Statuary Declaration

HECTOR’S DIARY

His regular diet of worms and other non-religious fare

HectorR

Candi Dasa, Bali

Wednesday, Jun. 28, 2017

 

TEN days in the blissful zephyrs, beside the azure briny you get in the better parts of the archipelago, can do you a power of good. Such a break provides time to read books – or re-read them – instead of wading through 24/7 news reportage and grim analysis suggesting that Armageddon is next week, and all sorts of other things that would turn your hair grey if you had any left. We tore ours out long ago.

We read, among other things, Us, a novel that dissects marital and other human disorders, by David Nicholls; The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai (which we should have read ages ago); and a fast-paced and thoroughly predictable American crime novella written in the “this is a film script” mode so popular in the pulp fiction market these days. It was called Beyond Suspicion and was by someone named James Grippando, of whom we hadn’t heard.

The environment suited reading. We were at Sea Breeze at Mendira, a lovely spot and much to be recommended, where we breakfasted daily in the al fresco fashion beside the pool and then retreated to long chairs under umbrellas to contemplate the sea view, or the universe, or anything else to hand. There is statuary present that falls into the latter category and which several times brought to mind a Florentine garden, or possibly – traversing Italy at upper thigh level (it’s so much more fun than lower down) – one of the more outré among the Venetian renaissance master Titian’s supposedly recorded thoughts as he was mixing rose madder while his model reclined on a ladder.

There are several stone maidens who might easily be Titian’s models around one of the pools at Sea Breeze, in very decorative states of dishabille. Their daily task is to continuously pour water from the bowls they carry back into the pool. This makes a lovely tinkling sound, which is probably designed to be cooling. Among the more mature within earshot, however, it is a frequent prompt to revisit the facilities.

Tidy Town

CANDI Dasa has always impressed us as a place where the words Bali and rotting rubbish do not necessarily go together. The place is an example that many others could follow and should, perhaps especially those in the crowded south where the bonds and discipline of traditional settlement have weakened, injuring civic pride and sensibility.

Mendira, in Sengkidu a little towards the Pertamina fuel facility at Tanah Ampo, and Padang Bai, has really got the business down pat. Our morning walk route has been a joy: four kilometres of it because it’s flat and there are properly made roads to walk along, with space to get properly onto the verges if something with more than two wheels comes along. We’ve barely seen a carelessly discarded lolly wrapper, far less stinking piles of over-stuffed plastic garbage bags. It’s been great to be able to gaze at the lovely banyan trees as we pass them at a brisk trot without having to worry about stepping in anything.

Haloumi Heaven

NO visit to Candi Dasa can be regarded as complete unless it includes Vincent’s, the eatery and jazz bar named for that fellow Don McLean sang about, the guy who painted irises and other things and then cut his ear off before topping himself. Many artists are troubled, but relatively few go all the way with Vincent van Gough.

There’s live jazz at Vincent’s every Thursday evening.

On our visit this time we dined at the bar. It’s near the door, where smoking is still permitted, and close enough to get the full flavour of the jazz action. There’s no smoking in the main restaurant area, which is a good thing, and while the garden area at the back is great, it doesn’t suit on live jazz nights or if it’s raining.

Aside from the Haloumi, there was a special unscheduled treat on this occasion. A visiting troupe of jazz performers from Yokohama (where they are well known it seems) turned up with their instruments and played a very lively set, complete with a lissom performance dancer whose interpretation of Balinese dance was … interesting. It was all a delight. Also delightful was the broad smile that lit up the oboist’s face when after the performance we waylaid him as he returned to his seat and said “Domo arigato”. It wasn’t quite a Midnight Diner moment, but it came close. And it was nice to say thank you.

Coffee and Ice Cream

WELL, what could be nicer, especially if you’re on a seaside break? Mendira House, conveniently en route to Lu Putu’s desirable garden restaurant from our hotel (it’s a 13-minute walk: we timed it) is open from 8am to 8pm. Its coffee is not to be passed up, its ice creams are divine, and the gift shop is full of stuff you’d buy as a tourist – though we aren’t of course – and a handy source of bric-a-brac you might pack in your bag to take to relatives when you next travel.

Lu Putu has great food; it’s home cooked by Lu Putu herself. It also has a lovely, quiet garden restaurant area we’d recommend to anyone who wants the real deal.

There are many gems in the Candi Dasa area. These are two you shouldn’t miss.

Jailhouse Blues

FOUR prisoners left Kerobokan Jail recently on self-awarded tickets of leave, via a drainage tunnel that took them conveniently underground and out of sight the fifteen metres to the street outside. Two were recaptured in Timor Leste, whence they had fled. The headline act of the foursome, an Australian of questionable human value and of clearly criminal character by the name of Shaun Davidson, was still on the run when we scribbled this diary. A Singaporean convict was also still on the run. Davidson had only seven months of his sentence left to serve and the theory was that he didn’t want to return to Australia. The police there are keen to chat with him about skipping bail and the drugs charges on which he had of course obtained bail in the first place.

The incident provided another of those welcome comedic breaks you get here. The prison governor said the prisoner concerned had recently grown a beard and a moustache, perhaps to alter his appearance. No shit Shakespeare! The chief of police said it was thought an international crime syndicate had had a hand in the escape. By this we assume he means they had outside help, as opposed to inside assistance. A torch had been found in the tunnel, close to where there was access to the street. It must have been the light at the end of the tunnel.

Kerobokan is vastly overcrowded. It was built for around 300 inmates but these days it houses 1,300. Only 10 guards are on duty at any one time, because of staffing restriction, and none of them was in the watchtower that overlooks the spot where the escapees would have emerged and where he might otherwise have been able to point his trusty weapon in their general direction and shout “Surprise!”

#44 … The Man

THE expatriate bit of Bali does agog very well, being celebrity-fixated. And so it was when Barack Obama and family arrived here for a little downtime at the Four Seasons Sayan. The Ubud hinterland is good for the soul, and of course Four Seasons provides very comfortable digs for those whose wallets stretch that far.

He also dropped by a Bukit haunt that’s on The Diary’s Most Favoured List, El Kabron on the cliff at Bingin. It was an unscheduled and brief visit, we hear, but it’s the best place to sample Catalan cuisine and hospitality that we know of in Bali.

We didn’t join in the “I saw Barry” parade. He’s the former president of the USA, speaks quietly and with consideration, tweets rather nicely, has a functional family, and deserves to be left alone. These are all qualities his successor in office, #45, does not possess. Ah well, that’s Electoral College democracy for you. How sad. Never mind. Carry On.

Old Friends

ONE among these told us recently she’d missed us at a reunion of journalists and photographers and held, amidst much reminiscing, at the Pig ’n Whistle in West End, Brisbane. It would have been nice to be there.

Our informant tells us there were 60 or so Formers present, and much grey hair. Time waits for no man, as it is said, while the hair changes colour or falls out. It reminded us that in three months it would be 21 years since we left a note for Rupert on our desk saying, “Gone to the Dark Side”, or words to that effect.

We didn’t add, although we might easily have done so, a line to the effect that a rude letter would follow. Judging by what has taken place in the print media world since we furled our News Ltd quill and took off, we think we made the right decision in a timely fashion.

HectorR

Hector also writes a diary in the Bali Advertiser. The current rendition was published on Jun. 21. The next will appear on Jul. 19.

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Jun. 10, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Let’s Get Nauti

It is Ratty, in Kenneth Grahame’s wonderful 1908 children’s fantasy story Wind in the Willows, who reminds us that there is absolutely nothing better than messing about in boats. As a theory, this is quite possibly an incontrovertible statement. As a practise, if one is of the sort whose natural nautical agilities and skills equate with those of Frank Spencer in Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, avoidance is the best technique.

The Diary’s preference, despite some early messing about in boats, has always been to be aboard something rather larger than the fierce marine creatures that inhabit the waters upon which one is sailing. So we were very pleased when Pulau Luxury Charters invited us aboard its latest acquisition, a 22-metre catamaran called Haruku, for a day of fun and frivolity arranged for the media by The Diary’s favourite local dish, Diana Shearin. This event took place on May 8, shortly before we needed to make an unscheduled two-week-long visit to the chilly climes of pre-winter southern Western Australia. The recalled warmth of the occasion kept us going throughout that later ordeal.

Aboard the Haruku on that sybaritic day all the messing about was done by the efficient crew and the drinks and nibbly things were offered around by svelte young ladies wearing tiny skirts which could easily have doubled as belts. This was, the Diary mused, just how nautical experiences should be enjoyed. It gives you something to contemplate other than the horizon or your own navel.

The Haruku, which has joined five other boats in the Pulau fleet, is a refurbished and upgraded long-range expedition yacht that purrs along at 12 knots and is pushed through the briny by two Cummins 700hp diesel engines. Its twin hulls flatten most of the wind waves one might encounter in our waters, though the Indian Ocean swells punching up the Badung Strait made the trip from Serangan to Nusa Penida a little interesting for some on board.

There’s plenty of space and lots of headroom, plus all the kit you expect in these days of state-of-the-art music systems, monster flat screen TVs and on board WiFi. On day trips the boat can accommodate up to 25 guests and for long-range cruising it sleeps up to eight passengers in three cabins.

The open aft deck is a great place for lounging. It leads down to dual swim/dive platforms and the range of watercraft available to guests. It also leads up to the spacious fly bridge where further comfy seating is available to people whose on-board job is to relax and have fun.

