Bali Daze

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

in the Bali Advertiser

Wednesday, Apr. 26, 2017

THEY do things differently there. That used to be something people said of the past, as in its being a foreign country. In the tried and true practice of Bali, however, doing things differently is something those who rule the island prefer to do in the present. The past is historic and mythical. The future hasn’t yet arrived and is therefore notional and can take care of itself.

Those among with long memories (that is, more than the preceding 12 months) will recall earlier schemes where attachment to reality somehow failed to find its way into the master plan. The round-island railway comes to mind. There are others, but we won’t go on. It is proposed to construct an offshore airport near Singaraja on the north coast, where the submerged landform goes gazompa in a steeply downward direction as soon as the narrow coral fringe of coastal water ends. The scheme got another airing recently. We’d love to see the engineering plans (not the pretty public relations guff; that’s useless).

As usual, the timeframe for development is hysterical. And we’ll ignore the economics, since everyone else is. But these are of no moment. This is Bali. What might be of interest are two elements of the engineering required for the offshore airport and its onshore supporting infrastructure – including the lengthy Jasa Marga toll road proposed to link the south and the north through geologically unstable landforms and forests of unalienable adat ownership.

The runways, taxiways and standing areas for big aircraft require thousands of tonnes of concrete of a thickness that would mystify most Indonesian civil engineers. Keeping that afloat would be a challenge. And then there’s the question of how to engineer the thing to avoid its destruction by a standard-risk 10-metre tsunami.

Way to Go

THE innovative Program Dharma animal health project being run by Udayana University  with support from the international organisation IFAW and locally the Bali Animal Welfare Association is showing great results, which deserve notice. A pilot program in 28 banjars in Sanur (Denpasar) has reduced the rabies threat there to an observed zero incidence, supported community engagement that’s a great model for the government to follow and implement island wide, and improved health in the local dog population.

All of this has been done without unnecessary killing of street and beach dogs, whose right to exist – and to coexist with the human population – is unquestionable, or should be. By keeping itinerant dogs healthy, including by vaccinating them against rabies so that the protective screen against the disease remains effective, and getting banjars (local precincts) involved in caring for them, an integral part of Bali’s heritage can be preserved. There are signs that the authorities at provincial and regency level are at last recognising this.

There’s no shortage of assistance available from foreign sources, including financially. An equally innovative Japanese program, from Kumamoto in Kyushu, is in place. Kumamoto eliminated rabies in cats – the disease vector there – by focused effort and effective administration.

Go Divas!

170426 SYDNEY DIVAS

From left: Sydney Divas committee members Sharon Kelly, Christina Iskandar, Maria Antico, Jackie Brown and Amanda Molyneux at the Apr. 1 event.

CHRISTINA Iskandar, Sydney wife-mother-grandmother and former Bali fixture, isn’t someone to let the grass grow under her feet. The first-ever Sydney Divas charity lunch, on Apr. 1 at the Royal Motor Yacht Club, Point Piper, which we can safely say wouldn’t have happened without her, raised a very substantial sum for the Bali Children Foundation. The money is sufficient to help the children of an entire village, an outcome that is truly wonderful news. We wish we could have been there for the inaugural event, but Sydney is already in our travel plans for a little later this year – 2017 is a big year for really important birthdays – and dollar-deprived diarists are compelled to budget.

Iskandar’s now internationalised Divas, who started the money-raising round here in Bali a while ago – and whose local lunchtime affrays are always worth attending for their ambience and to check for fashion foibles – have given new meaning to charitable enterprise in Bali. The Australian connection was always there, but now Iskandar’s back in her old hometown, it’s stronger than ever.

There are many worthwhile charity causes here, but the Bali Children Foundation, run by Margaret Barry, is right at the centre of the discretionary dollar target.

A Gold Coast Divas charity lunch is to be held on May 26. It’s at Edgewater Dining, a tapas bar and restaurant on the Isle of Capri in the Nerang River, one of The Diary’s long-established stamping grounds.

Soft Cells

THERE is, as the old saying puts it, one born every minute. Apparently quite a few of them then visit Bali for holidays. We instance, in this case, a gentleman from Australia who complained to police that he had been unkindly robbed in a Kuta alley by a lady boy who had offered him a one-minute massage in that informal salon.

We have no view on the sexuality of others, or of their morals, provided they involve only consensual activity and harm no one. It has long been our belief that people are people, and that their peccadilloes are best left to their own decision. For example, the fact that American Vice-President Mike Pence might perhaps feel sexually uncomfortable if he was alone in a dining room with one of Betty Crocker’s fine confections, gives us nary a frisson of fear – as long as he’s never let anywhere near anything that actually matters.

Similarly, if idiotic tourists want to get drunk and imagine that they’re going to find nirvana in an alley way with a lady who owns an Adam’s apple, that’s their own affair. The “lady” in question shouldn’t steal the poor sap’s wallet, of course; and, despite the best efforts of the nightclub circuit here, exposing yourself in public is still frowned upon. But, well, whatever.

Changing Times

LIPPO Group’s takeover of BIMC is now complete, following the 2013 sale of the Nusa Dua and Kuta facilities by BIMC’s Australian principal Craig Beveridge (for Rp208 billion, around US$23 million at current exchange rates). In a rebranding this week (Apr. 26), the flagship facility at Nusa Dua becomes BIMC Siloam Nusa Dua. It’s formally a brand merger, but it also redirects the hospital’s operations towards local people – a positive direction to be warmly welcomed – while keeping a focus on tourist and foreign resident health care.

The hospital, which opened in 2012, has Australian Council on Healthcare Standards International (ACHSI) recognition. In March this year it added crucial Indonesian accreditation from KARS (the national hospital accreditation committee).

BIMC Director I A Made Ratih Komala Dewi, a medical doctor, says of the changes: “Now is the time for BIMC Siloam Nusa Dua to begin providing affordable, quality healthcare to the local market – essentially all of Bali’s communities now have greater access to all hospitals in the group including this fine facility.”

She adds that the merger will generate a positive market reaction once awareness and trust are built. “We are expecting a 40 per cent conversion rate of total patients from local communities. To support the awareness of the brand merger, BIMC Siloam will open a local polyclinic in Badung regency with more affordable prices without compromising healthcare quality.”

BIMC marketing manager Windarini Fransiska says: “We believe the rebrand isn’t just a logo, it’s an experience and one that’s shaped by every doctor, nurse, and associate who delivers it and with this all our stakeholders are on board.”

The BIMC Siloam polyclinic will accept patients (KTP, KITAS holders and those with local insurance) from Monday to Saturday. Specialists practising in the BIMC polyclinic include internal medicine specialists, ENT specialists, paediatricians, dentists, anaesthesiologists, obstetricians and gynaecologists, cardiologists, neurologists, general and orthopaedic surgeons, and surgical oncologists.

BIMC Siloam Nusa Dua is holding an open house on Apr. 28-29 and May 5-6 so the public can see its facilities and inquire about its services.

For Your Diaries

RAMADHAN, the Islamic month of fasting, starts on May 26 this year (at sunset) and runs to Jun. 24.

HectorR

Hector’s Bali Advertiser diary is published monthly. The next will appear on May 24. He writes a blog diary as well, between times.

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. 16, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences 

 

Well, We Hit the Roof

We got a lovely invitation from the new RIMBA – we think it still qualifies as “new” since it hasn’t yet been open for a year – to attend a svelte bash on Apr. 12 to launch its Unique Rooftop Bar. Of course we went along. We like an affray and it’s always good to catch up with friends including Marian Carroll, who runs the corporate and PR effort of both RIMBA and AYANA.

The Grand Launch featured a live performance by Lee Dewyze. RIMBA’s landscaping and architecture is quite stunning. It was a grand night.

Friends who stayed there over Nyepi tell us the guests in residence for silent night Bali style were mainly Indonesian. It’s good to see the emerging middle classes spending rupes in felicitous places.

 

Nice to be Back

Fresh off the plane from Australia, circumstances led us almost immediately to Candi Dasa. This was a benefit, because it took us back to a favourite spot, Pondok Bambu, a beautifully cool sea breeze and fine views to Nusa Penida and Lombok.

We dined one night at Vincent’s, also a favourite. The Diary’s tofu dish was divine and the Distaff’s beetroot salad concoction looked marvellous. Vincent’s now has live jazz on the first and third Thursdays of every month. Regrettably, our visit this time coincided with neither of these opportunities. We shall have to return.

Degustation also took place at Quarante-Huit, Le 48, the restaurant attached to the Zen resort. It is no longer under French management, having been sold to a gentleman from Surabaya. But the cuisine is still determinedly (and happily) Gallic and the waitresses still remind one, by their attire and attentive presence, of the pretty fillies one once used to bump into in Paris.

 

Says It All

Those innovative signs on Bali’s highways that say “truk gunakan lajur kiri” (“trucks use left lane”) are working as expected. They are universally ignored as yet another traffic rule the police can’t be bothered to enforce. It remains easier, much more fun and certainly more profitable for them to create traffic jams by staging random hold-ups to check licences and vehicle registrations.

The drive up to Candi Dasa on the East Coast highway on a Friday afternoon perfectly illustrated the pointlessness of regulatory signage on Balinese highways. It also brought to attention a chap who immediately won Madman of the Week award for the way in which he drove his heavily-laden green truck.

The windscreen was basically obliterated by stickers and anyway was of what looked like 100 per cent tinted glass. But it was the custom-painted legend on the truck’s rear bumper bar that told the real story. The first time he stormed past us, weaving through the 80km/h traffic at breakneck speed, we noted the sign with close attention.

It read, “I don’t care!”

 

New Line-Up

The Bali Hotels Association’s 2014 board, announced recently, has some interesting names worth placing on record. Ian Cameron (by complete coincidence a neighbour of The Diary at Ungasan) is director of finance. He’s general manager of the Grand Aston Nusa Dua.

Another name, hitherto undiscovered, is Laetitia Sugandi, general manager of Harris Riverside Hotel and Residences in Kuta, who got the gig as director of sports and cultural activities. That’s an area of particular interest to The Diary.

Chairman for 2014 is Alessandro Migliore, GM at The Royal Beach, Seminyak. Past chairman Jean-Charles Le Coz of the Nikko is vice-chairman.

 

Give Her a Break

Schapelle Corby’s parole rules apparently require her not to wear a motorbike helmet. We surmise this from a report in The Beat Daily that said she had earned a rebuke from parole officers for having done so while making her way to a scheduled meeting with them.

It’s sensible to require parolees, who after all are still serving sentences albeit with some authorized freedoms, to remain in plain sight. Unless they’re on a motorbike that is, where to the surprise no doubt of the traffic police and various other minor functionaries, wearing such head protection is required by law. That’s notionally, of course, in the way of most things here.

Corby is in a delicate situation. For some reason that entirely escapes logical explanation, she is a person of interest to the Australian media. On any risk analysis, where she is concerned, the potential presence of an intrusively rude little person pointing a camera has to be factored in. Avoiding such incidents by being invisible in transit, since her visibility has already earned her a rebuke or three from her official minders, would seem to be sensible policy.

But bureaucrats everywhere are not well known for a capacity to think laterally.

 

Hospital Pass

Australia’s Channel Seven, late of the Schapelle shemozzle, is running a series of documentaries that take viewers inside the private BIMC and public Sanglah hospitals. The series is called What Really Happens in Bali and also showcases the lives of expats who now call Bali home.

Thankfully The Diary was not approached to participate. It would have been very difficult to top the éclat of the guy who apparently claims (breathlessly one might imagine) to have had sex with more than 100 women in 90 days. Evidently he was on a very special social visa.

The series is great exposure – and it’s well deserved – for both BIMC and for Sanglah (whose link with Royal Darwin Hospital in Australia is very valuable). If the series lives up to the promise in its title, many more Australians will be better informed about Bali than they are at present.

 

For the Record

According to some among the expatriate population, we’re not supposed to refer to the many feet of clay that clog up the works in these parts. This segment of the expat community has adopted the general Balinese response that if you don’t like it here, you should go home. That’s classic sand-pit stuff, best left behind in one’s toddler years, and we certainly take no notice. Our rule is: If there’s a snafu, say so.

The reluctant conclusion that there is now no hope of Bali being declared rabies-free until at least 2016 is a case in point. Like all such targets in Bali it’s a dynamic one, not to say fluid, and infinitely expandable on a logarithmic scale.

When the current outbreak began in 2008, after many years in which no human cases had been recorded and no animal ones noticed, the place for a time looked like a rather bad Three Stooges movie set. Unfortunately the result of that particular farce is that to date an estimated 147 people have died of rabies. That figure, incidentally, would at best win only qualified audit status.

There was a lull in reported rabies cases for while but this year there have already been four suspected cases including two confirmed deaths in Buleleng and a large number of cases in dogs.

Under international rules there must be two clear years between the last reported case and declaration that an infected area is now free of the disease.

The authorities blame community reluctance to vaccinate dogs or to cooperate with the government. That’s a cop-out. After six years of hampering the efforts of others while pocketing anti-rabies money, some in the bureaucracy responsible (and their political bosses) should have worked out which way is up. Or at least, found a conscience.

 

Heart and SOLEMEN

Many charitable organizations are active in Bali, a lot of them working right at the coalface of disadvantage and distress. They all deserve our support. One among them is SOLEMEN, famous for its barefoot walks to raise funds. It treats the sick and handicapped children it helps in a holistic way.

Robert Epstone, who would modestly describe himself as one among many leading lights in the organization, sent us a copy of the SOLEMEN Newsletter No. 5, covering Jan.-Mar. this year. It’s a great initiative and is heartrending reading. It should be required study for any among us who in the western way are apt to consider themselves discommoded by trivial circumstances.

On Mar. 27 there was a charity fundraiser partly in aid of SOLEMEN and organized by Sunset Vet of Kuta to celebrate its first birthday, with funds going to assist SOLEMEN’s efforts to help the poor and disadvantaged in Bali in the way they do best, by focusing on individual cases of immense suffering and providing immediate help.

SOLEMEN is completing its first permaculture garden in one poor village in Denpasar to encourage self sufficiency plus raised self esteem within the community. As well as feeding families, the program – planned as the first of many – will supply a surplus to provide an income for them.

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

 

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Dec. 25, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

A Christmas Sale Bargain

BIMC has been a fixture at the high end of the medical and hospital sector in Bali for 15 years, the benchmark place for services available to everyone but predominantly accessed by foreign tourists, long-term foreign residents and well-heeled Indonesians.

So the slightly skewed pre-Christmas reports that it had been bought by Siloam, the Indonesian hospital chain that is a more recent arrival in Bali, might have rippled a few affogatos. Bali is Gossip Central, after all, where those who spend their time counting white elephants assume that everyone else is in the same game-park. This is an island where unfounded rumour immediately becomes long-established fact. Indeed this often happens before the rumour has even been voiced.

In fact (don’t you love that expression?) the news is rather more positive. We had another affogato on the strength of it and far from being shaken, it was not even stirred. Lippo Group, which owns Siloam, bought BIMC in a plan to create synergies in the hospital and health care sector. BIMC and Siloam will retain their own branding and continue to pursue their present market focus. BIMC Nusa Dua is focused on medical tourism, a growing element in global travel.

BIMC chief Craig Beveridge will be executive chairman in Bali. He tells us Lippo chairman James Riady is excited by the deal and passionate in his vision to broaden the reach of international standard hospital and medical services here and in the rest of Indonesia, with new medical facilities already in the pipeline in Bali.

There will be more to report in the New Year, when Beveridge gets back from Christmas down under. That LinkedIn post we saw earlier in December urgently seeking new executives for BIMC cannot have been what it might have seemed to those in the rumour mill.

 

Gone to the Dogs

The dexterity demonstrated in the consummate skill with which people here can shoot themselves in the foot while poking themselves in the eye with sharp sticks and cutting off their noses to spite their faces is legendary. It’s so good that the authorities should probably promote bribe-watching as a tourist attraction. You could even do it on rainy days.

We refer chiefly to the bureaucracy – at any level from the lowest village gouger to those in the plush comforts of life at the tip of the pile – since it does this with alarming frequency when it or some luminary within it is after money, preferably untraceable.

It is also practised in the wider community, Indonesia-wide, especially when a mobile ATM (aka foreigner) is in play. Occasionally, since contagion is, well, contagious, cases of this affliction present in the foreign community too.

For instance the fractious business of animal welfare in Bali, which is overwhelmingly a matter of foreign interest since local attitudes are determinedly of the Rhett Butler variety (“I don’t give a damn”) where they are not agnostic. There are some wonderful exceptions to this rule. Let that be well noted.

This is to the point also because as is well known the Bali Animal Welfare Association’s veterinary clinic was shut down in September on a range of trumped-up and self-serving charges that anywhere else would have a hard time making it into the script of a popular stage farce.

It never does to immediately ascribe malicious intent to reactions. Experience shows it’s far more likely to be idiocy or failure to establish the facts before mouthing off. That said, it is astonishing that the Bali Dog Adoption and Rehabilitation Centre, commonly known as BARC, immediately leapt out of its cage to proclaim that since BAWA had been closed everyone should give their money to them instead. And that on Dec. 18 (Diary deadline) it was still doing so.

Moreover, it appears that it has been promoting this disinformation with the assistance of photographs that bear a remarkable resemblance to images owned by BAWA. There may be some personal history behind some of this angst, but that doesn’t matter to the dogs. There are enough sick, abandoned, malnourished canines in Bali to warrant the fulltime attentions of any number of refuges.

A further point: It is BAWA that has runs on the board over Bali’s response to the rabies outbreak that commenced in 2008; on educational programs in the villages aimed at improved living conditions for dogs and the lives of villagers too; on combating the vile dog meat trade and illegal gambling centred around organized dog fights; and much else. So it’s time for a reality check, everyone. Perhaps that might spark a little cooperation for the greater good. Now there’s a thought.

 

Quite a Meowful

Good news is to hand from Elizabeth Henzell at Villa Kitty in Ubud, who reported on Dec. 17 that donations@villakittybali.com, Villa Kitty’s suspended PayPal account, had been restored, verified, and had its funds-in-hand limit lifted. Apparently the powers that be at PayPal had originally said they would close the account. Perhaps the good folk in Omahahahaha, USA, don’t know what a Yayasan is. Here’s a clue: It’s neither a spam/scam computer program nor a Mafia-style crime syndicate.

Elizabeth says: “Thank you again to everyone who offered donations that got us through that week of worry.”

Villa Kitty is a great operation. It’s so good that it is now up to its limit with cats and kittens. That’s consistent with another of Bali’s grand traditions. Anything that actually works is instantly overrun by people fleeing from things that don’t and anyone who offers to help is bowled over in the rush.

The cat refuge needs people to adopt little vaccinated and neutered friends and to give them a good home so there’s room for others who are awaiting their chance for a better life. They do help keep the rats away, too.

There was a benefit evening on Dec. 19 at Mingle in Ubud. It was called Le Chat Noel, which made it irresistible.

 

Aussie Dodgers

Fewer Australians are coming here. That may be good news to the few among us who are incapable of declaring a personal exclusion zone around Jl Padma in Legian on lurch-around-half-naked-night. But it’s not good news overall. Australia is our closest large market. The West Australian capital, Perth, is virtually Bali’s dormitory suburb. For all sorts of reasons we should want to keep it that way. Some of these were outlined in the Diary on Dec. 11.

Foreign tourist arrivals for October 2013 were 266,502 (up 4.3 percent over October 2012’s total of 255,709) and arrivals for the 10 months of the year totalled 2,675,836, up 12.34 percent on the same period in 2012. But the number of Australian visitors in that period (668,902) was 2.11 percent down on Jan-Oct 2012.

They’re still in first place, outnumbering the second-placed Chinese two to one. There are several reasons for the decline. Among them is the fact that Australians – who like to think the English are the whingers – widely believe from in front of their 90cm flat-screen TVs with 50 cables channels pumping out pap at them and fast-fat food at the front door, that their country is up Ordure Creek. It isn’t. Another reason, much more valid, is that places other than Bali are now presenting holiday “experiences” that match or better Bali’s on price.

On the bright side, the long comatose Japanese market is reviving.

 

Ivan Ivanobitch

We hear, anecdotally, of an incident at a popular Bukit area Thai restaurant recently that involved a party of Russians who claimed they had been poisoned by the plate of the day and told the staff to call the police, pending which they wrecked the joint.

If you are a very Volga boatman indeed, one with permafrost for brains and a suddenly blotchy fair-skinned squeeze possessed of DNA that might not be an exact fit with spicy Asian cuisine, it may be easy to become enraged. Cossacks probably swept angrily across the steppes for eons on far lesser excuse. On the other hand, if you think you have been poisoned, it’s possibly better to go to the clinic down the road than to demand that the plods be summoned.

It must have been a potent poison. They returned some days later seeking further compensatory funds – their meal bill had already been waived – and threatened to wreck the place again.

Such people really are more Rouble than they’re worth (boom-tish).

 

The First Noel

This year, for the first time, the annual rite of Carols on Christmas Eve in Nusa Dua was held in Church and combined with Holy Communion. Previously the function has been held in a hotel but this year it was at Bukit Doa International Church, the Protestant Church in the unique complex of five religions at Puja Mandala, popularly known as Temple Hill.

It was a great chance to experience true Christian Christmas fellowship in the Protestant tradition, including Midnight Mass.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and see you all in 2014.

 

Hector is on Twitter. He tweets @scratchings