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Category: Balinese Hinduism

Red Sales in the Sunset

HECTOR’S DIARY

His regular diet of worms and other non-religious fare

HectorR

The Cage, Bali

Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017

 

WE had a little giggle this week when we read that the Minister for National Development Planning, Professor Bambang Brodjonegoro, had wondered why more Australian investment was directed to Mexico than to Indonesia. Mexico, as he pointed out on an invest-with-us road show in Australia, was a long way away. It is. They wear sombreros there too, at least in cartoons, but that’s also totally beside the point.

An interesting article in the Fairfax press reported the issue, and included some commentary from Australian superannuation funds, from which Indonesia would apparently like a hand with projects. We note of course that such investments are indeed part and parcel of the global money round. The key to such investments is their legal security and actuarially based rates of return (ROI). Indonesia is making progress towards some measure of transparency and certainty in these matters, but a cautious superannuation investment fund manager would probably wait a little while. It’s different with company-level investments. They only depend on directors’ confidence levels. Or Chinese investments, which despite the official outbreak of pretend capitalism that the mandarins in Beijing have permitted, are still effectively State (and therefore Party) subscriptions, and hence political. They are all about building the next Chinese empire.

Minister Bambang made a direct pitch for Australian investment in a “new Nusa Dua” in the “eastern islands”. To decode that for the uninitiated, the Nusa Dua development in Bali is the manicured tourism precinct at the southern tip of the island full of international hotels that these days struggle to compete against the low-cost appeal, to the new market, of cheaper products elsewhere; and “eastern islands” means Labuan Bajo in Flores. We’ll return to Flores in a moment.

He also suggested that Australians might consider investing in tourism-related developments in the “new Nusa Dua” and instanced water sports and related fun things as examples of where they might choose to do so. How this might be done effectively and profitably is a conundrum. Indonesia’s restrictions on foreign workers, the country’s prevailing low productivity and skills levels, and the promiscuous practice of local and national regulators in deciding that their noses are out of joint and that they will therefore without notice inspect the paperwork and deport anyone found holding a spanner, is one among many other unresolved questions.

In the early booster stages of economic promotions directed at specific targets, in this case Labuan Bajo in western Flores, near where the real komodos roam on their eponymous island, the chief effect is to raise land values and pour cash into the pockets of title-holders. Often this is a relative thing, which can benefit siblings and more distant relations of those doing the boosting. As someone with whom we spoke recently on these matters noted, perhaps such people are looking to family connections for an opportunity to upgrade from a canoe to a cruiser.

We’ll All be Rooned (Well, No We Won’t)

ROONED is what that eternal Jeremiah, Hanrahan, said would happen, in the lovely poem published in 1921 and written by the Australian bush poet John O’Brien, the pen name of a Roman Catholic priest, Patrick Joseph Hartigan.  “We’ll all be rooned, said Hanrahan” – Hanrahan was a pessimistic man of Irish descent – now has an honoured place in the Australian English lexicon.

Pessimists and their jeremiads are fixed elements in any society, of course, though here in Bali, they are mostly of the imported variety. Foreigners who have lived here for a long time, or who have frequently visited for what to them probably feels like eons, fondly remember times past when the island was a pristine paradise. That is, except for the natives, who were poor and deprived of most of the benefits of modern life, and who, it is said by some, preferred it that way.

According to that primarily self-serving confected legend, Bali’s unique culture is now facing deadly risk. There’s an alternative view of this. This is that Bali’s culture and its unique religion is just as capable as any other of changing with the times. The island is not a Petrie dish and its culture is not an arcane scientific experiment managed by others. The archipelago survived the introduction of the chilli after all – by the Portuguese, who got them from someone else, naturally, centuries ago – and has made it its own. That’s just a small example of how change is welcomed and quietly managed by human societies.

There’s another aphorism that seems apt: The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.

The British writer Tim Hannigan – who describes himself as a pop historian, just by the way – would probably share this view. He writes from a post-colonial perspective. This is sensible, since except for references to that sometimes beneficial but predominantly pernicious plague by politicians everywhere in former empires who want to display their nationalist credentials, the age of European empire has long gone.

Hannigan is in Indonesia at present on a book tour, which will now take him to Jakarta. He was in Bali this week and we caught up with him twice, once at the Periplus bookstore at Samasta in Jimbaran and again over one of Asri Kerthyasa’s fine high teas at Biku in Seminyak.

