Friday, October 30, 2009


Oh What a Lovely Week

A WEEK spent supporting the burgeoning VFR (visiting friends and relatives) tourism sector is never wasted, particularly if it gets you away from your usual beat to lovely places like Candi Dasa and Ubud. Such was The Diary’s lucky lot last week: three days beside the sea at Candi Dasa – those cool ozone-loaded breezes are a tonic – and a planned three days at Universe Central, aka Ubud. Those three days turned into two, because of something that arose at home; but never mind: that was the plan and it was a good one.
The Diary, when in Candi, chooses to stay at the delightful Pondok Bambu. It has wifi, as Mrs Diary is apt to ruefully observe. It also has a view of Nusa Penida and of Lombok – in the latter case, if you crane your neck over the sea wall and Indonesia’s proclivity for dense haze doesn’t blank it out (it did last week) – and is attractively central to the little town’s restaurant row.
The town was not overloaded with visitors. It is the low season, after all, that doldrums period between the end of the European vacation season and the influx of Christmas-New Year revellers. But that made it easy to get a table for dinner where and when one wanted, a bonus at any time of the year. A visit to Vincent’s, where much that was on the menu was actually available, was scheduled, plus another to a little place along the road where, at the finest Formica table and in the somnolent presence of the resident cat, one can dine for very little indeed.

Cheap at Half the Price

OUR friends borrowed The Diary’s ancient conveyance – brave souls – one day in Candi and did a quick tour into Amlapura, the neighbouring (and lovely) little “county seat” of Karangasem. Well, it wasn’t quite as quick as they had planned. They were slightly delayed by a nice chat with a friendly policeman. They had stopped with the front wheels just over the white line – this is the only traffic rule ever enforced in Bali and Lombok, and perhaps in the rest of Indonesia too – and paid the price for their misdeed.
A policeman appeared from nowhere, scenting prey. There was a bonus, however. It seems the going rate for Bules who breach the wheels over the white rule in Amlapura (and fail to produce an international driver’s permit) is only Rp 100,000 (around $US10). They say the cost of living is always cheaper in the country. At least, that’s the sum our friends were deprived of, before the friendly polisi got out in the middle of the road with his whistle and his air of invincibility and stopped all the other traffic so they could drive away.

A Not Unpleasant Drive

RELOCATING from Candi Dasa to Ubud was less of a pain than it could have been. Journey time 1hr 30min, distance travelled 49km. “Trip speed” around 30km/h. The road from Candi to Ubud, via Semarapura and Gianyar, is not too bad. It even has painted white lines on a lot of it, and fewer potholes than you might ever imagine possible. Give or take a “killer yellow” truck or two, and scattered representatives of their companions in crime, “rampant reds”, “belching blues” and “gremlin greens,” it was a not unpleasant drive.
It does give you an idea, though, of how rapidly and comprehensively southern Bali is becoming one large built-up area. There are some rice fields to be seen – between Candi and Semarapura and once you’re well into the outer Ubud zone of influence, otherwise marked by its plethora of art galleries. But for the most part the drive is through a succession of contiguous communities. The architecture is always a delight – well, nearly all of it – and of course there are always the visible building standards to chat about as you meander along.

Julia-Free Zone

THE Diary approached Ubud with caution (this is a general rule when entering the territory of the Chosen), emphasised on this trip by the actuarial risk of a Julia sighting. One does not wish to be impeded by Hollywood faddists out for autographs, after all. Thankfully, in two days (and several repetitive circuits of the Hanoman-Monkey Forest-Raya Ubud shopping streets, grr), not a single such sighting was recorded. We did, though, receive reports that Ms Roberts had other fish to fry at that time, apparently after first learning to catch them, in connection with her starring role in that movie thing about that book thing.
One night, the VFR party dined at The Three Monkeys, that pleasant little bistro-cum-patisserie in Jl Monkey Forest, and experienced something that led to discussion about the necessity of changing the establishment’s name to something more appropriate. Three Monkeys and a Rat was the final choice.
Fortunately, it was a singular experience in more than just the metaphorical sense. Just one little rattus rattus, very black and swift, which scampered from the adjacent rice field to the kitchen and – we think – took up residence behind the refrigerator. The café cat took little interest. The kitchen door (unfortunately just behind our table) was later shut with a slam and we heard some clattering: but they may only have been tossing the salad, of course.
The door opened later and rattus rattus decamped, to the amusement of a couple of gentlemen at an adjacent table – possibly they were on leave passes from the local branch of the Four Seasons chain and were spending some of their very welcome pink dollars – who raised a decorously twinned set of eyebrows in our direction.
The Diary had remained silent about the rodent exodus until after it was over, because one of our companions, a lovely lady who has travelled widely but clearly in protected environments, had seen the animal on its inward course and didn’t like it. Since its outward course took it directly under our table and beneath our feet, it seemed that discretion was the better part of clamour.
The spinach pesto lasagne was delicious, by the way. There was no ratatouille on the menu.

Be Good Sports

UBUD is awash with moneyed expatriates and others who insist on helping the locals retain their culture. They actually need no help in that direction, of course, Balinese culture being among the most resilient likely to be experienced anywhere by do-gooders and others in search of a mission.
So here’s an idea. The soccer field in the middle of town is in a dreadful state. Discretionary funds to repair and maintain it – in a state in which it would be feasible to play a game with genuine on-field skill in addition to enthusiasm – are not generally available in places such as Ubud, where most people live for a year on what many of their putative benefactors might spend on a good dinner.
Giving the kids somewhere to develop their sporting skills and a place to foregather for youthful exuberance would not take a lot of time, effort – or money. Talking to the local authorities about just such a plan would be a worthwhile project.

Rock On

AYANA’S Rock Bar – that svelte little cliff-face spot where they play live music most nights and where rappelling skills are de rigueur for those who wish to be noticed – hosted the break-up party for the Balinale last Sunday evening. As soirees go, it went, and very pleasantly.
Nearby Dava, Ayana’s signature restaurant, is staging an Italian wine experience on November 7, by the way: wines by Marchesi Antinori, attendance by fat wallets (the night will cost you Rp 1 million a head).
Chef de Cuisine William Gumport – already revealed by The Diary as a tall white hat to be reckoned with – has created a five-course menu to match the wines selected for the occasion. Antinori began making wine in 1385. The firm’s Jacopo Pandolfini will be in attendance on the night to introduce the rather later vintages now on offer. Contact the Ayana for bookings.

Prison is Hell

KATHRYN Bonella, the Australian writer who brought you Schapelle Corby in book form, has written an exposé of Kerobokan Jail, the lady’s long-term leasehold property in Bali. From it we are reminded that conditions in Indonesian jails – well, Kerobokan, anyway – are somewhat less than ideal.
The Diary does not subscribe to the theory that one should be (a) overly concerned if lawbreakers are forced to live without some of the benefits of freedom or of the modern (effete, western) life; or (b) feel much disposed to raise a hue and cry about it. We prefer the consular approach: if foreign prisoners are dealt with in accordance with Indonesian law and exist in confinement in no worse a condition than local prisoners, then that meets the requirements of the duty of care.
But others take a different view, obviously. Bonella’s book will be widely read and rightly so. She told The Diary this week: “After writing the book with Schapelle Corby, I was intrigued by Kerobokan Prison, the drugs, sex and gambling and how people coped with living in such a crazy and dangerous place.”

Teeing Off

GOLFERS will tee off in a great cause from 1pm tomorrow – when the annual Rotary Club of Nusa Dua’s charity match for its cleft lip surgery programme gets under way at the Bali Golf & Country Club.
Players, who pay US$125 (Rp1.25 million) entry for the afternoon contest, will vie for a range of prizes. The event finishes with an awards dinner at the Country Club.

SCRATCHINGS appears every Friday, as The Bali Times Diary, in The Bali Times, Bali's only English-language newspaper. The newspaper's website is at

Saturday, October 24, 2009


MY HAT, What a Picture!: Michael White in his Made Wijaya Outfit.

TOP: MANY HATS: AirAsia Chief Tony Fernandes is noted as being in tune with the market.

How to be a Pain in the Udeng

OUR old friend Michael Made White Wijaya (MW2 for short) got himself in a bit of a stew at the weekend. He didn’t like our report on the ceremonies to mark the seventh anniversary of the terrorist outrages of 2002. He didn’t like the Balinale. He didn’t like the Julia Roberts film crew, or apparently the film the pretty woman and others are visiting upon us. And naturally, being MW2, he told us so – in the style (we use the term advisedly) to which he has become accustomed and to which most of his remaining readers surely must have become inured.
We were not surprised. But then we were far from disappointed. It’s good to see that the self-proclaimed Leading Conscience of Bali reads The Bali Times. It is, after all, the only newspaper here that publishes real Bali news, in English, every week. We understand, too, that English or a facsimile of it is one of the languages in which White Wijaya allegedly conducts his life, in his own fashion. That fashion seems to be to prove that he is indeed a stranger in paradise; but that’s his bag.
And he’s entitled to his view, of course. It’s just that when you are constantly informed that there is only one view, and that that one is his own view, it becomes a little tedious. We do understand, though. When you’ve lived here since 1973 (when you colourfully “jumped ship” and swam ashore) and have been a legend in your own udeng ever since, it must be difficult to keep up with the times.
Doubtless when he got here he was a novelty; instantly luminous, or at least phosphorescent. Some would suggest he still is, though perhaps not in the way he would like to think. In the intervening 36 years he has been joined on our island by an increasing number of “local experts” (let it be said that many of them can be trying too) and now has to compete for air time.
This must be galling. But it is not a problem that will be solved by promoting oneself as in some way Balinese; by publishing self-promotional photos in a range of situations that demonstrate that good taste and yourself are apt to be mutually exclusive; by affecting a presence on the camp edge of the party scene; or by being rude about – and to – people who cross your path and whose views, unaccountably no doubt, are not by this involuntary act of consanguinity instantly adjusted to your own.
MW2 has many critics. There is no doubt that, along with others of lengthy establishment in the expatriate quarter, he affects an air not far removed from the foolish predilection of Sun Kings and others to presume L’Etat c’est Moi. Such people add colour to one’s daily life, as long as one is not taken in by them. Each to his own is a good view: Provided, of course, those who so assiduously promote themselves do so with some connection to actualité.

It’s All Go

GALAXIES may be about to collide up Ubud way, we hear, home of the Stellar Cluster. And we don’t just mean that MW2 (see his other list of pet hates, above) doesn’t like the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival either. Janet DeNeefe, who apparently eats, prays and loves in the area, posted this little warning note to Hollywood star Julia Roberts on her Facebook the other day: move ova Julia.....eatin' prayin' and lervin' is my department in ubud... (It’s so cheering to see literary activists scribbling in today’s ungrammatical and misspelled txt style.)
Never mind, Julia. Have a happy birthday on the 28th. Bali’s a great place to celebrate good times.

Soft in the Head

IS there a traffic law (hah!) that permits temple-bound folk to ride their motorcycles in their ceremonial udeng (headdress) instead of helmets? If there is, it should be scrapped. And the police could try enforcing the helmet rule generally, too, instead of just using it an unofficial income stream. As we report in this edition, nine people died on Bali’s roads over last week’s three-day Galungan festival, one of them a 15-year-old. What a tragic waste.
They weren’t all wearing udeng rather than helmets, of course. But Balinese attitudes to road safety – along with the similarly cavalier approaches to road behaviour everywhere else in Indonesia – need correction. The informal udeng rule for temple travel is just one example of collective stupidity. A fellow we know tells us he asked his houseman the other day why Balinese don’t put on their udeng on arrival at the temple or wherever. He got the usual answer: it’s too much trouble.
It seems to be in the bulky list of things in the too-hard basket at the Malaise Department, which plainly has overall control of public policy in Bali. (It extends to dealing properly with rabies, not without coincidence.)
But it only takes a few seconds to wrap an udeng around your head: just as it takes only a few seconds to become another road statistic.

A Good Result

IT’S good to see a friend win a well-deserved accolade. AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes has just received the 2009 Frost & Sullivan Excellence in Leadership Award.
The award was presented for exemplary leadership and presented at the recent GIL 2009: Asia Pacific, A Growth, Innovation and Leadership Congress in Kuala Lumpur. Frost & Sullivan, a US-based consulting firm, makes the award annually.
AirAsia, which chose Bali as one of eight regional hubs in South-East Asia, flies 80 Airbus A320 aircraft on 113 routes to nearly 60 destinations in Asia and has a staff of 6,500. Its Indonesian arm, AirAsia Indonesia, flies from Bali to Perth.
Fernandes also heads the rapidly expanding Tune Group, which includes Tune Hotels, a no-frills chain soon to open in Bali.

Phoenix Rising

WE like to keep an eye on the activities of Balisiders, those whose business is so often elsewhere and for whom, it can seem, Bali is a sort of weekend retreat; in the manner of a house in the country. And an inspiration: as batik is to John Hardy’s Kawung Collection jewellery, for example.
So we were interested to get a note via Facebook (if Lenin were still around, he would surely number it among his useful tools) advising that on Saturday last John Hardy’s head designer and creative director, Guy Bedarida, would be in Scottsdale, Arizona (it’s basically “Greater Phoenix”) for a special event. He was the star of a presentation at the Neiman Marcus store there “to present unique pieces of John Hardy jewellery” and his inspirations of the 2009 Fall Collection.
Don’t know if John H got to the gig. We didn’t.

Woof, Woof!

THIS year’s Bali Night cocktails do at the Rialto in Melbourne, Australia, held last Friday night (last week’s Diary not) raised a little over Aus$37,000 for the Bali Street Dogs Fund.
Indefatigable organiser Sue Warren tells us this figure isn’t final (some things that didn’t sell at auction on the night are still in play), and although down around $10,000 on last year, they’re very pleased. Given Australia’s little local difficulties with the economy – government propaganda to the contrary notwithstanding – and Victoria’s own urgent imperatives, it’s certainly a creditable result.
The Bali Street Dogs Fund helps BAWA – the Bali Animal Welfare Association – with its desexing and (now) anti-rabies campaigns. We expect Janice Girardi of BAWA is pleased, too, then.

Come Dancing

THEY like to make a song and dance of things in Ubud, in some cases, literally. And it’s true that people come to Bali for all sorts of reasons. Jen Richardson, of that hill town that so many view as the centre of the universe, is hoping some of them have come to learn modern dance, because from October 27 to November 14 there’s a chance to learn the ins and outs of jive and other styles with Jen’s son Davis, a dance teacher who is here for a month.
Apparently Jen & Son are particularly looking for “leads” (traditionally males but these days either gender is acceptable apparently) since these are somewhat rare here. If you’re interested, call Jen on 0813 3729 0712.

Call Back Later

THE things you see. The famous first-name style of Bali (Pak Hec at your service) occasionally gives you a laugh. There’s an advertisement running – somewhere or other, in one of those advertising-only rags that prove the veracity of advertising by claiming to be newspapers – for the Bali Geckos Australian Rules Football team.
They are always looking for new players of any standard, apparently. Perhaps St Kilda, who play well anywhere except within earshot of the grand final siren, could help out. But what caught our eye was that those interested were asked to call President Lincoln.
Hmm. Think he was detained at the theatre some little time back.

SCRATCHINGS FROM THE CAGE FLOOR appears as The Bali Times Diary in the weekly edition of Bali's only English-language newspaper, published every Friday. The Bali Times is at

Thursday, October 15, 2009


QUICK EXIT: Wole Soyinka BIG ENTRY: Barack Obama

Yes, We Have No Bananas (Well, Not at Your Price)

BALINESE culture, religious practice and tradition emphasises shared responsibility anchored in the concept that someone else’s pain is your pain and someone else’s joy is your joy. It’s a lovely idea, and for the most part – this is what sets Bali apart from much of the rapacious world – it works.
How then should we view the rampant profiteering at local markets that went on in the lead-up to Galungan (Oct. 14 with holidays the days either side)? Were market-goers in search of bananas – crucial for ceremonies – bamboo (ditto) and other necessary votive products supposed to be happy to share the joy of sellers in their significant grab for extra money at their expense?
It’s not something that impacts on expatriates or indeed on the non-Hindu population of the island. Neither is it unusual in a global setting. Prices always go up, everywhere, whenever merchants spot a captive market in search of must-buy items. Anand Krishna’s thoughtful piece in last week’s edition of The Bali Times discussed that issue rather well, in the context of a communal culture.
But the bottom line is that profiteering is just another way of seeking advantage. It does not sit well with the image of Bali as a place of harmony and good thinking. Conscience is such a malleable creature, isn’t it?

Peace Off

THE decision of the Nobel Peace Prize organisers to award it this year to Barack Obama demonstrates with stark – and disturbing – clarity the vacuous state of European politics and the increasing irrelevance of the remote north-western peninsula of Eurasia.
It was a clearly political decision, made for reasons that would only make sense to a crowd plainly pained by relevance deprivation syndrome. The poverty of the Nobel committee’s position is revealed in the fact that nominations for this year’s peace prize closed just two weeks after the Inauguration on January 20. It’s not a question of whether Barack’s a good guy, or even whether he’s not. He has caused no peace – yet. He is embroiled in American politics and – the “good thinkers” of the American left notwithstanding – is compelled by circumstances to proceed and behave much as he has.
He is not St Barry (something his barrackers in Indonesia would do well to remember, incidentally). It is profoundly unclear whether he has any answers to America’s deep problems, far less those of the world. He won the good press he did, prior to his election in 2008, largely because he was not George W. Bush. That in itself is a demonstration of the vacuity with which global politics is conducted these days. And now he is in office, with actual decisions to make rather than political messages to spin, things are rather different from those heady days on the campaign trail.
None of this is Obama’s fault. He was running for office. People do that in democracies. Idiots – we use the term deliberately – who convinced themselves that the Obama Age would instantly usher in an era of peace and social understanding are poor fools besotted by the messiah complex.
Sadly, it seems, we must count the Nobel committee among them. Equally sadly, they have embarrassed not only themselves but also President Obama, whose shoes have hardly had time to scuff the carpet under the desk in the Oval Office.

In a Lather

THE 2009 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival has come and gone. Now we have the delights of communing with actress Julia Roberts to deal with, while she’s here cycling through the Monkey Forest at Ubud for her new movie Eat, Pray, Love. Shooting was scheduled to start this week.
We hear some other shooting may be called for in Walter Spies’ lovely little hill town – metaphorically of course – in the wash-up of the Festival. We loved the photographed cancellations to the programme posted on the UWRF Facebook. Perhaps one of the events was cancelled because no one could find the venue: it was said to be in Hanoman Road.
Organising people is never easy, especially those whose untidy lives are lived in the arts area. Snafus happen. But they do need to be minimised. When great minds gather, we gather, the object is to be seen as well as heard. Star attraction Wole Soyinka, who nearly turned round at Singapore on his way in, self-perplexed over the time it was taking the Indonesians to stamp his visa on an incomplete application, then left last Saturday night instead of on Monday morning because the flight arrangements had been messed up.
That said, UWRF is an essential entry on Bali’s international calendar. This year’s festival brought together some great talent. And a lot of fun was had by a lot of people. That’s good.

All Go

DOWN Nusa Dua way, things are clicking. And it’s not just the light switches when PLN occasionally remembers that its job is to provide electricity. The Diary was there the other day – for a Balinese wedding reception which was immense fun – and spotted a new Japanese restaurant on Jl Raya Nusa Dua Selatan, just by the entrance to the manicured BTDC hotels and golf club precinct.
It is built in a style reminiscent of a Japanese country inn. When we called in, attracted by its ironwood timberwork and low lighting, it was having its “soft opening”. The grand one had been set for some time after Galungan, we gather. It looks a picture; and the menu is attractive.
Mushasi is now on The Diary’s lengthening list of Dining Places to Be Visited.

Eat Up

BALI has two entries in the list of Asia's top 10 restaurants in the latest issue of The Miele Guide, another of those interminable cycles of self-congratulation with which the glossy sector of the international and local media so concerns itself.
Mozaic and Ku De Ta ranked sixth and ninth in the second edition of The Miele Guide, which was launched recently – with all the desired bells and whistles and in the presence, assumed to be desirable, of the A List names deemed suitable for the plush ambience of The Fullerton Hotel in Singapore.
According to The Miele Guide, Asia’s two best restaurants are still L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Hong Kong and Iggy's in Singapore. This year, though, in another circular movement, they swapped places, with L'Atelier claiming pole position for the bragging race.
It would be nice to ignore these sorts of awards. But marketing being what it is, you can’t.

Gotta Giggle

WE all need a little laugh now and again. Newspaper readers are no different in that respect. Neither, for that matter, are newspaper diarists. The perils of becoming humourless, fixated on seriousness, of turning into yet another foot soldier in the regiments of Ernests and Ernestines who blight their lives and those of others by fixating on issues because this makes them feel important, are plain enough. Life gives you lines on your face. It’s better to make them laugh lines.
For this reason The Diary was happy to see a little tale the other day – it surfaced in the local Indonesian language media – about the septuagenarian grandpa caught in flagrante (well, nearly) in an Amlapura brothel. Gosh, The Diary has been to Amlapura many times – it’s a lovely little town – and has never yet seen a house of ill repute.
It seems the police decided on this particular day to pay a visit to a certain establishment. As you might imagine, persons on the premises for the activities offered therein fled helter-skelter. But one old chap stayed put. He was finally persuaded to emerge from behind a locked door, along with his companion in victimless crime. He had with him a condom, apparently coloured orange (for added zest, no doubt). It was, he told the law enforcers gathered at the lintel, unused.

Donkey Vote

IN poor, benighted Gaza, where Arab politics and Israeli bastardry have combined to create hell on earth, the zoos are doing it tough too. Many of the exotic animals have died – the result either of the violence associated with acts of war or of the general deprivation Israel’s blockade has produced – and among them, the zebras.
But one zoo, we hear, has come up with a novel way to present local school children with the famously striped horse-like creature of the African veldt. They’ve painted donkeys in zebra stripes – very well too, it seems – and trot these out when visitors come to experience the wild creatures of Elsewhere. Apparently not only the children are fooled. Some of their teachers make asses of themselves as well.

Hector's Diary appears, as Scratchings From the Cage Floor - The Bali Times Diary, in the print edition of the newspaper every Friday. The Bali Times is at

Friday, October 09, 2009


DO DROP IN: Janet DeNeefe pitches for business

Celebrating a Sturdy Pick-me-Up

A SMALL and suitably decorous affray took place in the sheltered (and über-svelte) ambience of the St Regis Resort at Nusa Dua last Monday. It was by way of being a birthday party for a sometimes loud and rambunctious lady – the sort common enough in certain circles in Bali, or at least in Seminyak, we grant you, and therefore not necessarily something to do more than run away from.
But this was for a very special lady, who was turning 75. Well, these days that’s the new 15 or something. But seriously (well, sort of) this lady goes by the name of Bloody Mary, and she is a friend of a great many people, your Diarist included.
St Regis claims a genitive link with Mary. It is said, as one of several legends about the origin of this significantly kick-your-butt drink, that it was named for the lady friend of a bartender in the originating establishment in New York. She was habitually late for dates. He is said to have assuaged his pain about this by concocting the vodka and tomato juice slammer in her honour, and to have named it thus.
In those faraway days, before politeness was outlawed as discriminatory and uncouth became the new couth, it was not done to swear at your date. Far better to disguise your profanity in a tall salt-rimmed glass with plenty of ice, a double shot of Russia’s pride, drown it in potassium, season it with Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper it to taste, and then shake the bejesus out of it before decanting it into a glass with a stick of celery, a lemon twist on the side, a drinking straw – de rigueur in most upmarket establishments nowadays – and a swizzle stick if that’s your bag.
Bloody Marys are not, generally speaking, evening drinks. They are the hair of the bloody dog that bit you, far better employed as an instant hangover cure on the morning after the night before – been there; don’t want to do that again – or, at the far extreme of opportunity, as an accompaniment for brunch. No matter. If the lovely Geetha Warrier of the St Regis, where the Bloody Mary is the signature drink, commands your presence at sundown for a media-focused Bloody Mary extravagance, who are we, ordinary mortals all, to demur?
Thus, last Monday, your Diarist achieved a creditable sixth place in the Bloody Mary-making competition that was part of the show. We shan’t mention that this was out of nine competitors. As Sophie Digby, of the YakBud – the pushmipulyu girl – sagely observed, Bloody Marys are a personal thing. First place went to Now Bali, by the way, propelled by the hitherto undiscovered skills in the pick-me-up department of Dewi Kartika Suardana from that rather scarce publication.
Unusually, Jack Daniels of Bali Update was a late arrival. He may have been interviewing himself again. But he certainly missed the competition. He made up for this lapse by advising that his own recipe for a Very Bloody Mary involved drowning several highly lethal Mexican herbs in the vodka and keeping their cadavers there, like poor little princes in vats of wine, to flavour the poison for later use.
Dinner afterwards was a delight.

Warning Bark

SUE WARREN, of the Bali Street Dogs Fund in Australia, got into Hector’s ear this week about their annual appeal night in Melbourne – and quite rightly, too. At this time, when rabies is being combated by the Bali government and local regency action, it’s important to note that the fate of Bali’s uncared for animals is a matter of some little concern to many in Australia – our top source of tourists.
Last year’s Melbourne benefit night raised nearly $A50,000 (that’s more than Rp423 million at today’s exchange rate). The Bali Street Dog Fund supports the Bali Animal Welfare Association’s desexing programme and this year its members have been vaccinating street dogs against rabies wherever possible.
But this year too, Sue says, it’s proving much tougher to generate interest and attract publicity for the annual benefit event. That’s understandable. Melbourne is dealing with a number of problems, the horrendous Victorian bushfires of February this year drained a lot from the pool of private donations, and St Kilda, Hector’s favourite Melbourne suburb (and footy team) lost its best chance at the ALF premiership in 43 years ... but we digress.
This is the fifth year the fund has held Bali Nights. Last year it was a sell-out. As a small group, they put all their energy into this one shot at a win (pity St Kilda didn’t do the same, hrrmph). But this year ticket sale for the event – held at the historic Rialto building – are very low.
Hosts this year include Pete Smith (a local hero from Australia’s Nine Network TV) and Carla Bonner of the TV soapie (that’s Australian for sinetron) Neighbours.
It should be a good night. Hec can’t be there himself, but he’s going to work the phones, in a manner of speaking, in a reprise of the life of advocacy he abandoned four years to come to Bali for a rest. Let’s hope it goes well and brings in some much needed support for the overlooked victims of the rabies outbreak here.
It really shouldn’t be a dog’s life in Bali, after all.

Supine Position

SOME of you may have noticed that the 2009 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival is under way. This year it has even spread its favours to the Kuta-Seminyak foreign ghetto.
It was therefore no surprise to see Janet DeNeefe, Ubud notable and originator of the festival, gracing the virtual pages of the online Kabar magazine recently, promoting the annual celebration of things literary and less, that has, we are told, focused global attention on the little spot that Walter Spies and other chaps first put on the map so well in the misty distance of the early 20th century.
What was a surprise was the style of photographic image chosen to illustrate how great minds come up with great ideas. We reproduce it here without apology (our photo this week).
Let’s just say it’s not Jane Eyre. Instead, it seems to be more in the mode of the rather outré play readings that are a feature of the 2009 festival – or the x-rated poetry on offer for anyone who wouldn’t rather listen to their martini.

They’re Aussies

GOVERNOR I Made Mangku Pastika is not keen on the Komodo dragon. He doesn’t want the smaller Flores variety housed in Bali – even in secure zoo conditions – as part of an emergency plan to ensure the species survives.
Now it seems he may have a point: by some accounts Bali is already overrun with Australians and scientists say the Komodo – a monitor lizard – actually has an Aussie background.
New research by the team of palaeontologists and archaeologists, who studied fossil evidence from Australia, Timor, Flores, Java and India, shows that Komodo dragons most likely evolved in Australia and dispersed westward to Indonesia.
Scott Hocknull, Senior Curator of Geosciences at the Queensland Museum in Brisbane, on Australia’s north-east coast, said Australia is a hub for lizard evolution. “The fossil record shows that over the last four million years Australia has been home to the world’s largest lizards, including a five meter giant called Megalania. Now we can say Australia was also the birthplace of the Komodo dragon,” he said this week.
It’s also the home of the truly poisonous bluetongue lizard. This is not named for the all but ubiquitous practice of the inhabitants of The Great South Land to insert the copulatory adjective into every sentence.

Not Deceased

IT HARDLY seems possible that it was 40 years ago this week that the madcap Monty Python comedy crew in Britain dusted off an awfully ancient Athenian joke – about a dead slave, whose seller refused to compensate the buyer on the grounds that the unfortunate object of the sale was alive when the transaction was made – and invented the skit about the dead parrot.
Hector, as you might imagine, exhibits a measure of ambivalence about the tale. He’s not into the concept of parrots that are no more, or which have dropped off the perch, or ... well, you remember the joke, or you should.
Python humour took British comedy to another level. It is alive and well and significantly rejuvenated as a result. For that we should always be grateful.

Hector's Diary is published, as Scratchings From The Cage Floor - The Bali Times Diary, in the print edition of The Bali Times every Friday. The Bali Times is also on the web at

Friday, October 02, 2009


RICH TRADITION: In Ayana’s signature batik, red, black and white/yellow are the dominant colours, drawn from the ancient natural artistry of the batik-makers at Tenganan in Karangasem, East Bali. In this photo, the smile is free. But – unless the liquid is a ”Welcome Drink” – that stuff in the little glass will cost you a rupiah or two.

A Day for Sartorial Splendour

TODAY is Batik Day, following the United Nations’ decision to recognise Indonesian batik as one of the world’s most important cultural traditions.
And among the many hotels in Bali and throughout the country making a sartorial statement is the Ayana Resort and Spa. Staff will support the appeal by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for all citizens to wear batik to commemorate the news that it would be added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list. (Only a world-class bureaucracy could have come up with a colourless name like that.)
Ayana has its own batik – see our photo – but today, according to sales and marketing director Haryadi Satriono, all 950 employees are planning to don their own finest batik instead.
Says Haryadi: “Our uniforms already feature a signature batik print, but we are encouraging our staff to wear their own batik garments to celebrate this occasion. It’s not every day that a centuries-old tradition is recognised by the United Nations, so it is something we want the world to know about.”
The Indonesian government lobbied for several years for the United Nations to recognise Indonesian batik’s cultural heritage.
Ayana’s signature print, the work of renowned fashion designer Ghea Panggabean and introduced to mark the resort’s rebranding on April 1 this year, is featured on buckles, sashes, sarongs and shirts, and was inspired by an ancient weaving technique from the village of Tenganan, near Candi Dasa in Karangasem.
The ritzy cliff-top property at Jimbaran is making a statement in other ways too. Its new Rock Bar is now featuring live music on many more days than Sunday.
Meanwhile, across the other side of the Bukit, the glitzy St Regis is getting set to celebrate the 75th birthday of the Bloody Mary (so delightfully rendered on many Balinese restaurant menus as Bloddy Marry). This wonderful pick-me-up was named after Mary Astor, who was fond of a drop. And the claimant in chief to the honour of being the first place to serve the vodka and tomato juice spine-stiffener is the original Astor-owned St Regis Hotel in New York City.

What the Schapelle?

YOU’RE never safe. One moment you’re sitting quietly in your lounge room watching the evening news – thereby proving you’re a glutton for punishment of course – and the next, some ditzy woman wanders in, plonks herself down on your settee, and abuses you over the incomprehensible continuing incarceration of former boogie-board carrier Schapelle Corby.
That’s if you’re Alexander Downer, of course, who retired as Australia’s longest serving foreign minister when the Howard government was defeated at elections in November 2007 and has since left politics altogether.
Out at Kook Central, though, relativities such as the facts (of anything) are rarely considered. They get in the way of a good psychosis.
Downer told the media he was perplexed by this astonishing home invasion.
He said he was watching the news when the unlocked front door of his secluded Adelaide Hills home swung open. “I thought it was the dog,” he said, “then suddenly, an elderly woman walked straight into the living room and sat down on the couch next to me. It was nobody I recognised, so I said: ‘Excuse me, who are you?’ She started attacking me verbally over Schapelle Corby, blaming me for her being in jail, saying that I had to get her out and that God will damn me, if I don't get her out of jail.”
Downer asked the woman to leave and when she didn’t, he called the police. But – as he puts it – she had wandered out into the garden by the time the local plods raced round to his Des Res and a search-by-torchlight failed to find her.
It sounds like something from that wonderful 1960s sci-fi series The Twilight Zone. She certainly missed the fact that for nearly two years, Stephen Smith has been Australia’s foreign minister. But he lives in Perth, a little way from Adelaide. Perhaps it’s just that she missed the bus.

Eat, Prey, Love

ELIZABETH Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love, the account of her search for meaning and good nasi goreng, is understandably something of a focus of attention at present. After all, actress Julia Roberts will shortly be here – fresh from India where, among other things, she foreclosed on temple worship at one location shoot and visited the wettest place on earth (Cherrapunji) so she could get filmed in the rain – to portray Gilbert in the Balinese phase of her odyssey.
So it was amusing to read, this week, two comments on the book from which the movie is being made. First, this one from businessman, entrepreneur and social activist Sanat Kumara:
“All right, I finally finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book … Almost everywhere I turned, people were reading this book, and a good friend of mine, literally, ordered me to read. So, I did it! I must say I still don’t get the reason for its HUGE success. It is a well written book and in fact funny and thoughtful. But it amazes me the degree that it has resonated with so many people. Does this mean that many are searching for their spiritual path or many are unhappy in their marriages and looking for a way out gracefully? Hmmm.”
And this Facebook post, from the Australian academic, writer and long-term Indonesia hand, Adrian Vickers:
“Wondering whether I should make a fuss about the misattribution to my book in Eat, Pray, Love (it's heavily referred to, but as Paradise Invented'! argh); or is it too embarrassing to be associated with such a book?”
Option Two’s the go, Adrian.

Chinese Takeaway

TWO Australian sailors – those of the private yacht variety, the guys who prefer not to just stand in the shower tearing up $50 notes – have just got back from the trip of a lifetime. On a slow boat to China, no less.
Jim Grierson and Col Wilesmith were heading back to Australia in July after winning handicap honours in this year’s Darwin to Ambon race when fate intervened. Their catamaran began to break up in rough seas and they were rescued by a bulk carrier.
“We said something like 'hey mate, thanks for picking us up, you want to drop us off at Singapore', and he goes 'no mate, we're going to China',” said Grierson, a friendly fellow from the linguistically challenged Northern Territory.
Grierson and Wilesmith spent 12 days on board their rescue ship and say the Chinese authorities were a bit confused when they turned up. “They were bemused that we didn't have a visa,” says Grierson.
“We showed them our ship's papers saying we stamped out of Australia, stamped into Indonesia, stamped out of Ambon bound for Australia. So our paperwork was up [to date], our passports were clear. And when they found that we were rescued, they were just great.”

O Canada

DIARY readers will recall the item we ran a while ago on the Ubud performance of the Evan Ziporyn dance-opera A House in Bali. We can report that it had its American premiere at the University of California at Berkley last weekend. Presumably without the endless chattering and photo-flashes that so rudely disturbed the show in Ubud.
We know this because we spotted a piece in the San Francisco Chronicle, by the newspaper’s music critic, Joshua Kosman, previewing the performance.
Kosman gets full marks (from us at least) for his summation of the global impact of gamelan – “The music of the Indonesian gamelan, with its clangourous sonorities and intricate, smoothly interlocking rhythms, has exerted its allure on countless composers and listeners over the past century,” he writes.
But then, like most Lower 48 Americans when faced with a geography challenge, or the strange notion that someone other than an American might have done something useful, he goes off the rails. He writes: “One – perhaps the most influential - was the American composer Colin McPhee, who did more than anyone to introduce gamelan music to Westerners.”
Well, McPhee certainly did that. But he was a Canadian. One of those chaps from that place above the world’s longest undefended border of which Chicago gangster-bootlegger Al Capone, who got most of his prohibition era liquor supplies there, famously said: “I don't even know what street Canada is on.”

HECTOR'S DIARY appears, as Scratchings, in The Bali Times print edition every Friday and on the newspaper's website at where the latest edition is posted every Monday.