Part 1 – Australian Federal Politics 101: How the bloody hell did we get here?

This one’s from down at grass level on Oz politics. A good read!


Well the Federal Election of 2013 hasn’t even been called yet and I am already over the angst that it is causing. Let’s face it, federal politics is a deadest snoozefest of late. Yeah there is a lot of talk and it’s tough to keep up with who is who (thanks to KRudd’s recent re-enactment of “The Red Wedding”), but nothing is actually happening. It doesn’t feel like Australia is on course for anything. Much like Sally Fletcher’s return on Home and Away – I ask why?

For me, politics used to be something I could freely ignore. It was such a happier time. Like a slipping fanbelt in your car, it let off a screech here and there and was sometimes embarrassing , but the old girl still fired up and got you to where you needed to go without too much drama. However in 2008 something changed… I…

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HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser July 24, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences


And So to Amed

It’s a great little place, and decidedly easier to access from South Bali since the splendidly named Prof. I.B. Mantra By-Pass was (finally, mostly) duplicated. We hadn’t been to Amed for nearly two years and were keen to see how the place had moved along since then.

     On the trip up we logged a Bukit-Amed trip time of just over 3.5 hours including a stop in Candi Dasa – a sneak look in a realtor’s window, the obligatory distaff rummage through a handy boutique, and a drink and a bite in the sea breeze at Pondok Bambu – and traffic once past Sanur was easy. That is not to say the traffic was calm, far less that it was well behaved. Neither truck   nor motorbike riders can yet read: they all ignore the “trucks and motorbikes keep left” signs. The unduplicated bridge over the Unda River is still a bottleneck. And the infantile desperation of Indonesian drivers (of anything from rattletrap carry-van to souped-up mob limo) to overtake a Bule on the road is as tedious as ever.

     We’d planned to stay at a certain place in Amed but didn’t, since on arrival it looked decidedly derelict. The internet and the camera conspire to lie too often. Following a short reconnaissance, unmolested by anyone either visible or sentient at the premises, we drove on. We ended up booking in at Anda Amed Resort; a much sweeter deal.

     Coming back from Amed – it was a Sunday – was more difficult since everyone who has access to a yellow truck seemed to have lent it to their cousins that weekend, and they clearly couldn’t drive, and the Unda River bridge was reduced to one lane. This was because a truck – a red one as it happens – had decided to overturn itself mid-span.  Two harassed policemen were controlling the traffic (theoretically at least) while their more numerous colleagues enjoyed the facilities of one of those little roadside cafés further along.


Sailing On

While at Amed this time, we dined at Sails, the cliff-top establishment at Bunutan, on two occasions.  We’d been there before. This trip, we had the apple, ginger, cinnamon and palm sugar dessert dish the first time. We had to go back for more.

     The restaurant is a magic spot. It was a shame Patrick and Anik were unable to provide mahi-mahi for diners whose taste buds juiced at the thought of the pan-fried fish listed on the menu. Tuna is no substitute. But the place was packed both nights, so clearly business is booming. They’re playing some nice music too. A New Zealand-resident Chilean group has recorded songs from its NZ tour itinerary. Those Andean pipes are truly haunting. Patrick, who is from those other shaky isles, burned us two disks, at Rp20K a pop, money going to the staff fund.


Monkey Business

We’ve finally made it to Three Monkeys Sanur‎, which we’ve been promising ourselves we’d do as soon as possible. It was a handy way-stop on our return from East Bali. Three Monkeys at Ubud has long been a favourite and we had deemed it essential to check out the Sanur operation.

     It’s very good. The pizzas are delicious and the baklava is not to be missed.

    On that late Sunday afternoon promotional material at the entrance  indicated that the deliciously jazzy Edwina Blush was performing there that evening, on the latest of her regular visits to Bali from Sydney. We’ve missed her again! Clearly we have deeply distressed some spirit or other and it is determined to keep us apart.


Late Roast

A recent necessary outing to Kuta – it’s still a Napoleonic Retreat from Moscow job from the Bukit – brought us, on the way home, to the capricious delights of the Grocer & Grind outlet at Jimbaran Corner, where (killing time ahead of a date with masseuse Elvin at Island salon just up the road) we ordered a double macchiato and a slice of lemon and lime cake. The former was available. The latter was not (maaf, habis) so we elected to sample the lemon meringue tart instead. The macchiato arrived. The lemon meringue was a “wait moment” proposition.

     We waited. Outside, where there’s what passes for fresh air and a relative absence of people idly fiddling with their smart phones, while our macchiato also cooled its heels. We had to tell them that part of the order was missing, but as a culturally sympathetic and patient acquaintance later reminded us, these things can happen anywhere; point taken.

     The tart eventually arrived and was delicious. We had amused ourselves while further waiting for sustenance by speculating about the wondrous sign near a jumble of parked motorbikes that bore this legend: “Parking reserved for costumers.”

     Given that most of the bikes there belonged to G&G staff, not customers, this prompted thought. As it was reserved for costumers, perhaps the odd wanita or two among the pretty little things who wait tables at that establishment might not be all they seem.

     Next time we drop in, we’ll go in drag.


It Will Toll for Thee

Well, eventually. We refer to the new motorway that runs from Nusa Dua to the Port of Benoa road (not quite Sanur!) and will, so it is said, help reduce traffic congestion in the Kuta-Airport area. We hope it does, when it eventually opens for business, which on the latest reports will be mid-August. It won’t help reduce traffic chaos, of course. Only driver education, effective licensing and strict policing would ever do that.

     Out of interest recently we consulted Google Earth which revealed that we had misnamed the thoroughfare (it’s still waiting for an official moniker, which in this cart-before-the-horse land is no surprise at all). On the basis of (1) the fuss about the mangroves and (2) the inaccessibility to the public of any definitive documentation detailing its construction – or route – we had informally designated it the Mangrove Motorway.

     But Google Earth, courtesy of the latest satellite pass, shows that it runs straight up the guts of Benoa Bay, with a handy little traffic circle midway, about where aircraft on final approach reach go-around point, to take traffic to and from the airport.  On this basis it is now known at The Cage as Wavebreak Way.

     We were reasonably happy with the mangrove option – since it was a fait accompli and the builders of it assure us mangroves grow much better in a forest of concrete pylons – because a mangrove tree to cling on to might be handy should one’s transit be curtailed by some disaster. But now it looks as if we’ll have to pack water-wings.


A Different Leap of Faith

Pondok Santi, bungee king AJ Hackett’s former private retreat on Gili Trawangan (memo Aussie media: the Gilis are not “off Bali”; they’re off Lombok) that has converted to up-scale paying guest resort, has gone into the wedding business.

     We learn this not from the operators or owners directly, but from its Facebook page. Thank goodness for FB. Without it you’d never know what was happening on certain little islands that are not off Bali. Pondok Santi’s page is apparently run from Hackett HQ in Cairns, Queensland, since it refers to “Gili Trawanagan”.

     But be that as it may. Cheering news reported is that Pondok Santi has been awarded a certificate of excellence by the online globetrotter geeksite Trip Advisor, having rated number one out of 63 accommodation houses on Gili Trawangan.


Anchors Aweigh!

Neil Carl Hempsey, the nautical chap, is deep into organizing the 6th Annual Super Yacht Charity RDV Event. It’s on Friday, August 2, at Vin+ Wine & Beyond, Winery Restaurant and Bar; it’s a new grazing place in Seminyak (Jl Kayu Jati No1, on the Jl Oberoi corner).

     Hempsey says: “We hope that you all enjoyed last year’s event. This year’s event will take a different format with raffles and prizes to be won at the entrance, with the focus being an uninterrupted music and entertainment festival. This year will be bigger and better. So set your calendar for Bali’s biggest charity event of the year.”

     It’s certainly all in a good cause, which makes it worthwhile turning up whether or not you’re into uninterrupted music and entertainment. It would certainly limit deeply meaningful conversation, which some may think might also be a good thing.

Email Hector at or tweet with him on Twitter @ scratchings


Why Do Parents Insist On Killing Their Kids In Bali?

Have a read of this. It might make YOU think.

Borborigmus in Bali

I don’t really understand why some Balinese parents are so hell-bent on killing their kids here. Oh, they don’t do it deliberately – in many ways they care for their children in a way that far surpasses child-raising practices in westernised countries.

But they allow them to ride motorbikes from a very young age – an age when common sense has not yet begun to develop, when risk-awareness is non-existent and understanding of consequences is totally absent. And ‘road rules’? Well, I doubt that many of the parents who allow their kids on the road have any idea themselves.

So I’m on the road, on the way to brunch, and the road is full of kids on bikes. Many are in elementary school uniforms, all look to be between 7 and 10 years old. They are skittish and impulsive, weaving all over the road, impulsively accelerating and braking without a…

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HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, July 10, 2013


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.


Here’s Cheers!

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.


Makes Sense

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.

Accent the Positive


A Traveller’s Working Notes


May and June 2013

In Anglospeak, it’s Marseilles, pronounced as if to claim that one’s dear old mum takes part in the Fastnet races, or the Sydney-Hobart.  It is in fact Marseille, pronounced Mah-say. The city is as deserving of appropriate diction as Paris (Pah-ree), Lyon (Lee-ohn), Orleans (Aw-lay-ohn) and sundry other Francophone places. For that matter, it is possible to fly to Marseille from London or Edinburgh (not Londres or Edinbourg) so it’s fair to say the chaussure is firmly on the other pied too.

Neither is it genuinely a question of the difficulty foreigners are said to have with the etymologies of the places they are in. I was in Paris (Pah-ree) with a chap called Paris (Pa-ris) for a time, a while back, and no one thought his name was Pah-ree. (I should mention that I have never been to Paris, Texas, pronunciation unknown; though I did enjoy the movie.)

These random thoughts come to mind while we are beginning to absorb the unfamiliar culture and ambience of Provence. There is never much value in travelling if you’re going to pack your shibboleths, your cultural presumptions and your ignorance in with your smalls.

We are in the city for a month, domiciled in a fine beachfront apartment obtained via a house-swapping exercise. Without that defrayment of accommodation expense, we should not be able to be there at all, so we’re immensely grateful. The place turns out to be slap bang in front of La Grande Roue de Marseille, a huge Ferris wheel that at night lights up like a mad Cyclops, or a giant kaleidoscope, and flashes malevolent mixtures of light through one’s windows.

It does bring to mind the disturbing works of Stephen Donaldson. I briefly consider, at one point, silently calling the name “Nom”, just to see what might happen.  But it’s not really a problem. Within a day or so we hardly notice it, unless we want to have a laugh or count the people on it. A ready supply of vin rouge (rooghz-uh in the local patois) is to hand to assist with the laughter and complicate the counting.

I have brought Plato along on the holiday. Now I have a Kindle he travels everywhere with me. And it seems rather fun to have brought him to Massilia, the ancient Greek city upon which the Romans, followed by assorted Goths, Vandals and other barbarians, then built their own facilities. Plato was an exploring Greek, after all.


Marseille has many attractive women.  This is no surprise, since it is in France. Several such adornments are distracting in various ways at the luggage carousel at the airport after our plane arrives from Amsterdam. French women have a mysterious zest, éclat, élan, a deliciously promissory air. Possibly this is a fiction: the product of a diet of French films and French presidential reputations. The French girls I knew in the days when pursuit was permissible and dealing with the prey, were it willing, simply a matter of course, were all eminently sensible people. But this is why everyone I knew at school, whether or not they were a linguist, left that establishment able to ask: “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?”

Be that as it may. No woman from any other culture wears her Follow Me Home’s or flicks a hem to greater effect.  A Frenchwoman can be old or young; she may be black, brown, brindle or of standard Frankish pallor; she may have blonde or red hair, dark hair, long hair, short hair or even no hair; she can be mucking out the stables or bathing in champagne; she can be short or tall, thin-line or broad-point, rich or poor, loud voiced or a whisperer, even – though this is admittedly, even with a French woman, at a very long pinch – either educated and erudite or the obverse. It doesn’t matter. Whatever their circumstances they seem to possess a level of allure that eludes others.

That is, I mean, in this context, to men. The heterosexual ones at least, which according to glossy magazines and the internet now form a disastrously declining cohort.  One might say decimated, in the modern way, signifying near extinction; but since the word actually means reduced by 10 percent that might not be high enough.

The attractiveness of other women is, however, among the many things that are generally left unmentioned in discourse with distaff associates; even those who are French. This has more to do with self-preservation than with natural courtesy.

It is better, and far safer, to appreciate with the dispassionate, distant eye of the landscape artist than to seek to emulate Titian. Only the foolhardy would risk acquiring a black eye, for example, by citing the chief claim to fame of Tiziano Vecelli (or Tiziano Vecellio) in other than very familiar company:

While Titian was mixing rose madder

His model reclined on a ladder.

The position, to Titian, suggested coition;

So he ran up the ladder

And ’ad her.

Of course Titian was Italian, not French; he was a citizen of Venice, the Serenissima, which also has many attractions, not least among them being that it was the only Italian republic that was never an Italian republic.


On our drive from the airport to our temporary digs there is a signpost pointing the way to the French Foreign Legion recruiting office. Good lord, do they still do that, one thought. But the location was noted as a precaution, lest a criminal or social embarrassment, whether inadvertent or otherwise, cloud our stay and make a Beau gesture an option.