8degreesoflatitude

THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

Tag: Lombok

A Bitter Blow

HECTOR’S DIARY

 

Snippets from his regular diet of worms

 

THE CAGE

Bali

Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018

 

THE second Lombok earthquake, on Sunday evening (Aug. 5), was far worse than its immediate predecessor (Jul. 29), and as finally calculated at seven on the Richter scale the biggest in this area in quite some time. Deaths are officially put at 131 (Aug. 9) despite other reports suggesting a toll closer to 400 and the government saying the toll is certain to rise as collapsed buildings are searched. There are countless injured. There was a very small tsunami, measuring centimetres not metres. Inevitably, there was chaos after the quake and when it’s dark and there’s no power, as was the situation in Lombok, it’s extra scary. Aftershocks continue. There was a 6.1 tremor today (Aug. 9). The place looks like a battlefield. The bulk of the impact was in the north of the island. Senggigi is a ghost town. The northern Gilis have been largely cleared of people. Hotels and restaurants have closed for the duration, which is unknown. Villages have been laid waste everywhere.

The Indonesian authorities responded immediately and effectively and deserve applause. There were already troops on Lombok after the first quake, which killed 20 people, and these were swiftly reinforced, including by two medical battalions and an Indonesian Navy hospital ship. Evacuated tourists were flown to Bali at no cost (to themselves), another creditable action by the authorities. Others in the Gilis have been evacuated by sea.

The Australians issued advice to reconsider the need to travel to Lombok and the Gilis, promising to keep this under review in consultation with the Indonesian government. Lombok is certainly not a place for a touristic experience at present, or a place for too many well meaning but competing feet on the ground.

It’s early days. The casualty count cannot yet be finalised or a realistic estimate of infrastructure damage provided. Fortunately it’s the dry season and at least some of the publicly funded reconstruction work should be completed before the rains arrive. The public priorities are immediate relief with food and clean water, healthy shelter, preventive health measures, and strict policing to minimise looting and theft. But the people of Lombok will need on-going assistance well into the medium term future, and in that scenario there’s room for private charities as well as public assistance and that provided by investors with assets – which are also damaged and at least temporarily non-performing – in the area.

The longer-term economic consequences are unknown. It is a tragedy that Lombok did not deserve, and one whose relief will require everyone’s attention, and their wallets, for a while.

And So It Goes

A BLUDGE is beaut. That’s what we suggested in the previous diary a month ago, if anyone can remember that far back. And so it was. But we suppose we should now get back to scribbling. Actually we’ve missed it. We’re not really in favour of gentle decay and decline.

The month away from the quill was fairly active here, it seems. Far too much went on that might have dipped the nib in the ink had we been energised enough to hold the feather attached to it.

Bali elected a new governor who campaigned on a platform of ignoring Indonesia’s two-child policy, preferring the Balinese standard of four, and failed to elect the rival candidate whose promise was that he would stamp on Tomy Winata’s proposed Benoa Bay despoliation forever (an emergent smaller excrescence at Serangan seems to be a fait accompli). The Bigger Families Party takes office on Sep. 17.

Mt. Agung bubbled along with its long period of volcanic activity, monitored by scientists whose discipline of volcanology is by nature inexact, which mystifies tourists present and proposed, as well as others, who wonder why no one can really say what the mountain will. In the old days, before 140 characters became not only the limit of argument but also its epitome and its leitmotif, such people could be ignored. That’s if you heard from them at all.

Cheesed Off

YES, we know you’re not supposed to do it, so when you’re nicked all you can do is suck it up. But we do like our cheese and occasional affordable imported rations are always welcome. The unofficial dispensation is a kilo of curd per pax, though even then, if someone super-officious or out of sorts happens to spy it in your baggage on arrival you’re up for a lecture about how Indonesia makes its own cheese. There’s no argument there: It does; and some of it is very nice.

On our recent return home from the land of the fractious girts, we had stretched the envelope with four kilos of tasty mousetrap, a mainstay of our larder. It’s far cheaper when sourced from places where cheese is not an exotic concoction that wouldn’t go at all well with nasi goreng.

We had handed in the customs form on which we declared we were carrying food and, on the back of the form, in the space provided, had scribbled a note saying this was cheese for personal consumption. This information was ignored. So indeed was the form itself, which was snatched away, crumpled up, and left on the bench.

We were pointed at a poster nearby that warned not declaring foodstuffs was punishable by hefty fines involving multiple zeros after some big numbers and/or a stay in one of Indonesia’s lovely prisons. Our protests that we had declared it as required led a young woman in Bea Cukai hijab rig to put on her bossy face, what could be seen of it, and tell the Companion to sit and wait “correctly”. The Companion didn’t sit, correctly or otherwise, but we’ve been here long enough to know when not to poke a stick in the cage, however much you’d like to.

They called the senior duty quarantine officer, a gentleman who struggled into view 40 minutes later. It had long been clear that while with Indonesian officialdom sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t, this time fate had arranged for us to run into a whole pack of can’ts.

There ensued a scene worthy of the best British farce. “I have a deal for you,” said the Diary, loudly enough for other defaulting arrivals nearby to hear and have to supress a giggle, while dumping his contraband loudly on the bench. “You have the cheese and I’ll keep the plastic bag.”

Great Line-Up

IT’S pleasing to see double Miles Franklin Award winner Kim Scott in the line-up for this year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (Oct. 24-28), because Noongar country, the southwest of Western Australia, is our home when we’re not in Bali. Scott is a celebrated Australian writer who has been weaving the magic of Noongar lore into his novels since Benang: From the Heart(1999), which won the Miles Franklin 2000 prize. He won again with That Deadman Dancein 2011. He’ll be a treat in Ubud this year.

So will Fatima Bhutto, Hanif Kureishi, and a whole list of others. It’s the UWRF’s fifteenth birthday this year. It’ll be a rave. Check out the festival’s website.

Flying High

THE Merah Putih is fluttering at The Cage, up for its annual outing. It’s Independence Day on Aug. 17 and our practise is to fly the flag for the whole month of August.

We won the unofficial race for First Flutter in the precinct again. Ours was up and waving triumphantly well before any others, though a little raggedly as it has been in service for some years.

Big Bird

BIG is best, or so the legend goes across a very wide field of human endeavour. And now the big Garuda on the Bukit above Jimbaran is complete. It has even won the imprimatur of chief foreign social arbiter Sophie Digby, of The Yak Magazine. It’s very big, at third biggest in the world of oversized monumental statuary. Ozymandias might even be jealous, if his remains were real rather than just the poetic fancy of Percy Bysshe Shelley.

In Bali those who seek to monumentalise have until now tended to be more modest about it, unless on a traffic circle, or about monkeys, or in honour of Independence Hero I Gusti Ngurah Rai. But from all reports most people are very pleased with Big G, so that’s good. We’ll all have fun finding out how the access roads to the new attraction will cope with all those big buses.

It is plainly visible from a long distance as an artificial eminence. Closer to hand and from the back side, as Indonesian English delightfully puts it, it looks more like a chap with his hands up, trying to surrender perhaps, than a mythical eagle. But never mind.

Farewell, Friend

IT was sad to learn recently that Dale Sanders, a long term resident of Lombok and a fierce Kiwi, had left the field. He had been in poor health for a while. We’re sure they gave him a very fine and richly deserved Haka at the pearly gates.

We first ran into Dale 12 years ago, when for our sins we were editing the Lombok Times, from Bali, and he, for his, was marketing real estate across the strait. One day the All Blacks were playing the Wallabies and we were both watching the televised match, he from Kerangandan in West Lombok and we from Nusa Dua. The lads in green and gold scored first – they can’t have read the rules of trans-Tasman rugby clashes, which state that an All Blacks’ Haka gives the Kiwis a 10-point lead before kick-off – and we incautiously messaged him pointing out that the Aussies were ahead. His response was succinct: Not for long. It proved a depressingly accurate forecast.

Chin-chin!

Hot Rocks

HECTOR’S DIARY 

 

Tasty and distasteful morsels from his regular diet of worms

 

THE CAGE

Bali

Monday, Jan. 22, 2018

 

MT Agung staged a further demonstration of its volcanic power the other day, with a Strombolian eruption that showed the mountain’s capacity to pick and choose how it goes off. It suddenly blew rock into the atmosphere from its crater, causing ash and heavier particular matter to crash to earth again within a one-kilometre radius of the summit. It was an unexpected outburst. One does wonder what would have happened if stupid foreign tourists had been on the mountain at the time, in defiance of an exclusion zone order of which, of course, they had chosen not to hear.

Strombolian eruptions – named for the Italian island on which Monte Stromboli stands and regularly shoots rocks into the air – are generally fairly mild, though if you were hit by a two-kilo lump of rock plummeting from the heavens at terminal velocity, that moderation would be immaterial. The risk is present and should be avoided.

All the signs still point to a 1963-style major eruption. When that will be is anyone’s guess. In the meantime evacuees from villages in the declared danger zones need support. The government gives them second-grade rice but that’s all. There are several charitable organisations that arrange to donate essentials for a healthy life, and they’re all doing a great job.

Chic of Araby

THE King of Saudi Arabia is trying to liberalise his country. That term is relative: women will be allowed to drive this year – you do a sort of double take when you write those words – and cinemas are to reopen after a 35-year ban on them.

These efforts at modernisation are welcome, even if some of the driving force behind them relates to Saudi Arabia’s increasing fears about how to remain relevant to the rest of the world (where mostly it’s the 21st century) once the oil that brings in money runs out.

The misogynists are putting up a strong resistance to the process. One of the country’s leading religious figures, Sheik Salah al-Fozan, reiterated a common argument against women driving. On his website he said this: “If women are allowed to drive, they will be able to go and come as they please day and night, and will easily have access to temptation, because as we know, women are weak and easily tempted.”

It’s difficult to frame a response to such an idiotic statement in terms that would pass any test for publication. So we won’t. We’ll simply say that the silly sheik fails to see the fatal flaw in his argument. If indeed women are easily tempted (this has not been our experience anywhere) it’s men who are doing the tempting. It’s their problem, not women’s. What he and his cohorts are actually deeply afraid of is the chic of Araby.

Saudi and Gulf State religious influence is strong in Indonesia, where the veil is becoming more and more predominant and ever more veiling as money pours in for mosques that will preach a harder Islamic line than is customary in the diverse and historically easy-going archipelago. In Nusa Tenggara Barat – the province next door to Bali that includes Lombok and Sumbawa – the grandeur of the new Arab-funded mosques sits in odd contrast to the grinding poverty of the people. This poverty will eventually be lifted, according to the narratives preferred by local leaders, by the forthcoming growth of Islamic tourism. Well, we’ll see.

Stray Day

II’S Australia Day this coming Friday, Jan. 26, the date these days currently used in the special biosphere to celebrate the nation. It’s widely viewed, though quite erroneously, as the “birthday of Australia”, somewhat in the same manner as the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in North America in 1620 is seen: as the initial spark in the crucible, from which great things grew.

In fact, Jan. 26 in Australia denotes three things: First, the start of a century of theft of a continental island from its original inhabitants, who were in the imperial enlightenment of the times not regarded as its owners, or even as people; second, the plantation there of a penal colony for miscreants Britain wanted out of the way; and third, deliciously in the context of today’s official policy against such people, the first recorded instance of unauthorised arrivals on the sacred shore.

Of course, for most of today’s Australians, it’s just another excuse for a piss-up. Aussies do that so well. That’s fine. Having a party is good way to celebrate most things. And there’s a lot to celebrate – no, really, there is – about the Australia that was first known as such several decades after the penal colony that later became Sydney was established. Australians are easy-going, welcoming, generous folk, unless they chance to see a passing hijab or their name is Peter Dutton. With New Zealand (tiny in comparison) they are the only western democracy in this part of the world, and remain fundamentally liberal about it in the residual British tradition that still informs their polity and governs how they live.

In the polarised politics of Australian debate today, the date of Australia Day is an issue. To Australians of Aboriginal origin, it’s no surprise that it’s “Invasion Day”. To the great mass of Australians – including the 28 per cent born overseas – the original theft, now 230 years in the past, may indeed be beside the point. But to the 3 per cent of Australians who are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, it isn’t.

A concession to this fact, and some lateral thinking, would help. Australia Day has always been a moveable feast. Jan. 26 merely marks the day Governor Phillip got his boots wet at Sydney Cove. It might make a lot of sense if the date were moved to May 9 (or the nearest Monday if they want to continue the tradition of Australia being the land of the long weekend). It could replace the Queen’s Birthday holiday in the calendar and would mark the day the first federal parliament met in 1901. Australia formally became a nation by act of the British parliament on Jan. 1, 1901, but by long tradition that’s already National Hangover Day.

Full Dress Dinner

IT’S been chilly on the Bukit in Bali lately – its position as a limestone blob sticking out into the ocean off the bottom of the island gives it cooler maritime air as a rule anyway, one of its many benefits – and when it’s wet and blowy, it can be quite bracing for tropical types.

The other night we had to dress formally for dinner. It was only 24C or something and a proper shirt needed to be worn over the t-shirt and sarong that is our customary evening attire. Or else shivers.

Chin-chin!

 

Born Free

 

HECTOR’S DIARY

The Cage, Bali

Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017

 

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

His regular diet of diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

THERE is a release, of sorts, in being relieved of the duty to write for a publication. You’re freer to write what you really think, in the patois of your choice, in the absence of a publisher’s preference for the Life Unmolested, and in a timeframe that suits your own elastic concept of deadlines. It’s a bit like being Truman Capote (though only in certain respects) except that he was famous and could deal with deadlines by simply ignoring them.

Those of us at the grafting end of the writer’s writ must obey those who pay. Or else the dosh does not materialise. So when there’s no dosh to be had, and you’re your own proprietor, publisher, editor and virtual printer, deadlines can take a back seat. Though not too far back: it’s sensible to remember Idi Amin’s advice that if you don’t want to vanish with a boot up the bum, you have to give the population something to hum.

As most of you know, Hector is a retired cockatoo. He squawks a lot (the habits of a lifetime are hard to retire and can’t be fobbed off with a gold watch) but only when he wants to, or can be bothered. A lot bothers him, of course. You’ll have noticed that too. He proposes to continue being bothered, because he can, and to do so on a malleable seven-day plan, from wherever his cage is situated. This is his first in that new milieu.

Cease and Desist

SUCH orders are given rather more frequently than might be understood in today’s media world, where genetically mixed American actresses becoming engaged to British princes fifth in line to the throne, and President Trump’s latest twittering insults to people outside the “native” white oligarchy he prefers to favour, are deemed more newsworthy than real events. Cease and desist sometimes has legal utility, though mostly it’s a waste of time (see Trump, above).

It would be nice if we could issue one against Nature, which is giving us a hard time in the central archipelago at present. It’s quite understandable that volcanoes should erupt from time to time – it’s what they do, after all – but it would really be much better if they could manage to stick to a schedule and advertise it. We’ve also had a cyclone, though it hit Central Java, the province of Yogyakarta, and East Java, where it killed 19 people, far harder than Bali and Lombok. It was unusual in forming inside the normal exclusion zone for cyclones (10S-10N, the equatorial belt) and was less powerful than those experienced in true cyclonic areas. They’re not unknown, but are rare. The climate change shamans did rain dances about it, of course.

UPDATE (Dec. 7): The Java cyclone death toll more than doubled to 41 in latest reports on the aftermath, including 25 people killed in a single landslide.

Notional Airline

WE try to love Garuda, which is up there with the high flyers for cabin service. We’ve even renewed our membership of its frequent flyer club, though we more frequently fly with other airlines that charge you less for the privilege of defying gravity.

Garuda is impossible to contact by phone. Its sales office in Kuta won’t even take calls. If you can’t book online – and that’s a mammoth struggle, mostly – you have to actually go to the office. It used to be at Nusa Dua, which is where we went two weeks ago when we needed to book flights to and from Lombok. It was there no longer, however, and the helpful security guard at the entrance to the Bali Collection shopping centre told us it had moved to Jimbaran Square. We worked out that this was actually Benoa Square and went there. There was an office but it was unoccupied. Other helpful security people at the scene told us the real one was at the Kuta Paradiso Hotel, in Kuta. We called Garuda’s customer service number (sic) and they gave us a number to call. It was the Kuta Paradiso Hotel. Um, thanks guys. So we went there and finally managed to buy tickets.

Our flight to Lombok was uneventful. The trolley dollies just managed to get round the packed cabin with the sweet buns and water bottles they were required to hand out. The pilot deserved credit for flying his Boeing 737-800 at what seemed to be just above stall speed, so that the flight time could stretch out to the required 30 minutes. (It’s 18 minutes Ngurah Rai to Lombok International at jet speed, at the most.)

Our flight back to Bali did not take place. Gunung Agung on Bali had spewed ash into the atmosphere in the interim. Lombok’s and Bali’s airports were open on the day we were due to fly – Dec. 1 – but Garuda had cancelled all its Lombok-Bali flights that day. You only found that out when you got to the airport. The melee inside – that is, past the melee of the security screening – was not to be borne, and we didn’t. We left the scene, got a taxi to Senggigi where we stayed overnight, and a boat to Bali next morning. Apparently Garuda’s interest in customer service does not extend to calling in extra staff to deal with reallocated flight requests in such situations. Our next task: to get a refund on our unused return tickets.

Scrofulous Scribbles

THE volcano drama has brought out the best – that’s as in, the worst – of the foreign scribblers who get paid for dramatizing events by interviewing people (or sometimes themselves) so they can gild the lily and get their names up in lights. This is especially so if they want to have a go at airlines that cancel flights not because volcanic ash is deadly to aircraft and possibly their crews and passengers, but because they’re on a mission to mess with the personal holiday plans of Mr or Ms Aggrieved. Fuckwits are a swiftly growing demographic (see – there’s one immediate benefit of blogging rather than writing for print). They’re ripe for satirising, and should be thus dealt with, as some brazen outlets have done. There was a lovely piece the other day, somewhere or other, which foretold shocking disaster for any Aussie tourists still stranded in Bali when the Bintang ran out.

The other side of that coin is seen in the sterling efforts of expatriates and locals alike in getting essentials such as food and water and basic medicines and health preservatives to the poor Balinese who have been shipped off to evacuation camps because their villages are in the volcano exclusion zone. There’s one camp in particular that we know of, at Kubu on the northeast slopes of Agung, where 110 people are living in appalling conditions. The charities I’m An Angel and Solemen Indonesia and others are helping out there, with donated funds. A food convoy the other day was met with smiles from people who in reality were close to tears of despair. That’s the human story. It’s not about poor Wozzer and Tosser, world travellers, yair, mate, whose sense of Anglosphere entitlement excludes consideration of anything beyond their own convenience.

Serial Affendi 

YES, we know. The shocking issue of dominant male versus submissive woman, the result of residual caveman genes and men’s stupidity, isn’t really something to laugh about. But nonetheless, we’ll keep trying. There really is humour in everything, if you look hard enough.

So we were pleased to see a report in The Straits Times on Nov. 28 about a chap in Singapore whose cerebral cognisance is so severely deficient that even though he was shouted at by his victim after he touched her thigh in a bar, he was not deterred from later touching her breast while her boyfriend had his arm around her.

Take a bow, Affendi Mohamed Noor, 54. You really are a prize chump. The annual Darwin Awards honour idiots who remove themselves from the gene pool by misadventure. There should be a Weinstein Award for those other idiots who apparently live by the motto, “I’ve Got a Prick, So I’ll Be One.”

 

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Chin-chin!

HECTOR’S DIARY, Bali Advertiser, Dec. 10, 2014

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Salad Days? Hold the Mayoh

We were surprised recently to read that Royal Pita Maha, one among many resort hotels at Ubud, was “quite literally out of this world”. News of this galactic shift had hitherto eluded us. Fortunately it turned out not to be true. We made urgent inquiries and were able to satisfy ourselves that the establishment remained on terra firma. Moreover, it was still located up the hill from the lovely Pita Maha Resort and Spa where we stayed a couple of times, years ago in the days before there was a Royal Pita Maha, when we were holidaying in Bali as pay-your-own-way tourists.

The source of the easily disproved theory that Royal Pita Maha had moved to Pluto or some other planet was someone called Lisa Mayoh, who wrote a puerile puff piece that appeared in Rupert Murdoch’s little asteroid belt of cyber-papers which litter Virtual Australia.

The version we saw, courtesy of the dyspeptic blogger Vyt Karazija who (quite rightly) fiercely fulminated on Facebook about it, was in Perth Now. But reading the text – and this was not a labour of love, of that you can be sure – told us that Mayoh, who appears to have majored in breathless hyperbole, perhaps while studying at public expense, hails from Sydney. Or that’s where she told us she and her husband had come from on their adventure in Bali.

While here (unless she really was on Pluto) she engaged the services of a taxi driver named Wyan. Yes, that’s without the first a, which makes him unique among the 25 per cent or so of Bali’s population called Wayan. It’s such a shame that Wyan apparently failed to take her to see a performance of the iconic Ketchup Dance. She might have found that saucy.

Someone really should start a petition to have Ignoramus Australis declared a global pest.

