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Living with Vulcan

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

Bali Advertiser, Oct. 11, 2017

 

ONCE upon a time, the activity of a volcano in a distant domestic backyard from which one is temporarily absent would have been something relayed at intervals by news reports, or not at all. Its inactivity ahead of anticipated action would have been even harder to detect through the prism of news reportage. Not these days, when both the mainstream and the social media bring you up to the minute information and misinformation. Sorting the wheat from the chaff is more immediate (though there’s a lot more chaff) but there’s no reason to be uninformed.

So it is with the Great Mountain, Gunung Agung. It is more than 70 kilometres from our domestic premises on the Bukit. When we wrote this Diary, from even more distant Portugal, the mountain was grumbling and had been promoted by Indonesia’s excellent alert apparatus to most dangerous threat, as a result of this misbehaviour.

The story, at that point, was the removal by government order of more than 100,000 people whose villages and farms are within the defined danger zone, and the consequences, individual and collective, of this displacement. Relief efforts have brought out the best in people, Indonesians and foreigners alike. But it was not the sort of shock-horror story the western media so loves, since it was actually a good news story. It was a story of swift and effective action by provincial and national governments and agencies, and the outlaying of significant sums of money to assist those in need.

We know of course that other than in exceptional circumstances, or in the glossy magazines, a good news story about Bali is about as likely to be seen as a phoenix or a unicorn. We’ve had the usual tremulous twittering of Australians fearful that their cheap holidays might be at risk. Travel insurance generally covers such tribulations. That’s if you had the wit to get it (and pay for it) in the first place. If you can’t afford insurance, you shouldn’t travel. If you’re so thick that you can’t work out that it matters, you certainly shouldn’t.

There was one particular bit of very yellow journalism that got right up our nose. It did this in quite a major way. Surprisingly it appeared in The Guardian, which is usually among the more sentient of journals. It reported that foreign holidaymakers had fled Bali’s “tourist towns” because of the volcano alert. But this was the case only in Amed, a tiny place that barely qualifies as a village, let alone a town, and which is in the far east of the island virtually in the shadow of Mt Agung. It’s not inside the precautionary evacuation zone, though if the volcano did erupt then road access to and from it might be compromised. Meanwhile it was business as usual everywhere, including in Amed.

The last time Agung erupted, in 1963, there were large numbers of deaths. The official figures from that time probably understate the actual numbers. This time, half a century on, there are better communications and transport infrastructure that works, in the main. There is also an appreciation on the part of governments and authorities that, with a volcano, you can’t just sit around and hope it doesn’t erupt.

In Balinese Hindu mythology, Agung is thought by some to be a portion of Java’s sacred Mt Meru brought to the island by the original settlers. It has a place in the island’s spiritual life and its actions are accorded godly intent. In 1963 its pyroclastic flows (lava) missed the Mother Temple, Pura Besakih on the middle slopes of the mountain, by only metres. This was seen as a sign that the gods wished to demonstrate their angry displeasure but not to destroy the pinnacle of Balinese Hindu observance.

There were two major eruptions in 1963, the first in February and March, and another in May. Most casualties came from lava flows. Cold lahars (mixed slurries of volcanic and other materials generated by heavy rains) killed many others. A lahar – it’s an Indonesian word – can flow very quickly, unlike lava, and very deeply. When it stops it solidifies like concrete. Look at the landscape around Kubu, one of the areas now evacuated, to see the long-term results of that phenomenon.

We don’t pray, being in the None of the Above classification except on our Indonesian official documents, but we do think. And we’re thinking positive thoughts for Bali and its people while we’re away and Agung is being a threat.

A Rare Double

WE were in Lisbon, enjoying 30C days in the middle of the Lusitanian autumn, when this column was given to the electronic pigeon for transmission to the good folk at the Bali Advertiser. The Portuguese capital is a location long desired as a destination on our personal travel schedule, for many reasons but also because it presents an opportunity to perform a rare obeisance.

Some years ago we were in Kochi in India, where among the points of interest locally is the tomb of Vasco da Gama. It’s empty, but so what? He is still felt as a physical presence in the city, where – just in passing in this instance – there is a thriving Christian presence that was already ancient when the Portuguese adventurer “discovered” the India trade for Christ and His profits half a millennium ago.

Old Vasco is something of a figure in Lisbon, too, so we said hello there as well. His other resting place is in the Jerónimos Monastery at Bélem, fortuitously close to the best custard tarts in Lisbon.

The city is big on history, historiography, and monumental statuary. Dom Joāo I, splendidly mounted and holding his sceptre aloft, is near our digs, a pleasant apartment on the steep slopes just below the Castelo de S. Jorge. He was King of Portugal and the Algarve from 1385–1433 and is referred to as “the Good” and sometimes “the Great” in Portugal, or “of Happy Memory”.

In Spain he was referred to as “the Bastard”, because that’s what he was, and because he preserved the independence of the Kingdom of Portugal from the Kingdom of Castile. Through his efforts to acquire territories in Africa, he became the first king of Portugal to use the title “Lord of Ceuta”.

Ceuta is now a Spanish enclave on the coast of Morocco. It’s not quite analogous to Gibraltar, which is a bit of Spain the British long ago requisitioned as a spoil of war, though the point may be moot.

Joāo (John, as his English wife Philippa, daughter of John of Gaunt, might have called him, though she of course spoke French like all the posh Poms of the time and possibly called him Jean) deserves his statue: he had his day and won an entry in the record.

Spoiler Alert

IT used to be said that there were eight million stories in the naked city. Well, that’s what that old TV series said, so it must be right. There are also eight million hard-luck stories, a matching phenomenon with which every traveller must surely be familiar.

The Diary prefers to deal with these gently and in a non-judgemental way, while trying not to part with too much currency, especially when travelling on a pauper’s budget. The Distaff, being a girl, is made of far sterner stuff. We were lunching out in Málaga, in Andalusia, one day, enjoying in equal measure the warmth of the Mediterranean autumn and a modest beer and some tapas, when one of the local mendicants chanced to pass.

The tale was extraordinary, which is to say it was unbelievable. But since the immediate supplication was for 50 cents (€0.50, roughly Rp. 6500) to buy a loaf of bread, we were ourselves disposed to dig deeply into our diminishing pocket money and come up with the dosh.

Some might say that this indicates a certain measure of softness in the Diary, but that is not the case. Fifty cents to go away quietly, whether or not temporarily buoyed by thoughts of the brotherhood of man, seems to us to be a bargain triple entry in the fiscal, moral and problem solved ledgers.

Not so the Distaff, dear girl. As the pleas gathered length, speed and descant, she fixed the person uttering this tosh with her trademark killer steely glare and said: “You are spoiling my day. Go away.” This was not a request. It plainly invited no further conversation. It worked like a charm. The holiday budget was preserved.

See You Soon

BARRING accidental arrest en route or major volcanic dyspepsia at home, we’ll be back in Bali just in time to run up the road to Ubud for the 2017 Writers and Readers Festival. Unlike arrest or volcanic unrest, the festival is an event not to be missed.

HectorR

Hector’s Diary in published in the Bali Advertiser every second issue. The next will appear on Nov. 8. Hector blogs here between times, when he’s not holidaying in Europe.

Wingnuts Away!

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

in the Bali Advertiser

Wednesday, Sep. 13, 2017

 

WHEN this diary was written, we were supposed to be in Provence, France. Specifically, we were supposed to be in the lovely lower Rhone Valley, at L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. “We,” in this instance, means The Diary and the Distaff. That’s for any quibblers out there. We had one recently. He seemed to think its use in previous episodes was not so much a clumsy third-person generic construction as an indication that we had a pretentious royal fetish. If he knew us at all, which he doesn’t, he’d know that’s well off all the Marx.

But the Big Wingnut, or whichever entity it is who is charged with messing up people’s plans, intervened and we weren’t anywhere, except still in Bali. Our KLM aircraft experienced a “technical issue” after arriving from Amsterdam via Singapore on Sep. 1. That technical issue may have been resolved in a fairly timely way with a fly-in gizmo replacement (that’s good) but the resulting customer snafu certainly wasn’t. In our case, a planned four-night spot in Provence became, in order of later options, a three-night spot (still doable), then a two-night spot (just), and then a nil-night spot. Which was a dreadful outcome: all that cheese and wine that was not consumed (by us). Instead we had an unscheduled two nights in Amsterdam en route to Scotland, originally our second but now our first destination. Ah well, tak ada, one might say. And of course that’s probably all you should say, publicly. A Dutch friend told us on Facebook, “I can not believe it.” Our response: “We wish we could not.”

C’est la vie, as we might have said if we had reached French speaking territory as planned. Evidently Provence was not on Fate’s list of preferred destinations for The Diary and the Distaff. Was it something we did on a previous visit? Surely not, for we seem to remember being rather well behaved. But L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is near Avignon, once the seat of the popes while others also claiming that title were in possession of the Vatican in Rome. Maybe that’s it. We remember once, a long time ago now, having been rather critical in print about the crusade against the Cathars, who seem to have been among the early modernists, though they were well before their time. Their cruel reduction was one of the more outrageous of Medieval Christendom’s schismatic outrages.

By the time this column appeared in print, we were in Scotland. Such are the imperatives of the Grand Tour as it is nowadays taken. It’s quicker – unless one of your airline’s flying machines has a technical problem, that is – though quite possibly it is far less fun than grand tours were when they were invented. In the good old days, you travelled by carriage and counted yourself lucky if your journey had not been interrupted by the untimely demise of your postilion due to his inattention in being struck by lightning. That is if you survived it yourself, having avoided death by dicky oysters or from whatever epidemic had won the gig as pestilence of choice that year. It’s much safer now, despite what the media and various government nursemaids try to tell you.

We’re away until late in October, which in one crucial element is unfortunate, since we’ll miss an opportunity to unwind with a delightful friend whose own schedule brings her to Bali this month. But, hey, we’re all so interconnected these days. We even know pretty much everything that’s going on in Bali. Well, as much as your sources will drop at your feet and the desire of the authorities to avoid detection will let out for viewing, at least. The next Diary will come to you from Portugal, following a spell in the lovely Moorish shadows of Andalusia.

And So …

TO the 2017 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. We’ll be back for that. Wouldn’t miss it. Unless your preference runs to ear-splitting music, shamanistic shaking, or novel reorganisation of your chakras, it’s Ubud and Bali’s jewel in the festivals crown and a fixed date our diary every year.

This year the principal media sponsor is The Guardian newspaper, in its web-based Australian guise, a virtual journal that is ably edited by Lenore Taylor, a fine scribbler of our long acquaintance. The resident festival guardian will be Steph Harmon, the paper’s culture editor, who tells us she is looking forward to some interesting discussion around the theme of the festival, Origins.

It’s a fascinating theme, on a human scale. Bali is a very special place, with a religion and culture that incorporates non-human life forms in its narrative. It could well be argued, just for example, that the unique Bali dog and the village dogs are so central an element in traditional life that they deserve discussion within the context of Origins. Too often these days these dogs are seen instead as a street nuisance. The origins of mass tourism, a factor in this emerging disaffection, are of course neither historic in the wider sense nor spiritual in the least. That is unless you worship money, the capitalist deity.

Never mind. There’s plenty of material for discussion on the program this year, including some interesting workshops – the one on yoga for writers might bend a few minds; and Andreas Hartono on investigative journalism promises to introduce his audience to the key strengths and challenges of narrative reporting.

For full details visit the festival website at www.ubudwritersfestival.com.

No Barking Aloud

IN Bali, you’re not supposed to bark at things you might think should be brought more fully into the public consciousness. Local crime, for example, while the subject of some concern among the citizenry – who wants to be mugged, after all, or find that their home has been broken into – just bubbles along otherwise largely unremarked except in the social media, unless the police have a triumph of detection or happenstance to put on parade. The epidemic of dog thefts, presumably for breeding trophy dogs and the disgusting dog meat trade, continues unabated.

Dogs feature in another of Bali’s preference for official silence: the matter of rabies. It’s not done to talk about where a rabid dog – poor creature – has been found, as they are, and especially not about human rabies cases, which continue at low endemic rates. Then there’s the anti-rabies vaccine issue. Bitten? Good luck if you can find post-exposure protection. In a rabies endemic area, and all of Bali falls into that category, no dog that you don’t know is fully vaccinated and has had the required boosters at the correct intervals, can safely be regarded as not potentially a risk.

But the administrative zeal for implementing an effective island-wide anti-rabies program doesn’t exist, the bureaucracy is largely indifferent to any stimulus other than embarrassment if something leaks out, and the budget that would support a real effort doesn’t exist. That’s occasionally mentioned as a factor in the continued failure of Bali’s authorities to get on top of rabies. But it’s generally along the lines of its being a pity no one from somewhere else has fronted up with extra money.

The idea that it might, if it was then deployed effectively and on some basis that might meet accounting standards, doesn’t seem to register.

Postscript

STEVE Palmer, the long-term expatriate of note who is now recovering well from further surgery resulting from the altercation his snow board had with a Canadian tree stump late last year, asked friends on Facebook recently to nominate a book that had significantly impacted on their attitude to life.

Axel Munthe’s The Story of San Michele was our nomination. It is a narrative that magically defines the real scope of human endeavour. But in thinking about that, we considered (though because they are basically primers, passed them over) Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet and Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations.

Meditations, written chiefly as private notes by M Aurelius when he was Roman Emperor, should be required reading for any politician or those with leadership ambitions. He was a Stoic – a Stoic’s Stoic in fact. He died of plague at Vindobonda (it’s now Vienna) in 180 CE.

HectorR

Hector is taking the Grand Tour at present and will be blogging on an irregular schedule over that time. His next Bali Advertiser column will appear on Oct. 11.

Pauline’s Peek-a-Boo

170817 PAULINE'S PEEK-A-BOO

~ image from Senate CCTV footage

 

PAULINE Hanson’s stunt in the Australian Senate on Thursday – for that is what it was, banal to its bootstraps – has caused an outbreak of comment. It also caused Attorney-General George Brandis to deliver to Hanson a condign rebuke in the chamber, for which he is due high praise, whether or not you like his politics.

The burqa is not banned in Australia, and neither should it be. It is a Middle Eastern garment unrelated to Islamic beliefs, rites and practices, except by human interpretation. For some people it is a confronting thing. Perhaps it is for the women who wear it not by choice but by law, in Saudi Arabia, other Arabian places, and in societies where misinterpreted patriarchy is all the go, and where the local time is Medieval. But perhaps it is not, for other women, in other places, who choose to dress that way.

For Hanson and others who see or for political reasons wish to boost the idea of pandemic Muslim intention to murder and cause mayhem, it is a handy tool for making a political point. That’s what motivated the leader of One Nation in her Senate demonstration yesterday. She had no thought for the offence she might cause among women in Australia who wear a burqa, or that parenthetically she was offending an entire religion by her act.

She didn’t care. That’s her stock in trade. It plays to the galleries she wants to impress: those who have been taught to fear a global Muslim insurrection; and those (astoundingly, given the dispossession that British settlement brought to the Australian people who were already living there in 1788) who seem to believe that settler Australia’s way of life is fixed in amber, and consists of beer, barbecues, and plumber’s crack.

It is entirely legitimate to question the principles of the burqa, on any number of grounds. It does not reflect the general attitudes or practices of modern western liberal democracies, for example, although where women are concerned the continued prevalence and domination of the Neanderthal male is probably a greater threat. It is – so it is said – a security threat, since the wearer is obscured from view. That’s largely tosh. Most terrorists are madmen – literally, mad men: “It woz me gonads wot dunnit, Yer Onner.”

None of the Islamic terrorists who have just killed 13 people and injured scores in Barcelona wore a burqa. None of their despicable companions in a second planned attack, who fortunately were found and shot dead by Spanish police before they could do any harm, did either.

The burqa is irrelevant to the terror threat, which is very real and which must be dealt with on the spot when a murderous outrage is committed or planned.

Hanson is trying to polarise an Australian constituency for views that support a notion of “exceptionalist” Australia, something else that’s been borrowed from the land of the free and grossly over-armed. But it’s a legitimate political objective in a democracy, even though it’s completely mad. Wrapping yourself in a flag and shouting slogans is apparently less offensive than being allowed to dress as you wish.

Just Cruising

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

In the Bali Advertiser

Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017

 

THE cruise market is big and likely to grow further, so it makes sense for Bali to have the capacity to effectively service this element of the tourism trade. The port of Benoa is the logical place to site the infrastructure required, and it seems that moves to do this are under way.

But people who choose to cruise the archipelago are not necessarily looking for the sort of artificial and determinedly kitsch resorts that dot other parts of the globe. Some may see the proposed Benoa Bay Port Excrescence, a real estate project by tycoon Tomy Winata, as a complementary exercise, but this is not necessarily so. There’s room for some remedial thinking on that score, particularly as the communities around the bay don’t like the idea at all and won’t shut up about it. Neither should they.

At the same time, Bali needs to move in tune with the changing global tourism market. A properly functioning cruise ship terminal fits that matrix and, if it’s built as an extension to the existing commercial port, it should not overly intrude on the rest of the environment. It might make the road traffic even worse, but nobody really seems to care about that.

A meeting on Aug. 1 set a September start date for development of the cruise ship terminal and projected completion by the end of next year. That timeframe’s tight, like most here. Never mind. No one seems to care about things like that either. It will be managed and operated by the state-owned port management company PT. Pelindo III.

There are also plans to develop Celukan Bawang in North Bali for the cruise trade, with work scheduled to commence in December and be complete by March next year. We must hope that the cement dries in time.

Essential Paper

PRESIDENT Joko Widodo, who was in Bali recently, said during his visit that one of the chief issues on his to-do-list, was the distribution of land certificates to the people of Bali. He handed out 5903 land certificates relating to title holdings in all Bali’s eight regencies and in Denpasar. He said 200,000 land certificates would be supplied in Bali this year and that all land on the island would have certificates by 2019.

This should go some way towards stopping the perennial problem of competing claims to ownership and might even – well, we can hope – help self-regulate asking prices. What it will certainly do is help Balinese families create real assets with property market benefits.

Attention Please

Robert Epstone, the barefoot British charity entrepreneur who puts both his soles and his soul into his pet project, Sole Men, provided us all with a lesson of another sort the other day. He posted on Facebook that he was attending the birthday party of another charitable Brit in the Sole Men ranks, nurse Sarah Chapman, after being injured in a machete attack he tried to prevent on an elderly woman. There was a photo of Epstone with a nasty pair of machete slices on his upper left arm. It was clearly a spoof, and the “wounds” were prosthetics, but you only saw that if you read on before making a comment.

That’s the danger in the social media these days. Almost everyone seems to be called Peter and they’re forever shouting “wolf” before checking whether what they think they’ve seen is in fact the neighbour’s poodle. Facebook and other platforms are peppered with people who like to fulminate about all the falsehoods they see, and then themselves fail to check the facts before putting finger to cursor, today’s instant and much less sentient equivalent of pen to paper. Ignorance is catching. We should all remember that too.

Sole Men does some great work and Epstone is a great promoter. Their work with the disadvantaged in Bali is a credit to them. Their Facebook is always worth a look-in.

New Look

SPEAKING of websites, the Intercontinental Bali Resort at Jimbaran has a new one. It offers virtual tours of the resort and its facilities – without which these days the competitive tourist dollar may well migrate elsewhere, after all – and the other interactive and phone-friendly bells and whistles that potential guests expect. Its director of public relations and marketing, Dewi Karmawan, must be feeling pretty pleased with the launch of the website, which went live on Jul. 21.

The Intercontinental has always been on The Diary’s favourites list, for its location and range of facilities, especially its dining options and the sunset bar.

Changing Tune

THE east is still determinedly red, for Bali’s tourism sector, with continuing high growth in the number of Mainland Chinese who holiday here. It is a change in the tourism demographic that seems firmly fixed. There are still a lot of Australians about, but they’re no longer the only sausage in the bun.

As more and more Chinese change the face of Bali tourism, so too are their travel itinerary preferences changing. They still travel in groups – though independent and “couple travel” is gaining ground with them, in tune with global travel norms – but anecdotal evidence indicates the groups are getting smaller. They’ll need smaller buses, then, which should help Ubud and other places whose streets are not designed for large vehicles.

The focus still seems to be on shopping. Why Chinese should want to visit Bali to buy things that have probably been made in China is an interesting question. But they are widening their areas of interest. Someone told us the other day they’d seen a (manageably small) party of Chinese emporium prospectors in Jl. Imam Bonjol in Denpasar, some distance from the Kuta shopping horror.

There are some curiosities there, perhaps. Maybe they were looking for bathroom tiles or were going to ooh and ah in Mandarin or Cantonese at those curious sit-upon western toilets.

Don’t Dance

THE Ubud Jazz Festival, held on Aug. 11-12 at the Arma Museum, presented some fine music and associated other entertainment, but it had one downside effect on an element of traditional Balinese culture that people flock to Ubud to see, or should.

The regular (and spectacular) Kecak Rina performance at Arma that would have been held otherwise, on its normal scheduled, was cancelled. It will return, but it seems a shame that it had to be sidelined at all.

Radio Daze

INES Wynn is always worth reading in the Bali Advertiser, and her piece on radio stations in the last edition was especially informative. There’s a lot out there on the wavelengths – chiefly FM of course, since that’s all that young people can listen to on their smart phones.

Wynn related a classic instance of cause and effect. There’s almost no English-language broadcasting here to service the tourist market. The radio stations say they don’t broadcast in English because no English speakers listen to them. But perhaps if they did offer something in the global lingua franca, English speakers would listen, and advertisers would have another money pit to mine.

Shaken (But Not Yet)

FORGIVE us being a tad churlish. You don’t really have to be a professor at Brigham Young University in the U.S. to safely predict that a truly massive earthquake will shatter Bali and other parts of the archipelago at some undetermined point in the future. The Indo-Australasian plate is slipping under the Eurasian plate and has been for eons, with calamitous effect; it will continue to do so whether observed by humans or not.

The risk is not confined to earthquakes, either. Who could forget the 1815 Mt. Tambora eruption on Sumbawa, which killed thousands locally and many others by its effects, including famine and the 1816 “year of no summer” in the northern hemisphere brought about by its volcanic debris in the atmosphere.

Disaster planning, 21st century style, is somewhat more advanced. It pays to be prepared, though it’s difficult to prepare fully for cataclysm. American research geologist Ron Harris told a seminar on disaster mitigation held in Jakarta recently studies indicated events such as the massive Aceh quake in 2004, which generated the worst tsunamis in the historical record, were possible in Java, Bali, Lombok and Sumbawa, and other parts of the eastern archipelago.

A Richter 9 quake immediately offshore could create tsunamis of up to 20 metres, which could reach the shore in as little as 20 minutes. Nusa Dua and Denpasar were at risk in such a scenario, he said. It’s not a happy thought, especially as high ground is not readily accessible within that timeframe for mass evacuations.

Still, we might get hit by an asteroid first, which would render the question academic.

Happy Birthday!

IT’S Independence Day tomorrow (Aug. 17). Indonesia celebrates 72 years of nationhood this year.

HectorR

Hector appears in the Bali Advertiser every second edition and scribbles between diaries, here at 8degreesoflatitude

 

 

Red Sales in the Sunset

HECTOR’S DIARY

His regular diet of worms and other non-religious fare

HectorR

The Cage, Bali

Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017

 

WE had a little giggle this week when we read that the Minister for National Development Planning, Professor Bambang Brodjonegoro, had wondered why more Australian investment was directed to Mexico than to Indonesia. Mexico, as he pointed out on an invest-with-us road show in Australia, was a long way away. It is. They wear sombreros there too, at least in cartoons, but that’s also totally beside the point.

An interesting article in the Fairfax press reported the issue, and included some commentary from Australian superannuation funds, from which Indonesia would apparently like a hand with projects. We note of course that such investments are indeed part and parcel of the global money round. The key to such investments is their legal security and actuarially based rates of return (ROI). Indonesia is making progress towards some measure of transparency and certainty in these matters, but a cautious superannuation investment fund manager would probably wait a little while. It’s different with company-level investments. They only depend on directors’ confidence levels. Or Chinese investments, which despite the official outbreak of pretend capitalism that the mandarins in Beijing have permitted, are still effectively State (and therefore Party) subscriptions, and hence political. They are all about building the next Chinese empire.

Minister Bambang made a direct pitch for Australian investment in a “new Nusa Dua” in the “eastern islands”. To decode that for the uninitiated, the Nusa Dua development in Bali is the manicured tourism precinct at the southern tip of the island full of international hotels that these days struggle to compete against the low-cost appeal, to the new market, of cheaper products elsewhere; and “eastern islands” means Labuan Bajo in Flores. We’ll return to Flores in a moment.

He also suggested that Australians might consider investing in tourism-related developments in the “new Nusa Dua” and instanced water sports and related fun things as examples of where they might choose to do so. How this might be done effectively and profitably is a conundrum. Indonesia’s restrictions on foreign workers, the country’s prevailing low productivity and skills levels, and the promiscuous practice of local and national regulators in deciding that their noses are out of joint and that they will therefore without notice inspect the paperwork and deport anyone found holding a spanner, is one among many other unresolved questions.

In the early booster stages of economic promotions directed at specific targets, in this case Labuan Bajo in western Flores, near where the real komodos roam on their eponymous island, the chief effect is to raise land values and pour cash into the pockets of title-holders. Often this is a relative thing, which can benefit siblings and more distant relations of those doing the boosting. As someone with whom we spoke recently on these matters noted, perhaps such people are looking to family connections for an opportunity to upgrade from a canoe to a cruiser.

We’ll All be Rooned (Well, No We Won’t)

ROONED is what that eternal Jeremiah, Hanrahan, said would happen, in the lovely poem published in 1921 and written by the Australian bush poet John O’Brien, the pen name of a Roman Catholic priest, Patrick Joseph Hartigan.  “We’ll all be rooned, said Hanrahan” – Hanrahan was a pessimistic man of Irish descent – now has an honoured place in the Australian English lexicon.

Pessimists and their jeremiads are fixed elements in any society, of course, though here in Bali, they are mostly of the imported variety. Foreigners who have lived here for a long time, or who have frequently visited for what to them probably feels like eons, fondly remember times past when the island was a pristine paradise. That is, except for the natives, who were poor and deprived of most of the benefits of modern life, and who, it is said by some, preferred it that way.

According to that primarily self-serving confected legend, Bali’s unique culture is now facing deadly risk. There’s an alternative view of this. This is that Bali’s culture and its unique religion is just as capable as any other of changing with the times. The island is not a Petrie dish and its culture is not an arcane scientific experiment managed by others. The archipelago survived the introduction of the chilli after all – by the Portuguese, who got them from someone else, naturally, centuries ago – and has made it its own. That’s just a small example of how change is welcomed and quietly managed by human societies.

There’s another aphorism that seems apt: The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.

The British writer Tim Hannigan – who describes himself as a pop historian, just by the way – would probably share this view. He writes from a post-colonial perspective. This is sensible, since except for references to that sometimes beneficial but predominantly pernicious plague by politicians everywhere in former empires who want to display their nationalist credentials, the age of European empire has long gone.

Hannigan is in Indonesia at present on a book tour, which will now take him to Jakarta. He was in Bali this week and we caught up with him twice, once at the Periplus bookstore at Samasta in Jimbaran and again over one of Asri Kerthyasa’s fine high teas at Biku in Seminyak.

He wrote some finely tuned polemic in his brilliantly researched book Raffles and the British Invasion of Java, and a very readable A Brief History of Indonesia, among others. He has also edited A Brief History of Bali which is now on the bookstore shelves and is a must read, a revision with additional chapters version of the American Willard Hanna’s original. Hanna’s ended in the 1970s, ancient history now; Hannigan’s mediates Hanna’s Cold War perspective and takes the story on to current time. 

Telephone Cheek

THE leaked transcript of the telephone call between American President Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull shortly after Trump assumed office early this year is interesting. It confirms Trump as a president who doesn’t read his briefs, or perhaps doesn’t even ask for them, and underlines the worrying fact that he’s a real estate shyster whom American voters have elected to an office that is far beyond his moral, ethical and administrative capacities. It shows that a phone conversation with him, leader to leader, isn’t necessarily one that will produce an effective outcome or indeed connect with rational thought.

The call, which was terminated early, by Trump, turned on the Obama era plan proposed by the Australians that the U.S. take as many of Australia’s detainees on offshore foreign islands as its vetting processes would permit. There are (or were at the time) around 1,200 of these poor souls, held in limbo because they had attempted to reach Australia by boat from Indonesia. The call confirmed the depravity (in the correct sense of the word) of Australian policy towards foreign people who have committed no crime. There is no morality in denying human rights to others – whoever they are – and detaining them indefinitely in camps on islands in other countries.

It cannot be justified on the basis that it has “stopped the boats” and people drowning at sea. It is simply a profane political process whose effectiveness (undeniable in the short term) is determined by refusing to recognise the real problem: an unstoppable global population movement. It screams “Australia’s for Australians” and wins votes for doing so. That’s an Australian problem. It mirrors Trump America’s mad Mexican Wall idea.

Turnbull deserves some credit for talking to Trump in a mannered and diplomatic way: for not interjecting “WTF, Donald?” That’s the only creditable element in the event – well, that and the fact that someone had the moral fortitude to leak the transcripts (there were others) to the media. These are sorry days.

HectorR

Hector writes a diary in the Bali Advertiser newspaper. The next will appear on Aug. 16.

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Who Let the Dogs Out?

 

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

Bali Advertiser

Wednesday, Jul. 19, 2017

 

EATING dog is something we would never do. It disgusts us, for all sorts of reasons. We also understand that this is largely a cultural issue. Eating man’s best friend is not generally a practice of people whose conditioning originates from what is now Europe.

The issue has surfaced again because of Australian media reports last month that tourists may have unknowingly eaten dog from saté carts. Among other things, it was another opportunity to do a bit of Bali bashing. Tourists do a lot of unknowing things, including, in the case of some Australians, not even knowing where they are. It is a belief held by some, apparently, that Indonesia is a place in Bali.

Nonetheless, governments have a duty of care to all who fall within their purview, whether temporarily or not. This may be a novel concept too, in some parts of the world. So it was pleasing to hear that in response to reports of saté dog, the Bali authorities set off at a fast trot to check whether this was so. Animal husbandry chief I Putu Sumantra said on Jul. 9 that so far no evidence had come to light. Doubtless the word got around the saté cart sector pretty smartly. Never mind, Pak Sumantra’s dog squad is still on the case. He’d also like to find whoever it was that sparked the saucy story, which, as ever in such circumstances, is a little too piquant for local bureaucratic tastes. Shoot the messenger is always good policy, especially for policymakers without a policy.

There are several things that can be said about Bali’s dog meat trade, once you’ve taken your anti-nausea pills. Some estimates suggest 70,000 dogs a year are the unwilling victims of this market. The dogs are usually killed horribly – there’s some suggestion that poisoned dogs are in the mix too, which would very clearly be a human health risk – by people who plainly have no conscience and who, by practising cruelty and theft, actually are breaking the law. Most dog meat is consumed in restaurants specifically serving dog. It’s not illegal to do so, though restaurants have to be licensed. Well, notionally, in the way of things here.

It’s very clear that animal protection laws must be strengthened. Indonesia’s largely date from the Dutch era, which ended three generations ago. Any tub-thumping nationalists who also feel responsibility for other species – ants come to mind, for some reason, in this context – might like to do something about this. The laws here are chiefly concerned with wild life and domestic stock, in the manner of colonial policy. Dogs are not specifically mentioned and so effectively are not animals for the purposes of the legislation.

It’s not only western foreigners or animal welfare organisations that are up in arms about the dog trade here. Indonesians are too. For one thing, their family pets are just as much at risk in the epidemic of abductions by thieves looking for a quick profit from a meat trader as anyone else’s. It’s not something the authorities here can just do a little rain dance about and then forget. So that’s one SOP that’s useless in the circumstances.

Who let the dogs out is not the issue. Running Bali, rather than running around in circles, is what it’s all about.

UPDATE: Since this column was written, a meeting of stakeholders has taken place at which a plan was formulated to deal with the illegal aspects of the dog meat trade. We’ll keep an eye on how that progresses.

Added Spice

CHRIS Salans isn’t a man to let the grass grow under his feet. He’d rather put it in the pot to augment the already zesty fare that he serves at Mozaic, his flagship restaurant in Ubud.

The culinary world is one of constant movement, of subtle shifts, and occasional seismic moments. One such moment has just occurred at Mozaic, where the premises have been upgraded and renovated by Lloyd Hassencahl of Design Solutions, with a stylish lounge and dining room. It’s like dining in Salans’ own house, with drinks before dinner in the living room, according to the blurb.

Along with the new ambience is a new set of menus, which offer a choice of six or eight courses. The eight-course menus are new and come with wine pairing.

New Kevala chinaware and wood and stone service wares have been brought in to give a more organic feel. The food service is “more interactive” and food is served at the table rather than brought there. The signature item is the Table Top Dessert, served from a side table.

Mozaic’s style has always been “French cuisine, Balinese flavours” and this is still the case, but, according to Salans, even better. There are three new tasting menus: “From Our Local Farmers”, “A Trip Around the World”, and “Our Vegetarian Tasting Menu”.

Salans also operates the Spice chain of gastro-bars in Ubud and Sanur, and has now opened one in Seminyak. That’s where the other in crowd goes, if it can get through the traffic.

Farewell

IT’S sad to have to note that on Jul. 11 long-term Sanur identity Peter Dawes died. He had been ill for a little while, but his death came as an unpleasant surprise to his friends.

Fellow scribbler Vyt Karazija, tells us this:

“Peter was one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet. I knew him only slightly, but liked him immensely. A good natured and tolerant man, his great sense of humour, his kindness and generosity attracted many friends who will mourn his untimely passing.

“If he knew you were a reader, he would offer to lend you books. If you were interested in motorbikes, he would happily demonstrate his incredible ‘Bali Harley’, a chop-shop masterpiece that had started life as a humble Mio. If you needed to talk, he would really listen, and not just wait for his turn to speak. I never heard him say a bad word about anybody – a rare and precious trait. And he was a big fan of Magnum ice creams, which, for me, immediately put him squarely into the Good Guys category.”

RIP, Peter Dawes: as Karazija also notes, he will be greatly missed.

Jog On

BRITON Tom Hickman, entrepreneur and coach, who also scribbles for a crust, has been keeping us abreast of preparations for Bali’s first coast-to-coast ultra marathon on Aug. 19-20. We have to say we’re impressed. Coast to coast here, if it’s North-South, which in the case of the ultra marathon it is, involves running up some pretty high hills.

It’s the sort of thing we might possibly have contemplated back in the day when we did all sorts of fitness things so we could properly serve the interests of HM The Queen (lovely lady, wears many hats, and the Brit Floral and Aussie Fly-Cork ones were applicable in our case). But not any more: too old, you see, even to donate blood, which is shocking. Hickman tells us he’s slimmed down a bit as the training for this run kicks in. If we slimmed down any more, we’d disappear.

We digress. So back to the point: the ultra marathon is to raise funds to pay the way through primary school for seven children in Bali. It’s a good cause with some great sponsors.

Java’s Great

WELL, drink up. Apparently two new international studies have found that coffee may prolong life. That’s good news for Java (coffee) as well as for people who apparently want to live forever. It may not be so beneficial for Bali’s oppressed luwaks, but that’s another matter. Two or more cups of coffee a day are said to reduce the risk of death by 18 per cent, if you’re male. At the rate The Diary drinks coffee, we’ll win the Methuselah Cup.

We quote from a rather breathless Sky News Australia item on the topic: “But the latest research bodes better for men than women with one study of more than half a million people across 10 European countries finding men who consumed at least three cups a day were 18 per cent less likely to die from any cause than non-coffee drinkers…Women, on the other hand, drinking the same amount benefited less but still experienced an 8 per cent reduction in mortality.”

Grammar Police Note: Bode is an English verb, of Germanic origin. It can bode well or badly. It’s unclear whether it can legitimately do so “better”, at least grammatically (although in that sense it may be “very unique”). But never mind, it was on Sky News after all, which so frequently proves its worth as a risible source of misinterpreted information and mangled language.

HectorR

Hector’s Diary in the Bali Advertiser is published every four weeks. The next will appear on Aug. 16.

Belt and Braces

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His regular diet of worms and other non-religious fare

The Cage, Bali

Wednesday, Jul. 12, 2017

 

DONALD Trump made a remarkable speech in Warsaw ahead of the economic summit he attended later in the historic Hanseatic League city of Hamburg, where he demonstrated exactly why the Group of 20 is now the G19 + 1. It was a good speech, too, well crafted, though redolent of former times or perhaps vainglorious hopes for the future. To his credit, he stuck to the script. A juvenile tweet-storm it was not.

The world has been asking Donald for some time where his trousers are. So it was fun in a way to see him turn out in Warsaw in both belt and braces. He is six months into the most profoundly dysfunctional American presidency since, well, we can’t think when, as the forty-fifth holder of that elected kingship. His office was created by the Founding Fathers of the American revolutionary union and it has been causing difficulties ever since. We should never say that America is in no position to teach the world anything. Its system of national government, formed as it is on the basis of rival electoral bases (for reasons that at the time were completely understandable) is a prime lesson in how not to run a country.

Predictably, the preserved-in-amber Western triumphalist cohort got a fit of the rah-rahs when it heard what Trump had said. It was helpful that Trump for once stuck to the script. We wonder who wrote it. But while a good speech can be good politics, it’s not necessarily good policy. And that’s where it comes unstuck.

These are difficult times, and that’s not just because No. 45 seems to be stuck in a time warp of his own fake making and to be determined to reintroduce both American isolationism and the Monroe doctrine. These are elements that are applauded by the American right-wing columnist Mark Steyn – who is still a Canadian citizen and really should know better – and the flagship of Little England’s Brexit misadventure, the London Daily Telegraph, among others.

Sense and Insensibility

NICK Cater is a thoroughly responsible journalist with whom we once toiled, which was nice, and with whom we share a fondness for North China cuisine, which is lovely. He’s now executive director of the Menzies Research Centre, named after the founder of the Australian Liberal Party, which as current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reminded everyone this week is not a conservative party. Turnbull was speaking in London where he had gone after not being a headline act at the G19+1 summit, for talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May, whose party is Conservative.

Cater had a piece in The Australian this week (Jul. 11) in which he had a go at the good-thinking folk who would like to rearrange Australia, its workplaces, its pastimes, its society and its culture, by means of ethnic and other quotas, whatever Australians think about that. It’s a mad idea, we agree.

So he made a good argument – the piece was headlined “Curing our country of whiteness” – though it seems to us “whiteness” (whatever that is: last time we looked we were a sort of mottled beige) is itself a matter of subjective perception. We guess it’s banal code for “We’re Aussies”. That said, Australia does need as a nation to return to common sense and an understanding of what (beyond self-interest) really drives human responses.

We had a laugh on the way through a serious subject. Cater cited American academic Joan C. Williams’ belief – she makes a point of it in her somewhat dense book White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America – that cultured homosexuality began as transgressions among 19th-century European artists.

Sappho and a few other prominently ancient Greeks, not to mention Persians of equal antiquity, would be surprised to hear that.

Java’s Great

Well, drink up. Apparently two new international studies have found that coffee may prolong life. That’s good news for Java (coffee) as well as for people who apparently want to live forever. It may not be so beneficial for Bali’s oppressed luwaks, but that’s another matter. Two or more cups of coffee a day are said to reduce the risk of death by 18 per cent, if you’re male. At the rate The Diary drinks coffee, we’ll win the Methuselah Cup.

We quote from a rather breathless Sky News Australia item on the topic: “But the latest research bodes better for men than women with one study of more than half a million people across 10 European countries finding men who consumed at least three cups a day were 18 per cent less likely to die from any cause than non-coffee drinkers…Women, on the other hand, drinking the same amount benefited less but still experienced an 8 per cent reduction in mortality.”

Grammar Police Note: Bode is an English verb, of Germanic origin. It can bode well or badly. It’s unclear whether it can legitimately do so “better”, at least grammatically (although in that sense it may be “very unique”). But never mind, it was on Sky News after all, which so frequently proves its worth as a risible source of misinterpreted information and mangled language.

HectorR

Hector writes a diary in the Bali Advertiser newspaper. The next appears on Jul. 19.

It’s a Scream

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

 His regular diet of worms and other non-religious fare

The Cage, Bali

Wednesday, Jul. 5, 2017

 

THERE are many ways to judge a man’s character. The gender is specific in this case, and the point is pertinent to the activities of the current president of the United States and, in this instance, his Indonesian associates. These people are of course his corporate or commercial associates, not political, although given that the two polities engaged are America and Indonesia, the distinction is moot. Read on.

Donald Trump’s corporate mate in the archipelago, Hary Tanoe, was recently banned from travelling outside Indonesia pending inquiries into aspects of his business and financial affairs. Tanoe is engaged with Trump’s business empire, which isn’t in escrow while he’s in office, as you might expect of anyone with an appropriate view of public service, but is being managed for profit by his family. The Trump empire has two major projects on the go in Indonesia.

One is a theme park near Bogor in West Java – we’ve seen the concept drawings and done a Munch – and the other is the takeover of the property at Tanah Lot in Tabanan previously managed by Pan Pacific and now to be demolished in favour of some Trumpist excrescence.

The Bogor project is now back on track because the government has taken over the stalled project to build a toll road to the area, without which Trump said he wouldn’t proceed. The land value of his holdings has thus increased by extortionate proportions.

At Tanah Lot, where the Nirwana property has members with purchased rights to holiday accommodation whose entitlements are now under question because of the buyout, the issue is different. Trump’s proposed redevelopment requires more land, but local landowners are apparently holding out for better prices. The workforce at the property has been paid out – by what quantum is unknown – and the entire superstructure is to be demolished.

It is also unknown how Trump and Tanoe will deal with the issue of compensation for strata title owners. The precedent set by Trump in a similar instance, with his golf resort in Florida, doesn’t bode well. Basically, there, the members were screwed. That’s how Trump does business.

Which brings us back to the cautionary point: character. A quote attributed in 1972 to the magazine founder Malcolm S. Forbes is apposite. He said, “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” An aphorism published in 1948 by the novelist Paul Eldridge goes along the same lines: “A man’s character is most evident by how he treats those who are not in a position either to retaliate or reciprocate.”

Trump’s known business practices fail the “nice” test, and his personal behaviour breaches many of those implicit in the two quotations above. In Indonesia, some in the national business elite (and here in Bali in both the local and the expatriate business community) have a very well developed grasp of how to benefit themselves at the expense, if necessary, of anyone who gets between them and a buck (or a rupiah).

The Four Corners program on Australia’s national broadcaster the ABC this week screened an exposé of Trump and Tanoe’s business connections here. It didn’t say anything much that’s new, but it did collate the available material rather well and it was certainly compelling viewing. More character studies are indicated. 

Feisty Gal

MARA Wolford, who makes organic soaps and surfs a lot – she’s in the Mentawais at the moment – posted on her Facebook this week an item reprising the incident a year ago in a Bali bar that fortunately ended as well as it could have, but which could so easily have not.

Her drink was spiked. She’s sure it was Rohypnol, nowadays the spiking agent of choice of low-life men who can’t get consciously consensual sex from a woman their poisonously defective little minds have told them they fancy, or can’t be bothered trying to;  or whom, as she notes, have marked her as a robbery target. If it’s sex, it’s chiefly a power thing, not lust, and it’s a disgraceful element of male stupidity, sexual power, and arrogance. Those who do that sort of thing richly deserve a session with a sjambok. We do wish we’d never given ours away.

Wolford puts it this way:

“One year ago today, people I didn’t even know tried to kill me. They either wanted my diamond earrings or they wanted to gang rape me for several days, it’s up in the air. Two drinks double-dosed with Rohypnol nearly did me in. Dear friends, a strong constitution and a bit of divine intervention saved me. I made this event public, with 21,000 shares on FB. Mostly, I got called a dumb bitch for not knowing better. One thing I do know is that the last thing I am is a dumb bitch. Trusting, perhaps. Willing to believe in best intentions, certainly.

“I was absolutely furious that a man would feel the need to render me physically helpless in order to take from me what he couldn’t allow me to decide to offer, or not. I don’t know what kind spineless cretin would do that, and I don’t know what kind of world we live in when that is considered normal behaviour that I am expected to know to protect myself from.”

The bar in question was subsequently shut down by the police and – Wolford notes – another upside is that drink spiking has dropped off in Bali since the publicity about her case in Canggu last year. That’s great.

Dumb bitch, she isn’t. Feisty gal, she certainly is.

It’s such a shame that Rohypnol became the “date rape drug” in the hands of low-life losers. We used to use it back in the day as a travel pill, when it was legally obtainable. The Distaff, who did a lot more solo international business travel than the Diary, swore by it as her tailored sleeping pill. Quartered, a pill gave her two hours of sleep; halved, four hours; and the full monty, eight. It was just the job, she always said, if you had to leap off your plane at your destination fresh as a daisy and ready for work. Or, occasionally, play. 

Oh, Come On!

THE annual Walkley Awards may mean very little to anyone outside Australia – or even outside the Australia media – but they are locally valuable as recognition of excellence in journalism. Until now they have included an award for foreign reporting.

Given that global distempers now visit everyone’s lounge room via the gigantic flat-screen TV, when the footy’s not on, that’s good. Those who inform from dangerous places (or even just interesting ones) deserve recognition. And we know, by many means ranging from pub talk to blogs and even official government advice, that according to Australians the outside world is an alien and unquiet space.

The Walkley organisers have announced that they’re dropping the international category from the awards. It’s one of four categories cut as part of a review of the awards. It’s an odd decision, because while it’s certainly true that journalism is rapidly changing, so too is the impact of international affairs on Australia. These certainly need to be covered with an Australian perspective, and (reasonably) to be recognised in the country’s premier media awards. Doubtless, as the organisers say, international coverage can still be nominated within other categories. But given the parochialism that thrives in Australia, to its detriment, it might be hard for carnage in Aleppo to beat best pumpkin at the Bega Show for a gong.

We’ve added our voice to the chorus suggesting that the Walkley people should change their mind.

Training Runs

WELL, not runs, really. We mean our morning walks on the Outanback Track, the rudimentary road that notionally links The Cage with the rest of the limestone Bukit. It’s a rough trot, our “road”, and steep in parts. There are two nasty inclines on the outbound leg, which we’ve pinned on our smart phone map as Little Dragarse and Big Dragarse. After a glass or three of premium Aga Red the evening before, as is our custom, they’re … difficult.

We’re trying to get walking-fit for a forthcoming European sojourn that will take us on footpaths and other public utilities of the sort that are rare in Bali, and at rather more length than the modest 2400 metres that form our usual morning gasp.

Never mind. It’s worth it. We think.

HectorR

Hector writes a diary in the Bali Advertiser. The next appears on Jul. 19.

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Statuary Declaration

HECTOR’S DIARY

His regular diet of worms and other non-religious fare

HectorR

Candi Dasa, Bali

Wednesday, Jun. 28, 2017

 

TEN days in the blissful zephyrs, beside the azure briny you get in the better parts of the archipelago, can do you a power of good. Such a break provides time to read books – or re-read them – instead of wading through 24/7 news reportage and grim analysis suggesting that Armageddon is next week, and all sorts of other things that would turn your hair grey if you had any left. We tore ours out long ago.

We read, among other things, Us, a novel that dissects marital and other human disorders, by David Nicholls; The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai (which we should have read ages ago); and a fast-paced and thoroughly predictable American crime novella written in the “this is a film script” mode so popular in the pulp fiction market these days. It was called Beyond Suspicion and was by someone named James Grippando, of whom we hadn’t heard.

The environment suited reading. We were at Sea Breeze at Mendira, a lovely spot and much to be recommended, where we breakfasted daily in the al fresco fashion beside the pool and then retreated to long chairs under umbrellas to contemplate the sea view, or the universe, or anything else to hand. There is statuary present that falls into the latter category and which several times brought to mind a Florentine garden, or possibly – traversing Italy at upper thigh level (it’s so much more fun than lower down) – one of the more outré among the Venetian renaissance master Titian’s supposedly recorded thoughts as he was mixing rose madder while his model reclined on a ladder.

There are several stone maidens who might easily be Titian’s models around one of the pools at Sea Breeze, in very decorative states of dishabille. Their daily task is to continuously pour water from the bowls they carry back into the pool. This makes a lovely tinkling sound, which is probably designed to be cooling. Among the more mature within earshot, however, it is a frequent prompt to revisit the facilities.

Tidy Town

CANDI Dasa has always impressed us as a place where the words Bali and rotting rubbish do not necessarily go together. The place is an example that many others could follow and should, perhaps especially those in the crowded south where the bonds and discipline of traditional settlement have weakened, injuring civic pride and sensibility.

Mendira, in Sengkidu a little towards the Pertamina fuel facility at Tanah Ampo, and Padang Bai, has really got the business down pat. Our morning walk route has been a joy: four kilometres of it because it’s flat and there are properly made roads to walk along, with space to get properly onto the verges if something with more than two wheels comes along. We’ve barely seen a carelessly discarded lolly wrapper, far less stinking piles of over-stuffed plastic garbage bags. It’s been great to be able to gaze at the lovely banyan trees as we pass them at a brisk trot without having to worry about stepping in anything.

Haloumi Heaven

NO visit to Candi Dasa can be regarded as complete unless it includes Vincent’s, the eatery and jazz bar named for that fellow Don McLean sang about, the guy who painted irises and other things and then cut his ear off before topping himself. Many artists are troubled, but relatively few go all the way with Vincent van Gough.

There’s live jazz at Vincent’s every Thursday evening.

On our visit this time we dined at the bar. It’s near the door, where smoking is still permitted, and close enough to get the full flavour of the jazz action. There’s no smoking in the main restaurant area, which is a good thing, and while the garden area at the back is great, it doesn’t suit on live jazz nights or if it’s raining.

Aside from the Haloumi, there was a special unscheduled treat on this occasion. A visiting troupe of jazz performers from Yokohama (where they are well known it seems) turned up with their instruments and played a very lively set, complete with a lissom performance dancer whose interpretation of Balinese dance was … interesting. It was all a delight. Also delightful was the broad smile that lit up the oboist’s face when after the performance we waylaid him as he returned to his seat and said “Domo arigato”. It wasn’t quite a Midnight Diner moment, but it came close. And it was nice to say thank you.

Coffee and Ice Cream

WELL, what could be nicer, especially if you’re on a seaside break? Mendira House, conveniently en route to Lu Putu’s desirable garden restaurant from our hotel (it’s a 13-minute walk: we timed it) is open from 8am to 8pm. Its coffee is not to be passed up, its ice creams are divine, and the gift shop is full of stuff you’d buy as a tourist – though we aren’t of course – and a handy source of bric-a-brac you might pack in your bag to take to relatives when you next travel.

Lu Putu has great food; it’s home cooked by Lu Putu herself. It also has a lovely, quiet garden restaurant area we’d recommend to anyone who wants the real deal.

There are many gems in the Candi Dasa area. These are two you shouldn’t miss.

Jailhouse Blues

FOUR prisoners left Kerobokan Jail recently on self-awarded tickets of leave, via a drainage tunnel that took them conveniently underground and out of sight the fifteen metres to the street outside. Two were recaptured in Timor Leste, whence they had fled. The headline act of the foursome, an Australian of questionable human value and of clearly criminal character by the name of Shaun Davidson, was still on the run when we scribbled this diary. A Singaporean convict was also still on the run. Davidson had only seven months of his sentence left to serve and the theory was that he didn’t want to return to Australia. The police there are keen to chat with him about skipping bail and the drugs charges on which he had of course obtained bail in the first place.

The incident provided another of those welcome comedic breaks you get here. The prison governor said the prisoner concerned had recently grown a beard and a moustache, perhaps to alter his appearance. No shit Shakespeare! The chief of police said it was thought an international crime syndicate had had a hand in the escape. By this we assume he means they had outside help, as opposed to inside assistance. A torch had been found in the tunnel, close to where there was access to the street. It must have been the light at the end of the tunnel.

Kerobokan is vastly overcrowded. It was built for around 300 inmates but these days it houses 1,300. Only 10 guards are on duty at any one time, because of staffing restriction, and none of them was in the watchtower that overlooks the spot where the escapees would have emerged and where he might otherwise have been able to point his trusty weapon in their general direction and shout “Surprise!”

#44 … The Man

THE expatriate bit of Bali does agog very well, being celebrity-fixated. And so it was when Barack Obama and family arrived here for a little downtime at the Four Seasons Sayan. The Ubud hinterland is good for the soul, and of course Four Seasons provides very comfortable digs for those whose wallets stretch that far.

He also dropped by a Bukit haunt that’s on The Diary’s Most Favoured List, El Kabron on the cliff at Bingin. It was an unscheduled and brief visit, we hear, but it’s the best place to sample Catalan cuisine and hospitality that we know of in Bali.

We didn’t join in the “I saw Barry” parade. He’s the former president of the USA, speaks quietly and with consideration, tweets rather nicely, has a functional family, and deserves to be left alone. These are all qualities his successor in office, #45, does not possess. Ah well, that’s Electoral College democracy for you. How sad. Never mind. Carry On.

Old Friends

ONE among these told us recently she’d missed us at a reunion of journalists and photographers and held, amidst much reminiscing, at the Pig ’n Whistle in West End, Brisbane. It would have been nice to be there.

Our informant tells us there were 60 or so Formers present, and much grey hair. Time waits for no man, as it is said, while the hair changes colour or falls out. It reminded us that in three months it would be 21 years since we left a note for Rupert on our desk saying, “Gone to the Dark Side”, or words to that effect.

We didn’t add, although we might easily have done so, a line to the effect that a rude letter would follow. Judging by what has taken place in the print media world since we furled our News Ltd quill and took off, we think we made the right decision in a timely fashion.

HectorR

Hector also writes a diary in the Bali Advertiser. The current rendition was published on Jun. 21. The next will appear on Jul. 19.

Hit Parade

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

Bali Advertiser, Jun. 21, 2017

 

IT’S always good fun to read the local Bahasa language press, as well as informative. Some people like to criticise the media – well, no, everyone likes to do that – and that’s no less common in Indonesia than anywhere. One of the things about critics is that they always know how it could have been done better, or that you’ve missed the real story, possibly on purpose. In an earlier life, one of the Diary’s jobs was to write back to critical readers and gently massage their egos while telling them politely to go get a life. It was often a challenge and helped to fuel an addiction to caffeine from which we know we shall never recover.

For those accustomed to western newspaper reading – a dwindling band indeed – there is also the issue here of upside-down stories. Telling the story in the first eight paragraphs is essential for western readers. Most won’t even get that far these days, of course. But Indonesian journalism is far more circuitous. You often find the story in the last eight paragraphs.

So it was interesting early this month to read Radar Bali and other media on the great Akasaka Club drug raid. The police found 19,000 Ecstasy pills when they swept into the premises on the afternoon of Jun. 5. They had previously swept into the premises, on Jl. Teuku Umar in Denpasar, on several occasions to far less effect. But this time it was the real deal. The police chief, Inspector-General Petrus Reinhard Golose, said no one was above the law. This will have come as shocking news to the people who operate the Akasaka Club and those who, on all the evidence, have hitherto been protecting them.

It’s good news for everyone else, though, unless they’re also running drug dens. It’s a sign that Bali is no longer the un-policed bad lands of the drug-wild west, or at least that this is the intention.

One of the fictions that some people here are fond of circulating is that the drug abuse epidemic is a tourist thing, or at least that, like the rubbish used to, it comes from Java. It’s nothing of the sort, of course. It’s an element of modern Indonesian consumer life that, like the poor, will always be with us. But it can be curtailed by effective police intelligence and action, and certainly should be. Pill-poppers are not all low-life adults. Some of them – foreigners and locals alike – are basically still children. That’s where to stop it. This requires parental supervision of offspring as well as official deterrence.

It’s true that the misbehaviour envelope in shaped rather differently in Bali, given the island’s transient overburden of tourists and its unpleasant overlay of a cohort of expatriate residents who are here gouging money because they couldn’t make a buck (or anything else) in their own countries. So cutting out the supply chain, or at least radically reducing it, makes sense.

Bali’s circumstances also make the island a convenient staging post and supply centre for drugs destined for other places in Indonesia. It’s probably always going to be that way. But at least the Akasaka action will signal that open slather – the situation up to now, which everyone who could be bothered to know about knew about – is no longer something that will be just winked at or tolerated.

Four people, including the club manager, have been arrested and police investigations are continuing. Take a bow, General Petrus.

Giddy Aunts and Others

THE Bali DIVAS’ lunch at Cocoon, Seminyak, on Jul. 9, seemed to go off with the verve and pizazz we’ve come to expect of that décolleté collective. We weren’t there but some of our favourite ladies who lunch tell us MC Kerry Ball was on his best and most restrained behaviour. He is reported to have said “oh my giddy aunt” a couple of times, we gather. But that’s an expression that flies well below the social sound barrier. It won’t have shattered any windows.

Entertainment was by Sydney drag queen Polly Petrie and a friend, Marzi Panne. We’re told that Polly mislaid his eyelashes at one point, but you expect a bit of ungluing on lively occasions such as these and we’re sure he recovered his customary discomposure quickly. It’s the sort of thing for which giddy aunts, and drag queens, are renowned.

Debbie Amelsvoort tells us it was a fabulous day full of fun, laughs and – most importantly, as she puts it – incredible generosity from divas at the do. That’s what it’s all about, after all. The event was to raise funds for the village of Songan, at Kintamani, where a landslide in February killed 12 people, including two children.

The money will go towards long term improved education opportunities in Songan.

Well done, ladies. Christina Iskandar can feel justifiably proud of the DIVA enterprise she started and which now has an international dimension. A Gold Coast DIVAS do was held on May 26, cementing the Queensland holiday resort city into the DIVAS’ Australian charity catchment, which also includes Sydney and Melbourne.

No Show

WHAT a shame President Joko Widodo was unable to open the 39th Annual Bali Arts Festival on Saturday, Jun. 10, due to other commitments, that always- utilitarian spanner in the works. It must have been chucked in at the eleventh hour. News that the presidential abort button had been pushed became public knowledge on Jun. 10. Maybe he couldn’t find his udeng. He sent minister Puan Maharani instead.

It must have been by coincidence that around the same time the presidential office released a lovely little map of the archipelago showing all the places where he’d dropped in – and apparently left a pin, Google Maps style – on his unscheduled blusukan visits.

It brought to mind a song written by Australian Geoff Mack in 1959 and later made famous by Johnny Cash, among others. I’ve been everywhere, man.

Top Aussie

A NAME that most Indonesians probably wouldn’t naturally associate with Australia, if they heard it at all, since it’s not Brett or Bruce and doesn’t come with a Bintang singlet, a stubby-holder, and a sharp (or slow) drawl, got an honourable mention in the 2017 Australian Queen’s Birthday Honours List released on the official make-believe birthday of Her Maj (her real one’s on Apr. 21) on Jun. 12: Professor Mohamed Hassan Kadra. He got an AO (Officer of the Order of Australia) for distinguished service to medicine in the field of urology as a surgeon, clinician and mentor, to rural and remote medical education, and to literature as an author and playwright.

Professor Kadra is a leading Sydney urologist, but his interests are far wider, including in an enterprise that trains people in IT in other countries where their circumstances might not otherwise give them that opportunity.

Most media interest centred on the AC (Companion of the Order) given to the actor Cate Blanchett, but veteran economist Ross Garnaut also got a very well deserved AC, the highest award now that the Aussies have again dropped that daft Knight of Australia thing. The AK – it’s a gong, not a gun, and there aren’t quite 47 of them – was resurrected as a “captain’s call” by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and quietly pushed off the track and back into the ditch by his successor, Malcolm Turnbull.

Leading lawyer and death penalty abolitionist Julian McMahon, who is locally of Bali Nine fame, also got an AC, and former Labor Party minister Robert Tickner got an AO for distinguished service to the community through leadership roles with the Australian Red Cross, and to the Parliament of Australia.

The full list is here for anyone who’s interested.

Candi Dasher

REGULAR Diary readers will know that the Diary has a soft spot for Candi Dasa, and this scribble comes to you from that fine little seaside town in Karangasem. We’re having a break there again, this time at Sea Breeze at Mendiri Beach in Sengkidu. Wearing another of our hats, we have some serious writing to do. And lovely views of Nusa Penida and the Lombok Strait (rippling Wallace Line included), delicious ice creams just up the road, and a selection of fine little eating places handily close by, are helping tremendously with that project.

We’ll drop in at Vincent’s in Candi Dasa itself at some point, quite possibly on one of their live jazz nights, for another go at the Haloumi.

HectorR

Hector’s Diary in the Bali Advertiser appears every fourth Wednesday. The next is due on   Jul. 19. He writes an occasional intermezzo diary here at 8degreesoflatitude.com between times.