That Other Kuta

HECTOR’S DIARY

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

HectorR

Lombok / Bali

Oct. 26, 2016

 

IT’S quieter and rather less crowded than Kuta Bali, though it has grown a little. There’s something that resembles a main street with an Indomaret supermarket and a few other junior emporiums. The warungs along the beach, those symbols of entry-level Indonesian tourism entrepreneurship, where once you could sit and watch the waves over a cold beer, have been cleared away in the future interests of the rather grand Mandalika development. But Kuta Lombok is great at the moment if you’re not looking for crowded bars packed with people out for a good time.

We weren’t when we spent a lovely week there earlier this month. It’s been a favourite place for a decade and a half, since we first stayed at the then nearly new Novotel Lombok in 2001 on a side trip from Bali. We’ve made a point of returning now and then, when we need some down time.

So, we did basically nothing except sit on the Novotel’s pristine beach in a berugak – think balé (gazebo) – watching the tide coming in or going out and occasionally dipping in for a float. Except we ate, rather more than is our custom, but that was nice too because as part of the Accor chain the Novotel does alimentary things in a delightfully semi-French fashion. It was so good that the Diary didn’t even really mind that the Wi-Fi struggled to reach the beach. The fruit sate sticks for elevenses and the mid-afternoon cakes got there.

In the rooms and the rest of the resort the Wi-Fi’s fine. That modern hazard – being obstructed by off-in-fairyland wanderers holding their smart phones and staring at them – must be dealt with. Just learn the words for “excuse me” in, say, 10 of the most widely spoken languages among Novotel guests, and you’ll generally get by; even if it’s sometimes tempting to use the full suite all at once.

Our morning walk program was a talking point. As in Bali, no one walks anywhere. They hop on their scooters to idle 50 metres up the road. Walking for recreation or in the interests of the arteries appears to be something only mad bules do. Several times lovely people even suggested that perhaps we were jogging.

We dropped in on Senggigi – after Cakranegara for fabric shopping – before the R&R in the south, and had dinner with local identity Peter Duncan and his wife Wiwik Pusparini at Taman restaurant, and stayed overnight in a nice room at Howard Singleton’s beachside establishment The Office, at the Art Market.

Hurry Up and Wait

Our return from Lombok was not without misadventure. We’d flown to Lombok with Wings and that went swimmingly, even if it did include the usual diddling about doing circles over the Wallace Line to make the flight worth making, or perhaps longer. We flew back with Lion, a little tardily, for very late-advised “operational reasons”, that class of excuse that brooks no inquiry. Just to add pedas (spicy) to panas (hot), first we were to fly only three hours late, and then it turned out to be nearly five.

Flight delays were not confined to Lion Air. They resulted from regular closure of Ngurah Rai to all except emergency landings for evenings from Oct. 2 to Dec. 26, as notified by international aviation regulators. The runway needs a bit of work and this is being done, if the contractors bother to turn up. The point is, surely, that since this is a lengthy term of mandatory closure, airlines should have adjusted their schedules accordingly. Well, never mind. This is Indonesia. Once, long ago when Lombok’s airport was still at Selaparang in Mataram, we were also delayed, though not for quite so long, by an apparently unforeseen event at Ngurah Rai. They told us then that the president was on the runway.

Lion had been on our personal No Fly paper since 2013, when the flight crew on one of its Boeing 737-800s selected a dubious preference for the briny over the somewhat firmer properties of tar-macadam and landed in Jimbaran Bay instead.

We think the airline has since then secured the services of flight crews equipped to recognise runways and understand their benefits and who will remember to adjust autopilot parameters in time. But on this occasion it would have been tempting to swim home.

So Sad

The deaths of nine people – three of them children – in the collapse of the suspension bridge linking Nusa Lembongan with its smaller sister island, Ceningan, on Oct. 16 are tragic. What’s also tragic is the sequence of events leading up to the deadly occurrence.

Duty of care is not a term – or a principle for that matter – that resonates in Indonesia. The islands are in Klungkung regency (as is the larger island of Nusa Penida) but the district government’s divan is in Semarapura (also called Klungkung) on Bali’s mainland, where it apparently relies on karma to run things.

It was Full Moon, a sacred time for Balinese Hindus. A large devotional procession was crossing the bridge when its cables snapped and the walkway collapsed into the narrow channel that separates the islands. A sign warning that the bridge was unsafe for large numbers of people at one time had been put up two days beforehand. Either this was not read, or it was read and ignored, as most such notices are.

But if the bridge was unsafe in overloaded conditions – and plainly it was: cables rarely snap without provocation – then the authorities should have ensured it wasn’t overloaded. Bali’s traditional system of village guards (Pecalang) is ideally equipped to manage crowds and ensure compliance. They don’t miss a trick at Nyepi: show a light for an instant after dark on Silent Day and you’re cactus.

Some lateral thinking – actually, any thinking – by the regency government appears to be rather desperately needed. The bridge collapsed once before, in Feb. 2013, in a bit of a fresh breeze.

An appeal was launched in Australia to raise funds to help the victims of the collapse.

One Word, Seven Letters, Starts with ‘B’

Elizabeth Henzell of Villa Kitty wrote a dispiriting note on her Facebook on Oct. 16. It speaks for itself so here it is:

“I am so disgusted with humans that feel their need is more than someone else’s! How do they know! Villa Kitty’s tireless admin assistant, Metha, has had her Samsung phone stolen – from Villa Kitty! Who would do that? Who would steal from (a) a yayasan/animal welfare centre or (b) someone who works for a yayasan/animal welfare centre! We have had food stolen, my phone has been stolen, money stolen, medical supplies, by people with NO morals! I am truly sick of it!”

We’re all sick of it, Elizabeth. It’s that other real Bali, the one that doesn’t rate a mention in the feel good fluff stuff.

Happy Snapper

Bali-based British photographer Michael Johnsey, whose faces, sunsets and skyscapes particularly engage The Diary, won deserved acclaim – and 20 per cent of sale prices for the charity Solemen Indonesia – at the opening night of his exhibition Life in Bali, at Bridges in Ubud on Oct. 15.

It was a packed house for the event, he tells us. It’s such a shame we weren’t there. The marathon seven-hour return wait-and-flight to Bali from Lombok the previous evening did terrible things to the schedule at The Cage. Johnsey notes:

“What a great opening event. A packed house. Thank you all at Bridges for making it such a great success. Life In Bali is off to a pretty good start.”

His photographic works are on display at Bridges, so if you’re in Ubud get along there and have a look. It’ll be worth it, we guarantee. We’ll drop in ourselves this week, while we’re in Ubud on literary matters.

Lash Out

Those who apparently desire that Indonesia should become Untustan (untu is camel in Bahasa Indonesia) have been having a field day lately. Aside from public canings for promiscuity and other elective activity defined as sinful in Aceh – caning is a legitimate penalty under Aceh’s Sharia law – Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama has been the target of mobs over his alleged blasphemy against Islam. Blasphemy is an offence under Indonesian law.

The governor, usually known by his Indonesian familiar name Ahok, isn’t a Muslim. He’s a Christian, a Chinese Indonesian, and appears to be doing quite a good job as civic leader of Indonesia’s capital city. There’s more socio-political polemic than inter-religious dispute in his current problems.

A quatrain by the mediaeval Islamic scholar Omar Khayyám comes to mind: “As far as you can avoid it, do not give grief to anyone. Never inflict your rage on another. If you hope for eternal rest, feel the pain yourself; but don’t hurt others.” It’s a shame that this useful aide-memoire is never handed out to the mobs along with the nasi bunkus (wrapped rice).

Last Word

The 2016 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival starts today (Oct. 26) and runs to Oct. 30. Hindu obsequies for the late Made Wijaya (Michael Richard White) will be held at Sanur on Nov. 9.

HectorR

Hector’s Dairy is published in the on line and print editions of the fortnightly newspaper the Bali Advertiser

Ordure of the Day

Hector’s Bali Diary

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

May 25, 2016

News that Bali’s beaches are the repositories of sewage is hardly novel, and it’s not by any means confined to the Legian beachfront, where the latest discovery by those who should ensure it doesn’t happen has stirred up a noisome furore.

There is hardly a pristine beach or sea swimming area left in Bali or indeed beyond. They have all been colonized to some degree or other by rubbish of very questionable provenance, not to mention the plastic and other detritus that surfs along with the board riders and wraps itself around the limbs of people splashing around on the waterline.

A story reported in  the Indonesian language newspaper NusaBali, said that on May 9 open sewers from Jl. Padma in the heart of Legian were draining black liquid into the sea and giving the popular bathing beach a terrible stink.

When this news broke (reporters really should stick to just reprinting media releases from the proper authorities, shouldn’t they?) there was the usual scurry of activity. Everyone ran for cover or off to find the bit of paper that says, “My friend did it”.

Legian district chief I Made Madya Surya Natha conceded that the problem of untreated sewage flowing on to the beach was a long-standing issue. But then he said that while efforts had been made to build sewage holding areas, heavy rains had caused these to overflow. Ah! When your friend who might have done it cannot be found, blame it on the weather. It’s not at all unreasonable, after all, in a place where torrential tropical rain is known to occur on a regular basis, to fail to provide adequate storm drainage. It’s so much easier that way. You have to maintain infrastructure, or so the notional SOPs go, if you’ve bothered to build it in the first place.

He said he hoped the environmental agency (BLH) would investigate and provide a long-term solution. (See above re building and maintaining required infrastructure.)

Beach Follies

We were at Pantai Bengiat at Nusa Dua one recent Saturday – it’s our weekend office quite often and we like it because it’s operated by the local cooperative, which tries really hard to look after visitors – and had an opportunity to observe the new demographics of Bali tourism. Our sojourn was punctuated by loud Chinese frivolity. We think these particular Chinese were from Taiwan, on the basis of the women’s nearly daring choice of beach attire and the class of juvenile bonhomie exhibited by the males of the party.

Brazilians were also present, speaking their incomprehensible variant of Portuguese; as well as, we thought, some Romanians.

It was an eclectic crowd, though the crowd was hardly a crowd. There was a brisk onshore breeze, which may have put off some. We briefly ventured into the sea for a splash, trying unsuccessfully to avoid being snared by passing plastic rubbish.

Goodabaya

Surabaya is Indonesia’s second largest city. It is a place with a significant non-Muslim population, an industrial centre, and a city where foreign business people, many of them highly sought-after Chinese with money to burn, visit to develop enterprises.

The city authorities have decided to ban the production, sale and consumption of alcohol. Muslims are forbidden alcohol – it is haram – and that’s fair enough, though many seem to overlook this behavioural proscription. Drinking intoxicating liquor is not compulsory anywhere. You don’t have to drink, or for that matter get plastered when you do.

It is a policy decision of amazing dull-headedness. Neither Surabaya nor East Java is Aceh. And this isn’t the Seventh Century.

No way, José

That’s not his name, of course. It’s Rodrigo Duterte, who has just been elected president of the Philippines. He has promised to reintroduce the death penalty for a range of crimes including drugs, rape, murder and robbery. At his first press conference after winning election in landslide on May 9, he said he favoured hanging to a firing squad because he did not want to waste bullets, and because he believed snapping a spine with a noose was more humane. Last year he said that he would like to see public hangings.

There are those who would tell you that it is wrong to overlook the varied ethnic, cultural and social imperatives in other countries, or the implied electoral endorsement of a “landslide” election win, when criticizing their policies. As a general principle, that’s sound. It is invidious, however, when what is being proposed is a return to Late Neolithic policies.

The death penalty was abolished in the Philippines in 2006, during the presidency of Gloria Arroyo.

Well Done, Champ

Sweania Betzeba Delisa, Bali’s up and coming young triathlete who is sponsored by the Rotary eClub and Solemen, won the under-18 title in the first 2016 race series of the Rottnest Island Surferfest in Western Australia on May 14-15. Rotary eClub sponsored her WA visit just completed.

The event includes a long swim. The ocean water there is not tropically warm. In fact the Diary wouldn’t touch it without several thermal layers between it and absolutely anything that matters, or used to. So congratulations, Sweania, and welcome back to warm water. The second race in the Rottnest series is in November.

The Surferfest series, with events also held in Victoria, is said to be over triathlon courses that are the toughest in Australia.

Sweania’s Perth trip was not all work, though. After the business bit was done, it included some downtime in the city and a visit to the Perth Zoo where she met her first kangaroo. That’s always a treat for visitors to Australia.

Faith, Hope and Clarity

We heard a lovely little story from a friend in Brisbane the other day. She’d been doing reading groups at her daughter’s school that morning and had been sitting chatting with some of the students. They were talking about animals, the next writing job on their list.

As she reports, the conversation went like this:

Child 1: I like bears.

Child 2: Did you know Jesus can run at 70km per hour?

Me: 70km per hour? That’s very fast. Are you sure?

Child 1: They’re furry.

Child 2: Yes, Jesus can run at 70km an hour.

Me: Look I know he could probably run fast, but 70km/h?

Child 2: Yes!

Me: I’d believe 15km/h but not 70.

Child 3: Bob would know! He skipped year 1! He’s smart.

Me: I’ve got no doubt Bob would know, but Jesus could not run at 70km/h.

Child 2: CHEETAHS not Jesus.

Overloaded? No!

The report on the capsize of a Bali to Java ferry earlier this year that resulted in the deaths of four people says the boat was overloaded by more than double its payload limit.

This is not just yet another example of the cavalier approach to rules and regulations, or sensible cautions, which pepper the avoidable disaster calendar here every year. It is nothing short of criminal.

One’s passage through life might be subject to fate, or karma if you prefer. But Indonesia’s creakingly supine bureaucracy should at least look as if it’s trying to do its job. Any bets on when it might start applying itself to what it’s paid to do, other than shutting the stable doors after the horses have bolted?

Twelfth Man

We’re looking forward to our annual Ubud meeting with old friend Ross Fitzgerald, which this year will be on Jun. 13, the Queen’s Birthday holiday in much of Australia. It’s also the official opening of the skiing season in the Australian Alps, but we won’t go there. We’ll be chatting with Fitzgerald,  a Sydneysider these days but a Melbourne boy at heart, over coffee at an establishment that is screening the AFL match in which Collingwood, his team, is playing Melbourne at the MCG.

But that’s not the extra frisson. What will give the conversation a buzz is that Fitzgerald is lead candidate on the Senate ticket for NSW in the Jul. 2 national elections for the Australian Sex Party. This a political party, not one of those indecorous affrays that take place regularly in the Glitter and Gutter Strip favoured by Aussie tourists out for a good time, yair.

Fitzgerald is a professor of history, a four-decade-plus veteran of Alcoholics Anonymous about which he wrote a book, and latterly the author of fictional tales featuring erotic material.

The Australian Sex Party is not a single-issue outfit. It promotes a more liberal view of sexual policy than mainstream political parties do, and no doubt gives the rabid right a nasty turn now and then (good), but it also espouses sensible reforms in euthanasia, recreational drug use, refugee policy, and other things.

It’s a double dissolution election on Jul. 2 so all 12 Senate seats in each state are up for grabs. We’ve suggested to Fitzgerald that he could end up being Twelfth Man. They play cricket at the MCG too.

Oh Deer

Police have arrested a man in Jembrana for looking after deer. The animals had apparently wandered away from the national park nearby and decided they liked his garden. Instead of shooing them away, or worse, he decided to make them feel at home.

It would probably have been difficult for him to establish their regular address, after all.

Hector’s Diary appears, edited for newspaper publication, in the fortnightly Bali Advertiser.