HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, May 30, 2012

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Oh Wow! Things Work!

Two weeks in Phuket can work wonders for you. Especially when it’s raining, on and off,  which it is at this time of the year, the reverse (almost exactly) of Bali’s seasons: Phuket is seven degrees 53 minutes North, Bali eight degrees 39 minutes South.

It is wondrous to shelter, street-side, from a sudden monsoon downpour and watch the efficiently engineered and properly cambered road surface deal with the flood of water; and the drains, unclogged by careless refuse, dispose of the resulting rush of runoff. Among other things the Thais comprehend – and moreover seem to care about – is that water flows downhill. It makes you believe, all over again, that if Bali could only put its mind to it, the same felicity would be within our reach.

And it fully refreshes the soul to be somewhere thoroughly tropical and to find that the electricity grid delivers a constant 230V – within the international standard plus or minus 6 percent tolerance – and that in consequence one’s rechargeable electric razor actually fully recharges and, moreover, closely shaves the morning bristles.

There are other things about arriving in Phuket that might amaze (we’ll get to some of those that amuse). These include the airport, which has a car parking, taxi, bus, drop off and pick up system that works. And an arrivals system that does too. Seventeen minutes from stand-up-and-rush-the-plane-exit to kerbside car pick-up was a treat.

And in case the director-general of official excuses should chance to read this, or more likely have it read out to him, since he’d surely have an official excuse for not bothering to directly inform himself about anything much at all, this was not because the airport wasn’t busy.

Magic Spell

Thai script, drawing its origins from (among others) ancient Aramaic and about as intelligible and dating from 1283 when King Ramkhamhaeng the Great formalised it, and the way of writing for some 65 million people, means that the Roman alphabet that the main European and other languages (such as Bahasa Indonesia) use is functionally beyond most Thais.

This leads to understandable confusion, most obvious to the casual passer-by from street-side signage. One little spot we passed often on the first part of our Phuket holiday (in Kata where we stayed at the delightful – and delightfully named – Lae Lay Suites) had a sign outside that proclaimed “No Panking.” A little further on, past a few more interestingly disreputable bars containing small collectives of bored, chattering girls of an evidently willing nature but unknown character, to say nothing of provenance, another sign said “No Paeking.”

Hanky-panky is impolitic and peeking impolite; besides, we were not driving and had no need of parking. We managed thereby to avoid total confusion.

There’s the Rub

Massage, as in Bali, is the ubiquitous offering made to passing tourists. Some of it is legit. A Thai massage, for example – the Thai style of massage, we mean, which we also sampled later in plush comfort at the Twin Palms resort at Surin – is a great way to discover that you actually can, if gently encouraged by your masseuse, just about get your right big toe into your left ear. This feat – no, we’re not just crassly attempting a poor pun – is much the better for being performed with clothes on and without the sometimes dubious benefits of sticky oil.

Others are, or may be, not quite as legit. Phuket’s tourist areas, after all, like Bali’s, are places of sexual resort for male tourists whose brains are defective or damaged, or anatomically misplaced. But even if legit, sometimes the names of massage establishments raise an eyebrow. There was one we spotted, into which the Diary dared not enter, that proclaimed itself to be the Tum Rub Massage.

Not So Petit Dejeuner

It is a Sunday at the exclusive beach club. Guests – regrettably some appear to be rather poor jests – are at play. Or maybe they are at lunch, since it must be at least an hour since they vacated their breakfast table.  It’s an eclectic crowd, as befits exclusivity, beaches and clubs, in Phuket as much as in any island playground. Many of its members are French, adding zest and joie de vivre to proceedings and some amusement – not necessarily of the cruel variety – to the day of the watching diarist.

Overheard on this particular day, they seemed to be saying “donc” to each other with implausible frequency. In its conjunctive form, it means “therefore,” and we surmised that they were explaining things to each other, or possibly explaining themselves. One party in particular prompted us to think that France, having just elected a socialist president who offered a series of spectacularly speculative promissory notes, had now convinced itself it is fully insulated from both the global and Euro crises.

Since we had not been introduced and such a social opportunity was unlikely to eventuate, we gave them names: Floppette, Flippette, Crevette and Asperge. As far as we could tell Flippette was with Crevette and Floppette with Asperge.  It was interesting that Floppette and Flippette displayed complete disinterest – such sangfroid! – while Crevette and Asperge disported themselves in the hefty little monsoon waves of the Andaman Sea equipped with body boards and fins.

Lest it be felt we are being unnecessarily unkind in singling out persons of the French persuasion, we note that at the same time some jests from Oz were on the beach. Tosser and Wozza were accompanied by their squeezes, Screecher and Mona, or so it seemed. It takes all sorts.

It’s Not Kuta

Or Patong, Phuket’s equivalent; and thank goodness for that. Surin is a quiet little spot – very quiet in the low season – and the better for that beneficence. There’s a surprising variety of good little restaurants (if you like real pizza, you’re certainly in the right place) including some nice locally run beach eateries that, unlike those at Jimbaran, for example, allow you some light to eat by and forbear to incinerate the fish.

We found one particular little place off the beach, a short stroll up a gentle hill from the Twin Palms resort. It’s called CC’s and is accessed by some stairs at a building next to a pharmacy. It’s locally owned – by a surfer-biker-philanthropist-entrepreneur from nearby Kamala – and run by another nice Thai surf fan, known as Jay. There’s a very well stocked bar and the massaman curry was the best we’d had in a long while.

Just in Time

Fortunately we were back in Bali well ahead of the next Ganesha art opening. We always try to get along to these little soirees since gallery manager Luh Resiki is such a dear and John O’Sullivan’s Four Seasons operation generally presents some decent wine.

And on June 7 it will be more of a pleasure than ever, since the artist whose works are going on show is Dutch-born Marijke Lambregtse, who has achieved the impossible dream: she lives half the year in Bali and half in Queensland, Australia.  There but for a Lotto win go I, as a superannuated cockatoo might say, if lightly pressed.

Lambregtse began her artistic career in Holland as a dancer, choreographer and teacher and then moved to Australia in 1987, where she lectured in ballet in Melbourne and Brisbane.  In the mid-1990s she studied art, painting and design, and her talent won her prizes, exhibitions and commissions.

Her Ganesha exhibition, from June 7-July 30, shows a collection of canvasses representing the broad theme of Lost and Found, from which the exhibition takes its title. These explore two themes: awareness and protection of the environment, and the crucial role woman can play in
bringing positive change by active participation.

Get Along There

Lloyd Perry’s Chillout Lounge at Ubud is making its mark. A recent “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” night raised Rp2.2 million for a very worthwhile charity, the Sacred Childhoods Foundation. Another fund-raising night took place on May 25 and they will be run monthly.

Chillout now also features a live music and art night every Saturday from 7pm.  Perry tells us a great Jam band plays and any musicians present are welcome to join in. Twelve took part in one recent event, several of them from Ubud. And if you’re feeling musical but can’t play (the Diary studied piano and the clarinet several eons ago, to no lasting effect; shame it wasn’t the sax, we’d surely have remembered that) then you could try painting to music instead. Watercolours and canvas are available for anyone who wants to have a go.

Long Story

Marian Carroll, chief spruiker at The Ayana Resort at Jimbaran – home of the famed sunset spot the Rock Bar – is now sporting a longer title. She is now Director of Public Relations & Marketing Communications (Resort & Residences). We do hope that comes with enhanced rummaging rights at the cookie jar.

The resort has just completed a large-scale refurbishment.

Hector’s Diary appears in the print edition of the Bali Advertiser, published every second Wednesday, and on his Blog at http://wotthehec.blogspot.com. Hector is on Twitter (@scratchings) and Facebook (Hector McSquawky).

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, May 16, 2012

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

What Rubbish!

When we heard that “the authorities” – the quotation marks are possibly essential – had suddenly demolished a number of rather well known and heavily patronised watering holes favoured by the Bling-and-Bolly and Boys-and-Girls-Behaving-Badly sets on the beach at Batu Belig, a wreck and rampage event held on May 7, an unkind thought crossed our mind. It was that “They” (the quote marks and capital T are definitely essential) had mistaken the real task upon which a modicum of concentration is required.

It occurred to us that a far-sighted official – Find that man! Give him a medal! – must somehow have become aware of the real problem on Bali’s beaches and directed the troops to clean up the rubbish, but that a critical wire or two had got crossed while the order was being passed down the line. There is a precedent for this, though sadly it too is a joke. An order “Pass the word forward, we’re going to advance,” given to British infantry on the Western Front in World War I was duly passed forward but got lost on the way. It became “Pass three-and-four-pence, we’re going to a dance.”

