HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, May 30, 2012

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Oh Wow! Things Work!

Two weeks in Phuket can work wonders for you. Especially when it’s raining, on and off,  which it is at this time of the year, the reverse (almost exactly) of Bali’s seasons: Phuket is seven degrees 53 minutes North, Bali eight degrees 39 minutes South.

It is wondrous to shelter, street-side, from a sudden monsoon downpour and watch the efficiently engineered and properly cambered road surface deal with the flood of water; and the drains, unclogged by careless refuse, dispose of the resulting rush of runoff. Among other things the Thais comprehend – and moreover seem to care about – is that water flows downhill. It makes you believe, all over again, that if Bali could only put its mind to it, the same felicity would be within our reach.

And it fully refreshes the soul to be somewhere thoroughly tropical and to find that the electricity grid delivers a constant 230V – within the international standard plus or minus 6 percent tolerance – and that in consequence one’s rechargeable electric razor actually fully recharges and, moreover, closely shaves the morning bristles.

There are other things about arriving in Phuket that might amaze (we’ll get to some of those that amuse). These include the airport, which has a car parking, taxi, bus, drop off and pick up system that works. And an arrivals system that does too. Seventeen minutes from stand-up-and-rush-the-plane-exit to kerbside car pick-up was a treat.

And in case the director-general of official excuses should chance to read this, or more likely have it read out to him, since he’d surely have an official excuse for not bothering to directly inform himself about anything much at all, this was not because the airport wasn’t busy.

Magic Spell

Thai script, drawing its origins from (among others) ancient Aramaic and about as intelligible and dating from 1283 when King Ramkhamhaeng the Great formalised it, and the way of writing for some 65 million people, means that the Roman alphabet that the main European and other languages (such as Bahasa Indonesia) use is functionally beyond most Thais.

This leads to understandable confusion, most obvious to the casual passer-by from street-side signage. One little spot we passed often on the first part of our Phuket holiday (in Kata where we stayed at the delightful – and delightfully named – Lae Lay Suites) had a sign outside that proclaimed “No Panking.” A little further on, past a few more interestingly disreputable bars containing small collectives of bored, chattering girls of an evidently willing nature but unknown character, to say nothing of provenance, another sign said “No Paeking.”

Hanky-panky is impolitic and peeking impolite; besides, we were not driving and had no need of parking. We managed thereby to avoid total confusion.

There’s the Rub

Massage, as in Bali, is the ubiquitous offering made to passing tourists. Some of it is legit. A Thai massage, for example – the Thai style of massage, we mean, which we also sampled later in plush comfort at the Twin Palms resort at Surin – is a great way to discover that you actually can, if gently encouraged by your masseuse, just about get your right big toe into your left ear. This feat – no, we’re not just crassly attempting a poor pun – is much the better for being performed with clothes on and without the sometimes dubious benefits of sticky oil.

Others are, or may be, not quite as legit. Phuket’s tourist areas, after all, like Bali’s, are places of sexual resort for male tourists whose brains are defective or damaged, or anatomically misplaced. But even if legit, sometimes the names of massage establishments raise an eyebrow. There was one we spotted, into which the Diary dared not enter, that proclaimed itself to be the Tum Rub Massage.

Not So Petit Dejeuner

It is a Sunday at the exclusive beach club. Guests – regrettably some appear to be rather poor jests – are at play. Or maybe they are at lunch, since it must be at least an hour since they vacated their breakfast table.  It’s an eclectic crowd, as befits exclusivity, beaches and clubs, in Phuket as much as in any island playground. Many of its members are French, adding zest and joie de vivre to proceedings and some amusement – not necessarily of the cruel variety – to the day of the watching diarist.

Overheard on this particular day, they seemed to be saying “donc” to each other with implausible frequency. In its conjunctive form, it means “therefore,” and we surmised that they were explaining things to each other, or possibly explaining themselves. One party in particular prompted us to think that France, having just elected a socialist president who offered a series of spectacularly speculative promissory notes, had now convinced itself it is fully insulated from both the global and Euro crises.

Since we had not been introduced and such a social opportunity was unlikely to eventuate, we gave them names: Floppette, Flippette, Crevette and Asperge. As far as we could tell Flippette was with Crevette and Floppette with Asperge.  It was interesting that Floppette and Flippette displayed complete disinterest – such sangfroid! – while Crevette and Asperge disported themselves in the hefty little monsoon waves of the Andaman Sea equipped with body boards and fins.

Lest it be felt we are being unnecessarily unkind in singling out persons of the French persuasion, we note that at the same time some jests from Oz were on the beach. Tosser and Wozza were accompanied by their squeezes, Screecher and Mona, or so it seemed. It takes all sorts.

It’s Not Kuta

Or Patong, Phuket’s equivalent; and thank goodness for that. Surin is a quiet little spot – very quiet in the low season – and the better for that beneficence. There’s a surprising variety of good little restaurants (if you like real pizza, you’re certainly in the right place) including some nice locally run beach eateries that, unlike those at Jimbaran, for example, allow you some light to eat by and forbear to incinerate the fish.

We found one particular little place off the beach, a short stroll up a gentle hill from the Twin Palms resort. It’s called CC’s and is accessed by some stairs at a building next to a pharmacy. It’s locally owned – by a surfer-biker-philanthropist-entrepreneur from nearby Kamala – and run by another nice Thai surf fan, known as Jay. There’s a very well stocked bar and the massaman curry was the best we’d had in a long while.

Just in Time

Fortunately we were back in Bali well ahead of the next Ganesha art opening. We always try to get along to these little soirees since gallery manager Luh Resiki is such a dear and John O’Sullivan’s Four Seasons operation generally presents some decent wine.

And on June 7 it will be more of a pleasure than ever, since the artist whose works are going on show is Dutch-born Marijke Lambregtse, who has achieved the impossible dream: she lives half the year in Bali and half in Queensland, Australia.  There but for a Lotto win go I, as a superannuated cockatoo might say, if lightly pressed.

Lambregtse began her artistic career in Holland as a dancer, choreographer and teacher and then moved to Australia in 1987, where she lectured in ballet in Melbourne and Brisbane.  In the mid-1990s she studied art, painting and design, and her talent won her prizes, exhibitions and commissions.

Her Ganesha exhibition, from June 7-July 30, shows a collection of canvasses representing the broad theme of Lost and Found, from which the exhibition takes its title. These explore two themes: awareness and protection of the environment, and the crucial role woman can play in
bringing positive change by active participation.

Get Along There

Lloyd Perry’s Chillout Lounge at Ubud is making its mark. A recent “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” night raised Rp2.2 million for a very worthwhile charity, the Sacred Childhoods Foundation. Another fund-raising night took place on May 25 and they will be run monthly.

Chillout now also features a live music and art night every Saturday from 7pm.  Perry tells us a great Jam band plays and any musicians present are welcome to join in. Twelve took part in one recent event, several of them from Ubud. And if you’re feeling musical but can’t play (the Diary studied piano and the clarinet several eons ago, to no lasting effect; shame it wasn’t the sax, we’d surely have remembered that) then you could try painting to music instead. Watercolours and canvas are available for anyone who wants to have a go.

Long Story

Marian Carroll, chief spruiker at The Ayana Resort at Jimbaran – home of the famed sunset spot the Rock Bar – is now sporting a longer title. She is now Director of Public Relations & Marketing Communications (Resort & Residences). We do hope that comes with enhanced rummaging rights at the cookie jar.

The resort has just completed a large-scale refurbishment.

Hector’s Diary appears in the print edition of the Bali Advertiser, published every second Wednesday, and on his Blog at http://wotthehec.blogspot.com. Hector is on Twitter (@scratchings) and Facebook (Hector McSquawky).

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.

Unrevealing

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).

Something in the Air


They’re always at it at Ubud, or so it seems; thinking about navel engagements, that is. A delightful piece by Marie Bee in the latest edition of La Gazette de Bali – the great French language monthly journal for the Francophone community – discusses what one can do when it is the saison des pluies and going out invariably involves getting wet.
Bee, who is La Gazette’s Ubud scribbler, suggests that the answer is to study the Indonesian language rather than get out your poncho and rubber boots. And that seems fair enough to a dilettante like your diarist. Mlle Bee’s busy little voyage of discovery this time relates to the invisibility of the penis in the Indonesian-French dictionary of 1980 and its discovery (as an item of lexicographical interest at least) by 2001.
These days, of course, they are ubiquitous in Bali. You can even open bottles with them, though why you’d want to is quite another thing.
Anyone who reads French should definitely catch up with Mlle Bee’s engaging discourse in La Gazette. It piques several of the senses. Among other observations, she notes that elements of the search for the lost penis would certainly have interested Proust. It’s on page 30 of the current edition and is headed En Quête du Pénis Perdu (it sounds much better in French, doesn’t it?).
These are literary matters. And on that topic there’s a couple of interesting writers’ workshops on the books in Ubud. The first is a course, Write for Your Life, being held from February 5-11 with the participation of American penman Jeremiah Abrams. Details are available at www.writeforyourlife.posterous.com.
The second is the work of Australian Jade Richardson, who should by now be well known to Diary readers, since she keeps popping up with revealing ideas.
She’s offering four short courses for aspiring scribblers in February and March, under the broad subject heading Write Like an Angel: Creative Turbo-Boost is designed to inspire and energise beginners, blocked writers, stuck novelists, lazy poets and cathartic free-writers who want to learn finesse; Advanced Creative Writing in which participants will explore their own work for signs of genius; Travel Writing, for people who want to turn their notes, insights and adventures into travel stories fit for publication; and Erotica, where we assume the cerebral side of sex will get an outing.
If you’re interested, contact Jade at passionfruitcowgirl@rocketmail.com or by phone on 0958 5727 0858.
– from Hector’s Diary in the Bali Advertiser, Jan. 25, 2012