8degreesoflatitude

THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

Month: December, 2014

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Dec. 24, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Art with a Frisson

Two books recently given an Australian launch – at the University of Sydney – provide a more profound focus on the real Bali than any number of tourist-oriented creations. The real Bali is of course not found in performances of the Kecap Dance and other (wonderful) expressions of the live art presented for gawkers, moneyed or not, but in the heritage and still-practised and continuously renewed culture and lifestyle of the Balinese themselves. These are not seen in the KLS triangle (Kuta-Legian-Seminyak) or in multi-star international hotels where tourists spend the money that fuels Bali’s economy. They are found in the villages and are revealed to the fully interested and sentient through electively-sourced media, principally books.

Adrian Vickers, whose research at the University of Sydney itself constitutes an important body of work in Asian studies generally and (from our perspective) Bali in particular, has edited a book, Lempad of Bali, just published in Singapore by Editions Didier Millet. He describes it justifiably as probably the most important work yet published on a single Balinese artist. It is a collaborative effort with Bruce Carpenter, the late John Darling, Hedi Hinzler, Kaja McGowan and Soemantri Widagdo.

Vickers writes in his useful Australia in the Asian Century blog: “Gusti Nyoman Lempad was legendary not only as a radically different artist from the 1930s, but also as the architect who created Ubud, and for his longevity. While there are different estimates of his age, at his death in 1978 he was either 116 or 106. Two other books on Lempad have also come out this year. Although neither of these has much scholarly weight, they do illustrate the range of work of Lempad and his school, which mainly consisted of his family.

“I met with a more profound set of insights into Balinese perspectives on life than I had imagined … Lempad was concerned with gender, with attaining wisdom and power, and with moving between the world of the senses and the world beyond. In his art, the three are combined.”

It is the very real eroticism of the ancient Hindu and Buddhist cultures of the archipelago that piques the interest of many today, especially since these influences still inform cultural practice and, one suspects, rather more of daily life than is generally revealed.

Made Wijaya’s new book, Majapahit Style, also launched on the occasion, is attracting critical acclaim and rightly so. Few non-Balinese know more about the island’s true culture than he. In this instance he has cast his net much wider and lays bare the cultural DNA that binds together the many diverse peoples of the archipelago.

The Diary’s newly-appointed international cultural attaché, Philly Frisson, attended the launch. She tells us: “Not sure that I should quip! [Oh go on, don’t be a spoilsport – Hec] … but Wijaya was in his element at his old university and sold out of his books to an enthusiastic crowd. Vickers had everyone fascinated and quite agog with the exquisite and highly erotic Lempad drawings. Those frisky, risqué Balinese … they leave the Kama Sutra for dead with their dexterity and imagination.”

 

Out to Score Goals

The new British ambassador to Indonesia, Moazzam Malik, was in Surabaya on Dec. 11-13 as part of his round of provincial introductory calls. We certainly look forward to seeing him in Bali. He is still officially ambassador-designate since in the arcane form of legation-based diplomacy, he hasn’t yet formally presented his credentials. [See below – Hec.]

No matter. He’s clearly got straight down to business. In Surabaya – which is close enough to mention, we feel, since it is only about 45 minutes by air and just a horror of a day-and-a-night trek by road and ferry from here – Malik joined East Java Governor Soekarwo for Friday prayers and discussion; met the Mayor of Surabaya, Tri Rismaharini, a very feisty lady; visited Airlangga University; and joined an informal gathering of the Surabaya-based Big Reds, the Liverpool FC fan club. Despite being a Londoner, Malik is a Liverpool fan. Bali’s strong contingent of Liverpool supporters are doubtless also hoping that their team’s season improves.

In Surabaya, Malik announced that a new British Council learning centre  will open there in March 2015. In April, a “pop-up” British Embassy will also open. It will provide a full range of services. Surabaya has an interesting place in immediate post-World War II British history. It is where in 1946 some of the British troops sent to help re-impose Dutch colonial rule refused to advance on independence fighters’ positions. They argued, mutinously but with a fine grasp of historical determinism, that they hadn’t just finished fighting World War II so they could prop up the old order. Malik, whose background is in international aid and development and who is an active tweeter, is also ambassador to Timor-Leste and ASEAN.

There’s another new ambassadorial appointment to note: Paul Grigson is moving from the very senior position of head of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s SE Asia division in Canberra to take over from veteran diplomat Greg Moriarty in Jakarta. Grigson, who in an earlier life was a journalist, was Australia’s ambassador to Thailand 2008-10 and Burma 2003-04.

Update: Ambassador Malik presented his credentials on Dec. 18

 

Hey, We’re Eclectic

It’s really very nice of Rock Bar at the Ayana to host a special party for Eve Eve, Dec. 30. It’s our birthday. We don’t mind at all being Eve on the evening in question if it gets us a drink and some hot music. DJ Mr Best is flying in to pump out the decibels for the event. He’s offering an eclectic mix of House, Rock & Roll, R&B and Hip Hop to celebrate the year that was and set you up for 2015, which everyone hopes will be better.

Mr Best is said by Ayana’s decoratively efficient PR team to be the go-to man for A-list clients including Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Lauren Conrad, and Lenny Kravitz as well as the Emmy Awards and Golden Globe After Parties. We’re sure they’re right. He provides music, after all, not advice on dress sense, good taste and acceptable manners.

 

Their Garden Grows

Wiwik Pusparini’s and Peter Duncan’s Taman Restaurant in Senggigi, Lombok, is now not only home to a very decent menu, wine list and fine coffee – as well as a shop where you can buy bread and treats and pies and cakes, yum – but also to an accommodation house that is rapidly taking shape behind the premises. Sixteen rooms are under construction, with eight more to follow. They are aimed at budget travellers who want access to things such as universal power points (no more plug-in-plug-in-plug messiness) and a standard of service and accoutrements, including a swimming pool, that will reward guests for choosing to stay there.

Duncan, who has lived in Lombok since 2003, has a Big Birthday coming up, on Jan. 1. The Big Seven Zero looms. Like The Diary and others (including Ross Fitzgerald, the Australian historian, author of scholarly works, the autobiographical My Name is Ross – about alcoholism – and some interesting novels) he is a pre-Boomer. He’s the baby of the bunch. Fitzgerald is the senior of our trio, having chosen to arrive on Christmas Day. As noted above, the Diary’s attainment of septuagenarian status is on Eve Eve. Fitzgerald usually comes to Bali once a year, in the dry season, with his wife Lyndal Moor, an accomplished ceramicist. They are Ubud fans.

We should get together – the Diary will raise this with Duncan, a former minister in both the South Australian and Australian federal parliaments, at his big birthday bash set for Jan. 17 in Senggigi – to form the Pre Boomers’ Club and get some balance back into the ageist debate. Those retiring Boomer youngsters get all the attention.

 

Pouring In

Latest figures (they’re for October) show that Bali continues to shoehorn more and more tourists into its oversupply of private hotels and undersupply of public infrastructure. Bali accounted for more than 40 per cent of Indonesia’s international arrivals in October. The Central Statistics Agency (BPS) recorded 808,767 overseas visitors to Indonesia during the month, 12.3 per cent more than in October 2013.

This takes the total for the first 10 months of 2014 to 7.75 million, 8.7 per cent up month on month. Ngurah Rai recorded the highest increase in international arrivals, up 27.3 per cent to 339,200.  Jakarta’s main gateway, Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, went the other way. It recorded a decline of 7.4 per cent.

 

Happy Christmas

Rotary Club of Bali Kartika has a Christmas event on Dec. 27 featuring Angklung Daeng Udjo, the Bali Community Choir, a Fire Dance performance, Sing-a-Song and Dancing. It’s from 7pm to 10pm at Gereja Fransiskus Xaverius in Jl Kartika Plaza, Kuta. Season’s greetings – and we’ll be back when the logic of manmade mathematics has ticked us over to 2015.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the Bali Advertiser print edition and  at http://www.baliadvertiser.biz

 

A prayer for the beautiful suffering

Jade Richardson puts an interesting argument here, one that needs wide readership. The Ubud specifics she cites are unknown to me (I am renowned as blind to the private silliness of others, preferring my own) but the picture she paints is just about ubiquitous. Or it was when I was trying not to be a lad.

I think she’s right about the world (the Western portion of it at least) having lost touch with genuine intimacy. Modern mass media and the ill-informed prattle of much social media has also killed the understanding that there can be real (cerebral) intimacy in non-sexual relationships. She’s right too about the soft-porn pitch of the advertising industry. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing in itself, but on the other hand cute=titter=unnecessary prurience is tedious and mind-bending.