In the Soup de Jour

Ubud returnee Jade Richardson, with whom we have at last lunched (yippee-yi-yay!) wrote a fine piece on her Passionfruitcowgirl blog recently in which she had a bit of a go at the selfishly acquisitive and culturally catatonic sector of the American Diaspora in Ecuador, the Andean republic where she was living until recently, mostly in a little city called Vilcabamba. She’s now back in Bali, where she should remain if we are to have any chance of repeating the delights of lunchtime conversation.

Her piece is well worth reading. This is especially so because – national origins excused: it’s not only a certain class of American that blots the globe after all – what she writes has significant, important, and resonant, echoes for Bali.

Needless to say her piece was not received with adulation by her former non-confreres in Ecuador. Some American realtor chap even went litigiously over the top about her on his come-in-and-give-me-your-money-I’m-honest-well-I-would-say-that-wouldn’t-I blog. To which we say, stick it to them again, Cowgirl.

Divas and Dudes Get Giving

Christina Iskandar, who is by way of being the chief diva hereabouts, has been busy promoting the annual Divas & Dudes Charity Xmas Event set for Mozaic Beach Club on Dec. 19. It’s a good show in a good cause and is of course open also to those among us who would have a hard time qualifying as either a diva or a dude.

The program, starting from 6pm, includes Carols by Candlelight, a fashion show by Indonesian Designer Arturro, Canapés & Cocktails, and dinner. There will be a Christmas tree covered with Child Sponsorship images from Bali Children Foundation, a silent auction for YPAC Bali -Institute for Physically & Mentally Handicapped Children, and Christmas gift-giving under our tree for balikids.org. If you’d like to donate a gift, wrap it and place it under the tree clearly labelled girl or boy and age.

You can call Rosa at Mozaic Beach Club for details on (0361) 47 35796.

Reality Bites

Lombok looked a bit low when we were there three weeks ago. We exclude the Three Gilis, which we didn’t get to on this trip. It’s basically always high season there, especially now there are fleets “fast boats” whizzing backwards and forwards across the Lombok Strait from Bali.

The suspension of the Jetstar service direct from Perth (it ended on Oct. 15) has plainly hit the rest of tourist-focused Lombok hard. That’s a shame, because it’s a great place that with effective support from the West Nusa Tenggara provincial government would be ripe for at least modest, and one would hope managed, expansion.

Unfortunately, in the way things go in Indonesia, effective government support is unlikely to emerge. The message the provincial government took back from a crisis meeting with Jetstar in Melbourne seems to have been that the airline was very pleased that they’d come all that way to see them. Um, yes. Sort of thing you say, really. The message they should have taken back was that in the growth phase Jetstar needed much more support from the government.

We hear, incidentally, that one of the reasons the government hadn’t actually spent any of the substantial funds it had outlaid for promotion of its lovely new direct Australian tourist link was that the committee that was supposed to dish out the dinars had never been appointed. Cue: Scream!

According to some figures whispered in our ear, Jetstar load factors on the Lombok-Perth sector were running around 5 per cent below the Perth-Lombok one. That rather negates another theory put to us: that the problem was large numbers of Perth-Lombok passengers using the service as an alternative way to get to Bali – and going home from there. But Jetstar must carry some of the blame for its failure to sustain the new route. You might need to run disastrously negative-revenue “get-in” seats on a start-up basis, but getting the marketing right so that you attract profitable passengers is a better bet.

What’s really needed is assiduously planned, well executed and energetically proactive involvement by all parties.

A Little Wilted

We stayed at Kebun Resort and Villas in Senggigi. Sadly, it was a bit of a disappointment. The original general manager was someone we’d known well when we lived in Lombok several years ago. The property had been developed on a sort of Four Seasons Lite scale (they didn’t say this, but that was the subtext). We’d seen it completed, some time ago.

It has now been operating for seven years, which in terms of Indonesian infrastructure amounts to several life-cycles. You know how it is: some edifice is erected and it instantly looks as if it’s seen better days.

Incidentally, if you’re thinking upmarket Lombok and a glowingly promoted enterprise named Svarga catches your eye, be advised (they do not so advise on their website) that despite sounding vaguely Slavic by name, it’s Muslim-owned and run and teetotal. There’s nothing wrong with that. But many western tourists (not to mention any number of partying Arabians we’ve come across over the years) like a drink.

It’s All White, Really

Nikki Beach, started by entrepreneur Jack Penrod in 1998 as “the ultimate beach club concept” by combining elements of entertainment, dining, music, fashion, film and art, is said to be sexiest party place on the planet.

It has now opened in Bali and did so on Dec. 6 at Nusa Dua with a signature Grand Opening White Party. We look shocking in white, or perhaps invisible, so we weren’t there. But we do think it’s worth noting that now it has its own sexiest place on earth, where naked legs and mischievous breeze-blown hemlines raise both the interest of the attendant dude pack and the bar takings, Bali has clearly made it to the top in the sun, sand and sex league.

Nikki Beach Bali joins a stable that includes beach clubs at Miami Beach, USA; St Tropez, France; St Barth in the French West Indies; Marbella, Mallorca and Ibiza in Spain; Porto Heli in Greece; Cabo San Lucas in Mexico; Marrakech in Morocco; and closer to home Koh Samui and Phuket in Thailand. There are also Nikki resort hotels at Koh Samui and Porto Heli and two pop-ups (no, best leave that alone) at Cannes in France and Toronto in Canada.

