HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Nov. 25, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Blacklisted

It’s official. The Diary and Vulcan, god of the underworld and chief patron of volcanic excess, are no longer speaking. Vulcan has been blacklisted. Until further notice, even if we should by chance fly over one of the spectacular mountain vents that lead down to his lair in the underworld, we shall affect an air of lofty distain and total disinterest and shan’t even go “Ooh! Ah!” on a sotto voce basis. This is because we were marooned in Australia at a critical time because of the risk of suspended particulate matter in the air above Bali.

OK, volcanic dust is special in that it is basically glass and its impact can puncture aircraft hulls, make windows instantly opaque, kill jet engines and get into places that require lubricants to which in later maintenance cycles the fused glass dangerously denies entry. In that respect, Vulcan’s damaging offerings are far more immediately a risk, even though less ubiquitously fatal, than all the other detritus, that man-made stuff, which hangs around in the island air every day.

The disruption to The Diary’s travel plans was a nuisance – we accept its necessity: that’s not the point – principally because of two things. First, it meant we couldn’t get to the ROLE Models charity dinner at RIMBA on Nov. 21. This was especially irritating because we like a good bash and Mike O’Leary and ROLE Foundation do a fabulous job of empowering disadvantaged Indonesian women who would otherwise have lives of unfulfilled promise and low economic status. The second irritant was that the delay meant we were out of the country when our temporary resident visa expired. That’s a big no-no because unavoidable absence is not an excuse. You just have to start over with the bureaucratic bun-fight, which is a nuisance.

That personal problem pales into insignificance against the economic cost to Bali (and Lombok) of Mt Rinjani’s activity. While we were cooling our heels in Western Australia we saw a photo of Ngurah Rai’s arrivals area on Facebook. It was empty.

With a Skirl and a Whirl

Alistair Speirs, publisher of Now Jakarta and Now Bali – and of Made Wijaya’s Stranger in Paradise columns – is an Edinburgh laddie. Such is the draw of the kilt in Scottish culture that even mercantile east coast Lowlanders – the only true Sassenachs by the way; forget the English – have bought the idea that even though they have the money to buy trousers they should instead swaddle themselves in wraparound plaid.

Speirs suggests that anyone interested should follow the sound of the pipers (this year from the Perth Highland Pipe Band) to the annual St Andrew’s ball on Nov. 28. It’s organized by the Java St. Andrews Society and will take place at the Sahid Hotel, at a cost of Rp 1.6M a head. He notes: “As is custom with Scottish events, there will be food and drinks aplenty, lots of kilted men, and much Ceilidh dancing (interspersed by the odd yelp of “whhheeeoooshh!!”). The Scots know how to throw a party so don’t miss this one! There will be a lot of fantastic packages for auction – Are you a rugby fan? Do you like Hong Kong? What about a business-class travel and luxury accommodation? You get the idea. At the same time, bid to help some very worthy causes too.”

There’s no word on whether Made Wijaya will be present, though his former name, Michael White, could suggest Scottish roots. The availability of kilts might pique the interest of The Diary’s international cultural attaché, Philly Frisson, who is otherwise an eminently sensible lassie (see below).

International Event

The Diary was privileged recently to attend a wedding celebrated at a lovely winery in the Margaret River district of southwest Western Australia. It was a warm day – which was good for refugees from Bali – and the occasion went along with plenty of zing. The celebrant noted that under current Australian law marriage was between a man and a woman and that this might soon be changed to accommodate couples whose sexual orientation rules out opposite gender status as a determining factor. Cheers to that.

The couple that was being married on this occasion was of the opposite sex. Their families and friends were from around the globe, which was nice. A variety of accents enlivened the event, from the United States and Canada (they’re not the same places, something about which some people apparently need continual reminders), South Africa, Scotland (yes, a kilt was present) and other spots as well as various bits of Australia. It was hot, though the cooling ocean breeze – in WA’s lovely southwest it comes all the way from South Africa incidentally – was a treat. The dancing was spectacular. Seeing a kilt swirling to the difficult demands of a rap beat was something else.

Hoarse Before the Cartel

Regulating maritime traffic to and from and within environmentally sensitive areas is good sense. These arrangements require sensible and fair rules that take account of all factors. In the case of Gili Trawangan, the “party island” off Lombok’s northwest coast, these factors include the fact that a lot of people want to go there. A lot of them want to go there direct from Bali. Whatever the charms of alternative first-arrival points on Lombok’s mainland – Senggigi has obvious attractions; those of tout-cartel capital Bangsal and of Teluk Nara, where dive and accommodation operators have corporate facilities are harder to define – the chief destination of choice is Trawangan. Why irritate people who want to go there by insisting that they first go somewhere else? As a marketing strategy this practice would seem to have several demerits.