The boat was built in 2002 and refurbished in 2014-15. It’s very comfortable and well equipped. One quibble: It did seem a shame that the refurbishment did not extend to changing the two-pin power points to universal points. Pulau Luxury Charters is part of the group that includes boutique villas at Banjar Anyar Kelod in Umalas and the eclectic Cafe Cous Cous whose Moroccan cuisine and ambience are worthy of inclusion on anyone’s must-do list.

Big Day

We note with pleasure that two lovely people we know – Australian Marian Carroll of Four Seasons and long-term Bali resident Brazilian Alexsander Martins Paim – tied the knot on June 5. It would have been a grand party, especially as it also tied together two representations of the Southern Cross, the stellar icon of the southern hemisphere night sky. It features on both the Australian and Brazilian flags.

The nuptials took place at former Alila Manggis executive chef Penelope Williams’ destination for gourmets, Bali Asli at Gelumpang, near Amlapura in Karangasem, and featured a megibung feast, served in the style of the royal family of Karangasem. We’re sure the Brazilians in the party were happy to forgo pão de queijo and coxinha on that occasion.

We hear there was a spot of Capoeira on hand, however. This will have helped the guests feast not only on the fine fare but also the spectacular views of Gunung Agung. Alex is from Porto Alegre in southern Brazil, where the local mountains aren’t quite as lofty but do occasionally sport picture-postcard snowfalls.

Bali Asli recently hosted the Great Chefs of Bali dinner. Female chefs from all over Bali cooked their signature dish as part of a meal celebrating the not to be missed feminine component of exemplary cuisine in kitchens. They raised Rp 56 million to help the nearby village of Pangi restore a traditional paon kitchen and also to build a needy family a bathroom and a family temple.

Scumbags

A sickening video showing a group of men from Tabanan regency savagely beating to death a black dog that they had led to a pole and then tied to it has gone round the world. Even more tragically, the dog was obviously a pet or at least habituated to being around people, since it was happily wagging its tail as it walked towards its execution place. It only panicked and began yelping piteously when it finally realized what was about to happen.

Such incidents, less the videoing, are regrettably possibly commonplace wherever thick young men with too much testosterone and too few brain cells gather, but that neither excuses nor explains it. Specifically, it is very bad for Bali’s image as a place of great spirituality. That’s already taken a hammering from the authorities’ fixation with killing dogs, vaccinated or not, in their mad and unnecessary panic over the rabies crisis that they have prolonged through their own negligence.

It’s against Indonesian law to mistreat an animal, especially in a way that causes painful death. So since these ridiculous and unpleasant young men had themselves videoed committing their crime and laughing while they did it, and since this incriminating evidence was downloaded elsewhere before their brain cells picked up enough power to think that perhaps they shouldn’t have posted it on Facebook, no doubt the police will take action.

We’re keen to see the outcome of the judicial proceedings that will naturally follow.

In the video a man – he was not one of the murder-party – is filmed riding up on a motorbike without a helmet. That might bring the traffic police into the action too, since it is also against the law to ride a bike without a bone-dome, however thick your skull is.

A Frisson Too Far

The Diary’s international cultural attaché, Philly Frisson, who has just enjoyed a sojourn in Bali and should return as soon as possible for further talks in the 2015 Made’s WarungWatercress series, reports a curious incident when she arrived back in Sydney and went out to buy her morning bagel (it’s the sort of thing you do in Sin City).

She tells us: “Being just back from Bali where I smile at my neighbours, the local mangy dogs and even the devious money exchange boys on the corner, I smile hither and yon. Oops, well sorry folks, I didn’t realize it was some sort of taboo.” She notes, though, that the resident nutcase acknowledged her. And that she still loves Sydney. Well don’t we all?

Feliç Aniversari!

We missed the party, since we were still in the pre-winter chill far to the south, but it seems incredible that it is four years since El Kabron opened on its pretty cliff-top at Pecatu on the Bukit and brought a Catalan-Spanish flavour to the sunset scene. That was where we fell in love with Yellow Dog, an evocative water-colour by Leticia Balacek that to our mind completely captures the true expression of modern Bali.

Balacek has long since returned to her native Argentina – and to Buenos Aires, which has been our favourite global city since a fabulously long holiday there in 1986 – and we can only hope that Yellow Dog has found a suitable home.

El Kabron’s fourth birthday party was on Jun. 7. We’re sure David Iglesias Megias and the crew made it a memorable occasion for party-goers.

Coup d’État

Ku De Ta is an icon of Bali’s beachfront eat-drink-and-be-merry sector. Its name is globally known for its ambience – less for its victuals, in the Diary’s subjective assessment – and its premier position as a spot to watch the sun go down. It’s where the party set parties and the wannabes want to be.

Its name is its essence, its commercial actuality, and it was therefore surprising when an establishment entirely dissimilar to the Seminyak venue opened on top of one of Singapore’s lofty towers and began trading under the same name. So it was good to read the other day that after a five-year court battle over the rights to the name Ku De Ta, the Bali partners have won the case and a name change for the crowd-pulling Singapore club.

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