He wrote some finely tuned polemic in his brilliantly researched book Raffles and the British Invasion of Java, and a very readable A Brief History of Indonesia, among others. He has also edited A Brief History of Bali which is now on the bookstore shelves and is a must read, a revision with additional chapters version of the American Willard Hanna’s original. Hanna’s ended in the 1970s, ancient history now; Hannigan’s mediates Hanna’s Cold War perspective and takes the story on to current time. 

Telephone Cheek

THE leaked transcript of the telephone call between American President Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull shortly after Trump assumed office early this year is interesting. It confirms Trump as a president who doesn’t read his briefs, or perhaps doesn’t even ask for them, and underlines the worrying fact that he’s a real estate shyster whom American voters have elected to an office that is far beyond his moral, ethical and administrative capacities. It shows that a phone conversation with him, leader to leader, isn’t necessarily one that will produce an effective outcome or indeed connect with rational thought.

The call, which was terminated early, by Trump, turned on the Obama era plan proposed by the Australians that the U.S. take as many of Australia’s detainees on offshore foreign islands as its vetting processes would permit. There are (or were at the time) around 1,200 of these poor souls, held in limbo because they had attempted to reach Australia by boat from Indonesia. The call confirmed the depravity (in the correct sense of the word) of Australian policy towards foreign people who have committed no crime. There is no morality in denying human rights to others – whoever they are – and detaining them indefinitely in camps on islands in other countries.

It cannot be justified on the basis that it has “stopped the boats” and people drowning at sea. It is simply a profane political process whose effectiveness (undeniable in the short term) is determined by refusing to recognise the real problem: an unstoppable global population movement. It screams “Australia’s for Australians” and wins votes for doing so. That’s an Australian problem. It mirrors Trump America’s mad Mexican Wall idea.

Turnbull deserves some credit for talking to Trump in a mannered and diplomatic way: for not interjecting “WTF, Donald?” That’s the only creditable element in the event – well, that and the fact that someone had the moral fortitude to leak the transcripts (there were others) to the media. These are sorry days.

HectorR

Hector writes a diary in the Bali Advertiser newspaper. The next will appear on Aug. 16.

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PLN’s Best Day

HECTOR’S DIARY

in the Bali Advertiser

HectorR

Wednesday, Mar. 29, 2017

 

IT was Nyepi yesterday (Mar. 28): Bali’s Silent Day. It is celebrated on the first new moon in March – at the same time as Indian Hindus mark their festival of Ugadi – and ushers in the Balinese New Year. It was then 1939 when we were again lawfully allowed to pop the kettle on to make a nice cuppa.

On Nyepi day, as is now well known even by challenged Australian tourists and most Chinese whose package tour operators failed to remind them that they’d be confined to barracks, very little happens in Bali.

The streets are deserted, except for Pecalang patrols checking to see that everyone’s indoors being quiet and contemplating no one’s navel except their own, and any emergency vehicle that’s been let out on duty with an authorised blue flashing light. So the road system copes quite well. Electricity use plummets by 40 per cent, which means PLN can meet demand, also a novel one-day-a-year arrangement.

The airport remains officially operational. It must, as an international airport, so it can function as a landing place for aircraft in distress. Otherwise, only transit flights are permitted over Nyepi and these are not allowed to embark or disembark passengers. Maritime navigation lights also remain on, including for ships at anchor, as international maritime law requires. So anyone with a sea view can find amusement by spotting riding lights and harbour beacons. Designated tourist hotels can keep minimal lighting on for guest safety. Otherwise, clouds permitting, it’s a starry, starry night. Which is lovely.

At The Cage, we keep things quiet. No noise is allowed to escape our perimeter. No light is either. That’s our mark of respect to local regulations and the honoured and honourable requirements of Balinese Hinduism. We’ve lived here for 12 years, but we are still guests in someone else’s homeland, and guests should respect their hosts by behaving themselves.

Religion, though, is not for us: we don’t even observe the strictures of the one that we are forced by Indonesian law to nominate as ours. Years ago we cut to the chase and gave up Lent for Lent. It’s Lent (the 40-day Christian pre-Easter fast) at the moment, just by the way.

These days we stay home for Nyepi. We’ve given up going away, or checking into some tourist accommodation where unruly children and their indifferent parents ruin your day.

Some years ago we booked for Nyepi at a favourite spot (it’s in Candi Dasa) and took our usual room overlooking the pool. We and the other guests were chivvied out of the restaurant by 7.30pm and sent to our rooms where the doors had to be closed and the curtains drawn tightly across the windows lest light or sounds of muted merriment be evident. We sat in the dark on our terrace and were amused by the staff, of which numbers soon turned up at the darkened pool with all the pool toys. They had a rare old time.

