Seriously, Folks

HECTOR’S DIARY

in the Bali Advertiser

HectorR

Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017

WE had an interesting chat the other day (no names, no pack-drill) about Bali’s new tourism demographics and their effect on the five-star-plus hotel sector. Basically, it’s not good news.

The emphasis on the low-cost domestic and Chinese markets is bringing in lots more people and is, from time to time, filling up the Rp35-Rp500K a night hotels, as well as clogging up the road system. And that’s fine as a policy setting (well except for the strain on the road infrastructure) if pursuit of raw numbers is the name of the game.

But that’s a double-edged sword.

The downside is that these pressures are forcing higher quality hotels and resorts to lower their prices. You’d have to be a Trump supporter to accept that argument without pausing to think. If it continues unabated or is enhanced further, as some propose, it will ultimately make quality resorts wholly uneconomic instead of only marginally so.

This in turn will speed up Bali’s descent into the mass market, low-cost, culturally unaware, sector. So much for Bali’s special magic then: it will disappear into a morass of cheap-eats-and-trinkets-style offerings.

Suckling Imlek, Anyone?

YOU have to dig deep for a laugh these days. So it was fun to read that the Pork Festival in Semarang, Central Java, had been renamed the Imlek festival so as to avoid mentioning babi, a food that is haram. We do hope no followers of the Prophet were taken in by this exquisite renaming and because of this tried to order Imlek guling.

The festival took place from Jan. 23-29, right over the Lunar New Year, on Jan. 28. It’s now the year of the Fire Rooster, which might explain why everyone was running around like chooks with their tail feathers ablaze.

The incident caused us to recall that lovely little pop song from 1963, sung by the Ronettes. We’ve amended it for the good halal burghers of Semarang.

The sing-along bit goes like this:

So won’t you, please, be my be my babi
Be my little babi, my one and only babi
Say you’ll be my darlin’, be my be my babi
Be my babi now, my one and only babi
Wha-oh-oh-oh. 

It could catch on.

Snowball’s Chance

REGULAR readers will remember that The Diary is a Monkey. We’re very glad our once in a dozen years turn around the dance floor is over. But all is still not well at The Cage.

The Distaff is a Rooster. Moreover, she’s a Fire Rooster. We’ve had our share of challenging moments over the past twelve months and must now look forward to back-to-back mazurkas.

Of course, it could all go swimmingly well. They do say hope springs eternal. But as someone who lives in the optimist-pessimist convergence zone, we think we’ll see some bumps in the road. And we’re not just talking about the worsening state of the goat-track access to our little rumah pribadi.

Another Round

It will not have escaped anyone’s notice that rabies has been endemic in Bali since 2008, when the killer disease broke out on the Bukit and wasn’t noticed soon enough to stop it spreading island-wide. Rabid dogs have recently bitten people at Sukawati in Gianyar regency and at Kediri in Tabanan.

The Bali authorities have now accepted a proposal from Japan to help with rabies eradication. Wiping out the disease is the public duty they’ve managed to evade for nine years, despite help from the national government, local animal welfare charities, foreign governments and the United Nations.

Two months ago Governor Made Mangku Pastika visited Kumamoto, a prefecture (district) of around 1.8 million people that neighbours the slightly larger Fukuoka in Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s home islands. Last month a team from Kumamoto visited Bali. Kumamotu has successfully controlled rabies in cats – the disease vector there – through humane population control and properly managed vaccination programs.

The Bali plan involves Kumamotu University, which has an alumni program in Indonesia, and the Kumamotu Indonesia Friendship Association (KIFA). That connection is facilitated through PT Karang Mas Sejathara, one of the operating arms of the Jakarta based corporation MidPlaza, owned by Rudy Suliawan whose wife Yoko is from Kumamoto. Its Bali enterprises include the Ayana and Rimba resort hotels on the Bukit.

A leading veterinarian who owns the Ryunosuke Animal Hospital in Kumamoto (Dr. Tokuda) was at the Jan. 19 meeting in Bali and said of the successful program in Kumamotu: “Everyone worked hard so we could vaccinate and sterilize 1800 cats each week, allowing us to finish our work in two years. I am convinced that Bali could do the same.”

Well, so it could. It just needs to work at it.

Happy Endings

No, it’s not what you think, at all. Shame on you! Though it’s possibly true that Mellors might have had a mind to advise Her Ladyship that “there’s nowt beats a bit of nooky” if that coarse word of later Australian popular origin had been in common usage in the Old Dart in Lady Chatterley’s more plainly Anglo-Saxon days.

Those to which we refer in this instance are offered in the desserts section of the menu at a new Canggu eatery recently made the subject of comment in the Yak magazine’s e-brief MinYak. Our favourite Dorset Girl, Sophie Digby, suggested we should try it; and we said, yes, we would, incognito as always.

MyWarung Canggu – which has a sister operation at Echo Beach – is the brainchild of Juan-Pierre Anthony, a native Indonesian from Tanjung Benoa who has spent most of his adult life globetrotting, and French-Canadian chef Hugo Coudurier.

We’ve looked at the menu, courtesy of Sophie the Yakker, and it’s certainly both tasty and affordable. We told her we’d look at the Happy Endings. No tarts are on the menu, but there’s an apple crumble that could quite easily turn our head.

You can look it up on line at mywarung.com.

The Bali Advertiser publishes fortnightly. Hector’s Diary in the Bali Advertiser appears monthly.

Here’s a Tip

 

Hector’s Bali Diary, Apr. 27, 2016 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Now that the issue of destroying Benoa Bay so that rich people can get even richer is at the forefront of the public mind, and is the subject as it should be of robust dissention, it’s time to consider another threat to that formerly pristine piece of the global environment.

This is the waste mismanagement facility at Suwung, which for years has been leaching toxic material into the tidal swamps. Mangroves are very good at soaking up foreign substances, but even they have a limit to their tolerance. After a recent row – sadly but the latest in what is likely to be a continuing series – the managers of this excrescence leaped into action and started burying loose garbage under a layer of sand and soil. That helps reduce the stink. It doesn’t stop the leaching, either the insidious sort that you can’t see and can therefore pretend doesn’t exist, or the full Monty of black sludge that, if you own it and can’t be bothered working out what to do with it, you can only hope is never seen by anyone who might complain.

The usual cohort of Mea Culpa penitents, primarily of the imported variety, has appeared in the wake of this. They point out that waste management and disposal is a huge problem in South Bali because development responds to unplanned front-end demand by growing in an undisciplined manner since what planning rules do exist are ubiquitously ignored. In the fundamentalist Gaia liturgy, the cause is Selfish Greed, the secular original sin. Some of those who have woken up and found to their surprise that they’re living in a concrete jungle have even taken to arguing that the Balinese didn’t want development in the first place. Tell that to all the jobseekers.

Public policy is always a compromise. This immutable fact will forever fail to engage the activist mind. This is especially so in relation to the built environment and the issues of managing urban and industrial landscapes. It’s not clear that such esoteric matters win much airtime in the bureaucracy or at the political level. They should. But then Bali is littered with things that should be “shoulds” and “musts” that are viewed as anything but.

All that toing and froing aside, it is surely beyond dispute that high levels of leached toxins should never find their way into the waters of Benoa Bay. Its hydrography is already compromised and its mangroves depleted. It needs more mangroves, not less, to deal over time with toxic wastes from Suwung as well as with riverine refuse (another issue). Its tidal flows should be left unmolested.

None of this will ultimately be achievable without closing Suwung – and installing effective leaching ponds in the interim – and foreclosing on the creation of artificial islands in the bay.

Ni Hao

Along with the news that Chinese investors have been offered an open door in North Bali comes intelligence to the effect that Chinese brides may be looking for local bridesmaids. Apparently it’s the going thing to recruit such personages in the locality in which your nuptials are to take place. It saves on airfares and helps head off family or dynastic argument over who should be in the line-up.

The entrepreneurial sorts here will be quick into that action, for sure. One of the requirements for Chinese bridesmaids is that they should be pretty. There’s no shortage of that class of talent in Bali. In the piece we read on the emerging phenomenon, it was also said that Chinese brides require respect and decorum at their ceremonies. In many places – though not in Balinese society – these are qualities that these days are more remarked by their absence.

The Chinese tourist market is burgeoning here. Perhaps in time the theory that respect and decorum has more than just notional or historical value will percolate down to the tour bus brigade and into the supermarkets they’re delivered to for their snatch-and-grab raids on the way to their accommodation.

We live in hope.

Raw Deal

Still on tourism, the announcement of a lift in European visitors – in January and February: it takes a little time for the backroom boys to press go on the computerized data – has sparked comment. The tourism lobby here suggests it indicates that Europe, while still economically and in other ways comatose, has rediscovered its innate interest in Bali as a holiday spot.

