HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Apr. 16, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences 

 

Well, We Hit the Roof

We got a lovely invitation from the new RIMBA – we think it still qualifies as “new” since it hasn’t yet been open for a year – to attend a svelte bash on Apr. 12 to launch its Unique Rooftop Bar. Of course we went along. We like an affray and it’s always good to catch up with friends including Marian Carroll, who runs the corporate and PR effort of both RIMBA and AYANA.

The Grand Launch featured a live performance by Lee Dewyze. RIMBA’s landscaping and architecture is quite stunning. It was a grand night.

Friends who stayed there over Nyepi tell us the guests in residence for silent night Bali style were mainly Indonesian. It’s good to see the emerging middle classes spending rupes in felicitous places.

 

Nice to be Back

Fresh off the plane from Australia, circumstances led us almost immediately to Candi Dasa. This was a benefit, because it took us back to a favourite spot, Pondok Bambu, a beautifully cool sea breeze and fine views to Nusa Penida and Lombok.

We dined one night at Vincent’s, also a favourite. The Diary’s tofu dish was divine and the Distaff’s beetroot salad concoction looked marvellous. Vincent’s now has live jazz on the first and third Thursdays of every month. Regrettably, our visit this time coincided with neither of these opportunities. We shall have to return.

Degustation also took place at Quarante-Huit, Le 48, the restaurant attached to the Zen resort. It is no longer under French management, having been sold to a gentleman from Surabaya. But the cuisine is still determinedly (and happily) Gallic and the waitresses still remind one, by their attire and attentive presence, of the pretty fillies one once used to bump into in Paris.

 

Says It All

Those innovative signs on Bali’s highways that say “truk gunakan lajur kiri” (“trucks use left lane”) are working as expected. They are universally ignored as yet another traffic rule the police can’t be bothered to enforce. It remains easier, much more fun and certainly more profitable for them to create traffic jams by staging random hold-ups to check licences and vehicle registrations.

The drive up to Candi Dasa on the East Coast highway on a Friday afternoon perfectly illustrated the pointlessness of regulatory signage on Balinese highways. It also brought to attention a chap who immediately won Madman of the Week award for the way in which he drove his heavily-laden green truck.

The windscreen was basically obliterated by stickers and anyway was of what looked like 100 per cent tinted glass. But it was the custom-painted legend on the truck’s rear bumper bar that told the real story. The first time he stormed past us, weaving through the 80km/h traffic at breakneck speed, we noted the sign with close attention.

It read, “I don’t care!”

 

New Line-Up

The Bali Hotels Association’s 2014 board, announced recently, has some interesting names worth placing on record. Ian Cameron (by complete coincidence a neighbour of The Diary at Ungasan) is director of finance. He’s general manager of the Grand Aston Nusa Dua.

Another name, hitherto undiscovered, is Laetitia Sugandi, general manager of Harris Riverside Hotel and Residences in Kuta, who got the gig as director of sports and cultural activities. That’s an area of particular interest to The Diary.

Chairman for 2014 is Alessandro Migliore, GM at The Royal Beach, Seminyak. Past chairman Jean-Charles Le Coz of the Nikko is vice-chairman.

 

Give Her a Break

Schapelle Corby’s parole rules apparently require her not to wear a motorbike helmet. We surmise this from a report in The Beat Daily that said she had earned a rebuke from parole officers for having done so while making her way to a scheduled meeting with them.

It’s sensible to require parolees, who after all are still serving sentences albeit with some authorized freedoms, to remain in plain sight. Unless they’re on a motorbike that is, where to the surprise no doubt of the traffic police and various other minor functionaries, wearing such head protection is required by law. That’s notionally, of course, in the way of most things here.

Corby is in a delicate situation. For some reason that entirely escapes logical explanation, she is a person of interest to the Australian media. On any risk analysis, where she is concerned, the potential presence of an intrusively rude little person pointing a camera has to be factored in. Avoiding such incidents by being invisible in transit, since her visibility has already earned her a rebuke or three from her official minders, would seem to be sensible policy.

But bureaucrats everywhere are not well known for a capacity to think laterally.

 

Hospital Pass

Australia’s Channel Seven, late of the Schapelle shemozzle, is running a series of documentaries that take viewers inside the private BIMC and public Sanglah hospitals. The series is called What Really Happens in Bali and also showcases the lives of expats who now call Bali home.

Thankfully The Diary was not approached to participate. It would have been very difficult to top the éclat of the guy who apparently claims (breathlessly one might imagine) to have had sex with more than 100 women in 90 days. Evidently he was on a very special social visa.

The series is great exposure – and it’s well deserved – for both BIMC and for Sanglah (whose link with Royal Darwin Hospital in Australia is very valuable). If the series lives up to the promise in its title, many more Australians will be better informed about Bali than they are at present.

 

For the Record

According to some among the expatriate population, we’re not supposed to refer to the many feet of clay that clog up the works in these parts. This segment of the expat community has adopted the general Balinese response that if you don’t like it here, you should go home. That’s classic sand-pit stuff, best left behind in one’s toddler years, and we certainly take no notice. Our rule is: If there’s a snafu, say so.

The reluctant conclusion that there is now no hope of Bali being declared rabies-free until at least 2016 is a case in point. Like all such targets in Bali it’s a dynamic one, not to say fluid, and infinitely expandable on a logarithmic scale.

When the current outbreak began in 2008, after many years in which no human cases had been recorded and no animal ones noticed, the place for a time looked like a rather bad Three Stooges movie set. Unfortunately the result of that particular farce is that to date an estimated 147 people have died of rabies. That figure, incidentally, would at best win only qualified audit status.

There was a lull in reported rabies cases for while but this year there have already been four suspected cases including two confirmed deaths in Buleleng and a large number of cases in dogs.

Under international rules there must be two clear years between the last reported case and declaration that an infected area is now free of the disease.

The authorities blame community reluctance to vaccinate dogs or to cooperate with the government. That’s a cop-out. After six years of hampering the efforts of others while pocketing anti-rabies money, some in the bureaucracy responsible (and their political bosses) should have worked out which way is up. Or at least, found a conscience.

 

Heart and SOLEMEN

Many charitable organizations are active in Bali, a lot of them working right at the coalface of disadvantage and distress. They all deserve our support. One among them is SOLEMEN, famous for its barefoot walks to raise funds. It treats the sick and handicapped children it helps in a holistic way.

Robert Epstone, who would modestly describe himself as one among many leading lights in the organization, sent us a copy of the SOLEMEN Newsletter No. 5, covering Jan.-Mar. this year. It’s a great initiative and is heartrending reading. It should be required study for any among us who in the western way are apt to consider themselves discommoded by trivial circumstances.

On Mar. 27 there was a charity fundraiser partly in aid of SOLEMEN and organized by Sunset Vet of Kuta to celebrate its first birthday, with funds going to assist SOLEMEN’s efforts to help the poor and disadvantaged in Bali in the way they do best, by focusing on individual cases of immense suffering and providing immediate help.

SOLEMEN is completing its first permaculture garden in one poor village in Denpasar to encourage self sufficiency plus raised self esteem within the community. As well as feeding families, the program – planned as the first of many – will supply a surplus to provide an income for them.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

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