Miscreants and Others

BALI’S courts seem to have been processing job lots of foreigners lately, for the usual run-of-the-mill offences like drugs (“I didn’t know it was illegal”) and killing people. We sympathise with the judiciary, which has a tough enough job dealing with Indonesian-speaking criminals without having to cope with idiot visitors who can’t understand what’s being said, or the procedural practices of Indonesian law and the courts, and who probably shouldn’t have been allowed on the planes that brought them here in the first place. Such is life, in the age of mass tourism.

It’s true of course, if you believe the inmates that is, that jails everywhere are full of innocent people. The scope and range of implausible excuses is infinite. Criminal law is an interesting area, but we couldn’t take it. Our fuse is not long enough.

That’s why we took up scribbling for a living (though the living bit is moot these days). As so many assume is their right to tell you, it’s easy to fulminate. You just need an outwardly imperturbable nature and a thick skin. Though to do so sensibly, in the hope of encouraging objective thinking, in yourself or in others, you must be broadly informed. Sadly, Google long ago declared this practice archaic. These days you just cherry pick by cut-and-paste to reinforce only what you want to believe.

In the specific instance of the thrill of the moment, the trials of Briton David Taylor and Australian Sara Connor for the killing of a policeman on Kuta Beach on Aug. 17 last year, it’s appropriate to note that the sentences plainly reflect a very full judicial assessment of all the circumstances.

Taylor, a DJ whose performance name and apparently preferred lifestyle is Nutso but who sensibly shed his dreadlocks and his attitude for his trial, has accepted his six-year sentence. Connor, a mother of two (which some non-Indonesians seem to believe should mediate sentencing policy) was at last report considering counsel’s advice that she should appeal. She got four years. Our advice would be to cop that sweet.

Traditional Dress

SOME people are said to think that Governor Pastika went a bit over the top in his choice of attire when he said cheerio to King Salman of Saudi Arabia at the end of his extended stay. The Governor wore traditional Balinese dress. King Salman wore traditional Saudi dress.

They could have swapped, perhaps, just for the heck of it and the photo opportunities. But the Governor is Balinese. Why shouldn’t he turn out in full ceremonial rig for a ceremonial occasion? Bali’s unique culture deserves protection – and promotion. King Salman seems perfectly content with the notion that Bali is not part of Arabia Felix. Apparently he has the same opinion about the rest of Indonesia. This will disappoint only very few people.

Multilingual Cats

WE spent a lovely weekend recently as house guests at a villa in the Ubud area, an establishment where the two resident cats – kittens, really, and rescue animals at that – are showing remarkable linguistic aptitude. The household is French-speaking. The help is Indonesian. The visitors in this instance were from the Anglo side of the resident foreigner community.

We took along a couple of toys for the cats to play with. They seemed to enjoy them. One of them even went as far as to purr in our presence, a very high honour. But what impressed us most was that they seemed to be equally at home all three languages, as well as being completely fluent, as you’d expect, in their own Meow.

We tried our French on one of them, a lovely little ginger fellow whose name – surprise – is Ginger. In French, that’s “Jzhonzh-air”. He is the one who had purred at us. We think we got a meow in response. But it could have been a meh. Such a put-down! French vowels have so often brought us undone. We were in Paris once and were trying to find the Louvre, and got sent to the pissoir instead.

Ah, Yes, that Rabies Thing

IT won’t go away. It won’t, at least, until Bali’s authorities find some way to get really serious about it, and apply to the reduction and eventual elimination of rabies the established rules and practices that work everywhere else. The island’s new compact with the Japanese city of Kumamotu might help there. It is designed to put in place a controlled and properly administered program of the same sort that was commenced here in 2009, was then handed over to the local authorities, and then fell in a heap.

We know from reports in the local media that rabies-positive dogs have recently bitten people in the Bangli, Tabanan and Jembrana regencies. As usual, there was the absence of ready access to vaccine to cope with. That really is something the health authorities need to get on top of right now. Rabies is a zoonotic disease (human infections are from animal vectors) in the same way as plague is, for example. It is also 100 per cent fatal, unlike plague. But prevalence of zoonotic disease in close proximity to human populations indicates an absence of effort to eradicate it, including by spending the money required to do so. This is not something any local government should permit.

Rabies has been known to be present in Bali since 2008. It is unsafe to assume that any area of the island is free of it. We should remember that it started on the Bukit, not far from that popular draw-card, the GWK cultural park, and will certainly still be present there. It does seem, anecdotally, that infection levels in dogs are now at relatively low levels. That’s a benefit.

But all it takes is one dog. Someone who drives around in a plush government supplied SUV should have a real think about that.

HectorR

Hector’s Diary in the Bali Advertiser appears in every second issue. Follow 8degreesoflatitude.com for more up to the minute material.

 

Lights Out!

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Bali, Saturday, Mar. 25, 2017

IT’S Nyepi on Tuesday, Bali’s Silent Day. It is celebrated on the first new moon in March, which this year is on Mar. 28, at the same time as Indian Hindus mark their festival of Ugadi. It ushers in the Balinese New Year, so that when we wake up on Mar. 29 from our dark night and can lawfully again pop the kettle on to make a nice cuppa, it will be 1939.

On Nyepi day, as is these days well known even by challenged Australian tourists and most of the Chinese whose package tour operators may or may not have reminded them that they’d be confined to barracks, very little happens in Bali.

The streets are deserted. Only Pecalang patrols are allowed out, to check that everyone is indoors and being quiet, and that no one is contemplating any navel except for their own. Nooky, or even thoughts of same, is prohibited. Also exempt from sanctions against disturbing the peace is any emergency vehicle that has to respond to something, has been authorised to do so, and may therefore beetle about with its blue flashing lights. Bali’s road system therefore copes quite well over Nyepi. Electricity use usually falls by 40 per cent, which means PLN can meet demand. This is also a novel one-day-a-year arrangement.

The airport remains officially operational. It must, as an international airport, so that it can function as a landing place for any aircraft in distress. Otherwise, only transit flights are permitted over Nyepi and these are not allowed to embark or disembark passengers. Maritime navigation lights also remain on, including for ships at anchor, as international maritime law requires. So anyone with a sea view can find amusement by spotting riding lights and harbour beacons. Designated tourist hotels can keep minimal lighting on for guest safety. Otherwise, clouds permitting, it’s a starry, starry night. Which is lovely.

At The Cage, our custom is to keep things quiet. No noise is allowed to escape our perimeter. No light is either. That’s our mark of respect to local regulations and the honoured and honourable requirements of Balinese Hinduism. We’ve lived here for 12 years, but we’re still guests in someone else’s homeland, and guests should always respect their hosts by behaving themselves.

Religion, though, is not for us: we don’t even observe the strictures of the one that we are forced by Indonesian law to nominate as ours. Years ago we cut to the chase and gave up Lent for Lent. It’s Lent (the 40-day Christian pre-Easter fast) at the moment, just by the way.

These days we stay home for Nyepi. We’ve given up going away, or checking into some tourist accommodation where unruly children and their indifferent or plainly dysfunctional parents can so easily ruin your day.

Some years ago we booked for Nyepi at a favourite spot (it’s in Candi Dasa) and took our usual room overlooking the pool. We and the other guests were chivvied out of the restaurant by 7.30pm and sent to our rooms where the doors had to be closed and the curtains drawn tightly across the windows lest light or sounds of muted merriment be evident. We sat in the dark on our terrace and were amused by the staff, of which numbers soon turned up at the darkened pool with all the pool toys. They had a rare old time.

Gaijin Light

AS a rule, the Japan Times is a good newspaper to read. It provides an easy window into some of the deeper meanings of the country it reflects in print. This is very useful for regional readers. It’s in English, which helps if the mysteries of the Japanese language, its historic character script, or even its modern Roman script transliteration, are beyond you, as they are for us. We can say hello and goodbye, and thank you, and ask for a beer. This covers the chief essentials, even during Sakura, the annual cherry blossom festival in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Sometimes, however, the Japan Times allows its liberal gaijin predilections to show. That’s fair enough, but analysing politics is difficult anywhere and especially so in opaque Japan.

Fortunately, we have an immensely valuable sounding board in someone of our long acquaintance whose immersion in things Japanese, including the language and therefore its deeper national nuances, is historic and very sound. It was to him we turned when we read an opinion piece the other day that attempted to draw link-lines through a contrived dot-pattern: between rising nationalism, private efforts to reintroduce the concept of Japan Redux into the education system, and politicised invitations to enmesh Prime Minister Abe and his wife into the murkier elements of supposed recidivism. It also reinforced the view of some foreign observers that Osaka, the venue of the matters under discussion, is a beacon of liberalism rather than Japan’s singularly self-interested business centre.

There is another view, to which (for context) The Diary adheres. This is that it is well past time Japan changed its post-war, foreign-imposed pacifist constitution and allowed itself to legislate and fund effective defence and other security policies, and that in the new global security situation it should do so sooner rather than later. Such moves make sense seven decades after the end of the Pacific War in an environment in which Japan is a democracy that is fully integrated into the global economy.

The modern Japanese monarchy is constitutional. The domestic political apparatus is far less likely to fall into the hands of autocrats than are those of neighbouring – or even distant – powers. And the Americans should be encouraged to retreat in good order, rather than by tweet, from the post-1945 global hegemony they assumed by default and have since invidiously enshrined as their national ethos.

It should be clear even to them that it has not developed in a way that is completely beneficial to America or, in this instance, Japan, or to others whose foreign and defence policies rely on an American umbrella being unfurled without question whenever there’s the threat of inclement weather.

In the era of emergent Chinese hegemony, it is not only Japan that needs to make such adjustments.

Hey! Great Idea!

FROM our Giggles to Go file: The operators of Bali’s Jasa Marga Mandara Tol, the mangrove motorway over the shallows of Benoa Bay, have come up with a plan to bolster revenues in a way that will defray the shortfall in proposed vehicular toll income and allow to service their financial obligations.

They would like to offer their road, which allows traffic to get around the Kuta traffic bottleneck, as a place where people can take wedding photos or make videos of the same. Um, yes. What a lovely thought.

It’s just a tad impractical, though. Perhaps this factor hasn’t been fully thought through. This would not be a surprise. They did after all recently suggest that the 12-kilometre motorway would benefit from being equipped with a rest area at about the halfway point on the 15-minute (in the left lane at the legal 80kmh speed limit) run from Nusa Dua to the Sesetan intersection south of Sanur and vice versa.

You can do it quicker, of course, but you have to weave around the trucks and the tourist buses hogging the right line because none of the drivers seem able to read the signs that tell drivers to Lajur Kiri (keep left).

They’ve gone as far as working out a scale of fees for stopping the traffic: Rp.15 million (US$1,100) for a still photo opportunity and Rp.30 million ($2,200) for a video session. The problem is that annual toll revenues (Rp.142 billion, around US$10.6 million) are falling a little short of the Rp.160 billion ($12 million) a year the operators need to service their debts.

Hector writes a monthly diary in the Bali Advertiser newspaper. The next appears on Mar. 29.

A Dog’s Life

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Bali

Sep. 28, 2016

 

THE criminal epidemic of dog-snatching and random killing that afflicts Bali shows no sign of ending; nor is there any indication that the authorities will do anything other than continue to silently applaud the cull and ignore the rest. Such are the vicissitudes of life here, if you’re a dog.

It is one of a number of things that stains Bali’s preferred image as a place where spirituality rules, karma is understood to be good as well as bad, and people by a huge majority are not the sort that steal, kill things, or dissemble.

The dog question comes home to you at intervals. There are street dogs in our own neighbourhood on the Bukit, where we walk of a morning, who know us and who like a cheery greeting and a gentle inquiry after their health, which sadly is generally pretty bad. They’ve worked out that we aren’t suddenly going to produce sticks and beat them to death. They are distant and wary but peaceable souls who mainly wait around in their chosen location for food scraps, some water, and a smile and a quiet, friendly word.

Two friends of ours in Denpasar enjoyed for many months the pleasurable company of one such creature, a feisty little fellow known at one of his adopted homes as Sparky and at the other, neighbouring, one as Lucky. He had vicariously become a friend of ours too. The tales of his way with what he evidently thought was carelessly left-around footwear, and other useful and chewable household contents, kept us endlessly amused. He would come and go as he pleased, and lived on the street, but never ventured far.

Now he has disappeared. Gone, to what fate is unknown. His two households are distraught. We say this with no surprise, but we say it with rancour: he undoubtedly fell victim to the Bastards, that class of soulless humans who have no thought for anything other than their own inhumanity or their personal profit.

Drink Up

There’s been a flurry of reignited interest in the potty proposal by certain hardline Muslim legislators in Jakarta to place a blanket ban on alcohol throughout their preferred vision of Indonesia Raya. The only thing new about the proposal is that it surfaced in a story in the UK Daily Telegraph in mid-September. The draft laws have been in the legislature for a while. It’s moot whether they will eventually emerge from that palace of nightmarish dreams with their working bits intact, or even attached. (Our guess is that they’ll quite properly get poured down the sink.)

It goes without saying that such a ban applied to Bali, which is largely Hindu and liberal, at least in archipelagic terms, would be disastrous. President Joko Widodo must know that there’s rather more to diversity than just turning up in locally traditional rig for a visiting fireman speech or some event or other. He must know too that making Bali officially dry would wreck the tourist trade.

To the extent that rationality governs politics – and that quantum is arguable everywhere; it’s not just in Indonesia that the doh factor dumbfounds – it would seem, even in the face of unconstitutional zealotry, that someone sensible should speak up. In this instance, alcohol and sex are certainly congruous. Neither drinking nor naughty nooky will ever be abolished by legislation. Each practice may offend some, be against the religious strictures of others, or may indeed be silly if taken to excess. But driving things underground has never done anything but make them worse, and turn whole populations into even more people whom the police can arrest as lawbreakers.

Even in Aceh, where autonomy has given the province Sharia law, people drink. Some of them are also said to add the rather nice locally grown pot to their coffee to give it extra pizazz. Here in Bali, locus of a definably non-Abrahamic religion, strictures that are the equivalents of haram in Islam are differently focused and decidedly more liberal. In other parts of the country there are substantial indigenous Christian communities. The archipelago is a rainbow nation.

The mullahs and other Muslim proselytisers need to understand that. That is, of course, unless their purpose is to wreck the joint.

Diversity Diva

Christina Iskandar, Bali Diva, has been a fixture in Bali since, well, a decade after the late Made Wijaya came ashore and found to no one’s surprise, least of all his own, that he became a sort of diva himself. So it’s a change of climate for us as well as for Iskandar now that she’s back in her old hometown, Sydney, for the foreseeable future, short visits to Bali aside. That is, she tells us, until her children no longer need her. Um, don’t think that’s ever going to happen. Mums are very special people.

She wrote recently that Bali had her at banana japel as soon as she landed here in August 1983. Some of us are rather later arrivals, but anyone with any sort of grasp of Bali’s special charms has been instantly snaffled by the banana japel.

It’s very hard to leave the place of your choice after a long, long time, and we sympathise particularly since we’ve done that twice ourselves – though not from Bali, whose magic consistently outguns the witch’s brew of demerits that it also serves up.

Iskandar wrote what she called the ultimate love letter to her true home. It appeared on Facebook, as so much does these days. It’s a lovely read, straight from the heart.

The Bali Divas, which she started and whose élan is only exceeded by their economic impact in the fundraising market, are now only one of a number of diva collectives, in Australia (with one much further afield, in New York) that are all dedicated to fine fizzy drinks of a certain sort and fiscal improvement of a very beneficial Bali kind.

We’ll miss the Iskandar imprimatur on fun affrays, though she’ll be popping in now and then to check up on us. We look forward to that. The next Bali Diva lunch is in November.

Soap Opera

One of the Diary’s globetrotting collective, the engaging surfer-soap maker-social insurrectionist Mara Wolford who is at the moment in Homeland USA, tells a lovely story about her encounter with Customs at Los Angeles airport. (We’ve always loved its airport code, by the way. LAX seems so appropriate to southern California’s sunny climate and relaxed Latin American Spanish.)

Wolford tells it like this: “All my carry-on tested positive for a powdered substance US Customs didn’t feel like describing to me with much precision. They asked me what I do for a living. I said I dug in the dirt and scribbled. They asked me if I handled nitrate fertilizer. No, all organic fertilizers. They asked if I handled ethylene (think illegal drug manufacture – yikes, no). What were they finding? Swab after swab was run through the computer.

“Then it dawned on me: was what they had found highly alkaline? Yes, they said. When I explained I had shipped 15 kilos of 99 per cent pure NaOH in the Indonesian mail, from Bali to Sumatra, they looked at me as if I was mad as a hatter. I explained one of the kilo bags had exploded all over my stuff, but I had contained the ecological fallout under emergency circumstances and used the remainder of the lye to make soap. The officer immediately started to repack my gear. ‘That is so outrageous. You can’t make that shit up,’ he said.”

Here Comes Another One

We’ll spare you the marketing hyperbole, but we do want to note that the Bukit is about to have another example of late icon Made Wijaya’s pet hate, “New Asian” architecture, foisted upon its otherwise beautiful cliff faces. This time it’s two new venues planned for Alila Villas Uluwatu, where a partnership with something called the OMNIA Dayclub and Japanese restaurant Sake No Hana is scheduled to open in the third quarter of 2017.

We’ve seen the architectural impressions. We’ll stop right there. Still, it’s all not until the latter part of next year, is it? That’ll give everyone plenty of time to ramp up the road infrastructure and utility services to cope with burgeoning traffic and numbers. Won’t it?

Best Avoided

When you’re travelling, you need to be careful. We’ve seen a pizza menu from a restaurant in the fine republic of Croatia, where Bali fixture Diana Shearin has lately been, though she was not the informant. We alerted her, in case she should find other questionable things on menus. This is it: Quattro Stagioni – cheese, ham, mushrooms, tunfish (tuna), smallpox.

The same sort of dangers lurk here in Bali, such as the infamous craque monsieur the Diary once found on the room service menu in a hotel that really should have known better.

HectorR

Hector’s Diary appears in the on line and print editions of the Bali Advertiser

Drink Up

HectorR

Bali, Sep. 12, 2016

There’s been a flurry of reignited interest in the potty proposal of certain hardline Muslim legislators in Jakarta to place a blanket ban on alcohol throughout their prospective Indonesia Raya. The only thing new about the proposal is that it has just surfaced in a story in the UK Daily Telegraph. The draft laws have been in the legislature for a while. It’s moot whether they will eventually emerge from that palace of frequently nightmarish dreams with their working bits intact, or even attached.

It goes without saying that such a ban applied to Bali, which is largely Hindu and liberal, at least in archipelagic terms, would be disastrous. President Joko Widodo must know that there’s rather more to diversity than just turning up in locally traditional rig for a visiting fireman speech or some event or other. He must know too that turning Bali officially dry would wreck the tourist trade.

To the extent that rationality governs politics – and that quantum is arguable everywhere; it’s not just in Indonesia that the doh factor dumbfounds – it would seem, even in the face of unconstitutional zealotry, that someone sensible should speak up. In this instance, alcohol and sex are certainly congruous. Neither drinking nor naughty nooky will ever be abolished by legislation. Each practice may offend some, be against the religious strictures of others, or may indeed be bloody silly especially if taken to excess. But driving things underground has never done anything but make them worse, and turn whole populations into even more people whom the police can arrest as lawbreakers.

Even in Aceh, whose autonomy has given it Sharia law, people drink. Some of them are said to add the rather nice locally grown pot to their coffee to give it extra pizazz. Here in Bali, locus of a definably non-Arabian religion, strictures that are the equivalents of haram in Islam are differently focused and decidedly more liberal. In other parts of the country there are substantial indigenous Christian communities. The archipelago is a rainbow nation.

The mullahs and other Muslim proselytisers need to understand that. That is, of course, unless their purpose is to wreck the joint.

 

Go For It

Hector’s Bali Diary

HectorR

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

June 8, 2016

 

It’s always fun to read Alistair Speirs’ little homilies in NOW! Bali. They seem to carry a reminder of Episcopalian morality, which isn’t strange, really, given that Speirs is from Edinburgh, the Sassenach capital of Scotland. My Auntie Lizzie had something of the same air. She kept polished seashells and the Book of Common Prayer on display and lived in a flat in Leith, the port of Edinburgh. She was thought by my English mother to be slightly exotic, though my Scottish father sensibly seemed not to share this assessment. It was not because she lived in Leith. It was because she had spent 10 years in Australia.

Anyway, we digress. Some of our critics say we do this, as well as commit other sins against their ideas about what you should say in someone else’s country, and don’t like it. But the benefit of writing a diary is that you can write what you please and if people don’t like it they can read something else.

Yes, right, OK then. Back to the point, which is that Speirs’ journal, one among the Melbourne Cup field of glossy publications that circulate here, discusses fine, playful things and offers good thoughts. Much like many others, really. His comes, phoenix-like, from Jakarta, though unlike most airline flights from Soekarno-Hatta, it does so on a regular schedule and on time.

His latest bonne pensée, which hit our in-box on May 25, relates to sustainability in business. That’s sustainability of environmentally impactful things, not necessarily the corporate entities themselves, some of which here seem to have remarkably short lives before expiring for lack of a business plan. These measures, as Speirs notes, with a prompt to those who might still be mulling the point, include recycling water, recycling waste, using solar power, and using the lowest practical wattage in lights that flicker on (or off) at the whim of the monopoly power utility, PLN.

Sustainability encompasses CSR projects too: as he also notes, such things as Ikea’s scheme to put septic tanks into poor housing in Jakarta, and in Bali Coca-Cola Amatil’s and Quicksilver’s beach-cleaning program and Hotel Dynasty’s support for the East Bali Poverty Project.

These all make a difference, certainly; and they partly fill the gaping chasm left by a political and bureaucratic apparatus that prefers to waste money on symbols and trinkets rather than craft and implement a budget for the effective use of limited funds.

They are additional to the great work of many non-governmental organizations here that spend philanthropic and charitable money on all sorts of things: even on the animals, whose integral place in Balinese Hinduism appears to be lost on all but the priesthood and the common people.

The dog meat traders, cheapskate breeders of exotic dogs, keepers of wild creatures in dreadful conditions of deprivation, the provincial and regency dog killers, and even the local veterinarian association, seem to care not a whit.

DIVA Time

Carlotta and Polly Petrie, doyennes of the dress-up scene in Sin City for what we might say are donkeys years, except les girls are certainly not asses, wowed the crowd at Cocoon Beach Club, Double Six, on May 27. They had flown in from Sydney for Christina Iskandar’s latest Bali DIVAS lunch.

The Diary was among those wowed, along with the Distaff, who usually evades such events but relented on this occasion. She has a thing for Sydney, the Distaff. Well, we all do really. What’s not to love about a big, brassy, bawdy broad? A sprinkling of royalty was present. We spotted a few queens in the crowd. The folks down the back chattered loudly through the business bit of the function, as always. It’s always better to hear the sound of your own voice instead of listening to something informative, after all.

Cocoon’s menu for the lunch was lovely. We had the roasted beetroot salad, the green tea stir-fried soba noodles, and the fried banana. We kept the latter as out of sight as we could, and ate it quickly, though without gobbling, lest a sighting should prompt improper thoughts among any passing queens.

We had to concentrate very hard on the beetroot salad since, just after this had been served, a significant failure of couture would otherwise have been right in our face. A passing diva had stopped mid-stride nearby, fished out her mobile phone, and engaged in an animated conversation with it.

She was wearing a see-through mesh dress beneath which was a white lining. The lining was deficient. It ended a tad short either by design – these days nothing surprises – or by error. It offered rather more than just a hint of the two partially occluded and profoundly naked half moons of her trimly taut derriere.

Christina tells us the May 27 event raised Rp100 million for local charities, including the Bali Children Foundation.

Chinese Checkers

It will come as no surprise to anyone that Chinese tourists in Bali spend very little time here – four to six days is about it – and almost no money. What money they do spend is largely kept within the closed circle of organized Chinese tourism. Very little trickles out to the Balinese cash economy. That’s the nature of the emerging mass Chinese tourism market at the moment. Most western package holidaymakers spend around four times as much. It’s partly a function of the good-time societies they come from, but mostly one of the high levels of discretionary cash they have in hand.

A recent survey by Bank Indonesia’s Denpasar office sets out the whys and wherefores of this phenomenon, and it is no surprise that these whys and wherefores have led to questions about why Bali is targeting the Chinese market. The return to Bali at present is, frankly, minimal. The objective is to add value to the transaction in the future. You know, that’s the bit that comes after the present, and which here is rarely considered a viable or worthwhile thing to even bother thinking about.

But we all need to sit and think about it. In relation to the emerging Chinese market, it isn’t that the Chinese are customarily mean. Chinese with money spend a lot of it, though that generally stays within the five-star-plus hotel sector. But in a tourist-oriented, relatively high cost tourist destination, a lot of Chinese have very little to spend. They’re cautious with their money and it’s sensible to be so. They are learning consumerism. Some among us harbour the hope that by the time they’ve learnt it, that ruinously pernicious element of human “progress” will have been superseded by something more sensibly sustainable.

Flying High

The Australians are back at the top of the Bali arrivals list. That is, those (the overwhelming majority) who make it here without making idiots of themselves on the plane on the way or while they’re here and getting locked up as a result of their own stupidity.

Latest figures detailed in Bali Update show that in April 380,614 foreign visitors arrived, up more than 21 percent on the April 2015 figure. The four-month Jan.-Apr. cumulative arrivals figure of 1,471,064 was nearly 17 percent higher than a year before. On that trend, we’ll see 4.6 million happy – or unhappy – visitors this year, a record.

In April, 91,250 Australians came here, taking the total tank top and Bintang contingent to 334,529 for the first four months of the year, up nearly 7 percent on 2015 and making up 22.74 percent of the market. Mainland Chinese arrivals were up 34.18 percent in April versus April 2015, at 66,848, and 21.45 percent so far this year, at 315,512, a nearly 30 percent increase. Ni hao. Xièxiè.

Please Be Ridiculous

Since some months ago we sadly had to let go our international cultural attaché, Philly Frisson, we’ve been looking for someone to fill a modified role in that sort of area.

We’ve found her, a lovely lawyer from Brisbane with a sense of humour and a cauterizing tongue. We’ve appointed her Chief Spotter of Risibilities and Verities.

She frequently causes us virtual mirth, which is really good if you live in Bali where so often the only laughs you get are hollow ones. The other day she reminded us of a fundamental rule of life: There is a certain happiness in being silly and ridiculous.

A few of the deep-thinker-sulky-boots sorts around here could usefully take that on board.

Hector’s Diary, edited for newspaper presentation, appears in the fortnightly print and on line editions of the Bali Advertiser