Partygoers at Nusa Dua on Dec. 6 were promised “Nikki Beach-style extravagance, world-class entertainment, resident DJs, fireworks and a host of unforgettable surprises!” As long as they wore white and believe that pointless exclamation marks are de rigueur.

Huānyíng

Members of Bali’s consular corps have a new colleague, inaugural Chinese consul-general Hu Quan Yin. The new Bali consulate-general opened (in Denpasar) on Dec. 8 to provide services for the growing number of Chinese tourists.

Governor Made Mangku Pastika attended the official opening to say huānyíng (welcome).  China also has consulates in Surabaya and Medan.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears online at http://www.baliadvertiser.biz

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Feb 5, 2014

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

New ROLE for Netball

Netballers have always been vaguely worrying. Their skill at stopping dead when they get the ball – since unlike basketball you can’t run with it – is a complete mystery to people (such as your diarist) whose own sport is of a different sort entirely and requires you to run with the ball until a lot of very hefty boys push you into the mud and sit on you. Furthermore, netballers are all but exclusively girls who (lovely creatures though they may be) you wouldn’t want to risk putting offside.

So of course we snapped to attention the other day when Bec Hamer of the Bali Flames netball club got on to us about a new fundraising scheme the club’s put together to support the ROLE Foundation.

The Flames have been going from strength to strength. Last year’s annual international invitational attracted 10 teams from Singapore, Thailand, Australia and Indonesia. This year 16 teams are down to compete including interest from New Zealand. That Auckland-Bali Air NZ service is clearly paying dividends.

The club, like many in Bali, has a strong commitment to community service. The Flames chose the ROLE Foundation, whose founder is social entrepreneur Mike O’Leary, because it focuses on empowering and educating disadvantaged Balinese women.  

Bec tells us the Flames have handed over a donation of Rp5.2 million from their netball tournament last year. She visited ROLE and spoke with O’Leary recently and is impressed with its training program that teaches young women aged 18-21 computer and hospitality skills in cooperation with the international hotel sector.

“It is truly an amazing place where it is wonderful seeing people making a difference,” she says. We agree. This is also one instance in which you could permit your latent pyromania a brief outing and say may the Flames get higher and higher.

Must catch a game sometime, too.

 

Sing Along with Pete and Susi

It was sad, though of course the event was inevitable at some near date, that American song-master Pete Seeger played his final chord on Jan. 27. He was 94. His was the voice of the American and global protest movement. He sang conscience. He raised consciousness. He played great banjo. He wrote great songs.

Susi Johnston opened her villa at Pererenan on Sunday, Feb. 2, for a celebration of Seeger’s life and performing art. Along with the music she offered marshmallows. It’s people like Susi who put a shine into your life, if you let them.

As Susi herself noted, Feb. 2 was also Groundhog Day, the date when Punxsutawney Phil either casts a shadow or doesn’t when he emerges from his burrow in Pennsylvania to predict an early spring or rather a lot more winter.

They made a movie of the same name, which we’ve seen countless times. Here in Bali it often seems like the movie version of Groundhog Day.

 

General Salute

Australia’s new de facto head of state is a military man whose command role in the international intervention in East Timor in 1999 brought him to Indonesian attention. Among some in the Australian media, the fact that General Peter Cosgrove had been given this gig poses a risk of reigniting disagreement between Jakarta and Canberra.

Why this should be thought to be so is a mystery. The Governor-General of Australia has no political role. As in Canada, New Zealand and a few other places that were once imperial and are still monarchies, the G-G formally represents The Queen and signs all the bits of paper that heads of state get to sign. The prime minister is head of government.

This and next year are significant commemorative and ceremonial occasions for Australia. This year marks 100 years since the outbreak of World War I and 2015 is the Centenary of ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) that is understood, through the landing at Gallipoli and the ensuing months of fighting the Turks, to be the defining moment in forming Australian nationhood.

Having a real general as Chief Nob at ANZAC Cove at Gallipoli on that and other flag-waving occasions is a great idea. In the meantime, if by chance any of Australia’s neighbours notice that Cosgrove’s appointment highlights the social benefit of democratic generals committed to public service rather than strutting autocrats interested in political power and private enrichment, then that too will be a good thing.

Cosgrove takes over next month when incumbent G-G Quentin Bryce’s five-year term ends. Bryce, who is the Australian leader of the opposition’s mother-in-law, has done a good job.

 

Erk! Irked by an Urk

We witnessed an intemperate occasion one day recently outside the Circle K shop near the Puri Gading intersection at Bukit Jimbaran. A people-mover had stopped roadside to let one of its passengers out for a purchase within and – in the nature of parking practice here – had blocked vehicles in the parking area that might wish to leave.

One vehicle did. Its driver did what you do here, which is lightly and politely toot the horn twice and by sign language suggest that moving the other vehicle forward – in this case by about a metre, a manoeuvre for which there was ample space – would allow the other car to leave.

From the front passenger door of the offending conveyance then leapt a Bule of fierce demeanour and disastrously unkempt hair, aged in his late forties (at a guess). He advanced on the tooter and rapped on the window. The tooter lowered his window. “We’re not moving!” was the message delivered to him, in one of those razor-wire Australian accents from which strong and brave people all over the world run away and lock their doors. “We’ll be five minutes.”

Fortunately the driver of his conveyance was Indonesian and had readily understood the request. While the “we’re-not-moving (so go and get…)” message was being delivered, the little bus was in fact moving forward by just the required distance.

The tooter smiled and pointed this out to his unwelcome visitor, offered a short suggestion to the effect that the visitor should depart and precisely how he should do so, and pushed the up button on the window as he reversed away.

 

That’s Karma

We have always believed that when one errs, the thing to do is to stand up and admit it. This is what used to be called doing the honourable thing. Conscience does not permit evasion. Such practices are nowadays much less readily found. Especially here in Bali where any defaulter can apparently reasonably advance a claim that it was his or her friend who did it.

But it’s not just here. Across the western world, where once you took things on the chin, if not like a man, excuse has become the preferred option. Perhaps you have stolen something? Not your fault. Your father used to yell at you, your mother denied you the comforts of custard, and you were bullied in the school yard.

Thus we must report that karma is ever watchful and a horrid thing. It loves delicious irony. In an item on Jan. 8 we playfully took Morgana of Cocoon to task for saying (in print, elsewhere) that she didn’t know where the year had gone. We suggested it was all a matter of mathematics. So it is. But we then wrote, “It’s the Year of the Monkey in 2014.”

It’s not, of course. It’s the Year of the Horse. The Monkey’s next appearance on the 12-year cycle is in 2016. Our maths is defective too. Doh!

 

So Sad

Late in January a sad little post popped up on Facebook from Dian and Barbara Cahyadi, who publish the useful fortnightly Lombok Guide.

It asked this: “Does anyone know anything about an Italian tourist (named Ginevra) who died in Lombok early December 2013 (apparently between 8-13 Dec)? Possibly drowned? Family in Italy are asking. Thank you.”

It was a reminder, should any be needed, that Lombok (along with other parts of Indonesia) is missing many of the markers in matters of policing, public safety and administration.

It’s true that this benefits many people, foreigners among them, who come here to get lost for all sorts of reasons. It’s possible that this one wanted to get lost. But it beggars belief that the authorities haven’t advised the grieving parents of a tourist, whose name and possible manner of death are apparently known, of the results of any investigation.

 

That Other Cocoon

Louise Cogan’s Cocoon Spa in Seminyak has just celebrated two years in business in the broadly defined cosmetic medicine tourism sector. In any business, the setting up period is likely to present little problems. The cautious among us remember the old adage, that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. The wrinkles must all be ironed out, then. Good. Congratulations! 

 

Hector is on Twitter @scratchings 

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, July 11, 2012

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences 

My Hat, it’s Good to See You

A spell in Lombok can do wonders for the jaded soul, and thus it was recently when Diary and Distaff took some lovely Balinese friends from Nusa Dua, a family of five, to the island and to Gili Trawangan for a five-day break. We flew both ways, some among the party not being nautical types, and visited that other Kuta – the one on Lombok’s spectacular Indian Ocean coast – and Cemara near Lembar harbour.

At Kuta we had a light brunch at Ashtari, the Australian owed place that offers a world-beating view along the ocean coast. Parties of little boys from the local villages were extorting traffic fees on the “road” – quotation marks essential – and Ashtari itself is for sale. Perhaps that says something about Lombok; we forbear to comment further. But the coffee was good and the view superb.

At Cemara, later, there was an interesting incident. We’d returned across the narrow no-car bridge from a walk to the beach, where our friends had recently bought some land, to find our driver decamped. He was away getting a flat tyre fixed. We established ourselves at a little fizzy drink and high-cholesterol snack stall to await his return and fell into desultory conversation with a fellow customer, a local gent in a white skullcap who looked less than pleased that his afternoon had been disturbed by foreigners, even if most of the foreigners were from just across the Wallace Line in Bali.

But he softened up eventually. And he broke into a huge and thoroughly bemused smile when, as we left, your previously chiefly silent diarist shook him lightly by the hand and said “Salam, Hajji.”

Ah yes, not all Bules are ignorant infidels devoid of even a minuscule grasp of local culture, Islamic practice, and essential nomenclature.

Comfort Zone

We stayed two nights in Senggigi – one on the way in, one on the way out – and of course chose Puri Bunga, on the viewing hill opposite the art market, as our domicile. GM Marcel Navest is always good to chat to – even if he is no longer chairman of the Lombok Hotels Association, having quit late last year in pursuit of a less fractious life – and Novi in the restaurant was as lovely and attentive as ever at the breakfast table.

On Gili Trawangan – to whence we were conveyed by Dream Divers (the diary had a quiet moment at Gerd’s Rock at Teluk Nara to say hello to friend Gerd Bunte, who sadly is no longer with us) – we stayed at Martas, back off the party beach and the home of former diver Martas himself, his wife Jo and their delightful preschool daughter Ayesha. It’s a lovely little spot.

By the way, Gili Deli near the jetty and food market has fabulous Guatemala coffee. It’s more addictive than any of the other substances offered locally, and far more pleasant.

There is one Trawangan demerit to report. One afternoon, having been let out alone, your diarist was strolling down the lane from Martas towards the shore and was accosted by a gentleman of very dubious provenance who intoned “Want drugs?” and, on getting the standard dismissive no-thanks hand movement, came back with “Want a woman?

It’s not a good look for the island (on which, by the way, you will now find police).

Do Drop In

Bungee king AJ Hackett’s plushly private Pondok Santi bungalows on Gili Trawangan, which are managed by the redoubtable Baz and Georgie from New Zealand, are now taking paying guests. Hitherto the happy little cabins have been camping unmolested in Trawangan’s best-kept green-grassed parkland, where AJ set up a holiday place for his family.

