HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, June 24, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Mama Mia!

We failed to wear pink for the occasion because – well, just because. But we were present at the June lunch of the indomitable DIVAS, who gathered at Slippery Stone in Jl Batu Belig, Kerobokan, for fun, frivolity, a clear absence of fasting as a practice any girl in her senses would endorse, and to raise money for the women’s empowerment group the ROLE Foundation.

We had promised chief Diva Christina Iskandar that we’d get along to the show, on Jun. 12. This was made easier by an arrangement to appear as Lizzie Love’s handbag. ROLE chief Mike O’Leary presented some interesting facts about his organization and the useful – actually essential – work it does to shift disadvantaged women out of poverty. Eva Scolaro sang some songs, sultry and otherwise, and ended with Mama Mia, that old ABBA staple. That created an amazing scene, at least in the view of superannuated diarists. Crowds of women from dowagers to dinky divas leapt up and began punching the air. It was quite alarming until Lizzie, dear creature, calmed our rising fears. Apparently it’s the done thing.

Lizzie, who didn’t do the punch-the-air thing, was in fetching Flapper-style pink but she had along with her for the show a lovely Sydney friend, Jocelyn Johinke, to whose presence we formed an immediate attraction. Like the Diary, she was wearing the “new pink” which is, well, basically white.

It was all good fun with no disappointments since we never win raffles anyway, and now we know it’s safe to be in the middle of a moderately raucous female crowd we’ll get along to the next one, in September. That’s if Lizzie will extend the handbag option.

Free For All

Well, not quite. But President Joko Widodo has issued a decree that suspends the effect of legislation to the contrary and lists 45 countries whose citizens will be able to visit Indonesia without the financial embarrassment and onerous queuing involved in first paying $US35 for a VOA and then lining up again to get a stamp in their passport.

Apparently the reciprocity rule doesn’t matter any more. If Indonesia wants to exempt certain aliens from paying for tourist visas, it’s no longer germane whether their own countries offer the same privilege to Indonesians. One of the President’s stated aims is to get 10 million tourists a year to Bali by 2019. That’s just four years away. Perhaps he hasn’t realized this, since mathematics is apparently a problem to him. Making the announcement in Denpasar he said that 10 million was nearly double the present 4 million a year.

Then again, maybe the idea is to prove the local theory that the availability of infrastructure to cope with such an influx really doesn’t matter a damn.

There might be a little confusion in the queues though. In the grand tradition of bureaucracies everywhere, which is of course played out in spades in Indonesia, the signs in the arrival hall at Ngurah Rai International are also, shall we say, to be decorous about it, not quite right. Never mind. Just mill around and marvel. That’s what Bali wants its tourists to do anyway, once they get out of the airport. So they can just start a little early.

The U.S., Canada and New Zealand are on the free list. Pointedly, though not surprisingly given the tedious you’ve-got-feet-of-clay two-way exchanges across the Timor Sea that have recommenced lately, Australia is not.

A Note for Scribblers

It popped into our in-box recently from Janet DeNeefe, doyenne of the literary tea set in Ubud and founder of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. The twelfth rendition of this felicity takes place between Oct. 28 and Nov. 1. Do make a note in your diaries. It’s always worth getting along to the program of events DeNeefe and crew put on for the festival.

Having reached the halfway mark of the year, DeNeefe notes, there are only four short months until the 2015 festival. We’ll leave aside the fact that discounting June (now all but gone) only September is a short month in that timeframe. We know she meant.

More than 150 writers and creatures she calls creatives from Indonesia and beyond “will gather to discuss extraordinary stories and big ideas”. Gabfests are always fun, so we’ll certainly be planning to join the jamboree.

All the latest details, including the names of writers in the fields of fiction, human rights and research, are on the festival website. If you’re writing a book and would like to launch it at UWRF 2015, applications are now open. The Diary’s alter ego is engaged in just such a venture, but it may not be ready in time and in any case its genre might better suit a more outré venue.

Early Bird tickets go on sale in July.