So it was somewhat strange to read recently that the West Nusa Tenggara tourism and culture department, the naval base in Lombok and Mataram Water Police are reportedly working together to limit the access to Trawangan of fast boats from Padang Bai and Benoa. Local navy commander Colonel Rachmat Djunaidy is said to believe that these boats cause environmental damage and coral reef erosion. It’s in the interests of the tourism industry and the Trawangan community to protect vital natural assets, of course, and if there is a particular problem then rules need to be set – or applied if they already exist – to minimize damage.

The colonel, though, apparently has a better idea. A bit of heavy-footed stomping. He will work with the bureaucrats and the water police to “curb these fast boats and redirect them to the three local ports of Bangsal, Teluk Nara and Senggigi.” Perhaps he has boat turn-back strategy in mind. Or perhaps he just doesn’t want to get hoarse in a shouting match with a cartel that would like to get a bit of the action (or possibly all of it).

Time for Another Good Yak

This year’s Yak Awards could be a frightful scene if The Diary gets along to them in the gear Sophie Digby, Chief Yakker, seems to suggest should be dusted off for the occasion. We look shocking in lamé and leopard print.

The event is on Dec. 4 at Il Lido, Kerobokan, and celebrates among other things the fact that Studio 54 is coming to town as well as Santa Claus.

It may just have been a glitch – many virtual calendars don’t seem to do UTC+08 if an event is in Indonesia, and this one is listed to start at 6pm UTC+07, which is Jakarta time. Sophie will sort it out, we expect.

Voting for the awards is under way as well as ticket sales – they’re Rp 650K at various outlets or Rp 850K at the door. Dress code for the evening is Studio 54 – Elton, Cher, Jackson, Warhol, Jagger, Minnelli, or Shirley Mclaine. We could do Warhol, possibly. That would suit 15 minutes of infamy.

All A-Buzz

These things don’t usually spark Hector’s interest, but the otherwise unremarkable visit of Charles and Camilla to New Zealand and Australia earlier this month brought this little Sydney incident to attention, as reported by Rick Morton in The Australian:

“Hundreds of community organization members, politicians and other dignitaries were invited to a garden party at Government House where [NSW] Governor David Hurley declared himself ‘Bee-One, the chief beekeeper’ and insisted the royal couple try the first harvest of honey from the grounds. ‘We thank you for giving your time and visiting Australia,’ he said. ‘Post the rugby World Cup, we understand you had to visit New Zealand first.’”

We had another little line from Philly Frisson about that. She suggested the Royal Taster had then stepped up manfully (oops, person-fully).

Hector tweets @ scratchings on Twitter. His diary is published in the print and online editions of the Bali Advertiser.

 

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser July 24, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

And So to Amed

It’s a great little place, and decidedly easier to access from South Bali since the splendidly named Prof. I.B. Mantra By-Pass was (finally, mostly) duplicated. We hadn’t been to Amed for nearly two years and were keen to see how the place had moved along since then.

     On the trip up we logged a Bukit-Amed trip time of just over 3.5 hours including a stop in Candi Dasa – a sneak look in a realtor’s window, the obligatory distaff rummage through a handy boutique, and a drink and a bite in the sea breeze at Pondok Bambu – and traffic once past Sanur was easy. That is not to say the traffic was calm, far less that it was well behaved. Neither truck   nor motorbike riders can yet read: they all ignore the “trucks and motorbikes keep left” signs. The unduplicated bridge over the Unda River is still a bottleneck. And the infantile desperation of Indonesian drivers (of anything from rattletrap carry-van to souped-up mob limo) to overtake a Bule on the road is as tedious as ever.

     We’d planned to stay at a certain place in Amed but didn’t, since on arrival it looked decidedly derelict. The internet and the camera conspire to lie too often. Following a short reconnaissance, unmolested by anyone either visible or sentient at the premises, we drove on. We ended up booking in at Anda Amed Resort; a much sweeter deal.

     Coming back from Amed – it was a Sunday – was more difficult since everyone who has access to a yellow truck seemed to have lent it to their cousins that weekend, and they clearly couldn’t drive, and the Unda River bridge was reduced to one lane. This was because a truck – a red one as it happens – had decided to overturn itself mid-span.  Two harassed policemen were controlling the traffic (theoretically at least) while their more numerous colleagues enjoyed the facilities of one of those little roadside cafés further along.

 

Sailing On

While at Amed this time, we dined at Sails, the cliff-top establishment at Bunutan, on two occasions.  We’d been there before. This trip, we had the apple, ginger, cinnamon and palm sugar dessert dish the first time. We had to go back for more.

     The restaurant is a magic spot. It was a shame Patrick and Anik were unable to provide mahi-mahi for diners whose taste buds juiced at the thought of the pan-fried fish listed on the menu. Tuna is no substitute. But the place was packed both nights, so clearly business is booming. They’re playing some nice music too. A New Zealand-resident Chilean group has recorded songs from its NZ tour itinerary. Those Andean pipes are truly haunting. Patrick, who is from those other shaky isles, burned us two disks, at Rp20K a pop, money going to the staff fund.

 

Monkey Business

We’ve finally made it to Three Monkeys Sanur‎, which we’ve been promising ourselves we’d do as soon as possible. It was a handy way-stop on our return from East Bali. Three Monkeys at Ubud has long been a favourite and we had deemed it essential to check out the Sanur operation.

     It’s very good. The pizzas are delicious and the baklava is not to be missed.

    On that late Sunday afternoon promotional material at the entrance  indicated that the deliciously jazzy Edwina Blush was performing there that evening, on the latest of her regular visits to Bali from Sydney. We’ve missed her again! Clearly we have deeply distressed some spirit or other and it is determined to keep us apart.

 

Late Roast

A recent necessary outing to Kuta – it’s still a Napoleonic Retreat from Moscow job from the Bukit – brought us, on the way home, to the capricious delights of the Grocer & Grind outlet at Jimbaran Corner, where (killing time ahead of a date with masseuse Elvin at Island salon just up the road) we ordered a double macchiato and a slice of lemon and lime cake. The former was available. The latter was not (maaf, habis) so we elected to sample the lemon meringue tart instead. The macchiato arrived. The lemon meringue was a “wait moment” proposition.

     We waited. Outside, where there’s what passes for fresh air and a relative absence of people idly fiddling with their smart phones, while our macchiato also cooled its heels. We had to tell them that part of the order was missing, but as a culturally sympathetic and patient acquaintance later reminded us, these things can happen anywhere; point taken.

     The tart eventually arrived and was delicious. We had amused ourselves while further waiting for sustenance by speculating about the wondrous sign near a jumble of parked motorbikes that bore this legend: “Parking reserved for costumers.”

     Given that most of the bikes there belonged to G&G staff, not customers, this prompted thought. As it was reserved for costumers, perhaps the odd wanita or two among the pretty little things who wait tables at that establishment might not be all they seem.

     Next time we drop in, we’ll go in drag.

 

It Will Toll for Thee

Well, eventually. We refer to the new motorway that runs from Nusa Dua to the Port of Benoa road (not quite Sanur!) and will, so it is said, help reduce traffic congestion in the Kuta-Airport area. We hope it does, when it eventually opens for business, which on the latest reports will be mid-August. It won’t help reduce traffic chaos, of course. Only driver education, effective licensing and strict policing would ever do that.

     Out of interest recently we consulted Google Earth which revealed that we had misnamed the thoroughfare (it’s still waiting for an official moniker, which in this cart-before-the-horse land is no surprise at all). On the basis of (1) the fuss about the mangroves and (2) the inaccessibility to the public of any definitive documentation detailing its construction – or route – we had informally designated it the Mangrove Motorway.

     But Google Earth, courtesy of the latest satellite pass, shows that it runs straight up the guts of Benoa Bay, with a handy little traffic circle midway, about where aircraft on final approach reach go-around point, to take traffic to and from the airport.  On this basis it is now known at The Cage as Wavebreak Way.

     We were reasonably happy with the mangrove option – since it was a fait accompli and the builders of it assure us mangroves grow much better in a forest of concrete pylons – because a mangrove tree to cling on to might be handy should one’s transit be curtailed by some disaster. But now it looks as if we’ll have to pack water-wings.

 

A Different Leap of Faith

Pondok Santi, bungee king AJ Hackett’s former private retreat on Gili Trawangan (memo Aussie media: the Gilis are not “off Bali”; they’re off Lombok) that has converted to up-scale paying guest resort, has gone into the wedding business.

     We learn this not from the operators or owners directly, but from its Facebook page. Thank goodness for FB. Without it you’d never know what was happening on certain little islands that are not off Bali. Pondok Santi’s page is apparently run from Hackett HQ in Cairns, Queensland, since it refers to “Gili Trawanagan”.

     But be that as it may. Cheering news reported is that Pondok Santi has been awarded a certificate of excellence by the online globetrotter geeksite Trip Advisor, having rated number one out of 63 accommodation houses on Gili Trawangan.

 

Anchors Aweigh!

Neil Carl Hempsey, the nautical chap, is deep into organizing the 6th Annual Super Yacht Charity RDV Event. It’s on Friday, August 2, at Vin+ Wine & Beyond, Winery Restaurant and Bar; it’s a new grazing place in Seminyak (Jl Kayu Jati No1, on the Jl Oberoi corner).

     Hempsey says: “We hope that you all enjoyed last year’s event. This year’s event will take a different format with raffles and prizes to be won at the entrance, with the focus being an uninterrupted music and entertainment festival. This year will be bigger and better. So set your calendar for Bali’s biggest charity event of the year.”

     It’s certainly all in a good cause, which makes it worthwhile turning up whether or not you’re into uninterrupted music and entertainment. It would certainly limit deeply meaningful conversation, which some may think might also be a good thing.

Email Hector at hector.mcsquawky@yahoo.com or tweet with him on Twitter @ scratchings