We stumbled on this intelligence by spotting a “bungalows for rent, inquire within” sign on the gate on our first morning walk around the island. We made an inquiry without and discovered they are being marketed as a chill-out spot for jaded jumpers and others and officially opened for business this month. There are six bungalows (there’s a 12-guest maximum at the resort) equipped with Wi-Fi, iPod docks and other accoutrements among modern life’s must-haves. Also available is a very nice boat – we’ve been on it – that when fully equipped for those with fat enough wallets could surely carry you around the islands in the style one imagines an Ottoman vizier might have enjoyed so greatly that he decided to be generous that day and not have his most mealy-mouthed eunuch strangled.

Hackett invented bungee jumping three decades ago, inspired by the intrepid tree-leapers of Santo Island in Vanuatu, and has since made a mint out of getting people to plunge off tall things attached to ropes they doubtless devoutly hope are just a bit shorter than the vertical space into which they launch themselves. There’s one in Bali, where tourists jump from a tower in Kuta.

His Trawangan retreat is for more sybaritic pursuits. Hackett says of his newly available facility:  “It’s not your average resort. Pondok Santi is a sanctuary for people to come and play in one of the world’s most awesome spots.”

G’day and Ni Hao

They’re still pouring in – foreign tourists that is. In the five months to May, 1,150,000 of them landed on our shores. That’s 9.31 percent up on the same period last year. The Aussies totalled 299,360 – my oath, that’s a whole lot of Bintang – which was up nearly 8.5 percent, but the standout performers were Chinese, whose 143,382 represented a 64.73 percent increase. (No, they’re not all in Pepito Express at Bukit Jimbaran at the same time; it’s just that it sometimes seems that way.)

Bali chief of BPS, the national statistics agency, I Gede Suarsa, said when releasing the figures that 31,432 tourists had come here on cruise ships. The overwhelming majority of arrivals chose instead to experiment with chaos theory at Ngurah Rai International Airport.

Interestingly four countries turned in a decrease in Bali arrivals: Japan, down nearly 11 percent; Taiwan (14 percent); France (2.15 percent); and the biggest non-performer, the USA, was down by nearly 60 percent.

Last year a total of 2.82 million foreign tourists visited Bali, up 9.72 percent on 2010.

Tugu Times

The decoratively desirable Hellen Sjuhada, who is now promoting the Tugu Hotel at Batu Bolong, tells us of an event there on Sunday, July 29, that would be a delight to attend and indeed we might try to force our way through the traffic – the Bukit to Batu Bolong is not an easy ride – on that occasion. It is not one to lightly miss, since as well as gazing upon the ocean while lit by torches and candles and sipping languidly from a glass of wine (and being within sight of the delicious Hellen would add further lustre) you get the chance to lie back on pillows and watch and listen as Legong dancers and Gamelan musicians serenade you with tales of love and passion from old-time Bali.

The event, which will set you back Rp250K if you just want cocktails and Balinese canapés or Rp450K for the full dinner – with an early-bird Facebook special offering 15 percent off – showcases an artistic spectacle that once upon a time was seen only in the courtyards of Balinese royal palaces.

Pelegongan was very popular in the early 1900s and was revealed to the world by artists such as the Belgian painter Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur, Canadian composer Colin McPhee and German painter-choreographer-writer Walter Spies. Over time it was subsumed by more modern streams of gamelan, but today the tradition is kept alive by the Mekar Bhuana Conservatory, which has re-popularised court gamelan and dance traditions.

Tugu Hotel has full details of the July 29 event if you’d like to experience the old Bali.

Colour Me Jade

Ubud is an eclectic spot, as it pays never to forget. But it is perhaps slightly less so at the moment with the absence from its many wondrous scenes of writer, blogger and passionfruit cowgirl Jade Richardson, who is in Ecuador. Never mind, she’ll be back in these parts within a month or so and, we hear, with a treat in store for scribblers.

This will take place not at Ubud, however, but on Lombok’s magic Gili Air, where she’s organising a writers’ workshop in September. The Way of the Writer (Sept. 11-15) invites book writers, stuck novelists, blocked poets, memoirists, bloggers and those who wish to fall in love with the source of their written magic to retreat to a quiet island paradise to connect to the spirit of their story and learn the writer’s arts.

Gili Air, along with Meno and Trawangan are renowned for diving and snorkelling, or if you prefer to relax without exertion, for dining, reclining and imbibing.

Richardson – who told us by cyber-chat recently that she is enjoying the Andean cloud forest, though she admits it’s a tad frio – suggests you might want to dive deep into the soul of your writing. Great idea! We’ll have a Hemmingway on the rocks, thanks. You can contact Richardson for details and prices at http://passionfruitcowgirl.wordpress.com.

To the Moon and Back

Casa Luna, the Ubud eatery in which proprietor-doyenne Janet DeNeefe can often be spotted having a quiet cuppa, was 20 years old on July 10. My, how time flies. It must be 13 years, then, since your diarist first passed the doors of the establishment and stole a glance inside. That’s been a regular treat ever since.

Hector’s Diary appears in the print edition of the Bali Advertiser, published every second Wednesday, and on his Blog at http://wotthehec.blogspot.com. Hector is on Twitter (@scratchings) and Facebook (Hector McSquawky).