His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences
Trafficking in Chaos
The Bali government deserves the wake-up call it got recently from the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, which said continued improvements in public transport were needed to tackle traffic congestion and “not damage the image of tourism on the island”. The first part of the ministry’s primer is on the money, despite the embryonic success of the midget Sarbagita bus network. The second sounds rather more like a pointless shout after a whole herd of horses has bolted.
Bali is not Jakarta, though anyone looking at the development along Sunset Road would conclude that it’s trying to be. One Tuesday evening recently we had a wonderful experience on that gridlocked thoroughfare. We were heading to Seminyak (Samaya for dinner with friends) and were horrendously late reaching that destination. This was because after the new underpass, which works reasonably well despite the right-hand “straight ahead” lane suddenly becoming a U-turn lane and requiring the unwitting to make a dangerous veer to the left, everything falls off the cart.
The traffic lights on Sunset on the evening of our misfortune were red for 100 seconds or more and green for 30 or less. Motorbikes whose riders desired to turn right did so from wherever they had insinuated themselves into the lines of cars, and of course from the left-hand shoulder. They veered across vehicles trying to go straight ahead and totally gummed up the works. The result was that about three cars got through on each change of lights. Fabulous!
Further up the road, just when you thought the traffic might be clearing a bit and where among other wallet-emptying things there’s that huge new glitz-and-kitsch tourist trinket emporium erected by entrepreneurs with an interest in relieving travellers of the last of their petty cash, we saw evidence that this might be where all the tourist buses in Bali go to die. Oversized charabancs are parked in the left lane for ages. This thoughtless practice reduces the Kerobokan-bound Sunset Road carriageway to two lanes. These white lines are ignored, of course, as are all white lines in Bali, in favour of the standard let’s-play-dodgem-cars driving style. Shemozzle is too kind a term.
Back at the “new” airport turnoff, by the way, utter farce is the only term to apply. There is a traffic circle now to accommodate Mangrove Motorway traffic into and out of the airport which might work – it’s a moot point – if everyone, or even anyone, observed traffic circle rules. These are various and include the novel concept of staying in lane. They also, crucially, require traffic entering the traffic circle to give way to vehicles already on it.
High volume traffic circles need lights as well as law enforcement. Perhaps there are plans for traffic lights. But plans for effective policing? Hah!
In the Trenches
The Diary’s trusty conveyance, a Suzuki SX-4, ran into another Bali road hazard the other day. Literally. Fortunately no significant damage was caused, just another little dent that saves us buying a sticker that says “Hello! I’m a Bali Car!”
The project is to lay something or other in a deep and wide trench along Jl Raya Uluwatu at Bukit Jimbaran. At a deeper level it seems to be something designed to create lifetime jobs for sturdy little chaps with shovels since progress is at escargot pace. Its chief effect has been to create further reasons for caution among careful drivers.
Nothing is marked with recognisable warning signs. No lights are shown at night. Diggings crumble at the edges and creep out into the already narrowed road surface.
None of this caused the Diary’s little mishap. What did was a trench extension outside Circle K at Bukit Jimbaran which, at night, in the rain and with motorbikes parked at the roadside to fool the eye, was purpose-made for a drive-in visit of quite the wrong kind.
In the space of only a few hours the trench had advanced by several metres, an astonishing rate of progress. We had been there earlier in the day and made a mental mud-map of the current obstacle course.
Why Circle K, a major convenience store chain, doesn’t think to provide its own warning signs (and even a modest night-light) is puzzling. Well, no it’s not; no one actually bothers to think much at all.
There was a silver lining however (there always is). A nice chap in a white sarong and a black peci appeared, organised a team of heavy lifters to get our little mobil out of the hole, sent some of them out into the road to stop the traffic – 10 of them who bravely formed a circle blocking both lanes – and would not accept any reward for his efforts or those of his scratch team. “Not necessary,” he said. We don’t know who he was, though he looked like a local imam. But it is necessary to say “thank you” publicly.
White Shoe Shuffle
Australian entrepreneur Tony Smith, who left the Queensland Gold Coast (ground zero of the country’s white-shoe brigade) four years ago when the GFC gobbled up his plans and his profits and moved to Bali, now has plans to redevelop the 3.54 hectare Canggu Club site at the northern end of the KLS conurbation as a luxury resort and sporting centre.
He bought the property – it’s on a 41 year lease he wants to extend – from a group of Australian expatriates after selling his 63-room Semara Resort & Spa complex at Seminyak to a Singaporean couple. (Semara at Ungasan remains a Smith property.)
It’s probably fair to say the Canggu Club as originally intended was always an unlikely starter. It had airs and graces, affecting a sort of cross between a toffee-nose country club and a (poor) facsimile of something that someone thought might look as if it belonged in the British Raj. The Raj, of course, is as seriously dead as Monty Python’s deceased parrot.
Moreover, Bali’s English-speaking expat community has an over-preponderance of the beer-swilling, bottom-pinching variety of person better suited to facsimiles of Australian drinking arenas and noisy English public houses. And non-English speaking expatriates have their own style of fun.
The Yak magazine, which is about style and has consistent substance, moved a little while ago from the Canggu Club to premises at Simpang Siur. Chief Yakker Sophie Digby told us at the time – we had gently inquired as to the genesis of the shift – this was because it was closer to business. And, she added, the Four Seasons.
Smith, by the way, is a former AFL player. He represents the established demography of Australia by being a Victorian who moved to Queensland. Though not many of them then come on to Bali with plans to reinvent the Canggu Club.
AYANA put on a good show on Friday, June 21, to launch its expanded meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions capacity. Everyone loves MICE these days. The occasion, held in the newly opened grand ballroom and on the lawns nearby, was an upbeat affair. It was also to introduce RIMBA, the new resort hotel now being completed – on AYANA’s land but inland, far from the rocky seafront cliffs – and which will open in mid-September. It emphasises the environment and its name means “forest”. Not that much of that commodity exists on the dry limestone Bukit, but never mind.
We went along and reacquainted ourselves with the effervescent Goestamar Ardibrata, GM of Bali & Beyond, who was at our table, and serious sheila Deborah Cassrels, the Aussie scribbler, who was not.
Highlight of the evening was the dessert service – performed with panache by 200 AYANA staff from accounting, engineering, human resources, sales, F&B (well, naturally) plus housekeeping and spa – and the Chefs’ Band, which entertained spectacularly, playing percussion on a variety of cooking implements.
Less of a highlight, from the Diary’s point of view, was the curious nightclub-style representation of Bali’s mystical, intensely expressive, dynamic and angular dance heritage presented by the troupe of dancers at the do. Legong on speed came to mind. Or choreography better associated with a dumbass Hollywood movie such as Krakatoa: East of Java.
The south-west of Western Australia – that’s south of Bali’s biggest suburb, Perth – has a bracing climate that creates conditions favouring fine foods and beverages that already sell well in selected international markets. So it makes sense to promote its fine food and wine in Indonesia, as it has just done through a four-day marketing event in Jakarta.
Prime beef, olive oil, truffles and wine are being offered. The South-West is home to the globally known Margaret River wine region, but there are other wine growing areas where local micro-climates favour a wide variety of wines.
Earlier this year Governor Made Mangku Pastika said Bali’s international hotels should serve local produce in preference to imports. Fair enough. But it would be silly to shut out premium produce imports, especially by self-serving regulation.
Hector’s Diary appears in the Bali Advertiser’s fortnightly print edition. Hector tweets @ scratchings.