Friday, December 24, 2010


It Really is
Time to Get
Rabid About
This Unholy

It seems appropriate, though we wish it were not, to end the year with a note about rabies. This unnecessary scourge has now been with us for 26 months (officially) and has killed 113 people (officially). The Bali tourism office, ever an entity to miss the point entirely, now seems to be saying that it’s not really a problem and, for another thing, why can’t the Australians in particular just shut up about it. Meanwhile we learn from the animal husbandry department that rabies is now present in 46 villages from which it was apparently absent six months ago. Anywhere else, this might be seen as evidence that the disease is still spreading uncontrollably. Here ... well, who knows? No one’s ever going to say.
    Reportage of the rabies crisis in the newspapers here – the local Indonesian language press and in The Bali Times - since 2008 makes uncomfortable reading. It should make our political and community leaders uncomfortable too, but there’s little evidence to show this. On Bali there are many official carpets and an awful lot that gets swept under them.
    There are simply too many dogs and too many, as well, left to roam freely by their Balinese informal owners. Some steps are allegedly being taken to rectify this – the new schools-based programme in which teachers will instruct children about rabies and the need to take proper care of your animals is a decent start and is praiseworthy – but the authorities have had more than two years to do something and are only now switching on. This delay is appalling.
    It’s a bit early for New Year resolutions, which properly should follow the Christmas jeer, but a commitment (then met) from all the authorities concerned to make a workable plan and stick to it would be really good news for the Balinese people.
All Hail

The Diary’s Australian friends – well the pacific sort, at least, those who live on the eastern seaboard, where they greet the day rather than wave it goodbye as they do in the west – are amused by reports of hail in Bali where, as keen weather observer Susi Johnston told us the other day, the little lumps of ice get a Warhol moment: around 15 minutes of fame as fake snow until nature takes its course and they just become a series of wicked little leaks.
    It’s less because hail here is remarkable through of its absence except as a rare phenomenon than that, in eastern Australia, it is a regular menace. In Australia’s climate gigantic hailstorms are caused by the same sort of severe weather effect as that which creates huge and deadly tornadoes in the United States.
    Hail storms can sweep through wide areas rapidly, often building up destructive power very quickly, and cause millions of local dollars – at present converting very roughly at near parity with the tornado greenback – in damage. Brisbane, from where well-heeled hail refugees will soon be able to flee non-stop in business class to a safer place (Bali) on Strategic Airlines, has been having some hefty ones lately.
    Such events are not confined to the eastern parts of Australia. There was a huge hailstorm in Perth last March that did much more than just put a dent in some poor plutocrat’s Porsche.

Snowflake’s Chance

The weather might lately have brought us a meteorological moment – that hail – but we should spare a thought for all those poor souls in Europe who have already had two bouts of Arctic weather this winter ... though it wasn’t really the northern hemisphere winter until the solstice, on Tuesday ... and at last report were still afflicted by bitter cold and heavy snow. It also snowed in Australia this week, just ahead of the southern summer solstice and, granted, only at high altitude.
    Global warming is certainly coming on fast, folks.
Tugu Times

Hotel Tugu Bali at Canggu, one of the comely stable of boutique presences headed by 2010 Yak Magazine Woman of the Year Lucienne Anhar, is playing a big part in the renaissance of classicism in Bali, No, not ancient Greek, though The Diary recommends this for its character-forming and mind-broadening benefits, but classical music.
    There’s a classical piano performance there on the evening of December 29 by world renowned pianist Boris Kraljevic and three of his students, Nguyen Tien Khai from Vietnam, Adita Permana from Indonesia and Neil Franks from the United Kingdom.
    They’ll perform works by Chopin (The Diary’s absolute stand-out must-listen favourite), Schumann and Brahms, Debussy and Ravel (will their Bolero be a perfect 10?) and Balinese music written by Colin McPhee.
    The hotel and other places are taking bookings and all proceeds of the event will go to The Green School Bali Scholarship fund to benefit Balinese and other Indonesian students. So not only do you get good music (and dinner if you wish to pay extra) but it’s all in a good cause.
    Speaking of good causes, the Rotary Club Bali Canggu had a benefit dinner at Tugu Bali on Tuesday – at the hotel’s pleasant Warung Tugu – which regretfully The Diary had to miss. We’re sure the occasion, the Holiday Lamplight Dinner, went well and achieved its objective; both outcomes are things for which Rotary is justly renowned.

Devout Wish

Amid the clamour of the pre-Christmas season, especially in the retail sector which The Diary tries very hard to avoid at this (or any) time of year, the dulcet tones of the Austrian carol Silent Night are sometimes detected. It’s more relevant, and truer to the real meaning of the Christian festival, than White Christmas or Santa Claus is Coming to Town, or ’Tis the Season to be Jolly (tra la la la la, la la la la ... don’t sit on the bloody holly, oo oo oo oo oooooo, ow ow ow, Ow!).
    Silent Night (it’s better in the original German, as Stille Nacht) is now 194 years old and has just topped the list as Britain’s most recorded Christmas song of all time. Among those to have offered silent nights with a post-Age of Sentience twist are punk band The Dickies and Sinead O’Connor. The original devotion was penned in 1816 by a Catholic priest, Father Joseph Mohr.
    The Diary historically views the song, when heard above the cacophony, as a seasonal wish that sadly will forever remain unfulfilled.

Hit the Road

Australia’s transport minister, Anthony Albanese, dropped by last week to hand over some more money for essential works, such as transport security and road safety and so on, and that’s great.
    He made a speech – no politician goes anywhere without doing that, it’s in the job description – about several topics, including Australia’s key role in building Indonesia’s national road network into something resembling a thoroughfare.
    It’s a shame he only went to Jakarta. If he’d come to Bali he could have had a nice chat with local legislators (who have just noted that not a lot that should by now be on the ticked-off list is actually on it) and seen at first hand the progress being made on his country’s flagship road development project here – the duplication of the Denpasar-Kusamba highway.
    Of course, armed with the loud and über-pushy police escort of the sort hereabouts defined as de rigueur for visiting VIPs, he’d have cut right through the interminable holdups.

It’s Nearly Gone

The year, that is. It’s odd, really; it seems to happen every 12 months. It can’t have anything to do with global warming, can it; or WikiLeaks?
    Anyway, as you do at this time of the year, Hec’s had a browse through his 2010 archive and picked out 12 of the highs, lows and bellows of the past year.
    His assessment of 2010: You won’t see that again. It’s in LIFE, on Page 11.


The end of the year brings a holiday break for many, including newspaper diarists. The Diary won’t appear next week – because there’s no paper, silly – but look for us on January 7 when we start the run round that little wheel again for 2011.
    In the meantime, have a good one.

Hector's Blog appears as The Diary in the weekly print edition of The Bali Times and on the newspaper's website Print editions of The Bali Times are available worldwide through NewspaperDirect. 

Friday, December 17, 2010


Beware of
Those Who
Say They’ll
Save You
the Bother
of Voting

How Indonesia chooses to govern itself is wholly a matter for Indonesians to decide. Those of us who live here without benefit of citizenship may merely observe the processes, form views about these and their utility or function, or more often the lack thereof; and if we can break through the all but impenetrable thickets of local culture, custom and language to make a point to our friends, and they choose to listen, offer our thoughts.
   So it with that caveat in mind that non-national observers should demur at proposals to snatch back from the people a significant democratic advance but lately granted, by removing direct election of provincial governors and returning appointment of these people to the hands of the provincial legislatures.
   This is not the way to go, if Indonesia is to construct a genuinely democratic polity (it hasn’t yet). It is the absence of a properly codified and constitutionally enforceable set of rules that is to blame: the simple matter of devising a compact to divide up power and allocate responsibility. It isn’t the governors and the expense they allegedly cause by being directly elected that is the problem. It is the absence of constitutional rules that govern the practice of politics and administration.
   It’s clear enough that the present half-baked policy of regionalism isn’t working. But that’s not because it can’t work. It’s because the placemen in the apparatus of central power won’t let it. They want all the money: witness the departure from Bali of all of the visa income this island earns. It’s because provincial legislatures, like their national counterpart, are talking shops whose members aren’t interested in policy, preferring to waste their time bickering about politics and placement. And it’s because the incomplete and imperfect methodology of present regionalism policy has allowed regents (bupatis) – who in reality are merely local council administrators – to run their regencies as if they are fully autonomous states within some loose federation.
   The present system isn’t working and needs revision. But the answer to pernicious and rampant national, provincial and district sloth and official theft is to agree on a workable system consistent with the regional differences in culture and ethnicity that so enrich Indonesia. Governors should be the real leaders of their provinces, not the creatures either of the president or their provincial legislatures. To achieve this they must be directly elected and have the constitutional authority to pull lower-level miscreants into line. To save costs all provincial and district elections should be held on the same date nationally, under uniform legislation that sets the electoral rules in concrete and which is rigidly enforced, no exceptions permitted.
    How a new deal on regionalism should be achieved is a matter for national debate. It might start from the premise that at present nothing much works as it should. It must define financial and administrative responsibilities (it could start by making regents legally as well as politically responsible for ensuring that national and provincial planning and environment laws are enforced). And it should ensure that regional government is adequately and effectively funded.
    Any system of devolved government is complex and will forever create argument over who pays for what. But central control, the only other workable alternative, is in the end vastly more costly in social disadvantage and potential conflict.

Flame Wars

It will surprise no one that Michael Made White Wijaya, MW2 for short, has no time for Hector or his doppelganger, a chap we know well who operates a Facebook from which MW2 long ago withdrew friendship. We think it was the references in The Diary to his formerly phosphorescent status that upset the self-proclaimed Sage of Sanur.
    However, there are Facebook pages around where Hec’s mate and MW2 occasionally cross paths, though rarely swords. One instance of the latter variety did occur last weekend, however, when a mutual friend posted a list of countries that had failed to front their ambassadors at this year’s Nobel Peace Prize presentation in Oslo, at which jailed Chinese dissent Liu Xiaobo was honoured in absentia, and commented in passing that a number of African states, those for whom the yuan is a powerful persuader, were on the absentee list.
    With his customary back-of-the-bike-sheds humour, MW2 advised in response that Chinese had a significant hair deficiency upon a part of the body about which he is apparently fixated but which diarists would not mention in print and that he therefore preferred Africans. Hec’s friend, having nothing better to do at the time and being in a playful mood, posted back: SCOOP! Made Wijaya HATES Brazilians.
    It went downhill from there. The poor (and thoroughly nice) Facebook owner felt it necessary to post a warning that flaming – personal attacks on others – would be deleted. Wijaya nonetheless flamed back: “Do us a favour and unfriend the Heckler: he is a traitor to the cause of hacks without borders.”
    Now we know that’s not true. Hec, who has been a hack since well before Wijaya first sprayed himself with Day-Glo, has crossed many borders in his time. It’s just that he finds uncouth and in-your-face blowhards tedious.