Barking Mad: Latest Update

Some shocking figures have found their way into the local Bahasa press on rabies, which has been a feature of Bali, though not an attraction, since 2008. They show that in 2013 the percentage of dogs vaccinated against rabies – and therefore providing the vital screen between canine rabies and its transmission to humans – was 68 percent, just below the 70 percent level international standards say is necessary for effective herd immunity and suppression of the disease. (In 2010, at the end of the successful campaign led by the animal welfare NGO the government now loves to hate, the figure was 80 percent.)

It gets worse. In 2014 it was 44 percent. By June this year (without figures from Klungkung regency which is either playing silly beggars or has gone to sleep) it was 36 percent. That’s effectively half the optimum protection level. No wonder we’re seeing a procession of local animal husbandry worthies panicking while they do their repertory performances of Cpl. Jones in Dad’s Army, whose catch-cry was “Don’t Panic! Don’t Panic!”

And that’s not all the bad news, either. In 2013 the risk that a dog might be infected with rabies and thus likely to bite you and cause you to die an unnecessary and horrific death was 4.1 percent. In 2014 this figure had risen to 10.2 percent. In the middle of 2015 it is a shocking 20.8 percent – one in five dogs.

Another of Cpl. Jones’ favourite aphorisms was “They don’t like it up ’em”, and this too is a feature of Bali’s disgraceful failure to counter rabies. Animal husbandry authorities have warned that anyone interfering with their kill-at-will response to the disease they have allowed to become endemic is breaking the law and could be jailed. Animal welfare organizations could face closure if they pursue an activist agenda.

Bali’s authorities might win first prize for idiocy and short sightedness over this. They won’t win anything else, far less the battle to control rabies.

There are also problems with supply of human rabies post-exposure vaccine. It’s basically an argument over money (sigh) but it’s symptomatic of the deficient budgetary processes that are ubiquitous here and the vacuous policy of judging risk as functionally absent until something actually happens.

Indonesia Raya

Britain’s ambassador to Indonesia, Moazzam Malik, told a gathering in Jakarta to celebrate the birthday of Queen Elizabeth II that Indonesia, along with China and India, will dominate the global economy as the 21st century progresses, because of its large population. The proprietors of countless bengkels relying for their livelihood on perforated mufflers and wonky suspensions will be pleased to hear this.

No, seriously, British analysis of global trends clearly identifies population mass as a key driver of economies, and notes that Britain, with a medium population (it’s around 59 million) relies on partnerships or strong cooperation with larger countries. This factor alone argues against the developing tendency in Britain to view with favour an exit from the European Community, though that’s a separate issue in this context.

The Queen’s Birthday is celebrated in June – it’s not her actual birthday – so that the Brits have an outside chance of seeing the grand military parade in London called Trooping the Colour held in conditions rather more clement than the usual shivery temperatures and intermittent drizzle.

Tweet, Tweet 

The Japanese city of Yokohama – it’s Tokyo’s port city – is working with the Indonesian government to help conserve the endangered Bali Starling by donating birds for resettlement in the Bali Barat National Park. It’s the second three-year program. The first began in 2012.

The Bali Starling (Leucopsar Rothschildi) is locally known as the jalak or curik. In 2005 there were only five birds known to be survivors in their natural habitat, the national park in west Bali. Today the population is more than 100, including 40 that have been released in the park.

Hector is on Twitter and tweets @ scratchings. His diary appears in the print and online editions of the Bali Advertiser.

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Mar. 18, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Gone to the Dogs

The resurgence of rabies in Bali is yet another of those avoidable things that the chaps in charge of the asylum could have avoided if they could have been bothered, or if they hadn’t blown the budget on lots of other things. Yet it’s in an emergency such as this – brought about by seven years of feeble official failure to address a dire public health risk in a consistent, planned, properly administered way – that leadership is required.

Instead, in the time-honoured fashion, our leaders are being proper little dukes of Plaza-Toro about rabies. They’re leading from the back. Governor Pastika, who has no trouble ignoring the weight of popular opinion when it comes to things like filling in Benoa Bay because the environment is far less important than plutocrats making even more money, has called on people to kill stray dogs because, he says, that’s what the people tell him they’d like to do.

No matter, then, that all the literature – and global experience – shows very plainly that suppressing rabies is achieved through vaccination programs that create herd immunity in the canine population (70 per cent is the benchmark figure) and humane reduction of numbers by sterilization. No matter that the scientific record shows indiscriminate killing of dogs helps to spread the disease, because dogs in the vaccinated screen population are eliminated. No matter that it is the government’s job to educate people about effective rabies control and eliminate it as a threat to the broad community. (That 70 per cent screen again.)