There’s a great narrative under way here. I look for more of it.

Passionfruitcowgirl

Could the wounded human love story be the tearing open of the bud to a truly Divine Romance?

Huge, hard, kinky, tantra, boots and whips and puppies. Ice creams, gags, wax and weird conjugations of the kundalini…. since when did sensuality form this venomous helix with suffering? And where, on our wounded Earth, is all this going to end?

Is it a secret to say that for so many of us those precious, early tones of longing for love got warped somewhere: on the dating scene, in marriage, in the loneliness of this modern three-way hi-way adventure in the bad, bad honeylands of craving? And if so, what next?

Out here in expat-land, on the frontiers of the new, ‘unshackled’ humanity, there’s plenty of talk about finding Love, but not much time for making it. Meanwhile, we bud into tribes of vegans, yogis, crusaders for animal rights, poets, singers and yes – ecstatic, sexy dancers.

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HECTOR’S DIARY, Bali Advertiser, Dec. 10, 2014

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Salad Days? Hold the Mayoh

We were surprised recently to read that Royal Pita Maha, one among many resort hotels at Ubud, was “quite literally out of this world”. News of this galactic shift had hitherto eluded us. Fortunately it turned out not to be true. We made urgent inquiries and were able to satisfy ourselves that the establishment remained on terra firma. Moreover, it was still located up the hill from the lovely Pita Maha Resort and Spa where we stayed a couple of times, years ago in the days before there was a Royal Pita Maha, when we were holidaying in Bali as pay-your-own-way tourists.

The source of the easily disproved theory that Royal Pita Maha had moved to Pluto or some other planet was someone called Lisa Mayoh, who wrote a puerile puff piece that appeared in Rupert Murdoch’s little asteroid belt of cyber-papers which litter Virtual Australia.

The version we saw, courtesy of the dyspeptic blogger Vyt Karazija who (quite rightly) fiercely fulminated on Facebook about it, was in Perth Now. But reading the text – and this was not a labour of love, of that you can be sure – told us that Mayoh, who appears to have majored in breathless hyperbole, perhaps while studying at public expense, hails from Sydney. Or that’s where she told us she and her husband had come from on their adventure in Bali.

While here (unless she really was on Pluto) she engaged the services of a taxi driver named Wyan. Yes, that’s without the first a, which makes him unique among the 25 per cent or so of Bali’s population called Wayan. It’s such a shame that Wyan apparently failed to take her to see a performance of the iconic Ketchup Dance. She might have found that saucy.

Someone really should start a petition to have Ignoramus Australis declared a global pest.

In the Soup de Jour

Ubud returnee Jade Richardson, with whom we have at last lunched (yippee-yi-yay!) wrote a fine piece on her Passionfruitcowgirl blog recently in which she had a bit of a go at the selfishly acquisitive and culturally catatonic sector of the American Diaspora in Ecuador, the Andean republic where she was living until recently, mostly in a little city called Vilcabamba. She’s now back in Bali, where she should remain if we are to have any chance of repeating the delights of lunchtime conversation.

Her piece is well worth reading. This is especially so because – national origins excused: it’s not only a certain class of American that blots the globe after all – what she writes has significant, important, and resonant, echoes for Bali.

Needless to say her piece was not received with adulation by her former non-confreres in Ecuador. Some American realtor chap even went litigiously over the top about her on his come-in-and-give-me-your-money-I’m-honest-well-I-would-say-that-wouldn’t-I blog. To which we say, stick it to them again, Cowgirl.

Divas and Dudes Get Giving

Christina Iskandar, who is by way of being the chief diva hereabouts, has been busy promoting the annual Divas & Dudes Charity Xmas Event set for Mozaic Beach Club on Dec. 19. It’s a good show in a good cause and is of course open also to those among us who would have a hard time qualifying as either a diva or a dude.

The program, starting from 6pm, includes Carols by Candlelight, a fashion show by Indonesian Designer Arturro, Canapés & Cocktails, and dinner. There will be a Christmas tree covered with Child Sponsorship images from Bali Children Foundation, a silent auction for YPAC Bali -Institute for Physically & Mentally Handicapped Children, and Christmas gift-giving under our tree for balikids.org. If you’d like to donate a gift, wrap it and place it under the tree clearly labelled girl or boy and age.

You can call Rosa at Mozaic Beach Club for details on (0361) 47 35796.