Thirsty Work

Rio Helmi, who has spent more than 30 years taking great photographs of Bali, had a big date at the Amandari at Ubud this week. He gave a talk about his latest book, Memories of the Sacred, at the resort’s regular Thirsty Tiger Thursday.
   The book is a personal photographic record of Balinese ritual, trance and communal ceremonies; like all Helmi’s work it is a collector’s item. It would have been great to be there for the event but, schedules being what they are, Thursday afternoons just aren’t in the race.
   That’s a shame. Amandari’s Thirsty Thursday includes canapés and laid-back tunes. Now there’s a recipe for decadence.
Wikied Ways

Last week’s Diary item on the WikiLeaks saga seems to have stirred the pot. All sorts of people apparently must have believed that The Diary is as taken in as them by the pernicious effects of modern instant celebrity, which creates heroes out of huff-and-puffs and mounts crusades from positions of one-eyed ignorance (that much holds true to historical practice).
   So we’ll say it again: the benefits of hacking willy-nilly into national computer systems and spraying confidential information about like confetti are in fact rather less than crystal clear. Broadcasting masses of private conversations doesn’t help make things more transparent – even though transparency is an essential element of democratic government and must be sought and sustained everywhere – because all it does is fill the air with chaff that is then consumed by many who, while convincing themselves they are now informed, are and will remain ignorant of both the context and the full facts.
    It also risks unintended consequences that Assange and his growing army of cheerleaders either don’t comprehend, or which they think should now be immaterial because confidentially has been rendered redundant by new technology.
   Julian Assange is not a martyr. He is not Our Cyber Saviour. He is a meddlesome – and evidently mendacious – activist. He either doesn’t understand, or chooses to ignore, his responsibility (if he is a high practitioner of the arcane arts of “new journalism,” as he claims) to act responsibly and assess material objectively.
    He has an agenda that has been deployed in his own interest. He asserts that this coincides with the public interest. In fact it is very far from clear that this is so.
City Slickers

It’s great to hear that Yemen, which is not exactly a haven of democracy, has committed to advance the cause within its own borders. We hear this from the Yemeni news agency SABA, which reported that the country’s deputy foreign minister, Ali Muthana Hassan, had made an important speech emphasising the importance of strengthening the democratic process by states and its impacts on economic and social development.
    Apparently the minister was speaking at a forum on democracy held in the Indonesian city of Bali last week; or so SABA reported.

Going Cheap

Deborah Cassrels, the fun girl-about-town Sydneysider who like so many Aussies, adoptive or otherwise, now calls Bali home, gave Seminyak’s JP’s Warung Club a nice little plug in The Australian newspaper on Monday. She related how a venture into popular classics by its German operator, Diary friend Tom Hufnagel, had gone so well that classical music is now regularly on the repertoire in Jl Dyana Pura.
    It all started with former busker and now lyric tenor Tarik Akman – he grew up in Germany but like all the millions of Turks in that country cannot be a German because, well, you have to be a German to be a German – wowing a packed audience from around the globe.
    Seats at JP’s for that performance would have sold like hot cakes (or possibly Apfel Knödel) though. The Australian (we’re sure it wasn’t Cassrels, who’s a dab hand at counting the shekels) reported they cost 50 rupiah. Ahem.

Hector is on Twitter @hector

Hector’s Blog appears as The Diary in weekly print edition of The Bali Times, Bali’s only English-language newspaper, out Fridays, and on the newspaper’s website Print editions are available worldwide through NewspaperDirect.

Friday, December 10, 2010


WikiLeaks are
They Are Not
a Casus Belli

We assume (well, we hope) there is no risk that Julian Assange’s regrettable WikiLeaks organisation will cause us to learn that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono – he’s been in Bali all week, by the way, opening prawn hatcheries and democracy forums – really does plan to become a dangdut star when he leaves office at the end of his current term.
    Though such intelligence would, in The Diary’s mind at least, place Assange’s efforts in the correct perspective. It’s all a bit of a joke really. Leaked diplomatic and other confidential material purports to show that former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd – he’s now his country’s foreign minister - thinks force may have to be used if China won’t enter the world economic community in a responsible way. (He doesn’t, of course: that’s just another misinterpretation placed by the untutored on material that Assange’s silly little outfit has pricked with its leaf-stick. Though since Rudd speaks Mandarin, it’s a wonder his official note was not rendered in the finest calligraphy, or at least in Romanised Pinyin.)
    There seems to be a belief that WikiLeaks, by using computer technology and internet facilities now widely available, has reinvented journalism. It’s done nothing of the sort. Professional journalism when practised with judgment – including “with Google” nowadays – does not simply acquire raw material and put it out unchecked and untested. Assange and WikiLeaks are not offering journalism. They are offering wheelie-bin loads of decaying chicken innards that don’t even qualify as augurs.
    There’s nothing wrong with that, either, as long as those who read the stuff neither persuade themselves that what they’re seeing is “new journalism” nor that what they’re reading necessarily has any value beyond titillation.
    There is a place for data-dump disclosure. WikiLeaks did everyone a favour by exposing the full horror of Abu Ghraib abuse and the Apache gunship murders (that’s what they were). These two execrable incidents underline the sad fact that the Americans have never lost their dreadful tendency to run amok and remain besotted by their Hollywood legend-style Frontier proclivities in which, for example, George Armstrong Custer is a hero instead of a thick-headed fool.
    It might not suit the so-called global information community (comprising largely people who clearly would be much better employed getting on with their day) to even try to comprehend this, but there really are things that should be confidential. Among these - except when later analysed by historians able to view things from a distant perspective - are the marginal musings of a great many people.
    Aggrieved national governments might be better drawing a line under the WikiLeaks business. Assange is a public nuisance, that’s all. Charge him with that. He should get off with a good behaviour bond.  