Pogroms such as that recently visited upon the small band of dogs that customarily inhabited Kuta beach are certainly not unusual. The Kuta killing spree was noticed only because of where it took place and because it followed an Australian tourist child being bitten, though not by a rabid dog. It horrified tourists (some of whom were not effete, do-gooder westerners, by the way) and painted a picture of Bali that certainly does not conform to the requirements of Tumpek Kandang, a Hindu rite observed every 210 days (the latest was on Mar. 7) that is a symbolic offering for all animals living in the world. The non-symbolic pre-Tumpek Kandang offering to the dogs of Kuta beach consisted of bashings and then, in the dead of night, some other inhuman final solution.

The issue will not go away, however much Bali’s administrators would like it to and in spite of the impenetrable thickets of incomplete (or completely erroneous) data that hide the facts. It recently got an airing in the Asia edition of The International New York Times, in a piece by its Jakarta-based correspondent Joe Cochrane. It might be true that Bali has run out of money for vaccine, as the Governor says. The immediate questions then should be: Why? And what are you doing to get more money for vaccine? These questions are unlikely to be asked by anyone who would be listened to; and, if they were, the truthful answers (if forthcoming, which would require a miracle) would be Don’t Know and Nothing.

A man died of rabies in Bangli recently. Last year, according to official figures, either one or several people died of the disease elsewhere in Bali. Anecdotally, the real 2014 figure would seem to be rather higher.

Do It! Do It!

Among the many voluntary organizations here doing great fundraising work to assist the social advance of the Balinese people is one that regularly does lunch. Its members are the Divas, which must be an acronym for some obscure phrasal noun relating to Ladies Who Dress Up. Because dress up they do and we’re glad that this is so. It is tedious to gaze forever at designer-torn denim, long or short (often very short) and with incautious little garments above that would surely flutter away in a half-decent breeze and which are of a size that would completely fail to shame a doily into thinking that it was the runt of the litter.

But we digress. The Divas’ next do, at Slippery Stone in Jl. Batu Belig, Kerobokan, on Mar. 27, is an event at which, so chief Diva Christina Iskandar and the tickets tell us, we are promised that they will do it Greek style. If we can lasso a loose Diva – that is, ahem, for clarity and decorum, one not already spoken for in terms of a lunchtime handbag, if indeed they allow handbags – we might even go along ourselves. It would be worth spending Rp350K (in a good cause and in pursuit of fine comestibles) to see the show.

From memory, doing it Greek style involves throwing lots of plates and breaking them. Staging such an affray might not please Slippery Stone. It’s an up-market establishment, but it possibly has a prudential budget for crockery. And anyway, now we think of it, plate-breaking seems to be a wedding ritual, like that other dangerous pursuit, this one Italian, of pinning money to the bride while taking great care not to eyeball – or worse, inadvertently brush against – anything remotely adjacent to an erogenous zone.

The March event, aside from collecting lots of money as per their standard practice, will reward the Divas with an appearance by songstress Eva Scolaro, from Perth, who also emcees and hosts and does photographic modelling. She’s no stranger to Bali and has also performed in Jakarta.

Junk It!

It’s good to see that Bali’s provincial government will be working with the villages to manage and hopefully reduce the mountain of waste that threatens to overwhelm the island (and that’s not only in the tourist areas; plastic is a problem everywhere). Some might say they’re a bit late off the starting block, but never mind. There’s evidence of a spring in the step and that’s really pleasing.

The principal message at the start of this program might usefully be: If you throw it away, it’s still your responsibility. That recognition is something best instilled in children, so that by the time they’re adults they will know instinctively that dumping evil-smelling waste containing material that won’t disappear for up to a quarter of a million years and will poison the planet in the meantime is a really stupid thing to do.

The charity organization ROLE Foundation has a great Eco Kids Program, which kicked off for 2015 this month with an awareness visit to the Sanur Independent School and a hosted visit by 40 students from a private school in Bogor, West Java.

ROLE asks a very good question. Will our children inherit a world of grey skies, brown oceans full of junk with no marine life left, and land with no trees or wildlife? It has a very good answer: Not if our Eco Kids Program has anything to do with it.

On Not Giving a Toss, Etc

Elizabeth Pisani, whose lengthy time and travels in Indonesia produced both the readable travelogue Indonesia Etc and a book promoting safe sex that caused a frisson when it was released because it was called The Wisdom of Whores – a commodity, incidentally, that should never be ignored – has popped her cork again, this time in an Australian online magazine, The Starfish.

In relation to Australia’s immediate interest in the apparent presidential policy of preferring to shoot convicted drug criminals now because later the law might change to prevent this obscenity, she said:

“Jokowi really doesn’t give a toss about Australia. He does care about restoring his badly-bruised image as a decisive leader in the eyes of the Indonesian electorate. And it turns out that killing foreign drug dealers is quite a good way of doing that, at least among the 97 per cent of Indonesians who live outside Bali and profit very little from their southern neighbour.”

In the matter of bruising politics, British Indonesia-watcher and author Tim Hannigan (his book Raffles and the British Invasion of Java is a fine antidote to the obsequious tomes of some post-imperial hagiographers) presciently wrote in a piece for Asia House, the London think-tank, just before the presidential election in July 2014:

“Ultimately, Indonesia’s chronic tendency towards coalitions and political marriages of convenience, first manifested way back in 1955 and repeated the moment the country was allowed full electoral freedom in 1999, means that its democracy, in a strange way, guides itself – away from either destructive extremes or from meaningful progress, depending on your perspective and level of cynicism. This is why neither worst fears nor greatest hopes ever seem really to come to pass, and in the end it may not really make much difference who wins.”

Hannigan has a new book due out later this year, titled A Brief History of Indonesia (Tuttle). He promises to visit Bali thereafter, which will be fun.

Lights Out

Nyepi, Bali’s annual Silent Day, is on Saturday (Mar. 21). Mark it as you will. With a discreetly small torch is one way.

Hector is on Twitter @scratchings. His diary appears in the print and online editions of the Bali Advertiser http://www.baliadvertiser.biz

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Mar. 4, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

A Bit of a Blow

As spectacle or entertainment, Hector’s latest World Tour of Australia was very far from being the big draw Billy Connolly achieved with his fabulous World Tour of Scotland. We rarely attracted more than a couple of gawkers with nothing better to do or a censorious frown from some local anti-smoker if we were spotted communing with that dreadful drug tobacco. It was quite a relief to get home to Bali so we could light up with the rest of them as and where we pleased.

The Aussie break was fun however and it took in the east coast this time as well as the west. It was a treat (no, really) to be back in Queensland, even if only for a week. The other two weeks were spent in the west as usual. It is pleasing too that our proud record as travellers remains intact. Invariably some disaster, climatic or climactic, coincides with or closely follows a visit by us to just about anywhere.

We skipped out of Queensland just ahead of cyclone Marcia, a category five storm that put the world’s best cyclone-proof buildings to the test on landfall and then gifted absolute torrents of rain to river systems over a wide swath of the state. It was the sort of rain that by quantity and intensity would sweep Denpasar into the sea and which is fortunately never seen in these parts.

That’s the thing, you see. When it rains, water falls from the sky, sometimes in quite substantial quantities. When it’s windy, leaves and twigs, then branches, move around. These natural phenomena and others – such as the counter to the wet suit, drought – are collectively called weather, and it happens all the time, everywhere on earth. The weather is capricious and climate no less so.

But there are identifiable seasons, upon which it is possibly to make some plans. It should therefore surprise no one – especially the meteorological service – when the rainy season produces rain or serious low pressure areas in the seasonal monsoon trough that throw brisk winds at the islands for a little while.

It’s simpler in equatorial latitudes (10 degrees south to 10 degrees north) since the seasonal variation is chiefly whether it is wet or dry or night or day. We don’t generally have to worry about bothersome things like four seasonal changes a year, or the natural vagaries that these cycles bring with them.

Except, that is, now and then when – as in this case – a big monsoonal low over the ocean between here and northern Australia brings us very bad weather. So it was not altogether unusual that Bali, Lombok and the Gilis got a bit of a blow (and sheeting rain) in our absence at the height of the wet season.

Roofs in bad repair and walls without decent footings can fly away in a half-decent breeze. Trees topple when suddenly confronted by saturated ground and breezes that reach above zephyr level. Roads flood when Mother Nature demonstrates (by their absence) the benefits of storm drainage, cambered pavements and sufficient bitumen to avoid masses of potholes. Watercourses filled with mountains of rubbish dumped willy-nilly in the ubiquitous practice of this island first pond (causing local flooding) and then burst through the detritus and carry it to the sea, which then deposits it on the beaches.

Is anyone ever going to do anything about that? It is the top concern of tourists, after all. Not to mention, one would have thought, a serious matter of national pride.

Raw Deal

Lion Air, which has grown like Topsy on the basis of some inventive business planning and the world’s largest ever single order for aircraft from both Boeing and Airbus, achieved another corporate triumph this month when it suddenly cancelled all flights from Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta Airport on the evening of Feb. 18.

It blamed technical repair issues affecting three of its 93 aircraft for the resulting chaos, which left passengers stranded throughout its network and caused a riot at Soekarno-Hatta. As usual, no information was available to stranded passengers.

Two days later it said it didn’t have enough cash on hand to pay passenger refunds. Airport operator Angkasa Pura had to front up with the money. Lion is politically well connected. Its political connections will probably want to know why it appears to be so inefficient that running a chook raffle would probably be beyond it.

At least, they should want to know. Indonesia doesn’t like to be embarrassed, as a number of people have found cause to note in recent days.

Quality Troupe

Russia’s honorary consul in Bali, Chairul Nuku Hamka, believes his honorary country’s citizens are the highest “quality” tourists that holiday here. He bases this assessment on the fact that unlike tourists from other countries, Russians have a tendency to consume more premium goods and services. He quotes a recent statistic that suggests two Russian tourists spend as much as 10 Germans. “They stay at five-star hotels for high prices,” he says.

There’s some dislocated logic on the loose there. Spending a lot of money isn’t a true mark of quality. In some circumstances it may indicate stupidity, for example, or unfamiliarity with local conditions. In the case of many Russian tourists (not only in Bali) it’s also plainly a situation in which black money is being offloaded, often with the assistance of comely and willing younger ladies who have, in a manner of speaking, come along for the ride.

Hamka does note that while the potential for Russian tourism to Bali is huge (it’s certainly a principal feature of the changing dynamics of tourism here) several sizeable rocks lie on the path of progress. One is direct flights from Russian cities to Bali. Garuda has had flights to four cities in Russia on the books since 2011 but has still to win licenses to operate them. The other is the distaste with which much of the world views the Vladimir Putin regime’s conduct in what Russians historically have called the Near Abroad. Ukraine, which Tsar Vlad is menacing, is among those places.

Trade and other embargoes on Russia as a result have led to the collapse of the rouble. Russian tourist numbers to Bali have declined as a result, from 93,622 in 2013 to 88,777 in 2014. Russia is on Indonesia’s new “free visa” list but that’s all still in the works.

A Run Up the Ladder

Ngurah Rai International Airport has been ranked as the 60th best airport worldwide in the Montreal, Canada, based Airports Council International’s 2014 Airport Service Quality Awards. It jumped 152 places from its 2012 ranking of 212, jumping nearly 152 spots from its previous ranking of 212 in 2012.

The awards determine which airports offer the best passenger service. To obtain its results the ACI surveyed 550,000 airport users (including airlines and their ground staff, flight and cabin crews) and asked them to rate their satisfaction with 34 key service indicators including airport access, check-in, security, airport facilities, food and beverage, and retail.

The responses to each annual survey are used to issue a score out of five to the airport and subsequently determine the top worldwide performing airports as well as areas of improvement for each of the 365 airports that are ranked. Ngurah Rai airport received a score of 4.2 out of 5, a significant leap from its previous score of 2.9 in 2012.

Each year ACI gives recommendations to participating airports based on the results of that year’s survey. From the 2014 survey it recommended Ngurah Rai add extra luggage trolleys, increase the number of seats in the waiting rooms, improve the quality and cleanliness of waiting rooms, and increase the number of toilets. Ngurah Rai general manager Herry AY Sikado says: “We will use the current success achieved by the airport as further encouragement to make continuous improvements.”

Well, we shall watch with interest, then. And count the trolleys and the chairs.

Masks and Salsa

ROLE Foundation, which does sterling work to promote women’s issues in Bali and to help disadvantaged women create sustainable, income-earning businesses, also offers people fun-fun-fun. And so it should. The world’s a sorry little galactic rock much of the time, so any excuse to have a good time is worth serious consideration, in a serious cause. ROLE works for a sustainable future for islands, oceans, and communities through skills education and healthy environmental practices.

On Friday (Mar. 6), to mark 2015 International Women’s Day, the fun guys at ROLE are putting on a Masquerade Party. It’s at the Sanur Paradise Plaza from 7pm. The line-up includes live music from Tabasco Jam, a Salsa dancing competition and participation with great prizes, and a mask competition. Local women artisans will be there too.

There’s still time to get tickets (they’re RP500K each) in cash from events@baliwise.org (or call 0812-8285-2057) or online at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2015-international-womens-day-tickets-15567176845.

International Women’s Day is on Sunday (Mar. 8).

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print and online editions of the Bali Advertiser http://www.baliadvertiser.biz.

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Sep. 3, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

  

Welcome to Bali, Far Queue

We keep hearing about the new model management at Ngurah Rai International Airport. About this beneficence we can only say that it will be good if the promissory notes it is issuing and that denote improved service have actual as opposed to notional value. It’s not clear that anyone should risk turning blue in the face while holding their breath awaiting these developments, however.

There are so many things. The rude entrapment of departing passengers in a maze of duty free shops is but one. You can’t get from passport control to anywhere you’d want to be without running the gauntlet of shop girls desperate to separate you from your money. Far more important and even more irritating is the security check shemozzle before you even get into the airport building. It’s a circus.

That’s when you’re trying to leave the Bali. It’s worse when you’re trying to arrive, especially if you’re a visa-on-arrival passenger. It’s an insult that anyone should have to stand in a horrendous queue to buy a visa and then join the tail end of another melee to get a passport officer to stamp it. It can sometimes take four hours. Welcome to Bali – Not.

It should be noted that staffing of passport control desks is a function not of the airport authority but of the government, but surely someone must have noticed that if there are 2000 incoming passengers from planes that all seem to have managed to land at once, four passport officers at the desks is hardly enough. Rosters, anyone? Perhaps the airport authority might mention this to someone, somewhere (possibly even in the Istana Negara) if it would like to encourage passengers to continue to arrive in line with their revenue forecasts. Perhaps it has. If so, this would be nice to know.

If you survive this tedious circuit of paper-shuffling, Indonesian style (why give one person a simple job when you can give it to four and complicate it beyond measure?) and the next queue for the baggage scanning, and make it to the exit, the rapacious taxi monopoly is then waiting for you. Or not. If it’s after midnight because you’ve been held up in the queue to get in, that particular piratical crew might well have gone home.

 

Give ’Em a Wave

ROLE Foundation Bali put on a Waterman’s’ Benefit Night on Aug. 30. We’d have been there but for the displacement factor: we’re still in Australia at the moment. The Grand Prize was indeed grand. Padang Padang 8″2′ Doris Gun Surf Board + 13 Night Surf Boat Trip on Doris’ Ship ‘The Raja Elang’, Mentawai, Sumatra Organizer Sean Cosgrove billed it thus: Padang Padang 8″2′ Doris Gun Surf Board + 13 Night Surf Boat Trip on Doris’ Ship ‘The Raja Elang’, Mentawai, Sumatra.

Doris is of course Tony Eltherington, a good bloke indeed and a man you can rely on to lend a hand in any circumstances, however difficult. He is memorialized in many places, including at InSalt, the little surfers’ warung on the Balangan road at Ungasan, where a burger has been named after him. InSalt is the nearest local eatery to The Cage. The Doris Day burger is OK. The mie goreng is too. And the music is cool.

The raffle prizes at the Aug. 30 show – the Doris special included – were all top-notch. The money raised was to benefit the Soul Surf Project, a non-profit organisation that helps underprivileged orphans in Bali experience the thrill of surfing by providing lessons as a means to grow awareness of the environment to keep the sea and beaches clean. Party-goers performed a public service as well as enjoying themselves.

It was at Old Man’s, Batu Bolong. Along with awards, great prizes and an auction, there were live sets by Hydrant and the Mangrooves. 

 

Hanging with an Old Friend

Made Kaek is an artist of exceptional talent, something that was happily revealed to The Diary and Distaff nearly a decade and a half ago on an early holiday trip to Bali. This discovery resulted in the purchase of two of his 2001 works which then travelled to Queensland, Australia, where they hung, much loved by ourselves and frequently admired by friends, in our house in Brisbane.

When four years later we subjected our lives to a sea change and shifted domicile to share Western Australia and Bali on a sort of extended and largely informal fly-in fly-out basis, the Made Kaek paintings went into storage along with the rest of our art. Nomads don’t generally travel with a collection in their baggage.

Now, however, with the retirement of some other works at the premises, they have found another wall to hang on, at the place in Busselton (it’s conveniently close to many fine wineries) that functions as our Australian home. Among the works now adorning the walls are the two Made Kaek pieces.

Since 2001 Made Kaek’s work has developed in style and presentation, and in some ways genre. This has taken it beyond his earlier form. He regularly produces work that one would covet were it not a sin to do so, in all three religions of the Book and most others. And buy, if one’s wallet were as flush as it was in former times.

There’s a school of thought – it seems to owe some of its genesis to the irritating post-colonial counter-cringe that gets underfoot in Bali and the rest of Indonesia, as it does in so many places – that suggests contemporary Balinese artists face a challenge in defining the relationship between their traditional cultural heritages and being a modern artist. According to the Balinese anthropologist Degung Santika (surely writing tongue in cheek) this is probably part of the “burden” of being Balinese.

It’s true that outsiders often expect the Balinese to conform to stereotypes that don’t fit their individual characters. It’s true too that in the West most of the exhibitions of non-Western artists are in ethnological museums rather than museums of modern art. But these are Western problems, “outsider” problems, not Balinese ones.

Made Kaek and other modern Balinese artists rise above their cultural roots but continue to acknowledge their heritage. Made Kaek’s art might owe as much to New York City’s graffiti artists as it does to Balinese ritual and religion, but modern art is trans-cultural, globalized, and increasingly anarchic. He does his very well indeed.

 

Heading for a Crunch

Speaking of the art of anarchy, the continuing expansion of condotels in Bali provides a prime example (unfortunately not pretty) of the wilful way in which developers and governments – at all levels – ignore both reality and their own future fiscal security. Planning laws are a joke, where they aren’t just a mess. Regents, doubtless citing the panjandrum clause that apparently makes them and their local districts functionally independent of the province within which their little bailiwick is located, approve hotels and other accommodation houses with gay abandon.

Governors, whose spatial planning regulations are routinely ignored, climb on the bandwagon and back mad schemes such as the filling in of more bits of Benoa Harbour to build more tourist-attracting facilities. At central government level, environmental laws are more notional than national.

In Bali, focus of most of Indonesia’s high-throughput tourism trade, the inability of existing or “planned future” infrastructure to match demand is plain to see, even by Blind Freddy. Oversupply of visitor accommodation is foolish. It is a way to lose money and markets. Not in the immediate future, of course; though that is exactly where planning falls apart in Bali. No one thinks beyond the current calendar or visualizes over the horizon.

Recent reports indicate that there are 5000 Condotel units already operating in Bali with another 8000 entering the market over the next few years.  A study by Cushman & Wakefield Indonesia points to coming pressures on value of properties. It’s true that everything has its price. The problem is an oversupplied market sets prices below return levels for investors.

A timely warning on another aspect of Bali’s one-egg-in-one-basket dollar economy – tourism – again makes the point that the push for more and more tourists is counterproductive since it will devalue the product.

The chairman of the Indonesian Tourism Association (GIPI), Ida Bagus Ngurah Wijaya, said recently that Bali’s past success was no guarantee of continued performance. He fears that Bali’s reputation may be on the downturn because of the emphasis over the past three to four years on becoming a bargain destination.

He has a point. Premium and bargain are generally terms that are mutually exclusive.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter