HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Oct. 16, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences


May The Farce Be With You

We were going to be nice about it all, really we were. APEC, we mean. It was so important to Bali, after all. All those lovely delegates were sure to be so impressed by the event and the island that hosted it that they’d all return later, with their families, for private holidays, thereby boosting the economy by a zillion convertible currency units.

Yes, well, farce has a long and honourable history. Only the Seriously Up-Themselves could possibly be impressed by their mode of transport: preceded, tailed and flanked by siren-sounding, blue-light-flashing and thoroughly rude loudspeaker-equipped police causing chaos and endless delays and pushing lesser mortals off the road. It’s how the ruling classes conduct themselves here but any delegate with the most rudimentary measure of social awareness would have been mortified.

The top three from our Farce List:

THE ban on kites and lasers as aviation hazards during APEC. If they’re hazards to VIP landings and take-offs, they’re hazards to ordinary air travellers too, all the time, not just on special occasions.

THE mass cancellations of airline services (700 of them) because the airport was closed through peak operating hours to accommodate VIP flights.

THE armoured car with fully loaded machine-gunners at each end that we saw trundling down Jl Raya Uluwatu through Jimbaran village escorted by police and military police motorcycles. Thank goodness they didn’t hit a pothole and squeeze a trigger. Had they been sent to get the fish for lunch?


Sartorial Splendour

Hector’s helper got into a bit of trouble on his Facebook on the last day of APEC for posting a photo from the ABC website of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott arriving at the end-of-event Big Dinner wearing purple Endek. It wasn’t the rig that was being critiqued – Batik and Ikat are wonderful fashion statements and vital elements of Indonesian culture – but the fact that purple just isn’t his colour.

Judging from the photo, in which PM Abbott is looking (smilingly) vaguely uneasy and his wife is looking determinedly anywhere but at his shirt, we think he knows this.


Bon Soirée

Hector and Distaff attended one APEC event, which was an American business oriented cocktail function at the Grand Nikko Bali where Jean-Charles Le Coz presides over the cliff-top presence with just the right amount of Gallic flair. We were invited by Jack Daniels of Bali Discovery Tours and Bali Update, with whom we share an interest in the fortunes – misfortunes rather – of Bali’s street dogs. We drank some very pleasant Californian red and chatted with lots of interesting people.

We had to chat. The speeches were off because of the inability of American governmental arrangements to realize that as this is the 21st century they really should move on (and no, we’re not talking about guns or health care). Everyone officially American present, including the US Secretary of Commerce, seemed to be on furlough. In the non-American part of the Anglosphere this is more simply known as leave without pay.

It was interesting getting into the venue. We didn’t have a magic APEC pass, you see. So after a bit of a circus we parked on the road outside and walked in. A chatty infantry corporal, fully armed, escorted us to the sign-in tent. He saw me checking his boots (old military habits die hard) and thereafter called me Sir.


Three Hearty Woofs!

An annual event of note took place in Melbourne on Oct. 11 – the Bali Street Dogs appeal night, this year presided over by one of the Diary’s favourite Aussie TV personages, Kerri-Anne Kennerley. The event was at the InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto, as always, and was co-sponsored by Garuda.

Volunteer cheerleader and longstanding Bali hand Sally Rodd reminded us the 2012 appeal raised more than $40,000 to help alleviate the appalling conditions in which most of Bali’s abandoned and urban-feral dogs live.

It’s great to know that some people understand that being Lead Species on Planet Earth confers obligations such as a duty of care towards lesser creatures. Perhaps some further educational literature on that rather broad topic could be usefully read by bureaucrats here.

Anyone interested in the Melbourne end of caring for Bali’s dogs should bookmark www.balistreetdogs.org.au.


Sanglah Connection

Kon Vatskalis, who as health minister in the former Northern Territory government was the leading political driver of the 2011 sister relationship between Sanglah and Royal Darwin Hospital, was back here recently to check on progress. He’s now the opposition spokesman on health in the legislature of that Australian territory.

We had dinner with him and his family at La Favela in Seminyak, an occasion hosted by Australia’s consul-general in Bali, Brett Farmer. Vatskalis pronounced himself well satisfied with the way the Darwin-Sanglah link had progressed and tells us he’s also keen to help with the establishment of a new international hospital here and to extend the Darwin link to the public hospital facility in Kupang, West Timor.

He issued a statement on his visit. Among other things it noted this:

“The Sanglah Hospital has completely revamped their emergency department and introduced a triage system that has significantly improved patient care. In addition, the hospital has introduced a Clinical Nurse Educator [and is] the only hospital with such a position in Indonesia.  It has also introduced a hospital school for sick children, modelled on the one in Royal Darwin Hospital.”

It’s these sorts of things that take place largely out of the public gaze that are so valuable, so effective at cementing relationships, and so useful in bringing otherwise unreachable benefits to the Indonesian people.


In the Swim

Celia Gregory of the Marine Foundation – she’s the Brit “underwater sculptress” whose polyp-friendly structures augment existing and nascent coral reefs in Bali and the Lombok Gilis – was at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival this year, presenting at a day of free events sponsored by The Body Shop.

The day-long affair (on Oct. 13) was a special addition to this year’s festival program and themed “Our Planet: Through Darkness to Light”. Gregory was joined at Fivelements (it’s on the Ayung River at Banjar Baturning, Mambal) by Rili Djohani of the Coral Triangle Centre, environmental activist and The Body Shop Indonesia CEO Suzy Hutomo, environmental writer Harry Surjadi and orang-utan rehab expert Simon Husson.

It presented “a journey across Bali’s coral reefs and Indonesia’s extraordinary forest and wildlife worlds”.

On Oct. 14, in another festival spin-off, Villa Kitty at Lodtundah staged a special literary and art-oriented day for children. Villa Kitty, which is now a fully fledged Yayasan, is run by that energetic Ubud fixture, Elizabeth Henzell.


Swish Dish

We see that snappy photographer Deborah Cayetano, who also runs the innovative Bali’s Best Chefs operation, has added vacation and time management to her skill-set outlined on LinkedIn, where the Diary does its real work. That’s probably a good thing. Her plush dining experiences require a lot of organization. They’re invitation only, the names of other guests are not revealed until all are gathered for the feast, and the location is kept secret until 48 hours before the event.

It’s a great marketing pitch. Award winning chefs from around the world who now live and work in Bali present special menu creations and premium wines are paired by the chef to blend nicely with each course.

The succulent celebrations take place in a luxury holiday villa, on a big yacht, or at an historical location. It’s a nice niche market to aim for and helps promote Bali as more than just a resort of the gulp-guzzle-and-go brigade.


In a Great Cause

W Resort and Spa at Seminyak is the venue on Oct. 19 for a Gala Fundraiser in aid of Bali’s new Breast Cancer Support Centre in Jl Dewi Sri, Kuta, which is an initiative of the Bali Pink Ribbon organization.

The evening will feature a four-course dinner by W Resort and Spa Bali’s executive chef Richard Millar (including free-flow wine).  Cocktails begin at 6:30pm. Tickets are Rp1.5 million (US$130). Call (+62) (0)361-8352299 or email balipinkribbon@gmail.com.


RIMBA Calling

Marian Carroll of AYANA – whose corporate boosting duties now include the new companion resort hotel RIMBA – is looking forward to the establishment’s grand opening on Nov.  1. It opened (in the soft way that such establishments do worldwide) in time to host APEC delegates and was performing very well when we had breakfast there with Carroll one recent weekend.

Some finishing touches were still being made and bits of it looked a tad To-Do, but the Lobby is spectacular, the breakfast was good, the staff attentive, and it was lovely to be in the midst of an infant forest and surrounded by masses of water.

The grand opening should be spectacular.


 Hector tweets @scratchings




HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Apr. 17

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

The Joke: 1

One looks for good news, in a diary such as this, so as to record – poorly no doubt in the eyes of many – the little illuminations that lighten one’s days on the Island of the Gods. Occasionally one is rewarded. And so it is in this edition, with the delicious “sting” on the stingers at the Lio Square Police Post at Kerobokan. For it was there, as thousands of YouTube viewers have now seen while rolling on the floor laughing their arses off, that a Dutch journalist with a video camera recorded the police extorting him for the serious crime of riding his motorbike while failing to wear a helmet.

The law states that motorbike riders and passengers must wear helmets. This is eminently sensible. It is only because the majority of motorbike riders in Bali are eminently insensible – foreigners as well as locals – that so many do not bother. Mostly, unless of course it’s national fine day or they’re suddenly short of lunch money, the police don’t bother either, especially with locals who couldn’t possibly pay the extortionate bribes demanded of defaulters.

Tourists (ubiquitously defined as any foreigner, whether or not they live here) are of course a prime target. It is assumed they can be dragooned into paying up instead of saying piss off, when nabbed by the traffic cops. They surmise, for the most part correctly, that a tourist won’t know that the best answer to a gouging cop is to say “write the ticket”, since these can be paid at any sub-district police station and is on the official record. (It may still end up as someone’s lunch money but by then it’s not your problem.)  Traffic police probably think it’s a safe bet most tourists won’t have the police anti-corruption office number in their mobile phone. And maybe they think none of them will have the presence of mind to take a snap of them (with name and number) on that phone.

We watched the video (and rolled on the floor laughing our arse off). We got another great laugh a little later, when we heard the proposal – it was short-lived for rather obvious reasons – that the police were considering charging the Dutch journalist with bribing a policeman. If the expression pack of clowns should occur to readers in relation to any of the foregoing, then that seems only fair.

But for our money the best bit of the video, aside from the little cameo where the bandit in the identity-obscuring yellow vest says cheerily of the Rp200K he’s collected, “100 for beer and 100 for my government”, was the continuous footage of helmetless locals riding past the Lio Square police post completely unmolested by traffic police bent on enforcing the law.

The Joke: 2

The Dutch journalist who did us all a service outing the robber cops at Lio Square (five months ago according to the Badung police chief, as if that makes any difference) also filmed at the airport, in somewhat similar circumstances. We haven’t seen that video, since we are under strict medical orders not to laugh too much all at once. But we did hear a lovely story the other day from a returning temporary resident. It concerns cheese.

The lady, who is of a certain age and had travelled alone from Queensland’s Gold Coast via a same-day transit stop in Kuala Lumpur, was armed with a quantity of this delightful staple in her baggage. Like so many of us, she sensibly tries to use her SEBs (Short Essential Breaks) to restock her fridge with the fermented product of lactating cows that hasn’t cost an arm and leg by being purchased through the Criminally Expensive Retail Cheese Supply Cartel.

She duly declared on her customs form that she was carrying food products. She was required to open her luggage. The cheese was discovered by the two customs officers on the scanner to which she had been directed. One told her she had far too much cheese and she could buy it locally. He demanded a truly extortionate amount of money to overlook the offence, or else would take her to the office at the back where, she was invited to assume, even greater extortionate demands awaited her and trouble with the law might ensue.

She did try to argue (pointedly, at which juncture the second customs officer present apparently deemed discretion to be the better part of valour and left the scene) but it had been a long and tiring day. In the end, rather than saying cheerily, “Oh look, that little camera thingy in the ceiling has just whirled around to look at you,” she paid the man Rp300K to shut him up. Well, we’ve all been there. Sometimes the hassle is just too much. But we would like to see a customs form on which it is clearly stated that bringing in cheese for personal consumption is a limited concession, and to what maximum quantity.  If we ever find one, we’ll let you know.

Incidentally, and this will interest author Kathryn Bonella, it must not have been snowing in Bali that evening. Three unkempt Ecuadorians clad in “Yeah, I’m a Surfer” gear and toting bulging backpacks sauntered unchecked through customs control just ahead of her. We’re sure they were perfectly legit and we’re not overly enamoured of profiling as a detection method. But given drug smuggling and its primary South American origin is a rather more serious problem than overindulgence in cheese one does wonder why they weren’t targeted for executive attention.

Perils of Groupthink

You’re never far from best friends these days, even on what is now fast becoming the dinosaur of communications, the SMS. This point was proved late on one recent weekend evening, when the Hec Phone bleeped and advised: “If it’s raining is Plan B brekky at the Rare Pear at 7am?”

Since the message came from faraway Brisbane, we didn’t know. But since it was from a svelte delight who lives in the old home town and who has held the title of Hector’s Fave Blonde unchallenged for 20 years, we thought we should inquire.

So on the Monday morning, we texted back: “Was it raining? So sorry I couldn’t put in an appearance.”

A series of further exchanges took place. They went like this:

Fave Blonde: “Sorry about that – you must have got caught up in one of my group emails. I go for walkies with my gym buddies every Sunday morning at 6am up Mt Gravatt – if it’s raining, we always go to the gym and then meet for brekky.  Fortunately, it was not raining, we did our walk, had brekky, then I did some shopping before catching up with [a mutual friend] for a movie, then to the Max Brenner Chocolate shop where we had strawberries dipped in chocolate with a Kangaroo Cup cappuccino (mine on skinny milk, of course) with a sliver of chocolate on the side and liquid chocolate drizzled on top… hence the 4km walk at the beginning of my day!”

Hec: “No worries! It all sounds fun (except the big walk at the beginning),”

Fave Blonde: “That stops me from feeling guilty about the chocolate.”

Mission accomplished. Favourite blondes should never be made to feel guilty.

Think Pink

Hector is going pink for the day on Sunday, April 28, along with a lot of other people. You should too, dear reader, because breast cancer prevention, early detection and timely and affordable treatment are vitally important. The occasion is the fifth Bali Pink Ribbon Walk, being held at Nusa Dua. Trot off is at 4pm from the grounds of the Bali Tourism Development Corporation offices in the Manicured Area, but the event itself commences at 2.30. Walk Tickets are priced at Rp 150K for adults, Rp 75K for students (these tickets include a free Walk T-shirt) and children under 12 are free and can buy walk T-shirts on the day.

This year’s event is extra special because the new Pink Ribbon House in Kuta is Indonesia’s first breast cancer support centre. On April 25 there will be a free breast health seminar at the Support Centre organised by Philips Healthcare Singapore. Radiotherapy specialists from the Allen Walker Cancer Care Centre at Royal Darwin Hospital led by centre director Professor Michael Tenniment will speak on the effect of radiation on breast cancer patients and on April 28 will take part in the walk.

Bali Pink Ribbon Walk founder Gaye Warren tells us that after Walk Day a team of breast health doctors from Singapore, led by Dr Feliciana Tan, is taking a mobile ultra sound screening unit around the island to offer free breast screening to women in remote areas, in a project coordinated by Bali Pink Ribbon and its medical advisers.

We hear an official opening of the new Support Centre is slated for October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2013 around the world. For walk details: web balipinkribbon.com,  email  balipinkribbon@gmail.com, telephone +62816295815 or +62816966251.

Hector’s Diary appears in the fortnightly Bali Advertiser newspaper and on the newspaper’s website http://www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector tweets @scratchings.

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, May 2, 2012

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-theological experiences

Building for No Future

Among the many wondrous things that fix one’s attention in Bali is the question of building permits. It has been raised – again – as a matter of public interest by people who are objecting to the construction of yet another lodging place, allegedly without benefit of permit, in Jl Drupadi at Seminyak, which not many years ago was a quietly meandering little street where residents had rice fields to gaze upon. It is still a meandering little street, but concrete view-blockers have replaced the rice fields and silence is a notional, relative thing. This, of course, is progress.

It is not necessary to completely oppose development to be outraged by the cavalier attitude of many developers to dangerous impediments to their own wealth-garnering, such as building regulations. “I should get a permit? Well, I asked for one and you said no, so I’m building my nightmare project anyway. I’ve called it Excrescence, by the way; somehow it seemed apt.”  This statement is of course fictional. The actual statement, were one ever to be made, would probably be unprintable.

We have hotel developers – and other entrepreneurial types – who build what they like, where they like and how they like without bothering with building standards, licences, permits, or even drainage plans. (We know too that getting building permits is often a process fraught with costly problems but that’s not the point.) Few are effectively countered. It’s not just in Bali, of course. Indonesian law insists (well, suggests is more accurate in actuality) that you consult your neighbours before building, but hardly anyone ever bothers with that nonsense either.

If Bali is to escape eventual tourism ruin and have any chance of protecting its heritage, architectural and other, something needs to be done urgently. Reform could start with amendments to the devolution law so there is no longer room for argument over whether the provincial or district administrations have legislative power over building regulations. It could usefully then continue with cast-iron rules enforcing those regulations.

Bali has benefited hugely from tourism and related developments since the mid-1980s. Thousands of people have jobs they once could only dream about. Money has flowed – and is flowing – to local people like never before. All that is good, yet we face a dreadful problem, one that relates to virtually unfettered development and to the Balinese (and national) habit of ignoring both regulations and common sense.

And a Further Thought

Here in Bali we have by-passes that aren’t anything of the sort – because the instant someone builds a traffic thoroughfare it is built out and traffic-jammed by an epidemic of retail and other premises. We have intersections choked by vehicles and motorbikes whose drivers and riders simply ignore the rules.

We have traffic police who sit – for example in the little sponsored box at the McDonald’s lights at Jimbaran – sipping their coffees and Cokes and ignoring the tailbacks caused by people intending to turn right but sitting in the left-hand (through) lane because they’re so selfish or ignorant that they’re not prepared to queue.

There’s little money in it for the cops, of course. No “tourists” (even those who’ve lived here for years) do that. It’s home-grown idiocy and if it were penalised at all it would only be at concessional local rates.

In the Pink

Last October your Diarist – along with a chum who was visiting from Queensland, Australia – donned pretty pink to take part in the annual Bali Pink Ribbon Walk. It was a fun show, once the masculine genes had got over being paired with pink, and in a very good cause. We even did the full five kilometres, something that was apparently beyond many of the other walkers who, without benefit of marshals, cut a few corners.

The 2012 event is on May 26, retimed to take advantage of the less humid conditions and slightly lower temperatures of the season. Sadly, we can’t make it; we’ll be flying back from an overseas trip on the day and won’t be back on Bali soil until after walk time. But everyone else should, so put it in your diaries.

Gaye Warren, who initiated the Walk in 2009 and who as a breast cancer survivor is a leading light in the UK events, tells us that this year they’re providing optional design pink tees for chaps, with a black collar and the chest-legend “Real Men Wear Pink.” Nice try girls; only on special occasions, we fancy.

The Walk starts at 4.30pm on May 26, from the grounds of the BTDC headquarters at Nusa Dua with registration from 3pm. There will be the usual tasty morsels available from international food stalls and this year’s entertainment programme is being provided by a wedding planner. That’ll go without a hitch, surely?

Funds raised this year are going towards the building of Bali’s first Breast Cancer Support Centre in Denpasar. Bali Pink Ribbon works with leading hospital Prima Medika in a joint endeavour to identify breast cancer in Balinese women who otherwise might not notice the symptoms until the disease is far advanced. Around 200 women a year are diagnosed with breast cancer in Bali.

Details are at www.balipinkribbon.com.

Conrad Calling

There was a lovely soiree at Tanjung Benoa on April 11 when the Conrad Bali turned eight, said cheerio to inaugural GM Michael Burchett and bonjour to new GM Jean-Sébastien Kling, a native of France who joins us here on our island from the Hilton Maldives Iru Fushi. Kling joined the Hilton group in 1996.

We’re not losing Burchett, though, which is good news because he’s a good bloke. He’s staying in Bali to run his own consultancy business.

Non! Cela ne peut pas être vrai!

No! That can’t be right! A poll conducted by international travel search site is said to have revealed the French as the rudest people on earth. Apparently they were thus rated by 19 percent of those polled. It’s true that the French are historically known by their European neighbours for an abrupt and curt nature, especially when dealing with foreign tourists – those who don’t speak classic French, for example, such as Quebecois from Canada, or (even worse) don’t speak French at all. It is further alleged that this is often taken by visitors as rudeness.

Paris is a difficult city. But the people there are nearly in Seine, so that’s no surprise. In other parts of France your diarist, among thousands or more likely millions of visitors, Francophone or otherwise, has experienced no trouble at all getting along with the locals.

Scratch Him

Here’s a thought for the graspers among us, courtesy of Villa Kitty Ubud founder Elizabeth Grant Suttie. She recently asked (on Facebook) this reasonable question:  “How can an expat living in Ubud in a comfortable home with his own graphics business think to bring in three tiny kittens and not offer a donation?”

We’d say the answer is obvious.

That’s the Spirit

It was Anzac Day on April 25 – the Australian and New Zealand day to honour all those who have served their countries in the armed forces – and as usual there was a traditional Dawn Service organised by the Australian Consulate-General.

The Diary was there (as always); and this year was wearing his Australian Army tie for the occasion. It rained, rather heavily. But as Consul-General Brett Farmer reminded the large crowd present, given the occasion marks the bloody Gallipoli landing in World War I, we could put up with a little inconvenience.

Smile, Genius

The Diary’s current MFA (Most Favoured Argentine) Leticia Balacek, architect and artist – she had a lovely ink-wash sketch called Yellow Dog in her exhibition at El Kabron at Bingin Beach late last year which the Diary would covet for a wall were space available – has been spreading her wings. She had an exhibition of 47 mix-media works, Crossing Borders, at the Cemara 6 gallery in Jakarta from March 28-April 12.

Now, five of her manual colour screen prints are to go on show at the Indonesian Contemporary Art and Design ICAD by Artura, also in Jakarta, from May 5-June 15. Balacek, who has the sort of effervescent personality that makes you want to hug her, will also present a short animation stop motion film.

This year’s Design ICAD theme is Genius. Buenos Aires native Balacek tells us it’s about the genius we all have inside. Well, some among us do.


The Bali Times, which has been published weekly since 2005, failed to appear on Friday, April 20. There was no announcement that publication had been suspended, but you expect that here.  It is bad news – any descent into a catatonic state preceding death by any newspaper is – but is unsurprising given the difficulties the paper has had, particularly since November 2010 when the editor decamped to Ireland.

Revealing the real Bali – the paper’s masthead boast – was probably always going to be a little difficult from as far away as one of the Euro zone’s least effective economies.

Hector’s Diary is published in the Bali Advertiser, out every second Wednesday, and on his own Blog http://wotthehec.blogspot.com. Hector is on Twitter (@Scratchings) and Facebook (Hector McSquawky).