Cosy Chat

Geoffrey Williams, late of Chamber Made Opera, which is widely viewed among modern operaristas as a legend in Melbourne, a very good place for indoor pursuits, has slipped very easily into Identity role in his new home town of Ubud. This week he was in conversation with Cat Wheeler, the Canadian expatriate who likes it to be known that she is an author, environmentalist, social activist, Reiki master and “remorseless optimist.” Golly, hope she has time for breakfast.
    Their cosy chat was the latest in the Bar Luna Literary Circle series of feel-good events at the joint, one of the culinary colonies with which Janet de Neefe has dotted the map of Ubud and environs. Wheeler wrote something called Rice Cultivation in Bali. That might neatly pair with the fragrant variety, for which fellow writer De Neefe has many recipes.
    It might under other circumstances have been fun to be there, to see at what point socially active opera and rice cultivation achieve confluence, conflate or, perhaps, confuse.
    But Thursday night’s chat was always going to be cosy. In the close confines of Bar Luna, on the equally spatially challenged Jl Gootama, there’s barely room to swing a Cat.

Space for Rant

The Diary’s friend James of Jembrana, who once told us that if he wanders down to the wind-blown beach outside his des res and really squints he can sometimes just see the top of the Bukit, whereon of course is The Cage, Hector’s domain, sent us a lovely little email the other day with what he described as another rant. Well, we all feel like that sometimes. Diarists have it easy: a weekly rant in print is highly therapeutic, especially in Bali, where everything that shouldn’t go wrong always does.
    He tells us – among a lengthy list of things about which we can only say, Sybil Fawlty-like, oh, we know – that the giant billboard cult has now made it to his previously unsullied part of the coast. He says he wonders why these excrescences are always placed precisely where they block the view and make a blind-spot out of a previously safely trafficable corner.
    In fact, of course, he doesn’t wonder about this at all, or even about why doltish ministers in Jakarta sign administrative orders that seem designed to deter tourists from bothering with Bali, since their spectacles and mobile phones alone will rocket them instantly into the top level of the newly invented rip-’em-off customs duties said to be kicking in at an assessed value of US$250 on January 1; or about many other things.
   There’s no point. It’s just the old syndrome so beloved of Indonesian bureaucrats and politicians. You think up a really bad idea and you put it on your “good ideas” list. The ILAND column on page 9 has some thoughts on the issue.

Tripped Up

Jack Daniels, inventor of tourism promotion in Bali and provider to the world of the weekly Bali Update, wherein he promotes his tourism business and excerpts items from the local press, was a bit busy last weekend. He did have time to tweet about why this was so, however, so he can’t have been too pushed, poor fellow. He was off on a five-day business trip, you see, and was rushing to get his update updated in time to catch his plane.
    Perhaps that’s why his judgment slipped so badly on one item he retailed – the sad suicide leap by an Irish expatriate from the cliffs at Uluwatu. “Leaving Bali for the Paradise to Come” sounds more like a poor-taste morticians’ convention one-liner than a sensitive and well-judged news headline.
    There is, of course, nothing wrong with gallows humour, in an appropriate ambiance. Laughter does keep you out of the morticians’ hands for longer than might otherwise be the case. And that can only be good. So, at one remove, we might afford ourselves a little giggle over the fact that a reader on The Bali Times Facebook clicked “Like” on our report of the Uluwatu tragedy. That was headlined “Expat Throws Self off Cliff.” (Disclosure: The Diary propped momentarily at this, because we had no idea that British writer Will Self was even on the island or what he could possibly have done to annoy someone so much. Surely it couldn’t have been his wonderful fantasia Great Apes?)
    Of course, Made Wirawan, of Bali Jeep Adventure Tours, who “liked” the post, and who one assumes must like expats, even if only for business purposes, might only have been relieved that one of his little happy-wagons hadn’t gone over the cliff along with the unhappy Irishman.   

Readers will know that The Diary has a very soft spot for Lombok. This is not just because it is the other side of the Wallace Line, on the outer edge of the eucalyptus zone, and therefore carries faint echoes and occasional sweet odours of home. There are other attractions, among them the promise of delicious delights at Asmara restaurant in Senggigi where at Christmas owner Sakinah Nauderer traditionally offers something extra delectable.
    This year you can enjoy a traditional German Christmas Eve dinner which offers Halfte langsam geröstete Ente mit Apfel und Zwiebel gefüllt, mit Rotwein Sosse serviert Rotkohl mit Gewürzen und hausgemachten Kroketten gekocht. Try saying that after a Jaegermeister or three.
    Actually it doesn’t say that at all, even though traditional German occasions of all varieties tend to be conducted in the German language. Asmara’s Christmas menu is in English. You should have no trouble ordering half slow-roasted duck with apple and onion stuffing, served with red wine gravy, red cabbage cooked with spices and home-made potato croquettes. There’s a Christmas Day brunch on the schedule too, complete with guitar music, for anyone who wants to go back for seconds.
    The order of the day is clear: Auffressen (Eat Up). Wish we could be there. Frohe Weihnachten, Sakinah.

Hector's Blog appears as The Diary in the weekly print edition of The Bali Times, out Fridays, and on the newspaper's website Print editions are available worldwide through NewspaperDirect.

Friday, December 03, 2010


Lulu and Her Papa: Angelo needed a preen, she decided.

A Weekend
At Lulu’s
Is Always
Good Fun

The Diary is a Gili Trawangan fan from way back ... well, quite a way back. For one thing the little island haven off north-west Lombok is home to Lulu the world famous swimming monkey. Lulu is a macaque, raised from infanthood by Trawangan identity Angelo Sanfillipo. He acquired Lulu when she was but a six-month-old abandoned by one tourist – shame upon him – and rescued by two others who, having heard of Angelo, arrived on his doorstep at Dream Village and sort of said, um, here’s an abandoned monkey.
    We met Lulu shortly thereafter, when on the scene to enjoy some of Angelo’s home-cooked pasta – he is from Genoa, so you can understand the draw – and (of course) were instantly besotted. And not only with the pasta.
    At that time Angelo was teaching Lulu to swim. She even tried goggles, apparently with some success, though we hear she has now given them up and prefers to dive down to look at the fish aided only by the naked eye.
    Last weekend The Diary called in to see Lulu, who is now rather older and fully mature in the macaque fashion. She spends her days in a big casuarina tree on the beach outside Dream Village. The day we dropped in she heard Angelo’s call and came shinning down the trunk of the tree, then up it again to sort out the tangle she’d got her rope into (she’s tethered on a very long leash that gives her total freedom of movement and the whole tree to play in). Then, that problem solved, she came over for a chat.
    Lulu’s routine is somewhat unusual for a macaque. She has a walk and a swim with Angelo every morning – “Lulu she still look at fish,” Angelo told us at the weekend – and a freshwater shower after her dip. She has a proper shower and shampoo every two or three days, and spends every night at Angelo’s pad. Her favourite food is pasta al pesto. Lulu’s a girl with very good tastes.

Espresso Drought

One difficulty emerged during our Trawangan sojourn. It seemed that every espresso machine on the island had given up the ghost, possibly having heard The Diary was visiting.
    Sunday night, when we dined at Tir na Nog (everyone seeks eternal youth) and went on elsewhere for coffee and dessert, was a sad affair. We finally found a spot that said it had espresso – it was Horizontal, where the waiters, apparently all missionaries, wear T shirts asking you “What’s Your Favourite Position?” – and gratefully sat down at the tables under the trees on the beach. We ordered desserts (they were fab) and then got the bad news. Their espresso machine had gone on strike that very day.

Pussy Galore

No, it’s not what you think. Trawangan is the island of cats. Most appear well fed, though some have obvious ailments that any good vet could sort out in a flash. The Diary stayed at Villa Unggal, in a room that said it had a mini bar (and therefore a fridge) and didn’t and astonishingly in this day and age did not have wifi. Or soap in the bathroom. On inquiry, we learned that the soap was finished and were advised to use the shower gel instead. Ah, well.
    It did, however, have a lovely little marmalade chap whose days were spent snoozing in sunny or shady spots according to taste and whose meows would surely put Garfield to shame.
    He got The Diary’s breakfast bacon on the last morning as a reward for being a pleasant little presence.

Demon Weed

A tip: Never walk alone at night on Trawangan if you’re a diarist of senior years. If you do, people will materialise out of the dark at regular intervals and offer you weed. One pitch heard over the weekend: “Like a smoke? You’ll sleep better.”
    The Diary, being of clean habits and clear conscience, never has trouble sleeping. And on relocation years ago to the jurisdiction of Indonesia’s sternly anti-drug criminal code, resolved never to be tempted to assume, as so many foolish people seem to, that the law cannot possibly apply to you. There are plenty of other places in the world where if you want weed or worse, supply is easy and the legal penalties somewhat less than unremittingly draconian.
    Trawangan is also famous for its allegedly magic mushroom, one among those varieties of macro fungi whose hallucinogenic qualities can really land you in the soup.

Wave Power

We returned to Bali direct from Trawangan on a Blue Water Express boat that packed a total of 1,000 horsepower in its quadruple outboards and made the 60 nautical mile trip from Teluk Kodek (on Lombok’s mainland, where it calls first before the Strait crossing) to Serangan Island (Benoa) in two hours, fifteen minutes. The service is very efficient; the boat, which was not crowded at all on our trip, is fully supplied with life vests and life rafts; and the crew hand out mints to help you while away the time.
    Crossing the big water was a doddle. We felt nary a bump, even when we crossed the Wallace Line. But the middle bit of Badung Strait was a different matter, between Nusa Penida and South Bali. It got very lumpy. But it was over quickly and for an old sea dog like The Diary presented no problems at all. We just love watching those walls of water coming at you.

Simon Says...

We had a note the other day from a reader, who signed off as Simon Says. Naturally we read it with interest, childhood games being remarkably fresh in our memory. Simon says The Diary should be more positive because constant negativity will age us prematurely.
    Well, we don’t run on battery power, so problems associated with mistaking the negative for the positive contact are really rather minimal. It’s also rather difficult identifying the alleged over preponderance of negative elements posited in The Diary.
    Perhaps Simon simply wants us to reflect the shiny Bali that the glossies like to pretend is all there is. Unfortunately (for Simon in this case) there’s rather more to Bali than bling. And some of what there is, that Simon would rather we didn’t refer to, is plainly unpleasant; or embarrassingly stupid. That said, we don’t think a fully objective assessment (or a simple story count) of The Diary would produce the wholly negative impression that Simon says he sees.

Hector's Blog is published as The Diary in the weekly print edition of The Bali Times newspaper, out Fridays. The Bali Times is available worldwide through NewspaperDirect. Keep updated on Bali news at

Monday, November 29, 2010


Off to Lombok
For a Thrash;
Not a Trash

This weekend The Diary is in Lombok. It’s a favourite place. We’re catching up with friends in Senggigi and spending a little time dangling the toes in the limpid waters surrounding Gili Trawangan. It’s not quite Robinson Crusoe territory, but the Gilis are a great getaway. And there will be a fun return to Bali: on a fast boat. Hopefully ours will be one that is not illegally overloaded and the seas will be prettily small.
    There is another side to Lombok, of course. It is a poisonous place where the small expatriate population contains a disproportionate number of acquisitive low-life specimens whose interests apparently lie in stirring up trouble and benefiting themselves in circumstances where anywhere else they’d end up behind bars. And that’s not the bars that serve beer.
    It is poisonous too among those indigenous to the island, and settler communities from elsewhere in Indonesia. Tolerance is consistently the missing ingredient. That is notably the case where expatriates are deemed by the mob to have transgressed some immutable law, which should for accuracy actually be spelled lore.
    You can’t complain about unnecessarily loud noise from a mosque or a prayer room without having your villa trashed and facing charges under ridiculous application of otherwise sensible laws meant to govern interfaith relations in this country of five constitutionally recognised religions. Neither can you can complain that someone had vandalised your statuary without a mob coming round to complete the job.
    And if they do it’s your fault and the police, whose standard operating procedure seems to be to do nothing, or at least as little as possible, will never prosecute the perpetrators for criminal damage.
    If you’re an Indonesian, if you are, say, a follower of Saudi-style Wahhabi Islam or you worship God according to the Ahmadiyah rites that others have declared heretical, you risk having your house burned and being run out of town. If you’re a villager around Tanak Awu, where the new international airport is being built, you’ll basically get nothing for your trouble (or your land) except the prospect of big aircraft flying low overhead sometime in the indeterminate future. These aircraft will then deposit (or remove) hordes of tourists whose Lombok adventure will begin and end with a shambolic and wholly inadequate road system that will have to get them – somehow – from out in the sticks where the new airport is going to be, to their distant holiday accommodation, which may or may not be idyllic.
    But don’t get us wrong. Lombok’s a lovely place. No. Really.

Bitten Again

There is no pleasure at all in recording that the 2012 date for Bali being rabies free (precisely October 28, 2012 according to the legend retailed by Chief Medical Officer Nyoman Sutedja) has now slipped back to 2013. We heard this news when the Bali authorities said that in the absence of promised funding for vaccination and other anti-rabies programmes from the national government, the provincial budget would wear whatever portion of the Rp15 billion needed to be spent ahead of the ministry of finance actually managing to energise itself enough to do its job. On that, we recommend that no one waits up, or worse, holds their breath.
    These funds were first promised last February and have been conspicuously absent by non-delivery ever since. They have been delayed by that ubiquitous Indonesian bureaucratic glue made from bumbling incompetence, wall to wall ennui and total lack of interest. If the funds were for road building, or paying for nice little study tours by sundry bureaucrats, it would be annoying. But it’s about saving lives. That makes it criminal.
    Also criminal, in the context of rabies, an entirely preventable disease, is the continuous litany of astonishing claims about progress when it is perfectly plain we’re all being had.

Singlet Land

A night out in Legian – especially a Saturday night – is not on The Diary’s list of regular Must Do’s. It’s tourist territory for one thing. While tourists are welcome to come and spend their money, they are not, generally speaking, living entities that should take up more than a nanosecond of a resident’s time. It’s different if you’re in the tourism business, of course, but The Diary has never believed in self-flagellation.
    Nonetheless, for a variety of reasons, last Saturday night saw us abroad – the double entendre is intended – in the crowded Jl Padma precinct. It was spectacular and not a little frightening. Ranks upon ranks of men in Bintang singlets, and women in very little at all, shuffled past our vantage point, scuffing their flip-flops and looking bored, lost, or merely vacant.
    The Diary observed to his companions at one point, sotto voce of course against the unlikely prospect that one of the passers-by might prove sentient, that thereabouts it would apparently be possible to conduct an entire conversation utilising only the two essential vocalisations employed by the mass of holidaying Australians; air, and nair. The first is an affirmative; the second a negative.  Fortunately the night was not a total loss. We decamped to a nearby Japanese restaurant, out of earshot of the hordes. The singlet brigade would never venture into such an establishment for fear of being made to use those funny little wooden stick things and to eat with their mouths closed.

No? Really?

It was Thanksgiving this week, the annual tribute Americans pay to the first-year survival of the Pilgrims on the Massachusetts shore, after they had departed Europe with their goods and chattels, and the plague bacillus and sundry other killer bugs, to colonise “English America.” Turkeys have been paying the price ever since.
    But The Diary is indebted to a Twitter friend – no stranger to Bali incidentally – who this week, ahead of the hols, advised that another essential ingredient of today’s Thanksgiving feast, the cranberry, bounces when ripe.
    There you go.

Nice Try

Anas Urbaningrum, chairman of the Democratic Party, has a novel view of the Gayus Tambunan case. He says it should not be brought into the political sphere. This is the “not my fault – my friend did it” approach to evading responsibility writ very large indeed.
    In a democratic state, nothing can be quarantined from politics. The people rule, not unaccountable bureaucrats or (in this case) the police. It might suit political leaders – even chairmen of parties that actually describe themselves as Democratic – to run for cover. But there’s nowhere to hide on this one. The fact that poor Gayus Tambunan felt so stressed facing all those corruption charges and didn’t like being locked up, and thought he deserved a little holiday break in Bali, and apparently bribed nine police to facilitate this amazing plan, is directly a responsibility of those who govern this country.
    So we can ignore – or better, have a hollow laugh at – the self-serving claims to the contrary voiced by the chairman of the Democratic Party in Bali last weekend.     

Hard Yards

Australia’s role in Afghanistan is very well understood regionally and by its major military allies. It is chiefly at home in the Special Biosphere that successive governments – from both sides of politics – have run into trouble. It’s a tough place and an even tougher call, Afghanistan, a situation not helped by the fact that President Karzai is a very slippery customer. It’s not advanced much, either, by astonishing oversights such as the absence of a Farsi interpreter at last weekend’s Lisbon NATO conference on Afghanistan. Since Karzai speaks Farsi, we must assume someone failed to tick all the boxes.
    But here’s comment Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard made at the conference – it was in the context of her statement that Australian troops might be among the last to end a combat role because Oruzgan province, where they chiefly operate, is significantly deprived – that puts the Afghanistan conundrum in sharp perspective:
    “The male literacy rate in Oruzgan is less than 10 percent and the female literacy rate is less than 1 percent - so in terms of the capacity-building work that needs to happen to support effective governance there is a lot to do.”
    Gillard’s statement also answers – or it should – the naysayers who claim everyone should just leave the Afghans alone to muddle on.

Author! Author!

The Diary continues to attract critical acclaim. We had a little note this week that said: “God, you’re boring.” Interestingly, it came from someone whose email address is

Hector's Blog appears as The Diary in the weekly print edition of The Bali Times and on the newspaper's website at The Bali Times is also available as a print product worldwide through NewspaperDirect.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Cheers, Mate: Australian war artist Tony Rafty (left) talks with Alit Bondan, son of Molly and Mohamad Bondan who Rafty met and befriended in 1945, at an Australian Embassy reception in Jakarta last week. See He’s a Hero, below.

Amed’s Great
For a Little
Weekend R and R:
Just Mind
The Buses

A weekend in Amed can never be a bad thing, even if it does take three and a half hours to drive there and much the same back. The place is pleasantly green – thank you, La Niňa – and there seemed to be plenty of tourists around last weekend. The Diary, there with visiting friends from Australia, did not find the time to drop into Baliku (next time, Donna, promise) but did renew connections with Marcel Luitze, who operates Bayu Cottages at Lipah.
    He related a story of interest to anyone who – like The Diary – wishes to keep a log of traffic idiocies. A day or so before the arrival of The Diary and Party a tourist bus had failed to make it up the steep cliff-front grade on the road outside Bayu and, slipping back without benefit of brakes (another frequent casualty of Indonesian driving skills) demolished a wall, narrowly avoiding a subsequent plunge into the inconveniently neighbouring abyss.
    Never mind. In the event no one was badly hurt, unless you count Mr Luitze’s wall, which his insurers will pay for. And so passes yet another colourful incident in the long history of Bali’s wholly inadequate road and traffic regulation.
    We dined at Sails, also at Lipah, on Sunday night, a double birthday celebration (visiting mother and daughter). Sadly the mahi-mahi was off – as in not available – but the lamb rissoles made up for this regrettable and (anywhere else) avoidable situation. And they organised a birthday cake, which was very nice of Anik and her crew.
    Mt Agung graced us with its presence, mostly a morning occurrence, and Mt Rinjani was a low, grey eminence on the eastern horizon at dusk at Sails. Of such inconsequential material is the best of life made up.

Club Class

Janet de Neefe appeared (elfin-like, again; it’s surely time for a photograph more reflective of the present-day Janet, especially as she wants to be taken seriously these days) in the Japan Times online recently. It was in a piece written by Jeff Kingston in which she discussed the regrettable absence of Japanese talent at Ubud Writers and Readers Festivals to date.
    That historic absence is indeed a pity. Japanese literature is a rich field that deserves much wider exposure. It’s not quite as hard to achieve this as some might suggest, though it does take a little effort.
    Never mind. Janet’s fixed this. Next year’s festival will have a Japanese writer – Mariko Nagai. She’s associate professor in English literature and creative writing at Temple University in Japan (and an accomplished poet and writer herself).
    Oddly enough, the author of the Introductory Life of Janet to Japan Times online readers is professor of Asian studies and history at the very same university.    
Another One

There was another rabies death last weekend, a 30-year-old man from Blahbatu, in Gianyar but basically on the north-eastern outskirts of Denpasar. That makes the official toll 105, assuming the various incompetent bureaucracies involved can get their numbers together. Doubtless Bali’s chief medical officer, Nyoman Sutedja, will view it as yet another opportunity to remind everyone not to panic or even to worry too much. Doubtless, too, the insouciant insurgents of the vaccinate-only front will say much the same thing.
    Yet it is unarguable that we are in the midst of a deadly shemozzle. The provincial government’s 2012 target for declaring Bali rabies free (Dr Sutedja has even put a precise date on this flight of fancy: October 28) is just another sick joke.
    So it was interesting to read this week a contribution to Unleashed, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s feisty blog, by Bob Gosford, who was in Bali to cover the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival last month but found a real story to write about instead.
    He sets out the rabies situation here rather well. He quoted from The Diary on same (like many people overseas, he reads The Bali Times) and stirred up something of a hornet’s nest. That’s good on one score – people need to be aware of the facts as opposed to the political fictions – but bad on another. Continued publicity about invisible vaccination teams and further rabies deaths won’t be good for tourism.
    It’s not good for Balinese who might contract rabies, either, but in the grand tradition of top-down government that seems to be rather beside the point.   

He’s a Hero

There’s a lovely exhibition of artistic memorabilia in Surabaya (it opened on November 10 and ends tomorrow, Saturday) organised by the Australian Embassy in Jakarta and starring both the work and the person of Tony Rafty, who spent the August 1945-January 1946 period in Indonesia and recorded this in illustrations and correspondence. He spent a lot of that time with founding president Sukarno.
    Regrettably, this is neither known nor cared about among the wider Anglo diaspora, especially the bit of it that still thinks Australia is chiefly notable for sporting prowess and deadly spiders. Equally sadly it is now ancient history even to most Indonesians, but it deserves to be remembered. Rafty was in Surabaya (on the right side of the argument) when British forces landed to reassert Dutch colonial control after World War II. Heroes’ Day, November 10, is celebrated to mark the Surabaya action, in which nationalists opposed the occupation of the city by force.
    It’s not generally remembered that the British forces deployed included imperial Indian troops – who were none too keen, with India’s inevitable independence pressing, to prosecute the invasion with any vigour – and it is probably widely forgotten that one British unit embarrassingly refused to open fire at all.
    What is more broadly understood, though far from widely, is that the Australians vehemently opposed the return of Dutch colonial rule here and actively encouraged and supported Indonesian national aspirations in the then fledgling United Nations and other forums.
    Rafty, who during World War II was a war artist with the Australian forces in Papua and in New Guinea – they were separate Australian-administered territories in those days – played a key role in informing Australian public opinion during the Indonesian struggle for independence.
    He’s now 95. But as the photo here shows (it was taken in Jakarta on November 8) he’s still got what it takes. In Surabaya he addressed a delegation of students from BRIDGE schools – Indonesian and Australian schools that have exchange arrangements, another very practical example of the enduring links between the two countries. 

Not a Prayer

Novar Caine, who as he relates in this week’s paper has been At Large with a DVD of Eat Pray Love, confesses to conversion on that score. It’s a good movie, he says. Well, Julia Roberts is a comely wench of matronly effect, and, OK, she has a smile to die for. It’s a shame that some other wench’s legs do the dishabille bits but never mind. Allan Ladd had to stand on an orange box to pucker up, after all. Tom Cruise uses modern cinematic technology to the same effect. In the movies, nothing is for real.
   So, Pretty Woman Does Italy, India and Bali may be a passable diversion. Being a curmudgeon, The Diary demurs. Julia’s publicity machine told us she had been so affected by the ambience of the role she was playing that she had turned Hindu. Frankly, that’s more of an embarrassment than good news, a sort of Californian thing to do. It might best be defined as an insult. Plus, it makes you wonder what she wanted to be after Pretty Woman.


We heard a lovely little tale while chatting with a young friend at Amed last weekend. She works as a flight attendant for a major overseas airline and was enjoying some well-deserved Bali downtime. The tale she told was of a cautionary nature, and came to light because – as you do – we were discussing massage and she said she personally preferred Thai massage because it was stronger and firmer: The Diary forbore to mention the very firm treatment you can get here from the right masseur or masseuse.
   Anyway, to the tale; it is delicious. On a Bangkok layover (sic) recently the captain of her ark of the skies appeared at the hotel checkout fresh, or perhaps not quite so fresh, from his hotel night, to be confronted by an angry young woman. “Mister, you no pay me!” was her rather public message.
   The moral of this immoral tale: If you contract personal services, remember to pay for them before you pass out from your exertions. 

Hector's Blog appears as The Diary in the weekly print edition of The Bali Times, Bali's only English-language newspaper and on the newspaper's website at Print editions of The Bali Times are available worldwide through NewspaperDirect.