His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences
On the Wrong Bus
An outbreak of gratuitous and unnecessary angst caught our eye the just before the 2014 Bali Spirit Festival got under way. It was said – by dog lady and artist Linda Buller of all people, on Facebook, the favoured resort of the whickering classes these days – that Spirit was not what Ubud was all about. Apparently this was because it brought in hordes of yoga practitioners who clogged the streets and seemed to wander around in a little world of their own.
Well, hello? If indeed they do, in that regard Spirit patrons are no different (in any essential that matters) from patrons of the other festivals that feature in the Ubud calendar. There’s little difference, for non-participants, between being obstructed by someone off with the yoga fairies and someone else (say) who is wandering the streets musing about literary things such as from where their next or possibly their first royalty payment is going to come.
Ubud is no longer what once it was. The same can be said about anywhere on the face of the planet. We’d recommend a trip to Leh in Ladakh for any doubters of this fundamental truth.
Nor is Ubud a community in which foreigners (or even Balinese or other Indonesians from elsewhere) can expect to have much of a say in political and social affairs. The early tambourine-bangers who colonized the village may have thought they had found a personal little Nirvana, or Shangri-la, but like any foreign colony anywhere, they were fooling themselves.
Ubud’s future, and Bali’s, depends ultimately on its Balinese. Wisely or not, they seem happy enough to profit from the desire of foreigners and others to buy up rice fields and build little palaces or more humble abodes. It’s that which is changing Ubud, not the Spirit Festival or any other esoteric navel-gazing interests.
It’s possible that Buller was just joshing us, in her Australian way. But in case she was serious, we repeat what we noted in the Diary of Mar.19: Meghan Pappenheim’s spirited baby is perfect for Bali and especially for Ubud, where if you ignore the big buses full of Chinese tourists seeking bric-a-brac you can in fact still almost smell the ether.
Watch Out for Spam
An announcement that the national government will invest in water infrastructure for South Bali in partnership with the provincial authorities, Denpasar city and Badung regency, is good news of a sort. The existing infrastructure is creaking, frankly in a terminal fashion.
The South Bali region has been included in Indonesia’s Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Economic Development (MP3EI) to improve existing infrastructure related to the provision of water. The region including Denpasar, Badung, Gianyar, Tabanan and Klungkung (and known in the Indonesian compound fashion as Sabargitaku) is recognised as an asset for the Bali/Nusa Tenggara corridor because it earns substantial revenue through tourism.
It has now apparently come to the attention of those who control the national budgetary strings that there has been pressure on the existing infrastructure of the area. Full marks are due then to Djoko Kirmanto, the Minister for Public Infrastructure, who has now noted that demand has reached unsustainable levels.
Under the Djoko Plan a new water supply system, draining system and sanitation program (delightfully, apparently it is to be known as SPAM) will be put in place to accommodate growing demand. It notes that one of the problems in the Sabargitaku region is the uneven distribution of water throughout the four areas. Well, there you go!
A total of Rp 344.3 billion will be invested from the national budget, Rp 97.5 billion from Bali’s provincial government budget and a further Rp 120.8 billion from the Denpasar and Badung regency budgets.
It would be good if that sort of money got into the pipeline and if quantities of it did not thereafter leach out en route to its functionally productive public destination.
Lizzie Love tells us the KK9 project she initiated at Kerobokan Jail has had to be canned, for reasons that have nothing to do with the value of the project, which was to give inmates an opportunity to bond with friendly dogs. Likewise, it had nothing to do with the prison authorities, who supported the program.
That’s sad for all concerned and especially for inmates who had already made friends with a particular dog. But as Lizzy tells us, the welfare of the dogs is paramount. Any uncertainty on that front is an automatic shut-down signal, quite properly.
The demise of this project turned out does not detract from the great work being done – by volunteers and inmates – in other areas at Kerobokan. KK9 may have been a misstep, but that’s all it was.
Well, we know it. We’re, well, sort of part of it, really. But it’s good in a way to hear that Bali is set to boom in the coming years, with Australians looking for cheaper retirement options. That’s if they can get the pension too, of course. If they’re filthy rich and can afford to duck the restrictions attached to Australian age pensions, they’d be better giving Bali a miss in favour of someplace else where the gap between official and informal outlays and value for money on the services rendered is narrower.
According to something we saw in The Beat Daily recently Australians – who are now approaching retirement in record numbers courtesy of the post-World War II baby boom – are increasingly looking to Bali as a more affordable alternative. This intelligence reaches us via Matthew Upchurch, chief executive of luxury travel network Virtuoso.
It’s not surprising that Australians are looking at Bali as an affordable alternative to retiring in the Odd Zone. It’s close to home, but free of several irritants. If retirees stay home the nanny state and its overweening bureaucracy interest themselves in everything from their bank accounts to their daily motions.
Bali is gearing up to meet this emerging demographic in a range of areas, from medical tourism – where BIMC Hospital at Nusa Dua is pioneering new facilities – to retirement living on the pattern long ago established in Europe, such as a new facility being built by Sentosa Worldwide Resorts at Umalas.
It’s the coming thing, it seems.
You have to plan carefully and be sure not to overdo things, but the West Australians produce such good wine that no visit of a longer than fleeting nature would be complete without a visit to a winery.
Our own “local” vineyards are in the south-west, in the Margaret River and Pemberton wine regions. The fact that we’re there fairly frequently does not mean we can afford to miss updating current research at every available opportunity.
On our most recent trip we visited Aravina (it used to be Amberley) and Wise. We had lunch at Aravina, which is on Wildwood Road at Yallingup, and afternoon tea at Wise, which is in the Cape Naturaliste uplands and offers a delightfully Provencal outlook, complete with plane trees, north and east towards the waters of Geographe Bay.
The rose at Aravina and the moscato at Wise were alone worth the trips. At Aravina we doubled our benefit with a fabulous polenta dish and significant dessert. At Wise, we confined our culinary attention to a rather yummy flourless pear cake.
While we were in the area Noela Newton of Artisan Wines got in touch. She was heading to Margaret River and wondered if our schedules might match. Unfortunately they didn’t. But Artisan and Margaret River have a very close connection. That cannot be a bad thing.
Piecing it Together
Nina Karnikowski of The Sydney Morning Herald had some useful guidance for Australian readers recently, on what’s hot and what’s not in Bali. She did a Q&A with chef Chris Salans of Mozaic Restaurant Gastronomique in Ubud and Mozaic Beach Club at Batu Belig.
We’re of the same mind as Cordon Bleu trained Salans on at least one seminal Bali factor: Jajan pasar is a sweet treat not to be missed in any circumstances. It’s a regular feature of the household provisioning budget at The Cage.
Ours comes from the cake shop attached to Bali Jaya, a locally owned supermarket on Jl. Raya Uluwatu at Bukit Jimbaran where the Diary is happily on smiling and chatting terms with the lovely lady proprietor. It’s where we buy our Indonesian wine and whisky and those things in packets of 20 that in most places nowadays you’re not even allowed to think about, let alone mention in polite company.
Salans has been living in Bali since 1995 and will be a double-decader next year. Perhaps that’s why he likes Lawar Nyawan, a traditional Balinese salad that features bee larvae as its chief ingredient. He concedes that it may be an acquired taste.
Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter