HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Sep. 3, 2014

by 8 Degrees of Latitude

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

  

Welcome to Bali, Far Queue

We keep hearing about the new model management at Ngurah Rai International Airport. About this beneficence we can only say that it will be good if the promissory notes it is issuing and that denote improved service have actual as opposed to notional value. It’s not clear that anyone should risk turning blue in the face while holding their breath awaiting these developments, however.

There are so many things. The rude entrapment of departing passengers in a maze of duty free shops is but one. You can’t get from passport control to anywhere you’d want to be without running the gauntlet of shop girls desperate to separate you from your money. Far more important and even more irritating is the security check shemozzle before you even get into the airport building. It’s a circus.

That’s when you’re trying to leave the Bali. It’s worse when you’re trying to arrive, especially if you’re a visa-on-arrival passenger. It’s an insult that anyone should have to stand in a horrendous queue to buy a visa and then join the tail end of another melee to get a passport officer to stamp it. It can sometimes take four hours. Welcome to Bali – Not.

It should be noted that staffing of passport control desks is a function not of the airport authority but of the government, but surely someone must have noticed that if there are 2000 incoming passengers from planes that all seem to have managed to land at once, four passport officers at the desks is hardly enough. Rosters, anyone? Perhaps the airport authority might mention this to someone, somewhere (possibly even in the Istana Negara) if it would like to encourage passengers to continue to arrive in line with their revenue forecasts. Perhaps it has. If so, this would be nice to know.

If you survive this tedious circuit of paper-shuffling, Indonesian style (why give one person a simple job when you can give it to four and complicate it beyond measure?) and the next queue for the baggage scanning, and make it to the exit, the rapacious taxi monopoly is then waiting for you. Or not. If it’s after midnight because you’ve been held up in the queue to get in, that particular piratical crew might well have gone home.

 

Give ’Em a Wave

ROLE Foundation Bali put on a Waterman’s’ Benefit Night on Aug. 30. We’d have been there but for the displacement factor: we’re still in Australia at the moment. The Grand Prize was indeed grand. Padang Padang 8″2′ Doris Gun Surf Board + 13 Night Surf Boat Trip on Doris’ Ship ‘The Raja Elang’, Mentawai, Sumatra Organizer Sean Cosgrove billed it thus: Padang Padang 8″2′ Doris Gun Surf Board + 13 Night Surf Boat Trip on Doris’ Ship ‘The Raja Elang’, Mentawai, Sumatra.

Doris is of course Tony Eltherington, a good bloke indeed and a man you can rely on to lend a hand in any circumstances, however difficult. He is memorialized in many places, including at InSalt, the little surfers’ warung on the Balangan road at Ungasan, where a burger has been named after him. InSalt is the nearest local eatery to The Cage. The Doris Day burger is OK. The mie goreng is too. And the music is cool.

The raffle prizes at the Aug. 30 show – the Doris special included – were all top-notch. The money raised was to benefit the Soul Surf Project, a non-profit organisation that helps underprivileged orphans in Bali experience the thrill of surfing by providing lessons as a means to grow awareness of the environment to keep the sea and beaches clean. Party-goers performed a public service as well as enjoying themselves.

It was at Old Man’s, Batu Bolong. Along with awards, great prizes and an auction, there were live sets by Hydrant and the Mangrooves. 

 

Hanging with an Old Friend

Made Kaek is an artist of exceptional talent, something that was happily revealed to The Diary and Distaff nearly a decade and a half ago on an early holiday trip to Bali. This discovery resulted in the purchase of two of his 2001 works which then travelled to Queensland, Australia, where they hung, much loved by ourselves and frequently admired by friends, in our house in Brisbane.

When four years later we subjected our lives to a sea change and shifted domicile to share Western Australia and Bali on a sort of extended and largely informal fly-in fly-out basis, the Made Kaek paintings went into storage along with the rest of our art. Nomads don’t generally travel with a collection in their baggage.

Now, however, with the retirement of some other works at the premises, they have found another wall to hang on, at the place in Busselton (it’s conveniently close to many fine wineries) that functions as our Australian home. Among the works now adorning the walls are the two Made Kaek pieces.

Since 2001 Made Kaek’s work has developed in style and presentation, and in some ways genre. This has taken it beyond his earlier form. He regularly produces work that one would covet were it not a sin to do so, in all three religions of the Book and most others. And buy, if one’s wallet were as flush as it was in former times.

There’s a school of thought – it seems to owe some of its genesis to the irritating post-colonial counter-cringe that gets underfoot in Bali and the rest of Indonesia, as it does in so many places – that suggests contemporary Balinese artists face a challenge in defining the relationship between their traditional cultural heritages and being a modern artist. According to the Balinese anthropologist Degung Santika (surely writing tongue in cheek) this is probably part of the “burden” of being Balinese.

It’s true that outsiders often expect the Balinese to conform to stereotypes that don’t fit their individual characters. It’s true too that in the West most of the exhibitions of non-Western artists are in ethnological museums rather than museums of modern art. But these are Western problems, “outsider” problems, not Balinese ones.

Made Kaek and other modern Balinese artists rise above their cultural roots but continue to acknowledge their heritage. Made Kaek’s art might owe as much to New York City’s graffiti artists as it does to Balinese ritual and religion, but modern art is trans-cultural, globalized, and increasingly anarchic. He does his very well indeed.

 

Heading for a Crunch

Speaking of the art of anarchy, the continuing expansion of condotels in Bali provides a prime example (unfortunately not pretty) of the wilful way in which developers and governments – at all levels – ignore both reality and their own future fiscal security. Planning laws are a joke, where they aren’t just a mess. Regents, doubtless citing the panjandrum clause that apparently makes them and their local districts functionally independent of the province within which their little bailiwick is located, approve hotels and other accommodation houses with gay abandon.

Governors, whose spatial planning regulations are routinely ignored, climb on the bandwagon and back mad schemes such as the filling in of more bits of Benoa Harbour to build more tourist-attracting facilities. At central government level, environmental laws are more notional than national.

In Bali, focus of most of Indonesia’s high-throughput tourism trade, the inability of existing or “planned future” infrastructure to match demand is plain to see, even by Blind Freddy. Oversupply of visitor accommodation is foolish. It is a way to lose money and markets. Not in the immediate future, of course; though that is exactly where planning falls apart in Bali. No one thinks beyond the current calendar or visualizes over the horizon.

Recent reports indicate that there are 5000 Condotel units already operating in Bali with another 8000 entering the market over the next few years.  A study by Cushman & Wakefield Indonesia points to coming pressures on value of properties. It’s true that everything has its price. The problem is an oversupplied market sets prices below return levels for investors.

A timely warning on another aspect of Bali’s one-egg-in-one-basket dollar economy – tourism – again makes the point that the push for more and more tourists is counterproductive since it will devalue the product.

The chairman of the Indonesian Tourism Association (GIPI), Ida Bagus Ngurah Wijaya, said recently that Bali’s past success was no guarantee of continued performance. He fears that Bali’s reputation may be on the downturn because of the emphasis over the past three to four years on becoming a bargain destination.

He has a point. Premium and bargain are generally terms that are mutually exclusive.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter