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.

Blots on the Landscape

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Bali, Jul. 20, 2016

 

Where to start? We’ll leave aside (for the moment) certain segments of the bar scene where duty of care, which shouldn’t be an entirely foreign concept, is spelt WTF, and winks and nods at malfeasant bad behaviour, if not actual complicity, are commonplace. They’re blots on the social landscape. The ones at issue in this instance are actual, physical, blots. The latest to come to attention is the groyne built out over the coral reef in front of the new Kempinski hotel at Sawangan on the southern Bukit. The hotel wants to make a playground for its guests.

That this has altered the natural wave break pattern – with possibly incalculable future impacts – and destroyed the reef habitat is of no consequence to people whose interest lies solely in chasing money. Surfers who have been deprived of The Nikko, a great surf break, and the shooed-away local seaweed growers don’t count. They’re not in the 5-plus-star demographic. There’s a petition out on Change.org. We’ve signed it. It’s unlikely to move the rocks, but at least they’ll know we don’t like them, and why.

Just round the bend – how appropriate – and up around the Jakarta-by-Sea that developers have created with what locally luminous landscaper Made Wijaya dismissively (and quite properly) writes off as New Asian Architecture along the Ngurah Rai Bypass, the row continues over the plan to turn Benoa Bay into Port Excrescence. There was another huge Tolak Reklamsi demonstration on Jul. 10, organized by the local villages and banjars. We’re sure Governor Pastika heard about it. We do wonder what he said about it, though.

In a related move, there’s popular action in Lombok to stop massive sand extraction contracts there from going ahead. Apart from anything else, they seem to be illegal, created under the brown envelope rules that blight Indonesia. Tomy Winata needs all that silicon to fill in the Benoa mangroves and kill a natural, traditional community so he can construct an artificial one.

Shoot! There’s an idea

Apparently it’s not illegal to import unlicensed weaponry into Indonesia if you can get your new killing toys stuffed in the diplomatic bag. This is what members of the presidential security squad did in the USA. A man who assisted with their acquisition has been before the American courts since (perhaps astonishingly, although thankfully) it is unlawful to export guns from the Land of the Second Amendment unless you have a permit.

You can buy them there willy-nilly, as mass shootings by homicidal madmen demonstrate with tedious regularity, because Congress and the National Rifle Association seem to believe it’s still 1791 and that the right to bear arms has more validity than the nakedly bare truth.

But because the Indonesian presidential security squad was able to organize to get their new guns into diplomatic protected baggage, no crime that legal process can adjudicate has been committed at either end of the deal. Here at home, according to reports, administrative measures are under consideration (or at least they were when we wrote this). We don’t think we should wait up for a meaningful result.

Dr. Hannigan, We Presume?

British writer and skilled Indonesia hand Tim Hannigan, whose archival skill at demythologizing Raffles and other Names of Empah will always have a laudable capacity to sabotage the keyboards upon which post-imperial paeanists like to tinkle, wasn’t at last year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. He had a prior engagement in Mongolia, though not among the marmots of the Gobi or indeed the yurts of same, since yurts do not exist, though marmots do, and carry plague. The large tents of the local nomads are called Gers. This is pronounced grrrr in the way one might voice imprecations against massed idiot bike riders who turn right from the left lanes at the numerous traffic lights on Sunset Road and heedlessly cause karmageddon.

Sadly, Hannigan won’t be at this year’s festival either. He will be at Leicester University in England, doing a PhD on the ethical issues of travel literature that’s being funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the M3C (Midlands 3 Cities) doctoral program.

Hannigan recently revised Willard Hanna’s Bali Chronicles, which are due to appear around festival time (UWRF 2016 is Oct. 26-30) as A Brief History of Bali, with a foreword by Adrian Vickers. Never mind, the Diary will have a beer for him on opening night.

His lovely light history, Raffles and the British Invasion of Java, deliciously upset the Hyacinth Bucket-style riparian delights favoured by certain imperial historiographers when it was published in 2012. Come to think of it, we owe him at least a beer for that, if not a G&T. He also wrote A Brief History of Indonesia (2015) and says he hopes to be back in archipelago during the northern summer of 2017. He’s a dab hand at fishing out historical and other anecdotes and Indonesia has a rich lode of those.

A View With a Room

Lunch at Sundara, Four Seasons Jimbaran’s eclectic beachside swan-around place for the locally well placed, is not to be missed. There’s plenty of outdoors for outdoor types and it’s airy inside with a lovely view of the bay beyond, especially at high tide. We recently ruminated there, on a very pleasantly passable Caesar salad and other delights, in the fine company of chief 4S Bali spruiker Marian Carroll. We made a couple of notes, as you do on such occasions, though the divine mini lemon meringue pie we had for dessert rather got in the way of concentrated effort.

Of primary interest was that the Ganesha art gallery has been reinvented as a multimode arts and cultural space. That’s great news. Of this, GM of Four Seasons Resorts Bali, Uday Rao, says: “We believe it is our responsibility – as well as our honour – to give guests the opportunity to personally meet and learn from Bali’s talented artists, who are hand-picked and invited to share their knowledge and skills. Guests can take a lesson in woodcarving, painting, dancing, making offerings for ceremonies, or weaving fine songket (cloth).”

Officially it’s the Ganesha Cultural Centre. It opens on Jul. 29. We’ll get along there soon enough.

Sundara is also spreading its wings. It is introducing a long brunch. We’ll have a word with Sophie Digby of The Yak about that. She’s a brunch and bubbles girl from way back, and the launch date (Aug. 14) might already be in her diary. It does seem to be a pretty good way to spend a lazy Sunday.

Animal Welfare? What’s That?

News that Thailand, Malaysia and South Korea have moved to seriously tighten up and enforce animal welfare laws may furrow the odd brow here. Isn’t that sort of thing best left to karma? A dog’s life is – well, a dog’s life.

It shouldn’t be. In the Australian state of New South Wales the government has announced greyhound racing will be abolished from July next year, because of rampant cruelty and mistreatment of dogs. There’s a chorus line of unrepentant recidivists now in pursuit of the premier, Mike Baird. He apparently will not be budged; neither should he.

Here in Bali, animal welfare outfits often have a hard time when they try to help animals. It’s not only dogs. Monkeys – intelligently sentient beings – are locked up in cages and made to perform perversely infantile tricks so their “owners” can make money. We won’t even touch on civets forced to shit for a living so people can drink Luwak coffee (ugh!) or the poor dolphins of Keremas, whose unhealthy and woefully inadequate “pool” affords them nothing but pain and – if they look wistfully over the edge – a view of the nearby ocean that is their natural home.

When clear evidence of gross abuse of dogs comes to light, as it has recently in a case where patient and horrendously expensive negotiation that went on for weeks thankfully resulted in a large number of animals being rescued from hell, no one in authority was prepared to do a thing.

Animal welfare laws in Indonesia are antiquated – they date from the Dutch era – and are shockingly inadequate. They are rarely enforced. The example set for Jakarta by Malaysia, Thailand and South Korea cannot be dismissed as yet another instance of western policies that have no relevance to Indonesia Raya.

Make Vroom

It was pleasing to see recently that Rakesh Kapoor, who is equally adept on two wheels or four, has returned to Bali from Jakarta, though not to his former domicile, Tampak Siring in the green rice terraces of Gianyar. He’s popped up as general manager of Seminyak Village Mall

HectorR

Hector’s Diary appears in the print and on line editions of the fortnightly newspaper the Bali Advertiser

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Jan. 21, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Guys, Get Serious!

A photo taken on Dec. 21 and displayed on Facebook this month of a 500-metre wide by unknown kilometres long stretch of garbage floating offshore from around Tanah Lot (it’s an important temple: might that resonate with any of the stumblebums officially responsible for the island’s environment?) lays bare the filthy joke that is Bali’s official non-position on waste management.

We all know, here, that garbage immediately becomes something that is not your problem if you throw it over the wall or dump it in the bush or a dry watercourse. The well-meaning assert that this is because the population needs to be educated and companies that produce masses of plastic pre-waste – packaged food producers largely – need to be forced to comply with the law.

The realists among us, well-meaning or otherwise, would suggest that since ever- increasing amounts of non-degradable rubbish have been a feature of Bali for a period that now approaches three decades, the actual causes are sloth, crass stupidity, blind selfishness, and a desire not to spend money on waste management because there are far more exciting things to waste money on.

It’s true that except in a few (commendable) cases, public waste disposal services are a sick joke. Organizing them requires a sound plan, good administration, ample funding, and that most elusive of public assets, real leadership. So something’s missing, and it not just all eight cylinders in Pak Plutocrat’s big limo.

It’s also true that Bali has only an embryonic tax base, even though except for Jakarta it is the richest province in Indonesia. Most people, those the tourists won’t tip because Rp 50,000 is a good screw for the work they do, yeah, and I’m here for a holiday and I don’t give a toss, are outside the collectible tax base.

There are environmental laws that require packagers to produce packaging that won’t litter the landscape for a millennium or kill marine life in the ocean for a hundred years. Like most laws here, especially the ones that emanate from the national level which are universally ignored, they are not policed unless someone’s suddenly got a bee in their bonnet or wants money, or both.

The packagers have lobbied heavily – on the tired old argument of anyone bothered by regulations: that they can’t afford it – against having to comply with these laws. The proper answer to that self-serving pitch is that if your business model can’t function within the rules then you should shut up shop.

The government proclaims that Bali is clean and green. It should try to make some progress towards that thoroughly laudable goal before someone invents a counter-slogan: Bali Unclean and Queasy Green.

 

You Don’t Say!

Governor Made Pastika frequently reminds us, via the little homilies about this and that which he likes to deliver as directional-correctional thinking, of the perils of being trite. His latest such utterance is to assert that Bali can no longer be referred to as the Island of Paradise or as Paradise Island, because there are a lot of poor people in Bali who need better welfare.

As with much that is trite, this is also right. The churlish might mutter “Oh, he’s noticed” and have a chuckle and find in that some temporary relief from his promotion of the scheme to murder the mangroves in Benoa Bay to build Port Excrescence and attract lots more tourists who aren’t in the least interested in the local culture. But that would be a little unfair. Pastika has shown commendable interest in the fortunes of the poor – or their lack of fortunes rather – and his critics should remember that there wouldn’t be free health care for Bali’s poor without him.

He went on to say this: “If we’re honest, we see a lot of poor people in Bali, but still dare to say this is an island paradise? In heaven there aren’t any poor people. In heaven it is all fun, and a nice house.”

Well, that’s a lovely thought. And it was apt for his audience. The Governor was speaking at a dialogue session that discussed the issue of whether the vast array of religious ceremonies affects poverty in Bali. It would be foolish to put money on the answer being “No”.

 

Bon Voyage

It was sad to hear that Christian Vanneque, a veritable institution in the expat community, lost his courageous battle with cancer early this month. He was in his sixties, which is far too young to shuffle off.

He will be missed by many and not least by our favourite Yakker, Sophie Digby, who told us this when we spoke about him:

“He used to call me Hello Bali so I used to call him Living Room, or Daniel. It was always a pleasure to see him. Always a pleasure to share a quick word ‘en passant’ as they say.

“He was part of the fabric that makes up Bali; more Aubusson than tie-dye; a gentleman; and I was his friend, not his closest by far, but a friendship that goes way-back-when and a few hundred bottles of wine in between, of that I am sure.

“Following the way of my mind, he is not gone but will still pop up on any given sunny afternoon, just as I walk in to commandeer our favourite table at Sip – Table 10. He will call me Hello Bali.

“So ‘bon voyage’ Christian, we enjoyed your company just like we enjoyed some pretty good wines … ones you gracefully taught us about and encouraged us to drink.

“Santé and Sip!” 

 

Eastward Shift

Kim McCreanor, who used to do save the doggies things for the Bali Animal Welfare Association and then moved on to make local noises elsewhere in the same field, has moved on yet again. She has become chief barker at an NGO based in Australia’s “northern capital”, Darwin, as chief executive officer of AMRRIC (Animal Management in Rural and Remote Indigenous Communities).

AMRRIC is an Australian not-for-profit led by veterinarians and academics; and health and animal management professionals. It works to improve the overall health and wellbeing of remote Indigenous settlements, including their dog populations, which are integral to those communities. The organization’s 10th annual conference in Darwin last September, which McCreanor attended, was supported by IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Here in Bali, IFAW funds a very valuable village-level education project run by BAWA.

 

Freedom of Joyce

Hector’s helper has an interesting life, sometimes. He received a connect request the other day on LinkedIn (it’s where he does his serious work) from someone called Joyce Smith, of whom up to that very moment he had never heard.

Since Ms Smith’s profile was not visible when he tried to look it up – it’s what you do: that’s what LinkedIn profiles are for – he sent her an in-mail thanking her for her request and suggesting she provide some details about herself (e.g., a profile) and they’d take it from there.

He got a note back from LinkedIn immediately which advised that the said Joyce Smith had declined his in-mail. There was a message with it, however, which further advised: “Thanks for thinking of me, but I’m not interested.”

Normally Hec’s helper would leave things there, on the basis that there’s never a lot of point in talking to the plainly certifiable. But the devil was in him that day. He sent an in-mail back asking: “So why did you send me the initial connect request, Joyce?”

He forbore to inquire what it was that she wasn’t interested in.

 

No Regrettas

In these days of instant interconnection and virtual space filled with homely though sadly too often vacuous aphorisms designed to boost the reader’s self-esteem (the latter are mostly from WWW.con) you find all manner of litter in the corners of your social media sites when you fire up in the morning.

So it was the other day when an item posted by The Mind Unleashed was brought to our attention. It retailed Maxwell Maltz’s quote that “If you make friends with yourself you will never be alone.” The Mind Unleashed ran it in support of a little primer of its own invention for those who have difficulty thinking for themselves even after their first cup of coffee in the morning: Sometimes you need to disconnect and enjoy your own company.

Greta Garbo probably put it better, but it is useful advice nonetheless. We often take it ourselves. At least when you’re alone, no one argues with you.

 

Stuff It

We were dining at a Jimbaran restaurant one evening recently when the activities of the attendant loud-crowd, which seemed largely to hail from Jakarta and Surabaya, prompted a disconsolate thought: We have seen the future and it is stuffing its face.

 

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