HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Feb. 22, 2012

by 8 Degrees of Latitude

A Fine Weekend

Brad and Siska Little’s Bali Life Foundation is getting a giant helping hand from Karma Kandara Resort at Ungasan on the Bukit. On the weekend of February 24-26 the resort is hosting its first Bali Life Foundation Weekend in support of a children’s home – founded by Australian surfer Brad and his Indonesian wife Siska – that provides a nurturing environment for 20 children guided by the founders’ pledge to give home, dignity and purpose to those under their care.

Karma has designed what it calls a unique weekend stay experience February 24-26, 2012, including cuisine prepared by celebrity chef Luke Mangan, from which 100 percent of the weekend-stay package revenue will go to the Bali Life Foundation. Mangan will be in Bali for the occasion. Details are available from Karma Kandara resort at http://www.karmakandara.com/ or phone 0361 84 82200.

You can find out more about the Bali Life Foundation and its work at http://www.balilife.org.

Capital Capers

A visit to Canberra is an unusual treat for your diarist. The Australian capital is an interesting city that is wholly artificial – the only imperatives that created it being the petty rivalries of Sydney and Melbourne over which was the country’s leading city and the fractious competition between the sovereign states that make up the Commonwealth of Australia – but is also a wonderful parable of Australia’s development. Its original design was American; its central purpose is bureaucracy; and its people are almost all individuals whose original homes were elsewhere.

This visit, the first in six years, had a very special purpose. Three-day residence of the capital was also taken up by your diarist’s four-year-old granddaughter, a thoroughly delightful little Canadian who was visiting down under with her dad to meet her Australian family.

Canberra’s a lovely place (no really – some people love it) but it’s very small. On a brief visit to the Qantas Club lounge there your diarist saw four people he knew.

The visit also allowed time to renew acquaintance with several favourite Renaissance painters whose works are on show at the Australian National Gallery. Much of the work, a product of its time half a millennium ago, is of a devotional nature. But none of it is to be missed. It is all magnificent. There’s a Titian on show. But lovers of limericks will be disappointed to hear it is not the one with the ladder in it.

Business as Usual

Local travel agents have a good point when they complain, as they have recently done, that Bali airport operator PT Angkasa Pura I is apparently in the business of gouging its customers. The surprise is that they have bothered to lodge a complaint, since the official Indonesian practice is to charge people an extortionate fee for products and services of very little value and limited utility.

Two things in particular are exercising their minds. First, that there is no means of driving into and out of the airport to pick up or drop off visitors without paying for the dubious privilege of joining the chaotic traffic within. And second, that PT Angkasa Pura I – again in the fine tradition of feather-bedded public corporations everywhere – has done another monopoly deal, this time with a florist, PT Penata Sarana, and now charges a substantial fee for VIP welcome leis along with another hefty impost for welcome banners.

Al Purwa, head of the Indonesian Association of Travel Agents (ASITA) in Bali, complains that the airport operator is unprofessional and arbitrary in its business practices. Few would argue with that assessment. He is a man whose optimism is boundless, however. He says he hopes that once the airport makeover is completed PT Angkasa Pura I will truly operate the air gateway to Bali to an international standard.

Unfortunately, a contrary view seems less likely to disappoint: that nothing will change beyond an opportunistic grab for higher and higher charges for traffic access and parking among much else. Continuing porter problems and the taxi monopoly are among many issues the airport operator needs to address.

Island Hopping

New Zealanders who can spare the money for all the get-out-of-the-airport extras on arrival will soon be able to hop right over the Big Island – the one with all those kangaroos and koalas on it – and fly direct to Bali, for the first time since the 1990s. Air New Zealand is finalising arrangements for twice-weekly flights between Auckland and Bali between June and October with 228-seat Boeing 767s. Flight time is eight and a half hours compared with the 14 to 24 hours available on other carriers that fly services via Australia.

The service is awaiting government and regulatory approval.

Sing Us a Song

Ambassadors generally present a world view that, publicly anyway, is informed by the political directions received from their governments. This doesn’t mean they are dull bods. Quite the reverse: people lucky enough to have working lives that bring them into contact with the servants of other national interests are richly rewarded by their fellowship and by countless opportunities to observe their dextrous diplomatic pirouettes when caught between a rock and a hard place.

These days, your thoroughly modern major envoy is often to be found in the Blogosphere, and such is the case with the engagingly personable Mark Channing, HM’s ambassador to Indonesia and Timor-Leste. He recently blogged that suspicions that the British economy has been behaving for years in ways one might expect of a dead parrot are unfounded.

He’s quite right. Bits of it perform like a cuckoo on steroids. No, seriously – Channing cites one of Britain’s more engaging invisible exports. It’s an audible one. The Brits might no longer be ruling anything much (not even Scotland for long, perhaps) far less making widgets or grummets or whatever, but they do make music.

He blogs:

“Wherever in the world you go, and no more so than here, one hears British music – some of it new, some old. At the same time, one often also hears people comment that Britain ‘no longer makes things’. Yet, one of the reasons that the UK economy is one of the largest in the world is its success in ‘invisible’ areas like music … British music remains a staggering money-spinner … worth around US$6 billion each year, with UK artists accounting for almost 12 percent of global sales in 2010.”

It’s good news week, it seems; though we should note that the singer-songwriter-producer Jonathan King – he is yet another fatally flawed genius on the music scene – who wrote the song of that title in 1965, was being satirical rather than promotional: it then says “someone dropped a bomb somewhere.” At least he was accurate. His other 1965 song, Everyone’s Gone to the Moon, sadly proved to be over-optimistic.

Channing was in Bali last October – it was bomb memorial time – in part as part of Britain’s new push to re-engage fulsomely with Indonesia and the rest of Southeast Asia.  We had a cuppa and a chat about that. Sometime, somewhere, soon, your diarist must find a forum in which to publish his unauthorised view of this clement – and long overdue – development.

A Lively Little Drop

Sometimes, just when you think all is lost and that ennui has won the final battle, the heavens send you a little pearl to remind you – it’s always at the eleventh hour, dammit – that the forces of risible liberation are not yet quite beaten.

One such occasion enlivened opportunistic affogatos for two recently taken at Grocer and Grind’s Jimbaran Corner premises (it’s where you turn off Jl Uluwatu to go to the fish cafés and – if you’re lucky enough to scrape through the defile – on to Karma, the Four Seasons, the Ayana and other plush places).

Idling while awaiting our espresso and vanilla ice cream – that being what the totally decadent and irredeemably orgasmic affogato actually is – we perused the wine list. The prices always stun you, but that’s Bali. On this occasion, however, something else piqued the senses.

The little pearl in question hid coyly among the red wines. It was a Naked Range product (that name itself prompts illicit thought) from Victoria, Australia. It was a pinot noir – something else the Diary regards as orgasmic – and the chaps at Grocer and Grind evidently agree.  A lovely word transposition had listed it as Naked Duet Range pinot noir.

They say a picture paints a thousand words. In this case, if we are to believe the Kama Sutra, five words paint 64 pictures. Only a handful of these depict activity that is not athletically difficult or downright dangerous.

Trying Hard

We’re not sure whether this is actually real, since Australian bureaucrats like any others are not widely known for their public humour. But we’re not going to check, either, because this is too good to miss.

A list of questions and answers on the Australian Tourism Commission website recently made it our way and included this little beauty from someone in the USA. Q: I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth. Can you tell me where I can sell it in Australia?  A: Anywhere significant numbers of Americans gather.

And we can’t resist this one either (unfortunately also from an American): Q: Will I be able to see kangaroos in the street? A: Depends how much you’ve been drinking.

Hector’s Diary appears in the fortnightly print edition of the Bali Advertiser, out every second Wednesday, and on the newspaper’s website http://www.baliadvertiser.biz