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Good on You, Renae



His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences


Dec.7, 2016


THE indomitable Lizzie Love, who we’ve always thought would have made a first-rate Flapper if she’d been around in the Roaring Twenties last century, is a very fine friend to many in Bali. In particular her interest in prisoners in Bali’s jails marks her as someone very special indeed. She’ll probably cringe when she reads this, because another of her attributes is discretion that often borders on invisibility.

We saw a note from her the other day pointing us to the Australian magazine New Idea. It’s not our usual reading, except perhaps in back copy form in doctors’ waiting rooms. But its latest issue features Renae Lawrence, the Bali Nine drug mule, and her remarkable rehabilitation in the drug offenders prison at Bangli.

Lizzie wrote: “Well done Renae. You have come a long way – no turning back now. I am so proud of you. Fair-minded people will not define you by your past and they will support your efforts and success in turning your life around.”

To which we can only add: Amen.

At Bangli, where the lush surroundings and the prison staff encourage rehab, Lawrence is busy teaching dance fitness classes and training her pet rescue puppy.

The former catering worker has converted to Hinduism and discovered her softer side.  New Idea quotes one long-term prison visitor thus:

“Renae has changed a lot since her arrest and the years she spent in Kerobokan. She has become calmer, healthier and happier, and just dotes on her little dog Ozzi, who’s been with her since he was only two weeks old. He was the runt of a litter brought into the jail so Renae feels he was a bit of a reject, like her.”

There is one other thing to add. Congratulations to the jail authorities, who have made Bangli a model prison.

He’s a Headache

Perhaps Jamie Murphy, the 18-year-old Australian pipsqueak who bought a bag of crushed headache pills from a man in the street who told him it was something that would make him feel good, has by now had an opportunity to reflect on the consequences of crass stupidity.

He spent two days in police custody after being found with the powder at a security check at Sky Garden, a Kuta nightspot. His parents flew from Perth in Western Australia to collect him from his dramatically curtailed “schoolies’ week” trip to Bali.

Everyone is aware that law enforcement here is random and malleable. Even the police ride around without helmets when they’re not on duty. That’s stupid too, but it’s something for another time.

Indonesia’s drug laws are harsh. Everyone knows that too, or should. The Australian government specifically warns travellers of the potentially deadly risk of using drugs and getting caught. The Australian media is full of reports of what happens to drug-using and trafficking miscreants. Even an 18-year-old untutored in life skills and who in the fashion of the young probably thinks he’ll live forever and is excused the need to heed restrictions, should be aware of that.

Murphy wasn’t, and Murphy’s Law caught up with him. Fortunately for him in this instance, he was dumb as well as stupid.

He caused everyone a headache. Silly boy. He should come back and see us when he grows up.

Diva Doings

Christina Iskandar tells us the Bali Divas & Dudes Christmas lunch on Nov. 25, at Merah Putih, Kerobokan, was a grand success. We never doubted for an instant that it would be, despite our enforced non-appearance, or perhaps because of this.

The Divas’ Facebook has some lovely snaps from the occasion, which was sponsored by Chandon and benefited the Refugee Learning Nest and Bali Children Foundation.

The Divas were nominated for best event in this year’s Yak awards, announced on Dec. 2 (they won!). That affray was themed British Invasion. They meant the music. Which is the best. One intending reveller noted that he might go as Keith Richards, since he wouldn’t need to dress up for the role. Chief Yakker Sophie Digby asked us if we might go as Freddie Mercury. We’re not mercurial enough was our modest response. Though perhaps someone from The Zombies might have been a fit.

The Yak party was at Vue Beach Club, LV8 Hotel & Resorts, at Canggu.

Pizza Special

Joy and Greg Hamlyn, proprietors of the Mudstone Spa Retreat at Yeagarup in the karri forests near Pemberton, Western Australia, are exemplary hosts. We were at the property one evening on our recent WA trip. We weren’t paying guests – though we’d very willingly be such – but present because they are connections of our connections. It’s a sort of 1.5 degrees of separation thing.

It was chilly the evening we were there, unseasonably so according to the locals and certainly a tad on the frigid side for thin-bloods from Bali. But the pizza feast they put on was magic. So was the wine. The additional presence of a young couple whose lack of job prospects had forced them to flee economically comatose Venice in Italy enlivened conversation even further.

It was far from our only culinary delight. In Perth we returned to Clancy’s Fish Bar at City Beach for fish and chips and a very nice pinot noir. We dined on gourmet burgers at Jus Burgers in Subiaco and sampled Papagallo at Leederville, with melt-in-the-mouth pasta and in fine company. Later in the trip we dined at Phoever, also in Subiaco, one of a chain of restaurants serving pan-Asian soups, curries and stir-fries, plus café fare. The beef meatball pho was to die for, as was the tofu stir-fry we had afterwards.

There were chopsticks on the table, since Australia’s addiction to exotic cuisine has substantially eliminated fear of these implements. The presence also of standard western cutlery did though remind us of an incident long ago, in a Japanese restaurant in Paddington in Brisbane. There, the waitress looked at us doubtfully and asked: “Would you like two fork?”

On that now distant occasion the Distaff kicked the Diary sharply under the table and managed to reply in the negative before the waitress went away and she allowed herself a smile and a fit of the giggles.


Well, the Diary’s back in Bali, which is lovely. A two-week break in Australia is good, but there’s no place like home. We arrived on schedule, on Jetstar, unlike a friend, Clare Srdarov, who that day was flying Air Asia and finally left Perth seven hours late. We chatted briefly in the departure hall and left her contemplating a rather nice Merlot that she thought might ease her pain.

Our return was not without incident, however. Jetstar views cigarette lighters as incendiary devices (Australian ones work more than once, just by the by) and won’t carry them. And on arrival at Ngurah Rai Officer Jeffry of Customs put on a politely official scowl and relieved us of an opened and partially consumed bottle of Jack Daniel’s finest, which he found in our checked-in baggage and deemed excess to the authorised allowance.

He insisted that we watch him pouring it down the drain they have in the customs area for such ceremonies. We’re not quite sure what he made of the smile and the thumbs-up we gave him when he demonstrated how gravity deals with bourbon from an opened upturned bottle. But we hope that it helped make his day.

Must Improve

We wrote ourselves a stiff note the other day, just after our return from that big island away to the south. It went like this:

The Cage, Nov. 30, 2016. The garrison will have to improve. The morning patrol today took 33 minutes. This is fully five minutes longer than the acceptable standard. Clearly, two weeks of flat terrain and formed footpaths and roadways in Another Place have reduced performance. On the plus side, the local dogs seem to have remembered us; they didn’t bark, but then they do swing between fury and languor, so perhaps they’re just having a dolorous day.

Calendar Date

It’s Pearl Harbour Day. Dec. 7, 2016, is the diamond jubilee of the mistimed event by which the Japanese started the Pacific element of World War II, an imperial adventure which, in due course, they discovered had not gone entirely to their preferred plan.

The international dateline seems to have been the trouble, not the surprise attack, which whatever one’s other views on the matter may be, was less an act of infamy than of legitimate war.

It was Dec. 8 in Tokyo, the date the Japanese government had set for its declaration of war. Unfortunately it was still Dec. 7 in Hawaii.


Hector also writes a diary which appears in the Bali Advertiser.

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Best in Bali



His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Wine country, Western Australia

Nov. 23, 2016


CHRISTINA Iskandar, who is busy expanding the Diva Empire in Australia from her Sydney hometown base, tells us of a lovely little charity revenue stream she’s putting in place. It’s at the invitation of a major greetings card company.

The idea is they’ll put a selection of Best in Bali images on cards and other gift products and 5 per cent of the proceeds of sales will go to nominated Bali charities.

Iskandar has chosen as the first beneficiary of this scheme the Suryani Institute for Mental Health, a non-profit institute established in 2005. It and its sister organisations the Committee Against Sexual Abuse (CASA) and the Bali Elderly Welfare Foundation (Yayasan Wreda Sejahtera) work to create a healthy and happy community in Bali. Through academic, medical, psychiatric, educational and social work, the institute seeks to help the Balinese people become more intelligent, independent, creative, as well as physically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually healthy.

The institute is headed by Professor Luh Ketut Suryani, MD, PhD. Its holistic approach to problem solving and positive advance – which it terms biopsycho-spirit-sociocultural – combines Western mainstream psychiatric/psychological practice with Eastern and Balinese cultural and spiritual knowledge and beliefs.

The Bali Divas themselves have been busy getting ready for a White Christmas ahead of their Divas and Dudes Christmas Charity Lunch on Nov. 25. It’s been a little chill on the island lately, courtesy of the annual wet season, though not that cold! Still, it’s a lovely old song. Thanks, Bing Crosby.

The “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” event is at Merah Putih in Kerobokan, where the fun starts at 12 Noon on Friday. We’ll be getting reports of frivolity and other action, so play up, folks. It’s for a good cause. Proceeds from the charity lunch will go to the Bali Children Foundation and The Refugee Learning Nest.

Bali Children Foundation is a non-profit organisation that provides education opportunities to more than 2300 children from disadvantaged families across Bali. The Refugee Learning Nest is a community-based project in Java that helps refugees through informal educational programs including women’s literacy, tailoring classes, and sporting activities.

The lunch, sponsored by Chandon, will feature a performance by the Bali-based singer Eva Scolaro, who we hear has added footwear designs to her list of skills. She looks good in shoes. There will be the usual raffles and auction items.