It is asserted that Karma Kandara, La Barca and other outré establishments were operating without the necessary permissions and permits. They may have been.  We don’t know. But that’s not unusual hereabouts, particularly when if you do pay up you’ve often no idea who is actually going to pocket the dosh.

Oh, THAT Target

Meanwhile – surely to no one’s surprise – environmental specialists are at loggerheads over how the Bali government’s commitment to a plastic free Bali in 2013 can be achieved. The short answer is it can’t be. The real political game is finding some smoke and mirrors with which to claim it has been, or very nearly so.  This little shadow play has now produced a statement – from provincial environment agency chief AA Gede Alit – to the effect that 2013 is just the target for the initial commitment.

Dr Wayan Arthana – of the Centre for Environmental Research (PPLH), which is hardly an impartial player but never mind in this instance – says there is no clear plan to achieve this. He is apparently shocked to learn this, which in turn is shocking. We’re on Planet Bali, where clear plans are never part of the picture. It’s true that Bali has a big waste problem. But even 10,000 cubic metres of waste a day is not insuperable. At the moment more than half is left untreated and scattered around the island. The 10 to 12 percent of it that is plastic could certainly be managed under the right programmes.

Arthana is pessimistic about the target date. “I think it will not be achieved,” he says. Gosh, if betting were legal here he’d make a brilliantly successful bookie.  It’s hard not to be pessimistic about the entire project, frankly. A study by graduates from Reading University in Britain found various impediments in the way, including the behaviour of people who it seems – in the comfortable do-nothing fictions that govern life here – “do not realise” that plastic is harmful to the environment.

Ooh, Yummy

Alila Villas Soori, on the Tabanan coast and somewhere we really must get one day, has a culinary treat in store for guests in June. Michelin chef Tom Kerridge, whose Hand and Flower public house, at Marlow on a picturesque Wind in the Willows-style stretch of the River Thames in England is Britain’s only two-star Michelin-rated pub, will be creating haute cuisine – some of it hot too, no doubt – in-house on his first ever Asian tour.

He is said by some to be the finest chef in Britain today. As far as we know, he’s not one of the rude ones, which is truly a blessing. Kerridge had a hard childhood, a time upon which he reminisced in February in the London Daily Telegraph newspaper. He recalled they were so poor – his divorced mum worked nine to five and then after hours on the till in a pub to make ends meet – that their usual Sunday Roast (a British tradition) was cheap sausage meat from a supermarket rather than prime beef or chicken from the butcher.

He said: “I look back on that meal with really fond memories because it shows my mum didn’t give up. She worked hard to help me get where I am. Now she comes to visit me at the pub, where we’ve just won our second Michelin star, and I get to treat her instead.”

What a lovely fellow.

And that’s not all that Alila Villas Soori has on its schedule next month. Its latest Artist in Residence is Raymond Wiger, a master sculptor in the art of wire mesh, who will show a collection there in June including some pieces inspired by and resulting from his residence at the resort.

Scat, Cat

We heard this story from Villa Kitty, the rapidly overcrowding refuge for deprived felines in Ubud. Apparently at Champlung Sari, a resort property in Monkey Forest Road, unwanted or nuisance kittens – the product of breeding age cats left unsterilized by unthinking owners or the ubiquitous stray animals – are cleared from the property by the cheapest method possible. Someone tosses them over the wall into a dirty little watercourse that fights its way through the garbage to get where gravity would otherwise like it to go.

Villa Kitty tells us a couple staying at the resort recently were upset at seeing a kitten thrown over the wall in this manner and one phoned them up in high distress. Further inquiry elicited the information from the management that the guests had evidently failed to see the kitten then climb back over the wall.

Is this a joke? Sadly it is not. But animal lovers and anyone with an elementary sense of decency might like to get their essential Ubud experience at some other accommodation.

A Ra’re Treat

Hector’s ghost-writer was browsing through his LinkedIn site recently when the ever-helpful People You Might Know feature popped out the name of Angus McCaskill. Well, we don’t know Angus and neither did we know his alter ego, the faux-Maori Willie Ra’re, when he was hanging around the party scene snorting cocaine. That is, we didn’t know him except vicariously as a result of the public notoriety he acquired on being arrested, charged, tried and sentenced to jail on a drug charge. We shared this condition – though ours was legitimate lack of knowledge – with a great many people who, after his sad denouement in a supermarket, suddenly seemed not to know him either.

McCaskill went home to Australia last August after serving a year in Kerobokan jail. He had originally been sentenced to seven years in one of those over-reactive challenges to common sense that the courts here seem to like so much.

He said at the time he was a changed man and that he had used his year in the slammer to reconnect with the non-narcotics-enhanced side of life. We wish him well.

LinkedIn tells us he is now business development manager at a Melbourne-based leisure, travel and tourism outfit called DealsOnDeals and also lists him as owner at the Wall Street Group of Companies. Now that might give us the Willies; not to mention the Gekkos.

Eat Up

Ubud, as befits its status as the centre of myriad universes, many of them very strange places indeed, has plenty of spots where, your head filled with pipedreams, you can also stuff your face. That’s as it should be, even if it’s only a mungbean you’re after. So one more won’t matter and it’s no surprise that Kuta fixture Dijon has wandered up the road to open a café. It’s in tastefully eclectic Jalan Raya Sanggingan, just across the road from a favourite Diary spot, the Beji resort.

Dijon Café officially commenced business on April 29, with all the pomp and circumstance people seem to view as de rigueur when opening a new emporium (of whatever variety) here. It was open – perhaps this was unofficially, or maybe it was just softly – when we were staying in the area last December.

It’s not very far from Mozaic, which keeps getting noticed – the Diary chiefly notices it for its prices – and Naughty Nuri’s, which being extremely tiny is always overflowing with the I-Must-Be-Seen crowd. So it will be good if Dijon cuts the mustard.

Vacant Lot

The April issue of the Bali Peace Park Association’s e-newsletter popped into our in-box right on deadline – ours, not theirs, it now being May – with some fascinating thoughts on fundraising, land acquisition, and building completion. It records that Man-With-the-Udeng Made Wijaya, whose landscaping firm did the drawings for the Sari site development, told them building the park facilities would take six months. Then it says they’re on schedule for October, the tenth anniversary of the first bombings. It’s May, so they now have five months. But they haven’t acquired the site – and there’s not a brick in sight.

We’ll read more. Watch this vacant space.

Hector’s Diary appears in the print edition of the Bali Advertiser, published every second Wednesday, and on his Blog at http://wotthehec.blogspot.com. Hector is on Twitter (@scratchings) and Facebook (Hector McSquawky).

By Jingo, It’s Time for Common Sense


There’s a streak of jingoism in Australia that irritates many people, including, let it be said, large numbers of Australians. It gets in the way of common sense and stymies the requirement to deal with reality. It’s a political and social phenomenon born of residual colonial cringe, earlier isolation and boastful over-pride, all now overlaid with nationalist perceptions that the world’s largest inhabited island (or smallest continent: take your pick) is some sort of very special biosphere.

It is found broadly, in various forms, across the social and political spectrum. A constant refrain at all levels is that Australia is the best country in the world, but when this claim is tested – on the norms – it is at least arguable. This is reflected in schoolyard-style national pride that defines sporting teams and lots of other people who are just doing their jobs as heroes, another disastrously devalued term.  At that level, national life is frankly infantile.

In politics jingoism is a distressing commonplace. For all its proclamations that it is now a modern social-democratic outfit (excepting a few recent distractions that the Prime Minister would really prefer we didn’t talk about) the Australian Labor Party persists in worshipping totemic symbols whose utility is lost forever in a distant past. The Liberal Party often seems very far from liberal, as in sentient and open; though less so about economic issues, on which it is rational, than on social policy where sections of the party seem intent on reinventing the past. The Nationals remain a proto-rural rump, still looking for uneconomic handouts. The Australian Greens are condemned to the sidelines of politics unless they can cobble together an economic policy that wouldn’t simply ruin the country (perhaps senator-elect Peter Whish-Wilson, Tasmanian replacement for Bob Brown who will shortly be just an ordinary Earthian, can help lead them out of that thicket). None of the other minor parties effectively matter; not even the Cool Katters, who are anything but.

And it is in this context that Tony Abbott’s speech to the Institute of Public Affairs in Melbourne on April 27 needs to be viewed. John Howard was incontrovertibly correct when he stated in 2001 that Australians “will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.” Clearly any national state has that right. But Howard was wrong – morally, ethically and in the end politically – in what he intended that decision and those circumstances would be.

