HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Mar. 3, 2016

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences 

 

Don’t Miss Saigon

A few days gazing at the Saigon River from the 16th floor apartment of friends, enjoying the quieter street life of post-Tet Ho Chi Minh City, cruising on the Mekong, and briskly sampling the crispness of the mountain resort city of Dalat, 1500 metres above sea level, is a wonderful tonic. We had awarded ourselves the break, after several months of rather heavy duty, and it certainly paid off.

It really wasn’t planned for this time just because it’s raining in Bali. No, really. You expect it to rain in the wet season and are apt to worry, or at least become disconsolate, if it does not. But it’s true that Saigon – that’s what everyone calls it – is 10 degrees north rather than 8 degrees south and that the seasons are reversed. So it was pleasantly dry and cool in Saigon, and a tad on the brisk side at Dalat. The brisk bit was rather nice. And that’s two more ticks off the bucket list, though they’re both such lovely places, and so ideal for people watching and gourmet munching, that they will almost certainly earn double ticks at least.

Many years ago in New York, we saw the musical Miss Saigon. That was something that could easily have been missed, or so the critics and the audiences said. But Mistress Saigon, the city, has a different magic altogether, and certainly should not be missed.

Dined Out

It was sad to see long-term Bali fixture and computer guru Ric Shreves leave the island for good last month. He’s gone back to the USA – to Portland, Oregon – to some useful things there. And he certainly goes with the good wishes of the Diary, if these should speed his passage and oil the wheels of resettlement.

But it was fitting, we thought, that he should dine himself out, as it were. His last few days here were peppered with eating and drinking – modestly, we know – that should give both him and his friends here something to remember.

He spent 12 years in Bali. That’s a long time by anyone’s measure.

Across the Line

The Diary has Lombok connections, as some people know and one or two may have reasons to remember with an extra frisson. We do hope so. So we’re always interested in news from across the Wallace Line, that notional feature that so many people now crisscross regularly on fast boats from Bali.

When we lived in Lombok we had the privilege of residing high on a hill just above the beach a little south of Sengiggi, with a fabulous view of Mt Agung, the lights of distant Amlapura, the islands of Nusa Penida and Lembongan, and the little rocky islets off Candi Dasa. It was almost like being home, even if home was across the water.

It was fun sometimes too, to imagine the Wallace Line out there in mid-strait, the notional point at which Australasian flora and fauna finally cease and the Asian ecosystem takes over completely. On full moon nights in particular, the mid-strait eddies looked suitably, if fancifully and perhaps spookily, appropriate.

Another West Lombok hill-dweller with a fantastic view, Mark Heyward, told us recently of an artistic occasion at The Studio, a Sunday Session on Feb. 28 at Bukit Batu Layar, where artworks by Jakarta-based Sasak artist Saepul Bahri and Lombok resident Terry Renton were on show and original songs and performances pieces were provided by Ari Juliant and Heyward himself.

It would have been fun to be there. But we were in Vietnam instead.

Um, Yes … Well, Actually, No

Much is made, by westerners whose days are spent in detecting invidious cultural insensitivity in the attitudes of other westerners, of the need to comprehend essential differences between societies.

The hairy and wild-eyed, metaphorically speaking, exist on both sides of that divide. They are not to be borne, merely noted.

Below the thin but hot air of the truly manic stratosphere, however, there do exist occasions for comment that are invidious only on the Craven Scale. That’s the one where you say nothing for fear of upsetting not the horses, which anyway are predominantly a sensible species, but the occasional ass.

There have been two such outbreaks recently. One concerned the presence in social media of emoticons reflecting the wishes of people who are (dare we utter this?) gay, lesbian, transgender and other things not prescribed in literature which fails to post-date Neolithic ignorance. The other was a plan by the social affairs minister to eradicate prostitution in Indonesia by 2019.

On the Huh – What’s That Scale, the 1-10 measure that most suits rating the business of monumental stupidity, the outlawing of non-patriarchal emoticons rates only 1. It’s a mere midge-bite on the posterior of progress. Phone and Internet providers in Indonesia don’t want to upset the government and those who are (dare we utter this?) gay, lesbian, transgender or other things, won’t be too much discommoded.

However, the ministerial plan to eradicate prostitution by 2019 is a proposal of such monumental stupidity as to rate a 9 on the H-WT Scale. A 9 causes severe mirth, with dangerous belly laughs near the epicenter, and seriously undermines the respect that ministers and others in high places would otherwise be accorded.

A good universal rule for those who wish to be taken seriously is to avoid demonstrating that they are completely detached from reality.

With a Twist

We saw a priceless little meme recently, which featured a young woman in a position of extreme contortion on the floor, trying to reach the telephone from which a voice was saying “Yoga Help Line. How may we assist you?”

It made us giggle because we’re like that, and it also brought to mind the 2016 Bali Spirit Festival, due to take place in Ubud from Mar. 29-Apr. 3.

It’s a yoga thing, among other pastimes. Yoga is something that is said by its aficionados to get you past ego. That’s can’t be bad, though it has always escaped us why you need to physically contort yourself to achieve common sense. Never mind.

In a recent blog post on its website, the festival reminds us thus: “We all have one, that thing deep within that constantly begs to be satisfied. It is our ego, that place that houses our sense of self-esteem and self-importance. While recognising our own ego’s role in situations can be great, the act of its existence can really hinder our ability to live a happy and healthy life.”

How complex that all sounds. We’ve always managed with a nice glass of wine and some music to taste – Dvorak, perhaps, or if we’re feeling especially syrupy, Handel’s Water Music.

But as Deepak Chopra reminds us – something the Bali Spirit Festival’s blog post did too – “We must go beyond the constant clamour of ego, beyond the tools of logic and reason, to the still, calm place within us: the realm of the soul.”

The Diary, being now of somewhat mature age, might have to make that journey via the hospital were he to attempt a return to the manipulative delights of yoga, which briefly formed an ephemeral moment in his youth.

Nyepi Duties

We were back home in Bali well before Nyepi (Silent Day, Mar. 9). It wouldn’t do to miss it, since it is central to Balinese Hindu rites and customs and surely part and parcel of the reasons you live on the island. It’s also fun because it’s the only day of the year when PLN is willingly assisted by the whole population in the task of turning the lights out, a function that is widely believed to be the power utility’s secret core objective.

This year we’ll be turning out the lights at the villa of some friends, neighbours who are absent from Bali, so that we can dog-sit our favourite retriever while the staff is away. It will be a pleasant duty. Cindy will play ball, we know. That’s what she does. It’s only if you don’t throw the ball away again when she brings it back that you get a severe glance.

Our villas are so close that we can keep an eye on ours, at least while it’s light, and theirs is higher up the hill so that we’ll be able to see all the lights that are not there, in panorama as it were, as well as all the residual lighting that must remain on. There’s a fine view of the airport from their swimming pool (another neighbour’s garden greenery blocks that view from ours). That might be fun.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print and on line editions of the Bali Advertiser.

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Apr. 1, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

In a Word: Tosh

Proposals lately aired that would further limit the number of foreign workers in Indonesia are sensible. As a medium- to long-term strategy they are surely free of any downside. Though that would be in the context of the further development of the nascent ASEAN free market where, as in the European Community, state borders and indeed national citizenship would become progressively less important.

But most foreign workers in Indonesia are not “white”, as economic ministers looking for nationalistic headlines like to suggest. That old pejorative is code for “former colonial oppressors and their running dogs”. Indonesians are not disadvantaged because 70 years of independence has failed to free them from the fiscal drag of the colonial era. Instead, they are not as advantaged as they could be, because their governments have failed for seven decades to build an open, educated society and legislate for the competitive economy that would then have developed.

Nationalistic claptrap offers nothing of value. It produces only deflective, self-serving political rhetoric.  The economy does not run on rhetoric. It runs on money. If Indonesians desire progress, which they sensibly do, the ex-colonial cringe is a tiresome mindset they should have sent to the junkyard long ago.

A real economic imperative facing Indonesia is foreign investment. The national investment board, announcing recently that a “one-stop-shop” would soon open (good luck with all the sub-national impediments, chaps) said it estimated US$23 billion in planned investment was forgone in the five years 2007-2012 because regulatory and administrative holdups, and endemic corruption, chased it away.

So far as employment goes, if there are Indonesian workers who can do the job, no one in their right mind would recruit anyone else (in Indonesia). But what’s needed is an effective middle economy in the huge space between local global-list enterprises and the small-to-micro business sector (both of which work well).

That requires not only coordinated policies that actually work and are implemented, including foreign investment, but also a cultural change: No more “passing” people as qualified because not to do so would be culturally embarrassing (or invidious to the interests of and continued presence in Indonesia of the examiner); a real work ethic inspired from the top (that’s where the bosses work harder than those they employ); an education system that produces young people with well rounded global skills; and a health system that keeps people healthy and therefore productive.

It also requires effective public infrastructure, both physical and human. And last, though certainly not least, it needs government and business environments that are notable for minimal corruption and sound judicial decisions rather than the reverse of this.

