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Get to Know: Mary Justice Thomasson, LUXE Bali Editor

November 12, 2020

Bali bliss is real – just ask our founding editor of LUXE Bali, Mary Justice Thomasson, who's been with us for 15 years and counting. As most of us remain grounded in our home countries, we continue checking in with our resident editors from around the world to find out how they're doing, their favourite trips of all-time and where they plan to go next. 

Where are you from, originally?  

Texas, but I've actually lived most of my life in Asia.

What first brought you to Bali?

After almost 20 years in Hong Kong in the '80s and '90s as a broadcast journalist, travel writer and PR professional, I set my sights on Bali to raise my then three-year-old son and concentrate on travel writing.  I ended up doing event planning, which was great fun as it combined my creative talents with entertaining.  

What made you stay?

For all that's been said about Bali and it's mystic nature, it's all true. Bali pulls you in like a magnetic field and changes you in ways you would have never expected. I fell deeply in love with the gentile people and manners of the Balinese ways, which are a far cry from my former city life. 

What's your day job?  

I'm the founder and creative director of my recently launched high-end furnishings and home accessories company, Mary Justice Designs, which has been three years in development. From my Bali studio, I create sustainable heirloom-quality hand-painted furniture that combines my love of decorative arts and the unique first-hand experiences of my personal voyages throughout Indonesia.

What's the absolute best thing about living in Bali?

Bali attracts artists, movie stars, conservationists, high-plains drifters and of course the digital nomads and self-proclaimed 'influencers'; it's an endless array of interesting characters.  The Green School has brought a new group of parents to Bali whom I'm enjoying, heads of industries finally enjoying their hippy days and greenies living the green life.

Top spots in Bali you'd recommend?

A top-notch spot to stay is at Nirjhara with 25 opulent villas on a rushing river with an impressive waterfall.  Nestled in a mature coconut grove surrounded by rice paddies and a stone's throw to the black beach Kedungu, it offers an Ubudian retreat experience, only better as it's right next door to Tabanan temple. The GM Alehandro came from Katamana at Potato Head and is 'on top of it talent", so expect to be poshly pampered. 

Mason (one of my favourite restos in Canggu) has opened up The Back Room, and it's a cool bar scene with an underground vibe and bottle service.  It makes for a nice change from the beach bars when you're feeling a little dirty but not down. A popular centre pool table makes pouting for pickups easier if you're so inclined. 

Rustic industrial-chic Uma Cucina has a flexible antipasti menu, and I'll make the drive to Ubud just for the burrata mozzarella with tamarillos. Over in Petitenget, check out the brand-new John Hardy boutique, which highlights the John Hardy philosophy and the brand's profound respect for Bali's natural elements.

What's the biggest tourist trap in Bali?

The monkey forest! Although my company logo has a monkey and I love them, the actual monkeys in Bali are mean MOFOs who will pinch your wallet, steal your glasses, jump on your hair, bite and do anything to annoy you.  Plus, the grounds look like something from the Wicked Witch of the West's forest. Spooky!

Your best trip ever?  

Sailing in Raja Ampat in the Indonesian Archipelago – one of the most beautiful places in the world. That's where I had my "aha" moment for what I'm doing now with MJD. I wanted to tell the story of this incredible country, its fascinating history, natural wonders and exotic and endangered species through art and design.

Absolute favourite place in the world?  

Aside from Bali, I can't decide whether it's Hong Kong or London, but I'll go with London. The museums, the people, the theatre, the street life, the vibrancy and the design scene are always on fire.  

What's left/next on your bucket list?  

I've never been to the Amazon or Egypt. I love diving in any ocean, so while in Egypt, I would definitely dive Big Brother in the Egyptian Red Sea, which is a steep-sided volcanic cone dive where sharks are plentiful. 

Finally, why do you love to travel? 

I'm from a globetrotting family, and it's in my blood.  As Oscar Wilde says, "Live with no excuses and travel with no regrets," (which often I like to remember when signing hotel bills and or booking exhilarating dive boat charter adventures).

Get more insider tips for the Island of the Gods—shop LUXE Bali guides here:

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