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About BLTF

The Bali and Lombok Travel Forum was started in 1999 by a traveler, Mark Austin, who fell in love with the island and its people. Mark started BLTF and a direct reservations site (Bali Hotels & Accommodations) when he found the existing travel forum and reservation sites on the Internet failed to meet his needs. Regarding his motivations for starting BLTF, Mark believes that another Bali Travel Forum (and probably all the other forums that have sprung up since) are used as sales boards by their owners posting recommendations under pseudonyms, pretending to be real tourists, for their own commercial gain.

That is why BLTF shows the IP address of the poster on each message. This does not identify the specific computer used but the IP address of the Internet Service Provider that person connected through. So it becomes easy to spot frauds posting under different names.

Mark also wanted to run a forum which was dedicated more to independent travelers who wanted to find the true Bali, rather then for people who were simply out for a holiday in the sun with cheap beer and western goods shopping trips; although both are welcome in the hope the later will become the former. Mark married Suci a young Balinese woman and who now have 2 children together; a boy born in August 2002 and a girl born in October 2005. Mark, Suci, Andrew and Francheska are currently based in Northern Portugal, but lived in Phuket, Thailand for a number of years. Mark was aware of police corruption in Bali but originally, like many, passed it off just as being a few dollars extorted from tourists in cars or on motor bikes by police officers claiming they had committed a traffic violation and demanded a spot fine (without receipt of course) or going to court. Of course every tourist pays the "fine" as no-one wants to spend hours, perhaps days of their holiday in a court room in a case they can not win.

Mark's closer connections inevitably led him to find out that many businesses, including hotels and travel agents in Bali were operating unethically or even illegally. Also that police and judicial corruption was rampant and extended way beyond extorting a few dollars from hapless tourists on bikes. Through BLTF Mark tried to fairly and conscientiously let travelers know about bad business and what they were doing; for example he named and shamed one hotel for saying it had a swimming pool when it did not and another for describing its tiny plunge pool as a swimming pool when the act of swimming in it was a physical impossibility by anyone older than a 5 year old. One of Mark's pet hates is reservation sites who offer false switch and bait hotel rates; that is an advertised room rate that agent can not honor, which is fraudulently shown in order to get customer's credit card details and thus make people that enquire feel obligated to use that agent when they report the hotel is full (when it most likely is not). In September 2002 Mark discovered a travel agent, Bali Discovery Tours of Sanur, were offering room rates on the Internet which the hotel being promoted stated in writing to him were unauthorized and resulted in this travel agent being required to remove the unsustainable rates from their web site.

Mark also had no hesitation in advising people on BLTF about police corruption and the element of Bali's hospitality business who routinely collude with corrupt police / judiciary and who also commercial fraud. He is absolutely convinced there is a direct correlation between having a great, truly Balinese holiday and only using ethical Bali / Balinese friendly businesses. Mark also believes the media (including clearly nepotistic and uniformed travel guides and magazines who often do not know a mango from a papaya and have even got hotels' names mixed up) and many people too often get wrapped up in undeserved sheep like (follow the leader) euphoric praise for what are in reality, pretty lame hotels; all for the sake of being a follower of fashion. He has stayed at many luxury hotels around the world and is keen for people posting messages on BLTF to forget about a hotel's name and reputation and make fair comparison with other hotels they have stayed at. Mark considers himself to be a traveler first, a businessman second, and his "call a spade a spade" attitude does not always ingratiate him with certain types in the travel industry and Bali's corrupt police / judiciary.

In October 2002 Bali suffered a terrorist bomb attack. Despite the fact Suci had only just given birth to their first child, Mark immediately went to Bali as a sign of support and to see Suci's family and their mutual friends. Mark felt safe going despite prominent warnings by foreign governments against travel to Indonesia because business contacts on the island had told him that security in Bali was then the tightest anywhere in the world. When Mark flew to Bali he was the only visitor on the normally packed Air Singapore flight (the few other people on the flight were returning Indonesians and foreign residents); while many were telling others to support Bali in its time of need, Mark was one of the very few that actually did. When Mark came through Bali's virtually empty International Airport arrivals area and subsequently when he visited one of Bali's ferry ports he was appalled at what he saw; a total lack of security and diligence by law enforcement officers. Mark through BLTF and to his business contacts in Bali let people know about this, as was his legal right and moral duty. His message surprised some hoteliers in Bali as they had been assured by the Indonesian authorities through the media that security was now exceptionally good, but his observations were very well received by his business contact email recipients with many of them asking if they could take his text to forthcoming security, tourism and local government meetings, for the benefit of Bali and its guests.

The only person who reacted badly to this news from Mark about lax security was one John M (AKA Jack) Daniels, the principle director of Bali Discovery Tours; he only got a copy of Mark's well intentioned email because another well meaning person sent him it. Mr. Daniels watched BLTF closely and when he saw Mark was coming to Bali again he filed a complaint with a senior police officer contact of his about the email (i.e. he used unlawful collusion AKA corruption to file a false and malicious complaint against Mark clearly in revenge for the previous hotel rate issue). Mark was subsequently unlawfully questioned and detained. It is a recorded fact that the email was mistranslated into Indonesian, that the police acted outside their authority (not under any criminal code) and jurisdiction (on something written outside Indonesia), unlawfully seized Mark's passport (Indonesian law says you have to charge someone to take their passport) and unlawfully detained him (the police detained Mark longer than permitted by Indonesian law). It was only after the British Embassy ordered the British Consulate to intervene did the police give Mark his passport back and let him go. It was made perfectly clear to Mark both then and several times later by the police that he needed to refrain from saying anything bad about them, even if it were true and was his legal right, or they would make his life hell.

Once Mark left Bali he published the facts about Daniels / Bali Discovery Tours and about how the police acted unlawfully against him. Daniels has continued to collude with corrupt police officers against Mark ever since, and the police have continued to act unlawfully against him; their actions escalating in severity. Mark has continued to report corruption in Bali and do what he can to help others avoid becoming victims of Bali's corrupt police officers and rid the island of this cancer. Bali's mafia police have even tried to entrap Mark by formally telling his Balinese lawyer that there were no pending or active investigations into him, while all the time harboring a secret file against Mark (initiated by Daniels of Bali Discovery Tours, which he publicly boasted that the police would keep sealed, confirming collusion and more) which they intended to act upon if they ever managed to get their hands on him again. This was proven when Daniels finally had to divulge the file number so Mark's lawyer was able to confront the police officer involved. Over six months after the file was created, the officer was forced into progressing it into an official investigation in an attempt to cover his own unlawful acts.

In late December 2003 Mark received a telephone death threat at his home in Phuket after an unlawful investigation conducted by Daniels / Bali Discovery Tours' agents in Thailand who used fraud to find out Mark's home address and phone number. Attempts to trace the phone call failed due to Thailand's antiquated telephone system having no logging ability except to say the call came from either Bangkok or overseas. In January 2004 Mark's lawyer in Bali forced a corrupt Balinese police officer's hand and Mark was subsequently summoned for a police investigation for allegedly saying bad things about Daniels / Bali Discovery Tours on the Internet; though why this is a police matter no one has yet explained of course. However, in addition, some of the criminal code cited by the police officer was for spying, which carries a maximum penalty of death by firing squad or hanging. The summons was therefore unlawfully made as the stated criminal code and reason for investigation were incompatible, but the code has been interpreted as a mistake which shows the corrupt police officer's real intentions. Consequently and in respect to the telephone death threat and other facts which can not be disclosed publicly yet, Mark's specialist lawyers in England have confirmed he has sufficient grounds to file a human rights case against the Indonesian Authorities if and when their government finally signs up to / ratifies the International Convention on Human Rights as they repeatedly say they will, but have failed to each time.

If that were not bad enough, the Balinese police unlawfully placed an Interpol watch order on Mark as a suspected insurgent / terrorist, which of course is a "joke" but not when it actually happens to you. Mark is currently taking multiple legal measures, including a formal complaint against the Indonesian police for abusing Interpol's automated reporting system under their anti-corruption mandate, plus formal complaints to the Indonesian Corruption Commission and has vowed to put Daniels and his colluding, corrupt police officer friends in jail. You can read his full story here: Bali Discovery. Obviously Mark now has joined the growing rank of people who are determined to bring justice to corrupt police of Bali / Indonesia and believes his story gives other travelers both reason to take care when dealing with the Balinese police and to avoid people or businesess in Bali that contribute to the problem. You see the problem of corruption is not just about the Balinese mafia police making a few dollars, it is about murder, human and civil rights abuse against the people of and visitors to Bali, plus the economic suppression of the Balinese that results from judicial / police corruption. Mark / BLTF believes travelers not only get a better deal and much better experience by their only dealing with 100% ethical, Balinese friendly tourism businesses (hotels, villas, travel agents, tour operators, etc.), but by practicing true responsible tourism holiday makers are also helping make Bali a better place for everyone except the corrupt.

BLTF is not alone in its disgust at what has and is happening to the former paradise island, it only takes a quick Internet search for phrases such as "boycott bali", "bali corruption", "bali lawyers", "bali police" etc. to to see that. When BLTF started off it had nothing but "BLTF loves Bali and the Balinese" pages and linked to other, mostly smaller and personal web sites by people who shared this love for the island. It is all telling however that when Mark decided to make BLTF a full on "Avoid corruption / only do business with the good guys in Bali" site and looked at the sites BLTF had previously linked to when deciding who to link to now (BLTF now only links to 100% ethical, 100% legal businesses / web sites now), many had either gone or had replaced their "I love Bali" content with "Boycott Bali" messages, such as the once charming and rich content, pro-Bali site by Geoff Teague (click here to see his Bali site now).

So should you boycott Bali? Many people say Mark / BLTF is for a total boycott but the truth is here: Boycott Bali?