Friday, July 31, 2009



THE Bintang Supermarket in Jl Legian at Seminyak is a curious place. It is often strangely empty of that essential ingredient of a successful business – customers – yet its car park, in an area where parking is a little difficult, is often packed. Or it was until recently.
Last Sunday, generally a very good day for the car park (car parks have feelings too, you know: they like to be popular), it too was strangely devoid of custom.
Perhaps it had something to do with the new sign that has been erected saying it will cost you Rp50,000 (US$5) to park there if you’re not in the store.

A Date to Remember if We’re Really Serious

WORLD Rabies Day is on September 28. The annual event, led by the Alliance for Rabies Control and supported by many human and animal health organisations worldwide, would ordinarily be of only passing interest. But this year, given the recent outbreak of rabies in Bali which killed a number of people in the Bukit-Jimbaran area, it takes on added importance.
Local authorities made commendable efforts in the months after the disease became apparent here, culling street and bush dogs – a regrettable necessity in the circumstances – and launching a vaccination and public awareness campaign.
Rabies is 100 percent preventable. Once symptoms appear however – except for one case in Wisconsin in the USA in 2004 where a previously unvaccinated girl of 15 recovered from the clinical symptoms of rabies – it is invariable fatal.
Prevention is difficult in a place like Bali where registration – of anything – is a moveable feast and where shortage of money has a negative impact on ongoing preventive health measures.
Local communities are the best place to service these needs. Balinese society – and indeed Indonesian society as a whole – is commendably communal. Nothing much goes unnoticed and (at least in Bali) you can count on banjars (community organisations) and the Pecalang (local security) to know everything.
The key is awareness. The number of free-living dogs, unfortunately, must be kept down. There’s a role there for organisations such as BAWA, the Ubud-based animal refuge, but the fact is controlling wild canine populations is largely a matter of culling. This is best organised and executed at the local level. Money (and the interest and commitment) must be found to fund and administer human preventive health measures and domestic animal vaccination programmes.
It looks as if the 2008-09 outbreak has been controlled. Bali had been “rabies free” for 10 years before last year’s mini-epidemic. But local communities – and the provincial government – must stay on the job: otherwise, inevitably, this horrible disease will return.
Worldwide, it kills 55,000 people a year, half of them children under 15.

Hot Stuff

WHAT would life be like without chili? Or for that matter, cuisine? Which not without coincidence seems to be a theme of this week’s Diary. Well, you’ve got to eat.
The Chili Festival, a whole month of tongue-tingling and digestive disturbance, is upon us. It offers the authentic taste of Bali from the traditions of the royal family of Karangasem, whose territories once included not only much of magic East Bali but also West Lombok, which the kingdom of Karangasem invaded in the 18th century, taking Hinduism with it.
The festival, from August 1, is at the Bali Safari and Marine Park in Gianyar.

Playing the Goat

WE came across a lovely little story the other day, about the beauty of Indian goats. Apparently they are a hit with farmers in the country around Bojonegoro, East Java, not only because they are beautiful but because their meat is much prized by consumers. It’s said to be better than Indonesian goat.
One naturally places a premium of quality. If you see kambing (goat) on a menu, and your fancy turns towards such gourmet fare, it’s generally best not to think too long about its provenance but just to hope it has had the stringiness cooked out of it.
Hec’s mum was a master of that: she was a true aficionada of the venerable Ah Sou’tah School of cuisine, where you cook and cook and ... well, you get the picture.
It’s a style, by the way, that lends itself to the traditional method of preparing Australian bush turkey for the table: You cook the turkey in a large pot with a big rock. When the rock is soft, you throw away the turkey and eat the rock.
But seriously, it’s good to read that Indian influences continue to have an impact on the archipelago (there’s such a long history to that!) and that the goat farmers of East Java are making premium income from providing beautiful goats.

Veteran Takes the Long View

THERE’S a certain insouciance to which one is entitled, having reached the venerable age of 108. We should not be surprised therefore that Britain’s last surviving World War I veteran Claude Choules takes his new status with understandable sang-froid.
Choules, who has actually lived in Australia since 1926 when he was seconded from the Royal Navy to the Royal Australian Navy, now lodges at a nursing home in Perth, the West Australian capital.
Of his new status, acquired on the death of Harry Patch, 111, who died last weekend just a week after fellow veteran Henry Allingham, at 113 the world’s oldest man, Choules said: “Everything comes to those who wait and wait.”
He heard the news from his 80-year-old daughter, Anne Pow. He was married to his wife Ethel for 80 years. She died at 98.
The long twilight of the old world, encapsulated in survivors like Choules and the only other World War I veterans still alive – American Frank Buckles, 108, and Canadian John Babcock, 109, who both live in the United States – is moving inexorably towards its end.

Useful Feedback

LAST week’s front-page report on post-Jakarta bombings security measures (Tougher Checks on Traffic, Chemicals in Post-Bomb Clampdown) brought a riposte from reader James, who commented on our website feedback:
“All well and good but in my experience over the years the guards and the police tend to check tourists and expats but wave through Indonesians especially workers. Last week, after the bombs, I watched a truck loaded to the top, waved thru the check point at the Discovery Mall, whereas I was subject to a vehicle check. I've seen the same many times at Ku De Ta and elsewhere.”
Reader James has a point. There has always been a strong element of PR about security checks. They seem designed to say: Look, We’re Serious and We’re Doing Something. And on balance, it is probably safe to say that if there is mad terrorist out there with a bomb, it’s most likely not some inoffensive expat trying to do the shopping.

Fame at last!

HEC was a little bit pleased with himself last week. Nutty News Wire, an Australian based laugh-along that operates in much the same way as The Onion in the USA, has suggested its readers follow him @Scratchings on Twitter.
He is not entertaining suggestions that they did so because they’re nutty.

The Bali Times Diary appears in the print edition of the newspaper, out Fridays, and on the newspaper's website at where the current edition is posted every Monday.

Friday, July 24, 2009


AIRPORT SECURITY IMPROVED: We spotted these ancient cannons guarding the air approaches to Ngurah Rai Airport the other day.

How to Deal With Rabid Dogs: Shoot Them on Sight

WHATEVER motives drove the Jakarta bombers – and aside from an insane desire to kill themselves and other people, it is hard to fathom what these could possibly be – one fact is clear: their deadly work will have been in vain.
If they were dissatisfied with the outcome of the July 8 presidential election (one possibility), then they failed completely to understand the basic democratic principles that underpin Indonesian life. If this was the motivation, then they are also sore losers – although, come to think of it, there was actually no one they could vote for: none of the parties contesting any of the elections this year (or ever) advocated anarchy and terrorism as a way of life.
If their desire was to destabilise the economy by sparking a flight of foreign capital and overseas interest from Indonesia, they will also fail. They fail to understand the basics of economy: people will go where they can do business.
If they wished to help introduce a radically politicised, murderous and perverted version of Islam to Indonesia, they failed to understand that Indonesians, while devout Muslims, desire to be part of the modern world and are at root among the most humane of the peoples of the earth. You might think the West sucks, but that doesn’t mean you are compelled to murder people.
There will of course be damage from this latest outrage, aside from the human tragedy of deaths and injuries brought about by poisoned minds. Tourism – vital to Bali – may be adversely affected, and our island’s economy depressed, and the economies of our neighbouring islands too. More broadly, investment could be depressed, however temporarily, a sorry result (if it eventuates) at a time of global financial turmoil. There is some tough work ahead for Indonesia now in clawing back a clement foreign assessment of security risks here.
However, to use an analogy, we need to note that if you live near the forest where the wolves are, sooner or later one of them is going to come by and try to kill your chickens. That’s why farmers in such places build fences to protect their livestock and have a shoot-to-kill policy as an essential backup: it’s a lot better to be prepared than to spend your time crying wolf.
Terrorists, however, are not wolves; they are not instinctively behaving as they do because it is their place in the universe to do so. They are sick – dangerously sick – individuals who for our own collective safety we must treat as beyond mercy, whatever the shape of their argument. They are deaf to reason and bereft of humanity. They are the equivalent of a rabid dog.
Indonesia has received immediate promises of support and assistance from the US and Australia in the pursuit of the people who organised the Jakarta murders. Not just Indonesians but everyone, everywhere, will cheer when (and it must be when) they are eliminated as a further risk.
One final note: the Australian travel advisory for Indonesia – a topic of considerable comment over a lengthy period, because of its repeated advice to “reconsider” travel here, a qualification that has not been “upgraded” since the Jakarta attacks as some have mistakenly assumed – has been vindicated by events. We are in that sense back to square one.

On To Brighter Things

THE Diary’s firm policy in times of trouble is to whistle a happy tune (OK, you also make sure you have the brown cords and a change of undies handy) and get on with life. Thus we are happy to bring you the latest dispatch from our bling and bolly correspondent, Stella Kloster.
Stella was undercover – well, nearly; party wear these days is more of your barely-cover variety – at this year’s Pushmipulyu Awards, the annual fiesta of self-congratulation organised for the locally luminous by The Yak magazine.
Sadly, she reports that few of the stellar clusters present had followed orders and dressed themselves in psychedelic chic as their invitations required. Perhaps they were psyched out.

No Surprises

BALI has won the title of World’s Best Island yet again. This should surprise no one. But it is good to know that Travel + Leisure Magazine’s 2009 list returned our island to premier position as a result of its annual survey. Readers are asked to name their favourite cities, islands, hotels, resorts, airlines, cruise ships and even car rental companies. Gosh, that’s such a long list of boxes to tick that it Hertz.
Incidentally, only one Bali hotel got a gong from Travel + Leisure’s lovely readership this year: the Ayana Resort and Spa (the former Ritz Carlton at Jimbaran) which ranked 13th out of 100. Bali has consistently ranked as world’s best island in the Travel + Leisure Magazine survey. It was demoted to number two spot in 2008, for reasons that should be seriously investigated because clearly they have nothing to do with evolution.
The 2008 winner was the Galapagos, where the mysteries of genetic modification so intrigued Charles Darwin. It was the swimming and diving iguanas that did it for Chaz. How they got to thinking they were actually otters was at first beyond his comprehension.

Write On ... Read On

THIS year’s Ubud Writers’ and Readers’ Festival is getting ever closer. It’s on from October 7-11. So it is good to hear – though we did so via the excellent Indonesian news agency Antara – that it will be attended by several of Indonesia’s most celebrated authors, including the award-winning short story writer and essayist Seno Gumira Ajidarma.
According to Wayan Juniartha, the festival’s Indonesian programme coordinator, Ajidarma will help workshop deliberations on the nature of violence and compassion. Other authors down to put in an appearance this year are JM Coetzee, Kate Grenville and Hari Kunzu.
The festival website – it’s at – has a news page. When we checked this week there was none. Still, as they say, sometimes no news is good news.

My Part in the Moon Landing, By Hec

THE past week has been full of people remembering what they were doing when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface on July 21, 1969, and said his famous words.
Hec recalls his own moment. As a then young scribbler, his job was to sit riveted in front of the little black-and-white TV set in the newsroom at the Press Association news agency in London and record – in his very best Pitman’s, yet another skill sadly given the finger in the digital age – the first words man uttered on the moon.
Being an anarchist at heart – Hec has had a lifelong fight with this condition – he was bitterly disappointed that Armstrong did not stumble on the lunar lander’s silly little stepladder and say something posterity would really remember.
THE DIARY is in the print edition of The Bali Times each week, out Fridays, and on the newspaper's website at where the current edition is posted each Monday.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


A NEW LOCAL HERO: The Rp2,000 note introduced by Bank Indonesia. See the Diary item below.

So, Now Can We Try To Get It Together?

THE latest late-save by the Bali Tourism Development Corporation (with national government help) of the huge Dubai-funded development of a tourism enclave in southern Lombok is, predictably, being used to encourage people (again) to believe the project actually will go ahead.
We hope it does. But what has been agreed to (again) is merely a further six-month extension of the joint venture, the latest in a string of such extensions made necessary by the inclement fact that the facts keep getting in the way of the preferred fiction.
That fiction is that everything has been bolted together and oiled and is ready to spring into action. It’s a familiar refrain in Indonesia, where the winner’s flag is often waved before the race has even begun. But to be fair it’s far from unique to Indonesia. Frenzied promotion of ground-breaking projects gets way ahead of the game in many places.
There is, of course, no substitute for actually doing the hard yards. For one thing it helps to manage complex relationships with business partners who, oddly perhaps, like to be sure they will make money and do so as easily as possible. Preferably the work should be done before holding any Roman-style Triumphs to celebrate your success.
Secure title to land is a prerequisite, for without it no sensible investor would shift a cent. It is especially important to clear these thickets in Indonesia, where land title has not been codified, where multiple claimants (often legitimate in the communal society that is a feature of Indonesian cultures) can appear years after “clear title” has been granted, and where local opinions about the monetary and social value of land – and its continued “ownership” after sale – make it a very tangled jungle indeed.
The BDTC is seeking to build new business for itself by capitalising on its record as developer of the Nusa Dua complex and is the Indonesian portion of the joint venture with Emaar of Dubai. It clearly needs to work on that. It could usefully do so in this instance by recognising that Emaar (and Dubai) are in a bit of economic strife at present and aren’t in the mood to waste time or money.
Lombok deserves its place in the tourism-development sunshine. It certainly doesn’t need another Bali-inspired roadblock in its way.

Food Police in Action

THERE was an interesting front page colour photo and article in the Indonesian language newspaper Radar Bali last Saturday. It was all about a raid by the food police on the Bali Deli where – horrors! – some foreign condiments were suspected of nestling on the shelves without benefit of a nice little sticker saying that the Indonesian authorities had worked out what they were.
It seems the offending articles were ones for which there is no recognised Indonesian distributor. According to Radar Bali, a similar search-and-seize operation was performed at Carrefour, that French-owned hypermarket a little further down Sunset Road.
The newspaper reported that the foreign country stock of interest to the food police came from Italy, China and London. We always thought Bonking Boris Johnson, now Lord Mayor of London but formerly captain of the British parliamentary nookie team, had special plans for his city.
Perhaps he declared it a country while poor Gordon Brown’s attention was focused on the political wreckage at Westminster.

On a New Note

BANK Indonesia has introduced a Rp2,000 note to replace the dog-eared Rp1,000 as the lowest denomination paper money in circulation. It features a new local hero – Pangeran Antasari, Sultan of Banjarmasin in the 1800s – on one side of the note and Dayak dancers on the back. It was launched last week, appropriately in Banjarmasin. See the images here. It’s a sort of blue colour, for ease of confusion with the Rp5,000 note, in the way that the similar red colours of the Rp10,000 and Rp100,000 were apparently designed to assist money-changing scams.
But as the central bank notes, not even parking costs only Rp1,000 a pop nowadays, so the utility of the old Rp1,000 note – worth around 10 cents US – is ever more marginal. It wants to repopularise coins for smaller denominations, it says, though in a country where hot-weather clothing limits pocket space that’s a tough call.
It would make more sense, ultimately, to knock off some zeroes and have a “new rupiah” that doesn’t make you a millionaire every time you draw cash out of an ATM, but that solution seems to be some way off.
They could, though, provide a Rp500,000 or even Rp1 million note. They could perhaps choose the images for these from Indonesia’s rich-list. It would be one way Jusuf Kalla could get his face right around the country.
And it would save a lot of wallets from a shortened lifespan due to over-stuffing.

Don’t Get In a Paddy

WISH we could have been there! We hear a large four-wheel-drive with Outrigger Panorama logos on its sides and a foreigner in the driving seat ended up in a paddy last Saturday morning (bet the driver did too!) on the formerly quiet country back road from Seminyak to Canggu.
Since this snaking country lane was turned into a paved road over the past couple of years, it has increasingly been used as a shortcut to Canggu by people driving to and from Seminyak and other places to the south. Road rage is becoming commonplace during increasing gridlock.
The road is not wide enough to accommodate side-by-side two of the plush and plainly ridiculous super-SUVs of the variety favoured by plutocratic Javanese and upwardly mobile foreigners with access to company funds to make the usurious lease payments. As a result there are frequent spills into the “nice ricefield views” that people pay big bucks to get a look at from their villas.
Once rural and pastoral, and quintessentially Balinese, Canggu is rapidly becoming yet another expat enclave. It is now home to an international school, a dreams-of-empire country club, and a deli. There are plans – by the Spanish football club Real Madrid – to open a soccer academy in the area, though these are yet to be visually realised.
But with new houses and villa complexes sprouting up on an almost weekly basis – and Tantric-tranquil Desa Seni’s village resort countryside vistas now being eclipsed by concrete walls on all sides – it seems the paddies most likely to be seen are the noisy ones resulting from tantrums and not those dedicated to the peaceful production of Bali’s staple food.

Servis Compris

BALI may be buying itself a lot of trouble attracting increasing numbers of French tourists – new figures show they have discovered us in droves – if a study of the global tourism industry is to be believed. Apparently they are the worst travellers of all: penny-pinching, rude and terrible at foreign languages.
The study by the global hotel industry in 27 countries, conducted last month and part of an annual series, says the Japanese are the best tourists. Oddly, if penny-pinching, rudeness and lack of foreign language skills are benchmarks, it ranks Australians sixth out of 27.
In the study, 40,000 hotels worldwide were asked to rank tourists on nine criteria, from their politeness to their willingness to tip. The Japanese, assessed as clean, polite, quiet and uncomplaining, came top for the third year running.
The French, whether travelling on holiday or for business, were the least open to new languages, ranked last for generosity and readiness to tip, and next-to-last for their overall attitude and politeness. They made up for it with elegance, discretion and cleanliness.

Camel Lights Out

THERE’S a line in an old Australian TV advertisement – for something or other; can’t remember what – that says “Those Aussies are weird.” That’s not a statement that would be at all controversial anywhere else in the world, or for that matter among many Aussies, even if it were advanced as a serious proposition rather than just as a joke.
After all, they keep demonstrating weirdness and actually seem to like being odd. Thus we were not surprised to read during the week that the organisers of Camel Cup in Alice Springs, held last weekend, and unsurprisingly won by a camel, spent a little time on the hunt for their most prized dromedary, whose name is Charlie and who was apparently stolen.
It’s not clear why anyone would want a dromedary. They spit for one thing, a criminal offence in The Diary’s view. But Charlie is a special case. He’s a life-sized steel camel and is the mascot of the desert charity races, sponsored by the Lions service club.
Weirdly, he disappeared first on the Friday night before the races, returned for mascot duties, and then did a runner again. He was later found, it seems, after being spotted in several Alice Springs nightclubs. “I think he's probably been led astray by a few people through a few different nightclubs in town and parties and everything else,” a spokesman for the camel race organisers told The Diary. “He's probably feeling very sorry for himself.”
This year the Camel Cup drew a crowd of more than 5,000 to the central Australian town celebrated at one remove by the British writer Nevil Shute in his post-war novel A Town Like Alice.

Freudian Slip

FROM a Paradise Property website blurb about a place at Canggu on the market for $900,000:
“A pretentious Roman-style property located in the quiet neighbourhood of Kuwum surrounded by lush vegetation and naturally limited by a romantic river. The property still leaves plenty of opportunities for personalisation.”
Says it all, really.

SCRATCHINGS FROM THE CAGE FLOOR, Hector's Bali Times Diary, appears in the print edition of the newspaper, out every Friday, and online at where the current edition is posted every Monday.

Friday, July 10, 2009


IT’S A SET-UP: Neighbours actress Carol Bonner with props and a pal in a November 2008 episode of the long-running Australian TV soap opera. She’s on the right. The actress was in Ubud last weekend where, as well as lunching at Janet DeNeefe's well-publicised eatery Indus, she dropped in the homeless pussies and puppies at BAWA. See our Diary item below for further essential information.

Ah, Candi, You’re Food
for the Soul
AS the old saying puts it, little fleas have littler fleas upon their backs to bite ‘em, and so ad infinitum. In the same way, expat sybarites who have fled their increasingly onerous homelands to seek refuge in Bali need a little local R&R sometimes, especially if they are domiciled in crowded South Bali and consequently need to deal with the usual determinants of life in urban Indonesia. This is surely the reason lovely places like East Bali’s Candi Dasa exist, to provide a bolt-hole for the jaded of whatever provenance.
It was for these reasons that Hec and Mrs Hec sought out the peace and quiet of their favourite camping spot at Candi Dasa (Pondok Bambu) and its fine sea breezes last weekend. That and the Haloumi (with the rocket and blue cheese salad as a starter) at Vincent’s restaurant; and the nice little secondhand bookshop in town that is always worth a browsing visit. Invariably one emerges from the latter with “a find.”
This trip, a new chum emerged in the eating line: Le Quarante Huit at the new Zen Rezort, next to the lagoon. The “z” is intentional. The owners are French – well you’d sort of guess that from the fact that the restaurant is named as it is and is not just “48” (or even Empat Puluh Delapan) – and fortunately so is the cuisine, avec les sensations de l‘Asie.
The night Hec and Mrs Hec dined there, there was an unfortunate outbreak of Aussies of the gauche variety, but that can never be helped. Hec and the Missus just moved tables to avoid the embarrassment. The food was divine. Merci beaucoup, Pierre et Alex, et bon chance.
One disturbing sign: A significant number of foreign-owned villas in Candi Dasa are for sale. Is the Euro recession really beginning to bite?

A Monograph on Social Collapse
AS one ages, one’s personal life experience tends to resurface as an issue of interest, if not of conscience. Was I really that bad, you ask yourself? Of course, if you’re a kindly soul, you answer “No.”
Thus, a recent reading of the novel Past Imperfect, a 2008 effort by Julian Fellowes, producer, screenwriter (he got an Oscar for Gosford Park), scribbler and actor – he was the incorrigible Lord Kilwillie in the British TV series Monarch of the Glen – was not only entertaining but also disturbingly pointed.
Fellowes and your diarist are contemporaries. The difference between them lies chiefly in the fact that your diarist saw the writing clearly on the wall in 1969 and left the old country for good – barring the odd visit, chiefly for family reasons – in search of a better environment and a surer moral compass than would be provided by the wreckage of empire (all that redundant statuary!) and the triumph of the uncouth.
Reading the book is cathartic. Even if the old order had to go along with the aristocracy with the demise of its reason for being – and surely no one could argue with that – it’s a shame that what replaced it is apparently being run on the money of the few doled out to the loud, greedy, ignorant, slothful and increasingly criminal.

Flying High Again
THE news last week that the European Union will lift its two-year ban on Indonesian carriers flying within the EU is a useful fillip. Presumably it will chiefly benefit Garuda, the national carrier, which has the fleet (and, importantly, the direct access to government money) to make staging such a return feasible.
Garuda and three other airlines – Mandala, Airfast and Premi Air – got the green light. Garuda says it will definitely recommence Jakarta-Amsterdam services, probably next year.
The big domestic carrier Lion Air wasn’t given the nod, though it publicly welcomed the news. It has some regional routes and is planning to commence services to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. But perhaps if it demonstrated commitment to rulekeeping it might have more luck. It could, for example, ground its MD-90 fleet as the government has ordered it to, instead of just using the planes on non-Jakarta routes so no one important sees them.
The widely unpublicised incident involving a Lion MD-90 at Mataram in Lombok recentlyhighlights the airline’s cavalier attitude to regulation.
Think Ahead on Visas, Aussies Say
THE Australian embassy in Jakarta has suggested Indonesians planning to travel to Australia for holidays over the next few months should lodge their visa applications as soon as possible to avert delays.
The embassy processes more than 62,000 visitor visas a year for Indonesians planning a holiday or short stay in Australia. During the school holidays and Idul Fitri (Eid-al-Fitr) particularly there is a strong rise in the number of visa applications received by the embassy, which incidentally approves one of the largest amounts of tourist visas of any Australian embassy in the world.
In a statement recently, Ambassador Bill Farmer said that while the embassy tries to finalise visa applications in less than five days, during the holiday season this timeframe can stretch. The Jakarta embassy is also issuing more long-duration multiple-entry visas these days, allowing holders to travel as often as they like for a longer period.
From July 1, by the way, the charge for a visitor (tourist) visa rose to Rp880,000 (it was Rp790,000). Visas are also issued by the Australian Visa Application Centre in Bali, which operates separately from the Consulate-General here.

Blackberry Pie
LAST week’s Once column by William Furney – who as everyone knows doubles as Editor of this august journal – canvassed the idiocies of the Blackberry age. It got an instant response. Well, you’d expect that, at least.
It came from James Watling (who signs himself off thus: Hello Bali The Island Key Powered by Matrix BlackBerryR) and is remarkable for having been written – on his Blackberry, natch – while supposedly at a dinner.
James disagrees with William. On Blackberries and other associated gizmo-gear. He says he would find it hard to live in Bali without his, since he can email and browse and even post to Twitter upon the little object, and that this is good because Indonesia’s cyberworld infrastructure is less than perfect.
Among much else, he tells us (well, William) that in “a fit of peak boredom during this dinner function” – was this boredom at its height, we wonder, or was he just piqued? – he found himself scanning the latest edition of The Bali Times (it’s a sterling read he says; we agree) and chanced upon the “Mobile Moan” article, to which, he further advises, “I must put finger-to-button in response.”
So he did. As one apparently does these days. It’s obviously part of the wholesale western collapse in taste and good manners. Or perhaps we should put it down to short-sightedness, another post-modern pandemic. He said his soufflĂ© was going cold while he texted.

It’s Just a Snip
IF you’ve got a lazy US$5,000 to splash out, we know just the place. There’s a refurbished Jivana villa at the Intercon, at Jimbaran, where for just that little sum you can enjoy a night of luxury surrounded by saltwater aquariums in your living room and lots of water bordering the floor. The latter could be a significant risk to frocks and high-heels, ladies (and one or two gents these days, no doubt).
Intercon PR director Dewi Anggraini and Club InterContinental director Ryan South, an Australian, hosted a tour of the villa, refurbished to the desires of the property’s Jakarta-based owner, at which cameras (and doubtless Blackberries or whatever) flashed and guests, the usual who’s who in the zoo list, were required to float candles with their names on an attached leaf, and make a wish while doing so.
How very New Age. We’re sure many of the wishes were for the clocks to go back to pre-GFC days.
Bow-Wow for BAWA
THE good folk at BAWA who look after stray dogs and cats from their Ubud base had a treat last weekend.
Neighbours actress Carol Bonner was in town and did a photo-shoot there.
We thought it might be nice to get a photo from this happy event and asked Liz Henzell, who writes our Instinct column and is the Big BAWA, if she would ask for one on our behalf.
Sadly, it seems, such pictorial treats are only for the chosen few. So we found a photo of the said actress
anyway, lest any reader unaccountably not know the lady from a bar of soap.

Hector's Diary appears in the print edition of The Bali Times every week (out Fridays) and on the newspaper's website at every Monday.

Sunday, July 05, 2009


MARKETING OPPORTUNITY: Matahari at Kuta has this great idea – customers can relax at the doctor’s. The fish in the tank are doctor fish. The toes being nibbled belong to people who apparently like to have their toes nibbled by strangers, or at least, by strange fish. But here’s an idea: Why not set up a chip stall close by? Then they could have fish ’n chips.

Watch Out for the Flu Bomb, Aussies Told

IT’S good to see the Aussies are right up to the mark with their travel warnings. And we find it especially pleasing – in an amused way: they’re all now supposed to run around shouting “Don’t Panic! Don’t Panic!” about swine flu – to see that at long last the threat of annihilation at the hands of bomb-crazed terrorists has taken second place.
The latest warning, posted on the Australian Foreign Affairs Department website on Monday and in the in-boxes of all the online registered worrywarts that same day, alerts travelling Aussies to the fact that H1N1 flu is abroad. Well, it’s actually at home – for Aussies – in rather larger quantity than in many places, Indonesia included, but never mind.
People who now read the advisories and despite this still decide to travel are advised that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed cases of H1N1 Influenza 09 in a number of countries throughout the world, including Indonesia, and are told: “For further information and advice to Australians, including on possible quarantine measures overseas, see our travel bulletin on H1N1 Influenza 09.”
Because Aussies hold the lame belief that if they get into strife overseas it’s the government’s job to rescue them, it also suggests that intending travellers first obtain comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, confirm that their insurance covers them for the whole time they will be outside the Protected Biosphere and check what circumstances and activities are not included in their policy.
It notes that the Australian government will not pay for a traveller’s medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs (and quite right too) and includes this really sensible advice: “Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel.”
The bit about possible quarantine measures is apt. Last week the bunch of dysfunctional funsters who apparently run health matters here decided they would make all arriving international travellers have blood tests on arrival. By Sunday someone sentient had managed to work out that this was (1) unworkable and (2) ridiculous. Plus it would kill Bali’s tourist industry overnight. That plan down the drain, Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari came up with another lulu: giving new arrivals a face mask and telling them to wear them for three days.
Some cogitative reflection is called for on swine flu. On all the evidence it is a mild disease, exotic only for its origins and unlikely to be fatal unless in someone with unrelated health problems. Naturally its spread should be limited as far as possible by preventive health measures. Electing to wear a mask is one thing. Being told to by a pack of panic merchants is quite another.
The air of officially (and we suspect politically) inspired panic here over foreigners bringing in the disease is a bit rich, anyway, given that Indonesia is the world capital of H5N1 avian influenza, a far greater risk to human life.

You’re So Behind the Times, Jack

IT was good to see, in this week’s breathless Bali Update – well, editor Jack Daniels had been at the triathlon over the weekend (see below) – that the row over the future of the Sari Club site has finally rung a bell on Planet JD.
It was reported in The Australian, he says. So it was. But Jack, it was in The Bali Times two weeks running before that. Please tell us you’re not really missing out on the best news you’ll get all week.
As so often in Bali, where the actuality of any given issue is difficult to determine, due to the principals’ preference for obfuscation or hanging up on inquirers, the Sari situation is up in the air. We’ll get to the bottom of it one day. Bali Update might too, especially if it’s back on the ball instead of doodling on the sidelines.
For the record, Kadek Wiranatha denies he is building a restaurant, bar and club on the site, in Jl. Legian opposite the bomb memorial.
We expect he has other things on his mind at the moment, seeing that his moribund enterprise Air Paradise has lost its operating licence, making any phoenix attempts even more unlikely.

America’s Big Day

IT’S an annual event, of course, so it shouldn’t surprise us – but it’s suddenly the Fourth of July again, the day when Uncle Sam celebrates from sea to shining sea. This is his 233rd birthday.
In an age when it is fashionable to decry history and spit on achievement, this is a good time to make the point that the world’s oldest continuous democracy has a proud record of global citizenship.
Bali will very soon be welcoming a new US Consular Agent, we hear, to replace incumbent Joshua Finch.

Long Weekend at Bernie’s

CHEERS could be heard all round the world this week, when beastly Bernie Madoff, the man who really put the Big P in the Ponzi, was sentenced to 150 years in jail for his massive, globe-shattering Wall Street fraud.
He won’t be able to serve all his term of course. That’s one of the curiosities of the American justice system – it keeps sentencing people to prison for longer than nature will allow.
But we afford a little smile at the thought that Bernie, who lived so high off the hog for so long on money stolen from other people, started his thoroughly deserved incarceration with possibly the longest and most boring weekend of his life.

It Was a Riot

TRIATHLONS are trying; there’s no doubt about that. The 326 athletes from 26 countries who swam, cycled and ran in Bali last Sunday, in the third MRA Bali International Triathlon, would attest to that.
First-place honours again went to professional triathlete Luke McKenzie, who covered the 1,500m swim, 750m beach run, 40km bike ride and 10km run in 2hr, 10min, 15sec. Since he spends his professional life taking part in triathlons and winning them, it was probably a doddle. The top Indonesian time was produced by Kadri Regar: he came in eighth at 2hr, 29min, 31sec.
Hector had a minor part in the big race. He and Mrs Hec were on the TBA2 (Trans Bukit Arterial/To Be Arranged) behind a police car which appeared to be sounding its lovely little siren to help a cycle-stage straggler make it up the hill to Ungasan.

Friendly Aussie Eyes on Indonesia

AMONG the several Australian think-tanks, the Lowy Institute stands tall as an enterprise that precisely and professional dissects issues of importance to Australia and the region.
It has been led for six years by the energetic senior seeker after truth, Alan Gyngell, whose analytical skills are second to none. It is no surprise then he has left to head the Office of National Assessments (ONA) in Canberra – lovely city: it had a maximum temperature of 4C the other day, and thick fog – where he can apply his skills again in government service.
Equally of interest is that he has been replaced at Lowy as executive director by Dr Michael Wesley, who has been professor of international relations at Griffith University in Queensland and director of the equally up-front Griffith Asia Institute. His pedigree includes the ONA – which reports directly to the prime minister, incidentally – so he and ONA’s new director-general should find lots to talk about. Both Lowy and the Griffith Asia Institute give great weight to Indonesia’s crucial role in regional affairs.
The Lowy Institute was established and seed-funded by Frank Lowy – boss of the giant Westfield property and shopping centre group and as a European migrant a huge fan of football (the one with the round ball) – as a service to his adopted nation.
Its philanthropic partners today include The Myer Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – and the MacArthur Foundation, the organisation named for the American general who led the allied effort against the Japanese in the south-west Pacific in World War II.

Lunch? You Want Lunch?

IF the idea of lunch on a quiet Saturday appeals, you can forget about trying to find a bite on Jl. Laksmana (the otherwise legendary Jl. Oberoi) at Seminyak. Pickings are few since most places only seem to open for dinner.
One place that does do lunch is Chandi. Thus it attracted recent attempted custom because of this and its rather lovely menu, but was last Saturday displaying a sign reading “due to renovations we are not open for lunch.” Pity they didn’t think to place the same notice on their website. Our diners could have skipped the no hors d’ouevres and gone straight to Breeze at the Samaya...

Not So Good, That’s the Rumah

THE Ubud premiere of A House in Bali – The Opera, last Saturday, was a mixed bag, according to The Diary’s part-time opera buff, who attended. The setting was beautiful. The Balinese part was graceful and engaging, with wonderful dancers, especially the lead Balinese boy.
The “western” part was a very literal interpretation of the book, including an extraordinarily abrupt ending.
Our spy reports that the lead role of Colin McPhee was played in perspiration. Perhaps this was because it was hot, or perhaps the poor actor found it difficult to compete against the horribly drunk and voluble woman at the back and the fact that 99 percent of the audience seemed to be more interested in taking flash photos than watching the performance.

Born to Bellow

VETERAN American rocker Bruce Springsteen caused Britain's Glastonbury music festival to fork out more than Rp60 million as a fine for playing past curfew time at the annual bash in south-western England. But the organisers are happy: The Boss, whose iconic anthem Born to Run is still running, wowed the crowd; as did Neil Young.
Apparently the untimely demise of the freaky Michael Jackson might otherwise have lowered the tempo somewhat. Springsteen's 2hr, 40min set went nine minutes past the 12:30am curfew the noise police set for the giant music festival, a fixture since 1970.
The Diary appears in the the print edition of The Bali Times out every Friday and at where editions are posted every Monday.