Little Ripples

 

HectorR

HECTOR’S DIARY

His regular diet of worms and other tasty morsels

Bali, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017

 

WHERE Indonesia and Australia are concerned, you can always count on something unexpected to suddenly ripple the waters. It’s a bit the same as an Indonesian volcano: it’s quiet until it goes boom.

In Australia, it’s mostly a careless minor politician or some media “celebrity” who clumsily drops a pebble in the pond, or very occasionally a former prime minister. In Indonesia, it’s just as likely to be a military personage drawing himself to attention by banging a big nationalist drum.

That these little interruptions flow chiefly from ignorance is no comfort. The reverse, in fact, since Indonesia has been functionally independent for 72 years and formally for 68, and was politically and materially supported by Australia in its resistance to post-World War II Dutch efforts to resuscitate their dead colonial dreams.

By the end of the Japanese war Australia had become the least imperially minded member of the Anglosphere. Except for isolated attempts at ridiculous recidivism on the right of Australian national politics, this welcome and natural process has continued.

The latest little political difficulties involve an invidious inscription allegedly seen by a Kopassus officer who was attending a language course in Perth and the raising of the West Papuan flag at a protest in Melbourne.

Neither incident is really worth wasting time on further discussion. Posturing is painful and counterproductive, especially when it becomes fodder for insensate commentary in the blinkered depths of the social media pool.

Tiger Tales

THE sudden imposition of new regulations on the Australian low-cost airline Tiger, which is owned by Virgin Australia, seems to have come straight from the Because We Can clause officialdom likes to cite now and then.

If this were a place where you could have confidence in regulatory policy even if a particular set of regulations disadvantaged you or others, then it would be easy to accept changes. They shouldn’t be sudden, they should be discussed – socialised is the term they use here – and they should of course be facilitative rather than the reverse.

Someone must have had an “oh, doh!” moment, because the Indonesians later gave Tiger permission to fly 2000 passengers out of Bali back to Australia over the weekend.

Tiger was forced to cancel Australia-Bali flights virtually at a moment’s notice. They seem to have been told their scheduled operations here had been transferred from the office that handles scheduled airline services to the one that regulates charter operations and requires much more complex, flight by flight, arrangements. Go figure.

The airline’s scheduled services will resume, we assume, at some point. That’s if Tigerair Australia and its parent airline company can be bothered continuing to scratch for profit when local low-cost players want the lion’s, or in this case the tiger’s, share of the market.

That might be the ultimate twist in the tail, so to speak.

Goon Show

THE shocking events at a Seminyak glitter strip venue the other day, when security guards restrained a protesting Russian partygoer by bashing him so severely that he has lost an eye, demonstrate very clearly how far down the road to perdition Bali has gone in its quest for the tourist dollar.

There is still time to retreat from the precipice, and to regain some of the island’s past reputation as a place where you can have fun – and even be a little naughty – without risking life and limb. But swift action is needed.

Properly trained security personnel can deal with such events easily. A quick knee in the groin and a half-Nelson arm twist will effectively and temporarily disable anyone who has had the temerity to query their bill.

Of course, proprietors of such venues need to possess a socially balanced brain themselves, or be forced to act as if they have, and must spend money on actually doing things properly. That’s another side of Bali’s tourism and regulatory environments. It applies (or should do) to entertainment venues everywhere, especially in the Kuta-Legian-Seminyak-Canggu riot quarter.

The authorities and the police must be proactive. That’s a polite way of saying they really should get off their bums and do something. We know; that’s a difficulty. Goon squads, empowered quasi-official thugs, mobs amok, and fire-and-forget non-thinking is the usual form here.

The latest event was the second publicised one at the venue recently. In the first incident, two Indonesian customers were criminally bashed by security.

For the record, the venue is La Favela, in the thoroughfare colloquially known as Oberoi Street. A favela is a Brazilian slum. Just saying.

Prodigal Return

WE hadn’t been to North Bali for the best part of a decade until last weekend, when we spent two lovely days at Villa Patria on the slopes behind Lovina.

It really is a magic place, set 355 metres above sea level but only some six kilometres from the coast. There’s only one guest villa, plus a lumbung, and the owners live on site with first-class staff running the show.

The food is rather on the yummy side, so if you don’t want to venture out to sample that of others, dinner at home is a good idea. The tariff includes breakfast.

The little resort is set in lovely gardens, with a swimming pool, and high quality massage is available on call. Think of it as a home away from home. We’ll be back.

It’s a bit of a trek from the south of Bali. But if your travel plans can accommodate a 3.5-hour car trip each way – and the magnificent lakes and mountains and plenty of places to stop for a coffee in cool Baturiti or Bedugul – it’s an easy ride.

More Sad Farewells

RIO Helmi, the Ubud-based photographer and writer, wrote a wonderful obituary for Linda Garland, the bamboo lady, who has died in Australia after a long battle with cancer, at the age of only 68. It’s definitely worth reading.

There are many adornments to the expat scene here – there are many others in the resident foreign community who adorn only their preferred views of themselves, in the manner of the self-promotional everywhere, but that’s for another time – and Garland was several dozen laurel wreaths more worthy than most.

Her work here over many decades was immensely practical in terms of the inspirational and income earning opportunities it gave to the Balinese. Helmi’s piece describes all that, at length and much better than we can here.

Another old Bali hand has left us, too. Quirky photographer Pierre Poretti died at home in Switzerland, of a stroke. His art was magnificent and it, and he, will be sorely missed.

What a Shower

THE Australian feminist fulminator Helen Razer is always good. She’s exactly the Diary’s kind of social Marxist. Her summation in a piece she published this week about the greed-and-envy-fuelled collapse of the selfish capitalist dream helped our morning coffee go down with an extra zing on Friday.

It’s the sort of argument that fuels real discussion about things that actually matter. In such a setting, over a table, say, with prime Arabica to hand, we’d probably say this:

Have you read A Short History of Stupid? We found it a wonderful to-and-fro on many issues. Razer wrote it in counterpoint with Bernard Keene, who is exactly not the Diary’s kind of social libertarian.

The argument she puts in her piece is basically sound about the revolting Trump and his neocon mates and Bonfire of the Vanities cheer squads. They can all forever get golden showers from infinite numbers of Russian hookers before anyone should care about the moral and ethical depravity of their private personalities and behaviour.

It’s the moral and ethical depravity of their policies (if discernible) and politics that sicken us.

But the Diary has enough of old journeyman journalist in the veins (Razer does not) to get a good giggle out of the risible idiocy of populist celebrity “leaders” who think debate is about massaging their own egos, or having others do that for them; who apparently think the serial indiscretions that litter their private lives can possibly escape scrutiny in the global porn shop they’ve created and from which they grossly profit; who wouldn’t know a decent social (or economic or health or national security) policy if any of these happened by chance to tickle their coccyx while some fake-bosomed slag was teasing their private parts with perfumed tissues; and who are so functionally useless except in their own interest that they couldn’t boil an egg.

Today (Jan. 14) is T -6, by the way.

Great Going

ONE of the Diary’s favourite R&R places, the Novotel Lombok Resort and Villas at Mandalika beach in the island’s south, has another deserved gong in its collection of awards.

The resort, part of the Accor chain, was named The World’s Best Halal Beach Resort 2016 at the World Halal Tourism Awards during International Travel Week in Abu Dhabi late last year.

WHTA estimates that about 1.9 million votes from 116 countries were lodged in the 2016 awards, over 16 categories and among 383 candidate properties. You can see all winners in all categories here.

Lombok is carving out a niche for itself in tourist and travel opportunities for Muslims, part of which naturally includes Halal food and a rather less raunchy entertainment picture. Even the sexy dancers aren’t, really.

Except in the northern Gilis – Trawangan, Meno and Air – which these days most visitors access direct from Bali by fast boat – the sun-sand-and-sin western tourist demographic is conspicuously absent, at least in large, noisy numbers.

Some people think that’s a good thing.

Hector also writes a monthly diary in the Bali Advertiser newspaper. The next appears on Feb. 1

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser Jan. 22, 2014

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Facts Please

The sad deaths of Queensland tourists Noelene and Yvana Bischoff shortly after they began a holiday at Padang Bai need to be explained. It’s always better to get the facts in any circumstances, however tragic. And there is very little that is more tragic than a case in which a mother and daughter die in the circumstances the Bischoffs did.

Their bodies were returned to Brisbane at the request of relatives and were transported there by Virgin Australia. The airline deserves praise for its public spiritedness. Queensland coronial investigators performed autopsies. The results of these and any findings as to the cause of death will doubtless be provided to the authorities in Bali.

It is in the interest of Bali and its critically important tourism industry that the facts are clearly established and published. Unfortunately there is a culture here of obscuring the facts when embarrassment – real or imagined, present or merely feared as a possibility – looms as a factor.

It is seen in the way all sorts of things are handled by the authorities. Questions from foreigners are often viewed as attempts to interfere. But such questions have nothing to do with national standing. It is time Bali got truly used to the concept that its circumstances and administration are legitimate matters of interest to many people.

Most of the people with a deep interest in events and rights to be told the facts are Balinese themselves, or other Indonesians. In a democratic society no one should live in a fog of incomplete information.

If the Bischoffs died of food poisoning, we need to know. If they died of some poison naturally found in some ocean fish, we need to know that too. Not because we all want to run around madly pointing fingers at people (we can leave that to the overseas media, which does it so well). We need to know because Bali needs to be run properly in every respect.

The “drugs” police found in the Bischoffs’ room at their Padang Bai resort and tried to make a song and dance about were the sort of medications travellers bring to Bali and other places – to treat stomach upsets and other conditions it is easy to get here. Noelene Bischoff was a highly qualified nurse. We should assume she was being naturally and reasonably cautious.

Sadly whatever killed her and her daughter Yvana was immediately overwhelming.

 

Farewell to a Good Farmer

Brett Farmer who has been Australian consul-general in Bali since 2011 following Lex Bartlem’s early departure in 2010 to become ambassador in that place of many delights Beirut (no, that’s not a joke) is in turn taking his leave. He departs on Feb. 5. Farmer has been a steady hand at his Renon fortress and a pleasant companion on several official and unofficial occasions. We shall miss him and wish him good fortune.

The work that Australian consulates do is not well understood, especially among that cohort of impecunious or troubled Aussie travellers, their relatives and the media, who seem to think the list of duties includes getting them out of trouble or safely home. It doesn’t.

Perhaps the consular function is incompletely understood even by some within the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra, whose website helpfully lists Facebook and Twitter sites operated by various Australian missions around the world. One listing will pique the Gallic worriers at the Quai d’Orsay in Paris: the “embassy” in the French overseas territory of New Caledonia.

Farmer’s successor had not been officially announced by Canberra at diary deadline time. Suffice to say we look forward to welcoming her in due course.

 

A Braw Idea

Jock McDaniels, who when he’s being his usual self is known as Jack Daniels or John M Daniels, is organizing Burns’ Night in Bali.  It’s on Jan. 25, the bard’s birthday (in 1759). Entirely by coincidence this is the day before the Australians celebrate the First Fleet’s arrival in 1788 in what was to become Sydney Harbour and India’s Republic Day, which dates from 1950 when the jewel in Britain’s disappearing imperial age removed itself from the crown.

Burns’ Night is a braw idea (and a welcome addition) to the calendar of Curious Bule Feasts that must confound the Balinese, especially as this one will inevitably involve men dressed as lassies. Memo Jock/Jack/John M: eschew the kilt. It can (and possibly should) be worn by pipers and assorted soldiery as an emblem of confected tradition. But it owes its public popularity to the fact that Good Queen Vic, who was otherwise a rather dour Hanoverian, rather liked the thought of favourite ghillie John Brown swinging through the heather.

Disclosure: Hector’s helper is entitled to wear various Stewart tartans and the Crawford, a lovely plaid. He never has except as a tie. Hector’s helper’s dad, may he rest in peace, always believed that the fates had smiled kindly upon him, since the army unit in which he enlisted under age in the Great Depression was a Borders regiment and wore tartan trousers and not the kilt.

We should never forget the genesis of the garment. It began life as an informal wraparound arrangement for blokes who couldn’t afford trousers. It does have its uses though. One of the images of the 1997 British handover of Hong Kong to the Chinese that will remain forever with us is of a Scottish soldier bending forward – back to the crowd of dignitaries present – to lower the Union Flag for the last time.

The fans installed at the request of Mao’s successors to blow half a gale so that the Red Flag fluttered proudly on its ascent may possibly have been double agents. The soldier’s kilt fluttered hip high and bared his backside for the world to see. We hope he got a medal.  They should have minted one specially. Perhaps The Flower of Scotland? It forever settled the question of whether anything is worn under the kilt. And it possibly delivered a powerfully subliminal message to Beijing.

Burns’ Night – with doggerel (Rabbie’s favourite dish) and haggis plus trimmings (and whisky, Jock; it’s not whiskey!) – is at the Bali Dynasty Hotel in Kuta on the night in question. Haggis isn’t our bag. It’s not even our sheep’s stomach. But aye, we cuid go the neeps and tatties.

Jock’s taking bookings and has all the details.

 

Cultural Flowering

Taman Restaurant in Senggigi, Lombok, which is operated by the delightful Wiwik Pusparini and the intriguingly enigmatic Peter Duncan, is lending a hand to a headlong charge to bring literary culture to the village. This is good news even for people – such as the Diary – who nowadays travel with their entire library in their Kindles or other e-readers.

The restaurant was the venue on Jan. 11 for the launch of local author Derek Pugh’s book, Turn Left at the Devil Tree. Taman and the Lombok Writers’ Guild (memo certain Bali literary persons: note the possessive) put on the book launch along with a wine tasting, wines by Plaga.

Duncan and others tell us Senggigi is experiencing something of a mini-boom at the moment. That’s good to see. Hopefully it’s related in part to the Jetstar service from Perth to Lombok that took off last year.

 

Happy Ending

Followers of the Rhonda and Ketut romance – surely among the most successful product promotions ever even if only for its reinvention of the vastly overrated Kuta Cowboy – will be pleased to hear that it apparently has a happy ending. These might be two a penny in these parts, but some are better than others.

We learn this from the latest ad in the Safe Driving Rewards campaign for Australian vehicle insurer AAMI. The advertisement, from big Aussie agency Badjar Ogilvy, features Rhonda and Ketut apparently answering the question of whether she will choose Ketut or high school heartthrob Trent Toogood. It follows an earlier “Who’s Right for Rhonda?” campaign.

The story line is trite but trippy. Rhonda returns to the empty hall of her school reunion where Ketut had last been seen arriving after Rhonda has gone the grapple with Tentacle Trent. But Trent is a fickle fellow. Later he is snapped to attention by the fulsome charms of Rhonda’s female friend.

Rhonda was introduced to promote AAMI’s Safe Driver Rewards in October 2011. Her trip to Bali and meeting Ketut went to air the following March. The romantic tension between the two characters caught the Australian public’s attention (prurience beats politics every time) and the ad became an internet sensation. A Facebook page was dedicated to Rhonda and Ketut and of course the t-shirt sector made a killing.

Hector tweets @scratchings