It is famously said that there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. Raw statistics – which is what we’re dealing with in this instance – are neither lies nor damned lies (unless someone’s fiddled the figures) but they raw, untreated, have not been extrapolated for analysis, and apart from being pretty figures, are therefore pretty useless.

The data we’re looking at counts European Community passports seen at Ngurah Rai and stamped accordingly by a passport officer. It doesn’t account for actual intended length of stay, or repeat arrivals, or most importantly the place of embarkation.

A European Union passport holder may not have flown in direct from Europe on the hunt for the famous local rites that provide parties, Bintang, hair-braiding, a tattoo, and if such be your thing, a bit of nooky. Many such travel documents reside long-term, with their holders, in other parts of Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia, and Australasia.

In that last regard, Bali is a visa-run destination of choice in its own right for foreign passport holders in Australia who have visas that require them to leave and return from time to time.

Around Again

The Bali administration has launched a fresh program to vaccinate 400,000 dogs against rabies, with continuing support from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

The seventh mass dog vaccination kicked off at Munggu in Badung regency on Mar. 18. In the three-month campaign the authorities plan to target 716 villages, according to a statement from the FAO.

As before, vaccinated dogs will be given a special collar to ease identification by a special team of dogcatchers and vaccinators. Animal health director at the agriculture ministry, I Ketut Diarmita, says the program will run more efficiently than in previous years.

That would be welcome. Previous campaigns have died of confusion or ennui (or from siphon disease, which is fatal to public funds). When this has happened in the past, the killer squads go out again and eliminate dogs indiscriminately, even those with vaccination collars.

On official figures up to March, rabies has killed 164 people in Bali since 2008.

Eat Up

The 2016 Ubud Food Festival – it’s Janet DeNeefe’s writers’ festival spinoff (yes, we’re sure there will be fragrant rice somewhere in the mix) – will be tempting a lot of tummies and taste buds on May 27, 28 and 29.

DeNeefe, who sent us a note about it on Apr. 19, says there’s a great lineup of talent. This includes Indonesian culinary icons Sisca Soewitomo, William Wongso, Mandif Warokka, Petty Elliott, Bara Pattaridjawane and Bondan Winarno, award-winning cocktail-guru Raka Ambarawan, celebrated pastry chef Dedy Sutan, local raw food masters chef Arif Springs (Taksu) and chef Made Runatha (MOKSA), New York-trained sate king Agung Nugroho, and budding local agricultural star Tri Sutrisna.

From overseas, we’ll see Margarita Fores, the 2016 “Asia’s Best Female Chef” winner; Australian tapas legend Frank Camorra; Singapore’s Julien Royer (he’s supported by Cascades Restaurant); Jamie Oliver’s seafood sustainability champion Bart Van Olphen; high profile food photographer Petrina Tinslay; and found-and-foraged chef Jessie McTavish.

Local talent includes Kevin Cherkas of Cuca; Eelke Plasmeijer of award-winning Locavore; pastry icon Will Goldfarb of Room4Dessert; head chef of CasCades Restaurant Nic Vanderbeeken, Mozaic’s modern maestro Chris Salans; Bisma Eight head chef Duncan McCance; sushi master Yuki Tagami; culinary expert Diana Von Cranach; and French sommelier Antoine Olivain of Bridges.

The three-day program includes free Think, Talk, Taste sessions at Taman Kuliner, the festival hub; day and night markets; live music; film screenings; yoga (almost nothing happens in Ubud unless you flex); Kopi Korner; and a Festival Bar that will stay open late (which in Ubud seems to mean “after 10pm”); Special Events, where chefs will put their best plate forward for your personal tasting pleasure.

For those with the energy or kilojoules to work off as a result, there are food tours and workshops. Festival tickets are now on sale.

Farewell

It was sad to see on Apr. 17 that Gerard Delhaes, one of Lombok’s more quietly visible expats, had died. He was in his early seventies, which from the perspective of many in his age cohort, is far too young to shuffle off.

We must all do so eventually, of course. This fact of life begins to become a conscious response to successive birthdays at some point after the hubris of invincible youth is sensibly foregone. But it is nonetheless difficult to deal with friends’ departures. They are always untimely.

Hector’s Diary appears in the fortnightly newspaper the Bali Advertiser.