Don’t be a Dork

There was a flurry of fevered interest in Australia in the misbehaviour of women at this year’s Melbourne Cup, run on Nov. 1 and won, as usual, by a horse. Apparently media focus on idiot women should not overemphasise their looks, as this perpetuates sexist myths. It’s an interesting point of discussion in Bali, where the loudly drunk and selfishly inclined tourist cohort regularly makes a mess of itself and whichever locality it is that they’ve chosen to disgrace with their presence.

Fine. If you’re drunk as a skunk and passed out in a wheelie bin in a short skirt and with your legs up, because you’re blotto and the remains of your mind thought the bin was a good place to be, you’re not going to look good.

There’s a lot of talk about the glass ceiling these days, and how while some women have managed to crack it, many have yet to do so. This is held to be a sin, and not only against the sisterhood. We agree. Merit and a capacity to commit are the keys to advance.

It’s a shame that efforts to crack the glass ceiling are seen in some quarters as licence to wreck the joint once you’re in there. Not in the business sense: the women we know who have gained access to the glass cage at the top of the corporate bureaucratic ladders are all sensible, thinking people. Some among them might like a drink, and even to misbehave, in all sorts of ways, but they do so in private, where in a free society such things are legitimately enjoyed.

It’s on the party circuit, broadly defined, where bad behaviour occurs publically. It’s true that in many societies, especially the Anglo ones, the bad behaviour of men is apparently expected, still largely accepted, often cheered on (crassly) and frequently overlooked. The stupid boys will be boys rule. Read that line any way you like. This dispensation is not extended to women who drink too much and behave like dorks. Women are supposed to be savvy and sexy and all of that, in whatever body shape they naturally possess, and not to compete with men in the idiot stakes.

Fundamentally this is phooey, despite grandma’s sensible advice to always keep yourself nice. People are people. They come in all shapes and sizes and an infinite range of personalities. These days, however, good manners have largely been thrown out of the window in the western world, along with common sense. They have been replaced by the glottal-stop baby talk and short attention span of the Me generation. That’s what people need to think about and correct. It’s not really a gender thing at all, except among men with a fixed and prehistoric belief in their own sex’s supremacy.

Chump Time

That a man whose adult life has been spent losing other people’s money, stiffing business partners, failing to pay creditors, creating a lengthy list of corporate failures, avoiding tax, being a loud-mouth reality TV front-man (“You’re Fired!), running the Miss Universe pageant while ogling the talent, pushing forward the boundaries of shocking kitsch and publicly avowing the delights of pussy-grabbing, can be elected the 45th president of the United States is something that takes American democracy into new territory.

There are good reasons for American voters to disavow the political practices of establishment candidates and the two-party system (never mind the quality, feel the width) and to choose something that promises to break that matrix. On Nov. 8 they wanted, in sufficient numbers, to belt the Beltway (the popular synonym for Washington’s inner circle).

It’s a bold political experiment. We can only hope the test-tube doesn’t blow up and destroy the joint. It will be an interesting spectacle whatever results. An Australian friend whose considered opinions we greatly value, remarked when we asked him what he thought of the events that it was a bit like jelly wrestling: you know it’s wrong but you watch anyway. The life of a voyeur can be very rewarding.

There were the expected reactions to Donald Trump’s win on Nov. 8. Locally, the rupiah weakened, though this was expected to be only a temporary effect. Global bond markets were spooked. The Brexit Brits were re-enthused, since like them Trump wants to overturn all sorts of apple carts. The British see a fortune to be made in bilateral trade deals. (They’ve managed, oddly, to get the Australian government politically on side in that respect. Perhaps Canberra needs to glance briefly at a world map.)

Trump for his part wants to reinvent American rustbelt industry, which according to him shouldn’t have disappeared to China and other places where cost-effective manufacturing is practised. He’s a bit like Don Quixote, albeit with rather less moral fibre. Though tilting at windmills can be fun, for the spectators at least.

Another friend, this time in America itself, reports an unexpected side effect of Trumpism’s triumph. She’s looking for a new hairdresser in her gentle, liberal New England domain. Her long established snipper, who’s very good and very, very gay, has taken to loudly singing the praises of the White House Apprentice. She said she had not yet allowed this to disturb her coiffeur but that it had seriously ruffled her feathers.

Karma on the Rocks

The sports bar at Echo Beach over which long-term American resident of Bali Mara Wolford raised a stink earlier this year with allegations that her drink was spiked, has closed. That’s good news.

When it found itself criticised after the events Wolford wrote about on her Facebook, it adopted the usual tactic of miscreant businesses in Bali: First, anguished hurt that anyone could possibly think they were to blame; second, inventive and wholly inadequate answers; and third, threats of retribution.

The bar ceased trading this month. We love karma.

Chilling Out

The Diary is in Australia this week, on an SEB: a short essential break. So chilling out is the order of the day. That’s not difficult at all, when you’re in the bit of the Special Biosphere that has cool nights and often none-to-warm days even when late spring is said to have finally arrived.

We’ll be back shortly. The woollies will need washing.


Hector writes a blog at 8degreesoflatitude.