Friday, May 29, 2009


WHAT A BASH: Hard Rock Hotel Bali celebrated its 11th birthday on May 15 with a huge party. There was lots of loud music. And apparently there was also someone on a big swing.

Cursors! Those Twits Have Got My Number

TECHNOLOGY is a mixed blessing, as many Indonesians who Tweet – otherwise happily, as consenting apprentice adults are supposed to do – have discovered, now that presidential election season has opened in earnest and mud is being thrown willy-nilly. Megawati Sukarnoputri and Suharto-era enforcer-general Prabowo, together forming the unlikely PDI-Gerindra team that would like to get its feet under those big desks at that big building in Jakarta, are following lots of Indonesians via the internet messaging service Twitter.

Hector is a bit of a twit himself – so many people have told him this for so many years that he now believes, still against his better judgment, that this is true – and follows many who Tweet, out of interest and a penchant for silly gossip, political or otherwise. Sadly for Indonesian politicians tweeting for votes (which of course Hector cannot provide, since he votes in Another Place) it seems most of their targets can spot an overly adventurous spruik a mile off, and switch off.

HRH Swings into Gear

BEING an old curmudgeon of originally British provenance, your diarist thought the Editor was handing him a real scoop the other day when he mentioned HRH. To a Brit, former or current, HRH can only mean one thing: His (or Her) Royal Highness.

Thus, for a delicious moment, we thought when we were alerted to “those HRH pictures” that we had a “Prince Charles Swings with the Orangutans” item to run this week. Of dreams such as this are many London Suns made.

Sadly, however, it was not that the heir to the British throne had completely lost his marbles. The HRH in question was the Hard Rock Hotel Bali, which on May 15 celebrated its 11th anniversary.

It would be nice to suggest that it did so in style. But as our picture this week shows, this was not the case. We’re sure everyone present made General Manager Darryl Marsden beam with pleasure by having a fabulous time. Life’s nothing without a party, after all, however outrĂ© (dare one say crass?) it might be.

Schapelle’s Bad Hair Day

BALI’S famous “most unfairly imprisoned” prisoner, Schapelle Corby, has had another hissy-fit and vacated her cell at Kerobokan jail last week, apparently believing someone was spying on her through a hole in the ceiling, in favour of psychiatric care in the police hospital in Denpasar.

On Wednesday – the fourth anniversary of her conviction on drugs charges and following news that jail chiefs had decided she should be returned to Kerobokan – she was taken on the advice of her new psychiatrist to the international wing of Sanglah hospital. She made that short trip in an Australian consular car.

It’s no surprise that she should suffer recurrent bouts of cabin fever. It’s really not nice being locked up in jail – anywhere, but for molly-coddled Australians, especially not in Indonesia – and understandable that, were one find oneself in such circumstances, one’s thoughts, such as they are, might occasionally run to dreams of life on the outside.

According to her psychiatrist and her family – Bali-resident sister Mercedes and their fiercely voluble Australia-based mum, who made an immediate mercy dash here – Schapelle is suffering depression. Her doctor thinks she should be accommodated in the psychiatric hospital in Bangli but is doubtful this is a practical proposition given her status as a convicted and incarcerated person. Perhaps those plans for that remedial hair salon “jail side” at Kerobokan are proving problematical.

We know one thing though. Her new status as psychiatric prisoner of conscience will bring out again the battalions of people worldwide – who would clearly fall for fool’s gold were it to be accompanied by a promisingly batted eyelid – who have allowed themselves to be convinced that 4.1kg of cannabis in a boogyboard bag cannot be construed as contraband or as evidence of criminality. Never mind the law. We’re talking about Schapelle.

They’ll Never Learn

WE should neither tut-tut too loudly, nor laugh too hard, over the expenses rorts that are bringing down British legislators like pins in a bowling alley. Rorts are an unpleasant fact of life in all political systems – and we should remember that it is only in a democracy, memorably defined by Winston Churchill as the worst of political systems, except all the others, that they come to light before bloody revolution removes the perpetrators – and indeed in all areas of human interaction. Here in Indonesia the graspers, political or otherwise, are constantly in the news, being nabbed for illegally acquiring something or other to which they were not entitled. It is an axiom of public policy (or it should be) that if you create an allowance, it will be abused.

Nevertheless, we could not suppress a wry smile at the confession of British opposition legislator Sir Peter Viggers, who last week announced his resignation because he had spent Rp20 million on an appalling duck house to put in his garden pond and tried to claim the money back from parliament. As a focus of irritated risibility, he joins another clown, who claimed on expenses for cleaning the moat at his castle.

Viggers not only broke the parliamentary rules (though his claim was actually rejected: he fell on his sword for being fool enough to put the claim in). He broke the rules of good taste – as our photo shows. As he said, the ducks refused to use it. Who could blame them?

Expert Alert

IT’S that man again! We saw him on satellite TV the other day: We refer (of course) to the FMW, aka Made Wijaya. He was wearing Balinese dress, including a flower in the udeng (ooh!) and gave the world his unique overview of modern Bali via the BBC TV series Around the World in 80 Gardens. In the Asian section, his lovely garden at Sanur was one of them.

As is his wont, Mr Wijaya had a rhetorical question for his audience. “Bali has survived Islamification and mass tourism, but will it survive the building boom?” We think Bali is a bit more robust than sarong-clad long-term expatriates with curious architectural fetishes and personal takes on social issues would like you to believe.

But by the way, if you missed the programme, and care about that, don’t worry: it’s bound to be repeated.

Bali Not-Quite-Update

JACK Daniels (not the one found in the bottle) is an institution in Bali. Or so we gather; most recently from the interviews that he gives himself and the colourful feedback that these seem to produce. But we should not be churlish. His Bali Update is a popular and useful medium for informing friends of Bali everywhere of what’s going down around here. His lengthy and ongoing endeavour is to be applauded and nurtured.

But there was one glitch in this week’s Update (it pops into subscribers’ in-boxes on Mondays). Recording the fact that OzJet, which flies – or rather, it seems, flew – two services a week from Perth to Bali, did not operate last week, Update proclaimed: We’ll Tell You Why. Well, actually it didn’t. What it did – properly – was to report the claims and counter-claims of the protagonists in an unseemly little commercial spat. And anyway, The Bali Times had the full story in last week’s edition.

More Aussie Numbskulls

BALI is now the temporary home of one Reni Maitua – apparently a rugby league player in Sydney – who left his struggling club (Cronulla) and a positive drug test behind when he stepped aboard a Pacific Blue flight from Brisbane to Denpasar on May 22. He’s here for a spot of surfing, according to breathless Aussie reporting of this amazing non-story. Presumably his break in the Bali sunshine is of undetermined length, its end dependent on lack of furore back home.

Meanwhile, another Aussie has made a name for herself in Thailand, by stealing a bar mat from a pub in Phuket, screaming blue murder when the owners of the said mat and the police treated the case as a crime, and telling the world – well, the Aussie part of it at least – after she was let off with a fine that she “felt like Schapelle”. Why? Did she smuggle 4.1kg of bar mats into Thailand from Melbourne? If so, would this be an offence? It sounds more like idiocy. And if she did, why did she bother to steal one there? It’s true that illegally taking possession of a bar mat while in flagrante ambrosia is a minor offence, venial if not profoundly trivial. Our guess is that the Thais sensibly decided to send her home to avoid the trouble and expense of keeping her.

A Nobel Gesture

IT’S so good to see the 2009 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival out there selling itself to the world, as with its latest newsletter, posted on its website. From it we learn that a Nobel prizewinning author (should that be prosewinning?) from Nigeria is the top draw this year.

Shame that until – oops, sorry, a teensy error – it was corrected, this alleged that someone who was a Noble prize-winner would be in attendance. Ah well, these things happen. We’re sure the world-renowned Nobel organisation won’t really mind that someone in Ubud hadn’t heard of them.

There’s still time to arrange to get along to the next UWRF literary dinner with Richard Flanagan, Australian activist-author and tree enthusiast. That’s unless you’d like to ring-bark him. Under those circumstances, you probably wouldn’t be welcome. He’s in Ubud on June 6. He’ll be in conversation on the night with Janet DeNeefe. Visit for details.

Not Coming Soon

THE Starwood member W, which officially is still planning a 2010 opening at Seminyak, with all the trimmings you expect of a pub that would rather you drank whisky than beer, may not be a starter after all. We hear a rumour that it’s off. Maybe someone should update that big billboard (photo).

The Diary appears in The Bali Times every week and online at

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