“Expats” (a ridiculous word) have a limited role in Indonesia’s efforts to build a truly balanced economy. Foreign workers should be regulated by legislation, but in the context of an environment in which private profit (universally and fairly taxed as a revenue growth stream) is recognized and supported as a generator of wider wealth. Now there’s another vacant space that could and should be filled with objective, forward-thinking debate.

Take a Break

When the diary in Ubud, which is often because it’s a fun place to be – it’s got everything, after all, from spirit festivals to sex therapy (either amateur or professional) – we’re often to be found at Warung Semesta in Jl Monkey Forest. It has very nice coffee, a decent café-style menu, and reliable WiFi. The latter is essential these days since you carry your office with you in your laptop.

It’s attached to the Tegal Sari resort, which specializes in the Japanese tourist market but not exclusively so. As a drop-in spot for shopped-out shoppers, Semesta’s hard to beat, too, as it’s located just round the corner from where Jl Hanoman meets Jl Raya Pengosetan and segues into Jl Monkey Forest. (Hanoman is named after Hanuman, monkey hero of the Ramayana.)

The establishment is very near the monkey forest itself. A little troupe of macaques can sometimes be seen foraging in the mango trees outside or performing trapeze-style on the PLN wires.

Doris, Mate!

Dining über-casual the other night at Warung In-Salt on Jl Pantai Balangan at Ungasan turned into a better experience than ever. Tony Eltherington, aka Doris Day for reasons that are still not fully explained but who is the diary’s favourite mariner for all sorts of reasons his modest approach to achievement forbids him to boast or boost, was also there and in fine style.

He was shore-based at the time but told us he was shortly back off to his floating home, a nicely fitted out former West Australian crayfish boat, for its next tour of duty to the Mentawai Islands and beyond with surfing-diving-fishing fans in tow.

He gave us one of his new corporate T-shirts as a memento. It’s a fetching black and has a logo which – from a distance – resembles that of a particularly sought-after brand of motorbike that goes vroom in an expensively classy way.

Bombast Away!

The risk Bali faces of slipping behind in the race to win market share in the highly competitive international tourism market has lately come to the fore as a topic of official conversation. That this has been primarily in a constructive sense is a significant benefit. Applied analysis beats boring bombast any time, as an indicator of which of the paths thus far less travelled should in fact be chosen.

State reform minister Yuddy Christiano recently said that despite Bali’s popularity there were still areas that required improvement, among them measures to avoid the slightest risk of not providing the best service. That’s a fair point. It depends on the view of the tourists concerned what service can be defined as best. But most people want things that work efficiently and on schedule.

Over to Bali tourism head Anak Agung Gede Putra Yuniarta, who points out that the key to maintaining visitor levels and providing a better experience in spite of rising costs lies in creativity and services.

His list of must-do’s includes creating tour packages that show visitors more of Bali and encourage repeat business, enough electricity, road infrastructure that gets tourists to and from their ooh and aah places without giving them a headache or a conniption, and improving the environment of tourism sites.

He also notes that domestic tourists these days can visit Singapore and Malaysia and spend less doing so than if they came to Bali.

In this context, efforts to build up the nascent Indian tourism trade would be boosted by direct flights to Bali and free visas. Figures for January and February this year show 17,400 Indian tourists visited, up 47.5% on the same months last year.

It seems Indian tourists are impressed with the artistry and customs of Balinese Hinduism and yoga is a modern cultural connection. There was a conference in Nusa Dua on Mar. 26-28 from which further Indian media promotion was expected.

Free visas are certainly an issue. The government last year expanded the list of countries for which VOA charges would be removed and this year announced a further expansion, to 40 countries. Australia was on the first list but then wasn’t, the reason given being that it did not offer a reciprocal privilege to Indonesian travellers. Yes, well, perhaps someone was finding a plausible excuse after removing his foot from his mouth.

Now a court has ruled that free visas must be reciprocal or that they are otherwise illegal (apparently this is the intent of existing legislation). This is a further embarrassment for tourism minister tourism minister Arief Yahya. A significant number of countries on Jakarta’s fanfare of free visa felicities do not offer reciprocity. The dogs have been eating his homework yet again.

That’s the Spirit

The Bali Spirit Festival got under way in Ubud yesterday (Mar. 31) and runs until Sunday (Apr. 5). It’s in its eighth year. Like other song-and-dance shows on the calendar it may face problems in the future as the demographic of Bali tourism changes and Bali – inevitably – with this. But that shouldn’t worry inspirer-guru of the Global Celebration of Yoga, Dance & Music Meghan Pappenheim this year, or the happy-clapping collective which organizers said was expected to number 6000 and come from more than 50 countries.

There’s all the usual material at the festival’s two venues, one for the day-long workshops and the Agung Rai Museum of Art Open Stage for nightly world music concerts. Both venues also feature markets focusing on health and wellness through organic and healthy foods, crafts, clothing and merchandise.

But there was one item listed in an electronic promo that came our way about which we would be less than ecstatic if it was anything to do with us. It was something called Estatic Dance. Perhaps you stand rooted to the spot and fiddle with your cursor?

Hector tweets @scratchings. His diary appears in the print and online editions of the Bali Advertiser http://www.baliadvertiser.biz

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Oct. 29, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Three Hearty Woofs

It was interesting to read that when the Bali Street Dog Fund and other friends and supporters of BAWA gathered for the 10th annual Bali Nights fundraiser in Melbourne on Oct. 10, they raised record funds to save and protect Bali’s animals.

It seems an electrifying bidding war broke out when Garuda Indonesia upgraded its donated return air tickets to Bali from Economy to Business class. There was excitement of a different kind – we might call it a Marie-Antoinette Moment – when an amazing Bali dog cake created by Christopher at Let Them Eat Cake in South Melbourne was woofed up for $400.

Hosts Pete Smith and Nicky Buckley, who are Nine Network television identities, did their usual wowing of the crowd (300 this year) and auctioneer Mark Fletcher kept bids rolling in. Nicky added to the glitter by wearing Janice Girardi silver jewellery creations.

The venue, as always, was the Intercontinental Rialto Melbourne. The team promises 2015’s Bali Nights will be even better. It’s long past time that the Diary dropped in again on Latitude 38S for a remedial soak in Melbourne’s eclectic magic. So perhaps Bali Nights 2015 might be the go.

Paula Hodgson of Bali Street Dogs tells us this year’s Bali Nights raised $54,350 (Australian), funds that are vital to the effort the Bali Animal Welfare Association puts into helping the island’s deprived animals. BAWA has been doing sterling work with schools and local banjars with an education program designed to empower Balinese to care for their family pets and other animals.

Perhaps that’s something fellow pundit Made Wijaya should ponder. On the evidence of his recent, strange Facebook outburst about BAWA, banjars and banners, Ubud Writers and Readers Festival founder Janet DeNeefe would have been better advised to dub him Truman Capote with a miss-aimed machete.

A Triumph of Idiocy

It was a joy to return home to Bali after a planned six-week Australian visit turned into four months owing to the intervention of Cruel Fate in the shape of a medical problem. (The joy was unalloyed despite the fact that in the interests of economy we flew up from Perth with a plane-load of people who apparently belonged to the Riffraff Club. Once the seat-belt signs were turned off they spent their time milling around in the aisle exchanging monosyllabic epithets with their mates and demonstrating that indeed they could not walk and chew gum at the same time.)

The Diary’s little difficulty, which also gave us full and uncalled for exposure to the rather inclement qualities of south-western Australia’s chilly winter, was of course a useful reminder that one’s misspent youth cannot go on forever, unless it is boringly mediated. This was not welcome news but, well, you have to go with the flow, however sluggish it eventually becomes.

Anyway, enough of that, except to say that a modified misspent youth will certainly continue, albeit with more con than brio. What was less of a joy on our return was to drive on the “upgraded” Jl Raya Uluwatu, the Yellow Truck Highway. It’s that little defile that struggles up from Jimbaran to the lofty heights of the Bukit’s limestone plateau.

Eventually, if the police bribe-collectors further along allow, or are on a day off, trekkers on this insubstantial bit of bitumen arrive at the temple at Uluwatu. This is where an informal cooperative of miscreant monkeys which steal tourists’ handbags and sunglasses and entrepreneurial locals who offer for a fee to arrange a miraculous return of the contraband, have a nice little scam going.

For starters, the road “upgrade” is still a work in progress. It had been going on for months before our departure. This is no surprise. Road works anywhere always take longer than advertised. In other places, it’s true, “upgrades” generally manage to produce some visible sign of improvement and evidence of better traffic flow.

There is no sign of this happening on Jl. Raya Uluwatu. The thoroughfare may have been widened. The question is moot. A visual inspection indicates you would need a micrometer to measure this. It has also been equipped with the high kerbs they like here, so that you can easily sprain an ankle stepping off or onto one. These also close off any escape route for vehicles trying to avoid a careering truck, yellow or otherwise. And to cap it all some clown has decided the “new” road would look lovely with trees actually planted in it, outbound of the kerbside.

Assuming these arboreal decorations survive drought, lethal vehicular fumes and encounters with badly-steered or runaway trucks, enormous buses loaded with tourists by then possibly despondent over their chances of actually seeing a bit of Bali culture, and insane motorcyclists, they will eventually grow into big, spreading foliage-carriers. Their branches will reduce the headroom available for big vehicles and their trunks could quite possibly be fatal to incautious or unlucky road users.

There is a disconnect somewhere. Trees planted in the road might be passable iconography in a quiet residential street or a buffed up and gentrified heritage area. But on a narrow arterial road they are completely stupid, as are the people who sign off on such ridiculous ideas.

A Shot in the Arm

BIMC Hospital Nusa Dua has just opened a new wing, with 10 rooms overlooking the golf course – this might be therapeutic, as they suggest, though possibly only for patients who do not play golf – in yet another demonstration of its determination to lead the field in medical matters. It’s offering promotional rates for the first cohorts of patients.

Earlier this month the hospital had a ceremony in recognition of its accreditation in July by the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards International (ACHSI). The achievement, which we mentioned in the Diary of Sep. 17, really is a job well done by all concerned and it’s good to see the management making sure everyone who works for BIMC Nusa Dua knows they have been recognized.

The Nusa Dua health campus, which opened in May 2012 as BIMC’s second hospital-level operation – the other is at Simpang Siur in Kuta – is the first in Indonesia to gain ACHSI status. It is only the second in South-East Asia. Sunway Medical Centre in Malaysia was accredited in May this year.

BIMC (the initials now stand for Bali Indonesia Medika Citra rather than Bali International Medical Centre) joined forces with the Lippo Group’s Siloam hospitals early this year, with BIMC chief Craig Beveridge becoming Bali executive chairman of the new, bigger operation. The Nusa Dua campus is seen as a natural centre for medical tourism.

BIMC Siloam Hospitals Group Bali CEO Dr Donna Moniaga says the accreditation is a necessary step towards fully developing this market sector. “The ACHS’s stamp of approval strengthens BIMC’s position as a leading health service provider in Bali, for residents and medical tourists,” she says.

Perfect Balance

Ganesha Gallery at the Four Seasons Jimbaran has an especially interesting exhibition coming up – works by I Made Wiradana, whose style is eye-catching and his intricate technique mind-blowing. The solo exhibition is on from Nov. 20 until Dec. 18.

He was chairman of the Sanggar Dewata Indonesia (SDI) in 2000-2002 and has exhibited solo in Bali, Yogyakarta and Jakarta as well as overseas in Belgium and India. His first solo exhibition was in 1999 and was titled “Imajinasi Purba” (Ancient Imagination)

Wiradana has a unique style that features primitive forms. For him, the past cannot possibly be removed from the human subconscious and will always influence culture. This is a point of view historians as well as artists embrace with verve.

La Niña Returns

The delightfully talkative and deliciously enigmatic Jade Richardson, who once was or possibly still is the Passionfruit Cowgirl and who owes us an hour or so with a bottle or three, or so she once said, is home in Bali again. Richardson, who when she was a niña (girl child) enlivened the community of Bundeena in New South Wales, decamped from our iconic island ages ago to South America, where everyone except a Spaniard believes they speak Spanish.

Ecuador was her stamping ground (it sounded chiefly delightful by the way, except for waves of American retirees with more money than taste and one or two less than meritorious events that could happen anywhere and so often do) and, frankly, we were beginning to think we’d lost her to the spiritual charms of the Andes forever, along with the tipple. She popped up at several removes earlier this year, as these days one can, with the internet, promoting the benefits of the Bali Spirit Festival. (These are many.)

Now, she tells us, she’s seeking a Balinese ambience to clear her mind and put some more virtual ink on virtual paper to chronicle her adventures, cerebral and otherwise, in the bosque nublado and at lower altitudes. That will be between drinks, if we have our way.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Apr. 2, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

On the Wrong Bus

An outbreak of gratuitous and unnecessary angst caught our eye the just before the 2014 Bali Spirit Festival got under way. It was said – by dog lady and artist Linda Buller of all people, on Facebook, the favoured resort of the whickering classes these days – that Spirit was not what Ubud was all about. Apparently this was because it brought in hordes of yoga practitioners who clogged the streets and seemed to wander around in a little world of their own.

Well, hello? If indeed they do, in that regard Spirit patrons are no different (in any essential that matters) from patrons of the other festivals that feature in the Ubud calendar. There’s little difference, for non-participants, between being obstructed by someone off with the yoga fairies and someone else (say) who is wandering the streets musing about literary things such as from where their next or possibly their first royalty payment is going to come.

Ubud is no longer what once it was. The same can be said about anywhere on the face of the planet. We’d recommend a trip to Leh in Ladakh for any doubters of this fundamental truth.

Nor is Ubud a community in which foreigners (or even Balinese or other Indonesians from elsewhere) can expect to have much of a say in political and social affairs. The early tambourine-bangers who colonized the village may have thought they had found a personal little Nirvana, or Shangri-la, but like any foreign colony anywhere, they were fooling themselves.

Ubud’s future, and Bali’s, depends ultimately on its Balinese. Wisely or not, they seem happy enough to profit from the desire of foreigners and others to buy up rice fields and build little palaces or more humble abodes. It’s that which is changing Ubud, not the Spirit Festival or any other esoteric navel-gazing interests.

It’s possible that Buller was just joshing us, in her Australian way. But in case she was serious, we repeat what we noted in the Diary of Mar.19: Meghan Pappenheim’s spirited baby is perfect for Bali and especially for Ubud, where if you ignore the big buses full of Chinese tourists seeking bric-a-brac you can in fact still almost smell the ether.

 

Watch Out for Spam

An announcement that the national government will invest in water infrastructure for South Bali in partnership with the provincial authorities, Denpasar city and Badung regency, is good news of a sort. The existing infrastructure is creaking, frankly in a terminal fashion.

The South Bali region has been included in Indonesia’s Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Economic Development (MP3EI) to improve existing infrastructure related to the provision of water. The region including Denpasar, Badung, Gianyar, Tabanan and Klungkung (and known in the Indonesian compound fashion as Sabargitaku) is recognised as an asset for the Bali/Nusa Tenggara corridor because it earns substantial revenue through tourism.

It has now apparently come to the attention of those who control the national budgetary strings that there has been pressure on the existing infrastructure of the area. Full marks are due then to Djoko Kirmanto, the Minister for Public Infrastructure, who has now noted that demand has reached unsustainable levels.

Under the Djoko Plan a new water supply system, draining system and sanitation program (delightfully, apparently it is to be known as SPAM) will be put in place to accommodate growing demand. It notes that one of the problems in the Sabargitaku region is the uneven distribution of water throughout the four areas. Well, there you go!

A total of Rp 344.3 billion will be invested from the national budget, Rp 97.5 billion from Bali’s provincial government budget and a further Rp 120.8 billion from the Denpasar and Badung regency budgets.

It would be good if that sort of money got into the pipeline and if quantities of it did not thereafter leach out en route to its functionally productive public destination.

 

K9 KO

Lizzie Love tells us the KK9 project she initiated at Kerobokan Jail has had to be canned, for reasons that have nothing to do with the value of the project, which was to give inmates an opportunity to bond with friendly dogs. Likewise, it had nothing to do with the prison authorities, who supported the program.

That’s sad for all concerned and especially for inmates who had already made friends with a particular dog. But as Lizzy tells us, the welfare of the dogs is paramount. Any uncertainty on that front is an automatic shut-down signal, quite properly.

The demise of this project turned out does not detract from the great work being done – by volunteers and inmates – in other areas at Kerobokan. KK9 may have been a misstep, but that’s all it was.

 

Greying Anatomy

Well, we know it. We’re, well, sort of part of it, really. But it’s good in a way to hear that Bali is set to boom in the coming years, with Australians looking for cheaper retirement options. That’s if they can get the pension too, of course. If they’re filthy rich and can afford to duck the restrictions attached to Australian age pensions, they’d be better giving Bali a miss in favour of someplace else where the gap between official and informal outlays and value for money on the services rendered is narrower.

According to something we saw in The Beat Daily recently Australians – who are now approaching retirement in record numbers courtesy of the post-World War II baby boom – are increasingly looking to Bali as a more affordable alternative. This intelligence reaches us via Matthew Upchurch, chief executive of luxury travel network Virtuoso.

It’s not surprising that Australians are looking at Bali as an affordable alternative to retiring in the Odd Zone. It’s close to home, but free of several irritants. If retirees stay home the nanny state and its overweening bureaucracy interest themselves in everything from their bank accounts to their daily motions.

Bali is gearing up to meet this emerging demographic in a range of areas, from medical tourism – where BIMC Hospital at Nusa Dua is pioneering new facilities – to retirement living on the pattern long ago established in Europe, such as a new facility being built by Sentosa Worldwide Resorts at Umalas.

It’s the coming thing, it seems.

 

Essential Research

You have to plan carefully and be sure not to overdo things, but the West Australians produce such good wine that no visit of a longer than fleeting nature would be complete without a visit to a winery.

Our own “local” vineyards are in the south-west, in the Margaret River and Pemberton wine regions. The fact that we’re there fairly frequently does not mean we can afford to miss updating current research at every available opportunity.

On our most recent trip we visited Aravina (it used to be Amberley) and Wise. We had lunch at Aravina, which is on Wildwood Road at Yallingup, and afternoon tea at Wise, which is in the Cape Naturaliste uplands and offers a delightfully Provencal outlook, complete with plane trees, north and east towards the waters of Geographe Bay.

The rose at Aravina and the moscato at Wise were alone worth the trips. At Aravina we doubled our benefit with a fabulous polenta dish and significant dessert. At Wise, we confined our culinary attention to a rather yummy flourless pear cake.

While we were in the area Noela Newton of Artisan Wines got in touch. She was heading to Margaret River and wondered if our schedules might match. Unfortunately they didn’t. But Artisan and Margaret River have a very close connection. That cannot be a bad thing.

Cheers!

 

Piecing it Together

Nina Karnikowski of The Sydney Morning Herald had some useful guidance for Australian readers recently, on what’s hot and what’s not in Bali. She did a Q&A with chef Chris Salans of Mozaic Restaurant Gastronomique in Ubud and Mozaic Beach Club at Batu Belig.

We’re of the same mind as Cordon Bleu trained Salans on at least one seminal Bali factor: Jajan pasar is a sweet treat not to be missed in any circumstances. It’s a regular feature of the household provisioning budget at The Cage.

Ours comes from the cake shop attached to Bali Jaya, a locally owned supermarket on Jl. Raya Uluwatu at Bukit Jimbaran where the Diary is happily on smiling and chatting terms with the lovely lady proprietor. It’s where we buy our Indonesian wine and whisky and those things in packets of 20 that in most places nowadays you’re not even allowed to think about, let alone mention in polite company.

Salans has been living in Bali since 1995 and will be a double-decader next year. Perhaps that’s why he likes Lawar Nyawan, a traditional Balinese salad that features bee larvae as its chief ingredient. He concedes that it may be an acquired taste.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

Hector’s Diary Bali Advertiser, Mar. 19, 2014

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Stop Being a Pain

BIMC Hospital at Nusa Dua is now offering a revolutionary treatment for chronic joint pain and muscle injuries. News of this beneficence has already piqued the interest of certain elderly diarists around town, whose bodies unaccountably will not conform to the desired 21-Forever Plan.

There seems to be an increasing frequency of events in our life that bring to mind the ultimate predicaments of Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn in the delightful 1992 American dark comedy Death Becomes Her. Apart from trying to avoid accidental upsets on slippery steps and imperfect pavements – and that’s a functional impossibility in Bali – there has lately seemed little to do other than to cleave to classical Stoic practice: Grimace and bear it.

A chat with BIMC Hospital executive chairman Craig Beveridge the other day was therefore interesting. The new Orthopaedic PRP treatment is a four-step process that involves drawing a small quantity of blood from the patient, separating it in a centrifuge to extract the platelets, extracting 3-6 millilitres of platelet-rich plasma (that’s the PRP bit) and injecting the concentrate directly into the injured area.

The technology is new in Bali and a prime example of how medical science can help keep you on the bike (for example) and otherwise mobile. Sports medicine has grown rapidly over recent decades. Many among us have a dickey knee or two from continuing or former affiliations with energetic things. Beveridge and the Diary compared notes on precisely that point during our chat.

We’ll certainly look at the new procedure. People have been telling us for years that we’re a pain in the neck. And these days we know exactly how they’ve always felt.

 

SEB Programme

Regular readers will now what we mean, especially those who live full time in Bali. It’s a great place to live but it’s somewhere you need to escape from now and then. Our escape interval is generally less than six months.

This SEB is highly marginal against that preferred timeframe. It commenced on Mar. 14 and will end (appropriately perhaps) on All Fools’ Day, Apr. 1. When we left for Australia it was just short of six months since the Diary was last somewhere where white lines on roads are not just artwork to be ignored if they are noticed at all; where you can generally count on people complying with give-way and stop signs; where traffic leaves a red-now-green light without delay; and where drivers don’t indulge in a chorus of tooting before they remember that it’s their own inane fixation with their horn that is holding up the traffic behind.

It’s a joy to drive in a place where people stay in lane; indicate turn intentions and know where they’re going; use turn lanes properly; keep left; merge seamlessly into traffic from side-roads; don’t have an unquenchable urge to overtake you so they can then crawl along in front of you; and never overtake on the left.

That’s to say nothing of the absence of undisciplined hordes of motorcyclists who have no idea of the road rules or (if they do have an inkling) show any willingness to accept that they actually apply to them as well; or possess any apparent interest in their own longevity.

So OK, it’s basically boring, far too regulated, and absolutely overrun by the smoking police and battalions of other do-gooders who insist that they have a role in your life and won’t go away even if you give them very explicit and highly detailed advice as to how they should do so, now. It’s true that after two weeks in Australia you feel as if you’ve never left (and wonder why you haven’t).

But it’s good to re-immerse yourself in something resembling order, briefly. Perhaps that’s why Jo Hocking returned to Perth without much notice lately, after a surprisingly short engagement as spruiker for Mozaic beach club at Batu Belig.

 

Micra to Go

We’re driving a Nissan Micra on our SEB. It’s a nice little car of the same type that we hired in the UK over Christmas 2008. That occasion proved its worth. We were driving to deepest Lincolnshire (it’s about two to three metres below sea level and the area is even called Holland).

It’s also deeply agricultural. There are fields with cabbages in them as far as the eye can see, and we could see at that time of day even in midwinter. It was in that strange environment that our little Micra proved her worth. We had been chugging along behind some giant motorized agricultural implement for some little time when a clear stretch of road appeared.

The chance was grabbed. The Diary, who was driving with the lights on, used the right-turn indicator to indicate intention to pass (strange how quickly you lose Indonesian driving practices when you’re away from home) and flashed the headlights on full beam to further alert the driver of the mobile obstruction.

We pulled out and were level with the cab and its headphone-equipped driver when the machine suddenly turned right. It was apparently going home up some farm track. We were on track to go under its giant wheels.

Instinct took over: We jumped on the footbrake, spun the steering wheel full lock right and wrenched the handbrake on. That saved us, turning us 90 degrees in an instant. Or the car did. It’s a beautifully engineered little vehicle.

We stopped just short of a roadside dike (in the Lincolnshire fens that’s a ditch) and spent a little moment recovering our composure. The Diary wondered out loud, assisted by several adjectives of a scatological and even coarser genre, whether he should pursue the heedless moron up the farm track to remonstrate with him. But there would have been no point. He was plainly as thick as a plank and quite possibly only spoke Mangel Wurzel.

Our West Australian travels, courtesy of the good folk at Aries Car Hire in Perth, are far tamer and much better mannered.

 

Well, Hello!

It has been an extraordinarily long time between drinks for the Diary and Distaff and two lovely friends whose fly-in-fly-out Bali visits from either Brisbane or Singapore have for years somehow failed to coincide with our own otherwise all but permanent presence.

But the drought has now been broken. We’re having dinner with them somewhere up Seminyak way just after we get back to Bali. It probably won’t be a riotous night. This isn’t because age has wearied us. It’s merely encouraged us to view moderation as a benefit rather than a bane.

But we’ve got a lot of catching up to do. There will be a few laughs. And that may be loud.

 

That’s the Spirit

Jade Richardson, who blogs evocatively as the Passionfruit Cowgirl, has been busy lately writing about ethereal and other things connected with the 2014 Bali Spirit Festival (Mar. 19-23). This is very clever of her (though this is no surprise; she is one of the brighter stars in the Bali firmament) since she’s in Ecuador. Still, these days you can sit anywhere, even on an ice floe if you want, and write about anywhere else. Unless you say, no one would know where your real as opposed to your virtual self was located.

The annual spirit festival, Meghan Pappenheim’s baby, is perfect for Bali and especially for Ubud, where if you ignore the big buses full of Chinese tourists seeking bric-a-brac you can still almost smell the ether.

Richardson’s offerings include a nice piece on a compilation titled “Music to Surf Clouds to”, that gathers favourites selected by those who will be providing the musical component of the festival. We’ve grabbed it for our music list. It will help us to be virtually present at the show this year.

 

Good Friends

A new Facebook group has caught our eye: Friends of BAWA. It’s good to see, because despite rumours to the contrary that are either scurrilous or misinformed, the Bali Animal Welfare Association is alive and well and (in the Shakespearean sense) still kicking against the pricks. It needs friends.

Animal welfare is a global concern. It’s not just about dogs, even here in Bali where the pathetic condition of many strays – “unhomed” seems to be the buzzword nowadays – and the treatment regularly meted out to them would bring a tear to the most flinty of eyes.

In Bali, there’s a lot of education still to be done about the duty of care humans have to the animal kingdom. This is not a wealthy western community. That’s something many wealthy westerners who come here and bitch about poor services and other demerits should think about, in a context far broader than animal welfare.

We need a full house of not-for-profit community based organizations that look out for the health and welfare of both humans and animals (and the environment) and getting that message out widely is important.

Hector is on Twitter @scratchings