water prior to packaging, because they always forget to dry them, and it’s too horribly disappointing to rip open a bag of leaves to prepare a fresh crisp salad and find a slimy, stinking mess.

The beach massage ladies, BSWA and the BHA have shown how a simple education programme can improve standards and reduce health risks.  Others in a position to make a difference in their area of specialty should follow suit.

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