Boat people – it’s such a pejorative term, a weasel-word propaganda tool – are not criminals; they are protected under international agreements to which Australia is properly a signatory. They are entitled to lawful processing and treatment if they arrive (and that doesn’t mean being locked away in remote detention centres or being shipped to Nauru or Malaysia). And despite the “300 boats since Labor came to office” – five years ago: 60 boats a year, five boats a month, statistically one a week – that the opposition leader shouts about, they are very far from being a flood.

Many more people apparently intent on evading Australian migration law arrive by air, on scheduled airline flights.

Figures for 2010 indicate there are around 13 times more illegal immigrants than there are asylum seekers in detention who have arrived by boat.

The data, obtained by an Australian newspaper from the Immigration Department under the Freedom of Information Act, showed arrivals in 2010 by air from the United States (5,080) and Britain (3,610) were near the top of the list of those in the country without a valid visa. China (8,070) topped the list and Malaysia (4,200) came in third.

In 2010, on the official figures reluctantly released by the government, there were 4,446 detained boat people. The largest national grouping was people from Afghanistan (1,422).  Given that Afghanistan’s ethnic rivalries won’t cease any time soon (Who’d be a Hazara? Does Abbott even understand The Kite Runner?) and the country’s threatened non-political elites will continue to view migration as their best option, that figure is likely to increase.

In 2010, a total of 58,400 foreigners overstayed their Australian visas; they were people who had entered Australia on tourist or holiday-working visas. One in seven arrived as students and one in 15 was not heard from again after being granted temporary residency. But in 2010 only 6,720 people who overstayed their visas were sent home, most of them voluntarily, after applications to stay longer were rejected.

Abbott’s flood is in fact a trickle. The 4,446 detainees in the 2010 data are a minuscule 0.02 percent of the lawfully resident Australian population. The 58,400 people who overstayed their visas, about whom Australian political leaders are apparently not in any flux of distress, aren’t a flood either – they represent only 0.26 percent of the resident population – but they’re 10 times the problem “boat people” are.

We could presume on that basis that Abbott didn’t know what he was talking about in his IPA speech. It certainly sounded as if he had mistaken the Arafura and Timor seas for the Rio Grande and northern Australia for Texas. But that would be unfair. He’s a bright chap. So we must assume that when he promised prime ministerial fleet-footedness in defence of national interests under critical threat he actually knew what he was saying.

Did he know what he was doing, however? There, the answer is more elusive. On one hand, you’d hope that he did, since he’s running for prime minister. On the other, given what he’d said, you’d hope that he didn’t, because it was vote-seeking, jingoistic rubbish.

He was banging a political, if not a populist, drum; he was not enunciating sensible policy. Abbott said (among other things on his list of unlikely first-foot-under-the-desk achievements) that he would order the navy to turn boats around. (He had several caveats on that putative order, which at least indicates he may know he’d be grasping a very painful nettle.) He would visit Indonesia to make it plain that Australians viewed boat people whose port of embarkation was in Indonesia with as much distaste as Indonesians viewed Australians who peddled drugs in Bali. Peddling drugs is a crime, as is boarding an unauthorised boat in Indonesia. But trying to reach Australia in a leaky, unsafe boat is not a crime. It is too often – sickeningly often – a fatal misadventure.

In any case, Abbott would get at best a polite hearing on the issue in Jakarta where the political realities are somewhat different.  Indonesia’s interest lies in getting unauthorised arrivals to move on. So-called boat people matter very little to the government in Jakarta, since they have arrived in Indonesia planning to do so and to become Australia’s problem instead.

And at the administrative level, removing the impact of Indonesia’s money buys anything bribe culture, so far as it relates to facilitating the onward passage of unauthorised arrivals Indonesia doesn’t want and cannot accommodate, requires a rather longer term view than apparently suits Abbott.  Further, the Indonesians have already made clear their distinct ambivalence towards Abbott’s excursion into Flashman territory on the boat people.

It might be true – though the point is arguable and substantially untested beyond anecdotal evidence – that most Australians regard so-called queue-jumpers, “illegal” arrivals, and specifically “boat people” with unequivocal distaste. The cost of processing and supporting refugees who arrive outside the parameters of Australia’s formal immigration programme is substantial, particularly at a time when even the most inattentive Australian has worked out that money is after all a finite resource.  But it would probably cost substantially less if processing were done in Australia under rules that ensured people did not spend months locked up in quasi-prisons, rather than overseas, the preferred out-of-sight, out-of-mind option of both sides of politics.

The revived Nauru option, flagged by Abbott in his IPA speech as a live proposal if he were to become prime minister, effectively would bribe a foreign country (albeit a tiny Pacific Ocean outcrop with no economic future) to become a prison island. This is a sorry excuse for policy and immoral to boot, at a distressingly fundamental level. (The same can be said about Labor’s so-called Malaysia Solution.)

Australians need to take a reality check. Politicians beat up the issue of unauthorised arrivals in ways that encourage the quite erroneous view that the country is being swamped by illegal and politically suspect people. They are playing to the gallery. The overwhelming majority of Australians are not racist in the formal sense of the term. But many Australians take national pride to jingoistic levels encouraged by politicians in office and politicians seeking office – though this may not be their intent – and by discordant national cheerleaders who declare that the country is open only to the Chosen.

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, May 2, 2012

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-theological experiences

Building for No Future

Among the many wondrous things that fix one’s attention in Bali is the question of building permits. It has been raised – again – as a matter of public interest by people who are objecting to the construction of yet another lodging place, allegedly without benefit of permit, in Jl Drupadi at Seminyak, which not many years ago was a quietly meandering little street where residents had rice fields to gaze upon. It is still a meandering little street, but concrete view-blockers have replaced the rice fields and silence is a notional, relative thing. This, of course, is progress.

It is not necessary to completely oppose development to be outraged by the cavalier attitude of many developers to dangerous impediments to their own wealth-garnering, such as building regulations. “I should get a permit? Well, I asked for one and you said no, so I’m building my nightmare project anyway. I’ve called it Excrescence, by the way; somehow it seemed apt.”  This statement is of course fictional. The actual statement, were one ever to be made, would probably be unprintable.

We have hotel developers – and other entrepreneurial types – who build what they like, where they like and how they like without bothering with building standards, licences, permits, or even drainage plans. (We know too that getting building permits is often a process fraught with costly problems but that’s not the point.) Few are effectively countered. It’s not just in Bali, of course. Indonesian law insists (well, suggests is more accurate in actuality) that you consult your neighbours before building, but hardly anyone ever bothers with that nonsense either.

If Bali is to escape eventual tourism ruin and have any chance of protecting its heritage, architectural and other, something needs to be done urgently. Reform could start with amendments to the devolution law so there is no longer room for argument over whether the provincial or district administrations have legislative power over building regulations. It could usefully then continue with cast-iron rules enforcing those regulations.

Bali has benefited hugely from tourism and related developments since the mid-1980s. Thousands of people have jobs they once could only dream about. Money has flowed – and is flowing – to local people like never before. All that is good, yet we face a dreadful problem, one that relates to virtually unfettered development and to the Balinese (and national) habit of ignoring both regulations and common sense.

And a Further Thought

Here in Bali we have by-passes that aren’t anything of the sort – because the instant someone builds a traffic thoroughfare it is built out and traffic-jammed by an epidemic of retail and other premises. We have intersections choked by vehicles and motorbikes whose drivers and riders simply ignore the rules.

We have traffic police who sit – for example in the little sponsored box at the McDonald’s lights at Jimbaran – sipping their coffees and Cokes and ignoring the tailbacks caused by people intending to turn right but sitting in the left-hand (through) lane because they’re so selfish or ignorant that they’re not prepared to queue.

There’s little money in it for the cops, of course. No “tourists” (even those who’ve lived here for years) do that. It’s home-grown idiocy and if it were penalised at all it would only be at concessional local rates.

In the Pink

Last October your Diarist – along with a chum who was visiting from Queensland, Australia – donned pretty pink to take part in the annual Bali Pink Ribbon Walk. It was a fun show, once the masculine genes had got over being paired with pink, and in a very good cause. We even did the full five kilometres, something that was apparently beyond many of the other walkers who, without benefit of marshals, cut a few corners.

The 2012 event is on May 26, retimed to take advantage of the less humid conditions and slightly lower temperatures of the season. Sadly, we can’t make it; we’ll be flying back from an overseas trip on the day and won’t be back on Bali soil until after walk time. But everyone else should, so put it in your diaries.

Gaye Warren, who initiated the Walk in 2009 and who as a breast cancer survivor is a leading light in the UK events, tells us that this year they’re providing optional design pink tees for chaps, with a black collar and the chest-legend “Real Men Wear Pink.” Nice try girls; only on special occasions, we fancy.

The Walk starts at 4.30pm on May 26, from the grounds of the BTDC headquarters at Nusa Dua with registration from 3pm. There will be the usual tasty morsels available from international food stalls and this year’s entertainment programme is being provided by a wedding planner. That’ll go without a hitch, surely?

Funds raised this year are going towards the building of Bali’s first Breast Cancer Support Centre in Denpasar. Bali Pink Ribbon works with leading hospital Prima Medika in a joint endeavour to identify breast cancer in Balinese women who otherwise might not notice the symptoms until the disease is far advanced. Around 200 women a year are diagnosed with breast cancer in Bali.

Details are at www.balipinkribbon.com.

Conrad Calling

There was a lovely soiree at Tanjung Benoa on April 11 when the Conrad Bali turned eight, said cheerio to inaugural GM Michael Burchett and bonjour to new GM Jean-Sébastien Kling, a native of France who joins us here on our island from the Hilton Maldives Iru Fushi. Kling joined the Hilton group in 1996.

We’re not losing Burchett, though, which is good news because he’s a good bloke. He’s staying in Bali to run his own consultancy business.

Non! Cela ne peut pas être vrai!

No! That can’t be right! A poll conducted by international travel search site is said to have revealed the French as the rudest people on earth. Apparently they were thus rated by 19 percent of those polled. It’s true that the French are historically known by their European neighbours for an abrupt and curt nature, especially when dealing with foreign tourists – those who don’t speak classic French, for example, such as Quebecois from Canada, or (even worse) don’t speak French at all. It is further alleged that this is often taken by visitors as rudeness.

Paris is a difficult city. But the people there are nearly in Seine, so that’s no surprise. In other parts of France your diarist, among thousands or more likely millions of visitors, Francophone or otherwise, has experienced no trouble at all getting along with the locals.

Scratch Him

Here’s a thought for the graspers among us, courtesy of Villa Kitty Ubud founder Elizabeth Grant Suttie. She recently asked (on Facebook) this reasonable question:  “How can an expat living in Ubud in a comfortable home with his own graphics business think to bring in three tiny kittens and not offer a donation?”

We’d say the answer is obvious.

That’s the Spirit

It was Anzac Day on April 25 – the Australian and New Zealand day to honour all those who have served their countries in the armed forces – and as usual there was a traditional Dawn Service organised by the Australian Consulate-General.

The Diary was there (as always); and this year was wearing his Australian Army tie for the occasion. It rained, rather heavily. But as Consul-General Brett Farmer reminded the large crowd present, given the occasion marks the bloody Gallipoli landing in World War I, we could put up with a little inconvenience.

Smile, Genius

The Diary’s current MFA (Most Favoured Argentine) Leticia Balacek, architect and artist – she had a lovely ink-wash sketch called Yellow Dog in her exhibition at El Kabron at Bingin Beach late last year which the Diary would covet for a wall were space available – has been spreading her wings. She had an exhibition of 47 mix-media works, Crossing Borders, at the Cemara 6 gallery in Jakarta from March 28-April 12.

Now, five of her manual colour screen prints are to go on show at the Indonesian Contemporary Art and Design ICAD by Artura, also in Jakarta, from May 5-June 15. Balacek, who has the sort of effervescent personality that makes you want to hug her, will also present a short animation stop motion film.

This year’s Design ICAD theme is Genius. Buenos Aires native Balacek tells us it’s about the genius we all have inside. Well, some among us do.


The Bali Times, which has been published weekly since 2005, failed to appear on Friday, April 20. There was no announcement that publication had been suspended, but you expect that here.  It is bad news – any descent into a catatonic state preceding death by any newspaper is – but is unsurprising given the difficulties the paper has had, particularly since November 2010 when the editor decamped to Ireland.

Revealing the real Bali – the paper’s masthead boast – was probably always going to be a little difficult from as far away as one of the Euro zone’s least effective economies.

Hector’s Diary is published in the Bali Advertiser, out every second Wednesday, and on his own Blog http://wotthehec.blogspot.com. Hector is on Twitter (@Scratchings) and Facebook (Hector McSquawky).