Reality Bites

Lombok looked a bit low when we were there three weeks ago. We exclude the Three Gilis, which we didn’t get to on this trip. It’s basically always high season there, especially now there are fleets “fast boats” whizzing backwards and forwards across the Lombok Strait from Bali.

The suspension of the Jetstar service direct from Perth (it ended on Oct. 15) has plainly hit the rest of tourist-focused Lombok hard. That’s a shame, because it’s a great place that with effective support from the West Nusa Tenggara provincial government would be ripe for at least modest, and one would hope managed, expansion.

Unfortunately, in the way things go in Indonesia, effective government support is unlikely to emerge. The message the provincial government took back from a crisis meeting with Jetstar in Melbourne seems to have been that the airline was very pleased that they’d come all that way to see them. Um, yes. Sort of thing you say, really. The message they should have taken back was that in the growth phase Jetstar needed much more support from the government.

We hear, incidentally, that one of the reasons the government hadn’t actually spent any of the substantial funds it had outlaid for promotion of its lovely new direct Australian tourist link was that the committee that was supposed to dish out the dinars had never been appointed. Cue: Scream!

According to some figures whispered in our ear, Jetstar load factors on the Lombok-Perth sector were running around 5 per cent below the Perth-Lombok one. That rather negates another theory put to us: that the problem was large numbers of Perth-Lombok passengers using the service as an alternative way to get to Bali – and going home from there. But Jetstar must carry some of the blame for its failure to sustain the new route. You might need to run disastrously negative-revenue “get-in” seats on a start-up basis, but getting the marketing right so that you attract profitable passengers is a better bet.

What’s really needed is assiduously planned, well executed and energetically proactive involvement by all parties.

A Little Wilted

We stayed at Kebun Resort and Villas in Senggigi. Sadly, it was a bit of a disappointment. The original general manager was someone we’d known well when we lived in Lombok several years ago. The property had been developed on a sort of Four Seasons Lite scale (they didn’t say this, but that was the subtext). We’d seen it completed, some time ago.

It has now been operating for seven years, which in terms of Indonesian infrastructure amounts to several life-cycles. You know how it is: some edifice is erected and it instantly looks as if it’s seen better days.

Incidentally, if you’re thinking upmarket Lombok and a glowingly promoted enterprise named Svarga catches your eye, be advised (they do not so advise on their website) that despite sounding vaguely Slavic by name, it’s Muslim-owned and run and teetotal. There’s nothing wrong with that. But many western tourists (not to mention any number of partying Arabians we’ve come across over the years) like a drink.

It’s All White, Really

Nikki Beach, started by entrepreneur Jack Penrod in 1998 as “the ultimate beach club concept” by combining elements of entertainment, dining, music, fashion, film and art, is said to be sexiest party place on the planet.

It has now opened in Bali and did so on Dec. 6 at Nusa Dua with a signature Grand Opening White Party. We look shocking in white, or perhaps invisible, so we weren’t there. But we do think it’s worth noting that now it has its own sexiest place on earth, where naked legs and mischievous breeze-blown hemlines raise both the interest of the attendant dude pack and the bar takings, Bali has clearly made it to the top in the sun, sand and sex league.

Nikki Beach Bali joins a stable that includes beach clubs at Miami Beach, USA; St Tropez, France; St Barth in the French West Indies; Marbella, Mallorca and Ibiza in Spain; Porto Heli in Greece; Cabo San Lucas in Mexico; Marrakech in Morocco; and closer to home Koh Samui and Phuket in Thailand. There are also Nikki resort hotels at Koh Samui and Porto Heli and two pop-ups (no, best leave that alone) at Cannes in France and Toronto in Canada.

Partygoers at Nusa Dua on Dec. 6 were promised “Nikki Beach-style extravagance, world-class entertainment, resident DJs, fireworks and a host of unforgettable surprises!” As long as they wore white and believe that pointless exclamation marks are de rigueur.

Huānyíng

Members of Bali’s consular corps have a new colleague, inaugural Chinese consul-general Hu Quan Yin. The new Bali consulate-general opened (in Denpasar) on Dec. 8 to provide services for the growing number of Chinese tourists.

Governor Made Mangku Pastika attended the official opening to say huānyíng (welcome).  China also has consulates in Surabaya and Medan.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears online at http://www.baliadvertiser.biz