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).

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