CONVERSATION turns to such matters occasionally. The occasion most recently was a nice little dinner in Kuta with some friends – Australians – who were astonished, and not pleasantly, by the passing parade of ugly mugs exiting their hotel within a nasal twang or two of our table, outside in the balmy evening air.
Readers will recall – and The Diary hopes they do so with glee – the little cameo painted recently by columnist Vyt Karazija in The Bali Times drawn from his unfortunate experience when by chance he found himself at a bar in the Kuta lanes also occupied by some spectacularly low-life variants of the Aussie animal. It had to do with streaking and hot motorcycle seats. The word picture was great fun, but the incident itself is symptomatic of a deep malaise.
There are, of course, plenty of well-mannered Australians. Some of them live in Bali. Others among them visit us and manage not expose almost all of their persons unless in the privacy of their bathrooms or (at a pinch) around a pool. In short, they are normal people. Well, they were, before Australia apparently decided to normalise grossness and inflict it on the world.
Anyway, back to the pleasant dinner and the unpleasant vista. From the hotel, as we watch, there issues a continuous stream of Aussies, evidently for the most part enervated by having to drag themselves along. Many are in Bintang singlets; some (too many) are even carrying a stubby of the product out with them. It was a parade of the short, the fat, and the ugly. With an occasional mutant giant – size XXXXL – thrown in. It was not the sort of sight that went at all well with the lamb masala.
There were braids – that passé tourist gig – and tattoos, real or fake, some of them in quite unlikely places. There were hemlines up to hip level (and necklines to navel) on barely post-pubescent girls whose mothers (if not they themselves) should know better. And there was that ubiquitous Aussie shuffle-scuffle: as if actually walking is too much of an effort.
Bali is a holiday island. Tourists are always welcome. Youthful exuberance is fine. It’s when the flush of youth has gone and the mindless exuberance remains – or worse, has morphed into flabby, can’t-be-bothered ennui – that it all gets tiresome.
The arrival of cheap airfares is a benefit to Bali. But there’s a downside: it brings in a flood of those who should really stay home.
Sex on the Beach
THEY say it’s a drink. Well, it must be. It’s on a lot of bar menus, along with Orgasms and all the other insensible accoutrements of life in the Post-Mannered Age. But it’s not particularly advisable in the flesh, so to speak, unless one really is on a desert island.
A Diary spy who jogs regularly – poor fellow – was enjoying a regular trot along the strand at Canggu the other day when, he tells us, he all but ran over a couple of randy specimens apparently hugely enjoying the thoughtless pretence that they were at Sandy Bottom or some other licentious spot.
That they were thus engaged within sight of the Batu Bolong temple demonstrates their complete unconsciousness in relation to the culture of the island and its people (not to mention the law).
Shame our fellow only jogs and doesn’t go for four-wheel drives along the beach. He’d have done us all a favour if he’d run over them in an SUV.
The Bukit’s Kicking
DOWN in the dry limestone country that functions as the Bukit, the blob at the bottom of Bali, all sorts of things are happening. This is especially so in the GWK/Ungasan Simpang area, a new focus of energetic local efforts to get a share of the passing growing-dollar traffic. There’s a new pharmacy (a Guardian) next to the long-established Circle K at the little line of shops opposite the entrance to Puri Gading. A bit beyond that, on the other side of the road, is a new spa.
Further up Yellow Truck Hill is a new Pepito outlet, an “express” version of the Tuban supermarket. And atop the hill, at Maniac Crossroads (Bali Cliff left, Balangan right, Oblivion straight on), the locally owned Nirmala supermarket is making strenuous efforts to join the ranks of establishments you’d like to shop at. It is expanding, has opened up the aisles – you can now get your trolley down them without involuntarily destocking the shelves as you go – and is selling a range of expat-oriented food and consumables not generally seen in local establishments.
Since this is The Diary’s neighbourhood supermarket this is good news indeed.
IT is interesting to read (we caught it in the Bahasa press) that the legislators of the rural regency of Bangli awarded themselves a trip to Batam to see how that go-ahead – and well moneyed – regency manages to regulate communication towers. Apparently they do this by regulation. Now that’s a good idea. It’s certainly better than having no regulations at all, or just a supply of brown envelopes to pay off the necessary bureaucrat.
The regulations themselves, in Batam, not only require a transparent approval process but also an annual permit renewal. Presumably these regulations are available in Bahasa – they do speak it in Batam – and could be provided without the need to fly off and look at them there, or at the towers for that matter.
Nonetheless, it is good to hear that Bangli, hitherto famous for a definably cowboy approach to government, is interested in (one) regulations; (two) possibly creating and enforcing same; and (three) by definition apparently has some view of the environment that does not involve obscuring it with promiscuously placed rusting metal.
Batam, of course, is a vibrant centre of industry and commerce. It is also – on a clear day – within sight of Singapore. They do things differently there, too.
In the Club
THE traditional antipathy of Australians to perceived British class distinctions, these days mostly misplaced, got another airing the other day, with a post on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s handy little blog The Drum by political correspondent Mark Colvin.
It related to the fact that lame-duck Labour prime minister Gordon Brown (a Scotsman, shame on him) could still snatch an undeserved victory from the jaws of otherwise inevitable defeat in the general election in the UK on May 6 because opposition leader David Cameron (not a Scot despite the name) went to Eton and then to Oxford, where he was a member of the awful undergraduate club parodied by the novelist Evelyn Waugh in his book Decline and Fall (first published 80 years ago when such things mattered).
Who wins or loses the UK election is largely a matter of academic interest outside the bounds of that polity. What irritated The Diary was Colvin’s gratuitous reference to his own Oxford sojourn, via a comment that he, like Waugh’s unfortunate tragic hero, would not have been allowed to become a member of that club. Of course he wouldn’t. He was a fatuous colonial (and apparently still is).
That’s the Spirit
BY all accounts this year’s BaliSpirit Festival, which ended this week, was a great occasion. We’re sure having a didgeridoo along to the party made all the difference. It’s easy of course to pooh-pooh events such as the festival; to characterise them as yet another ephemeral resort of the sad and confused. But that’s not only churlish; it also fails to take account of the fact that the world really has changed.
There’s a lot of rot talked about new age this and millennium that, but even a cursory look at the multimedia around today shows that the concerns that so beset us once, no longer do (or at least less so), and that the great push is now for community – across cultures, across borders – and that this has fundamentally changed the world.
And if people feel they need to find themselves, what better place to find yourself than in Bali?
THE Diary lives on Tweet Deck, the vehicle of choice for cyber citizens with too much time on their hands, or sad lives. Thus we can report that Jakarta columnist Desi Anwar – she appears in print in the Jakarta Globe, which is where we read her – put in a special plea on Sunday evening. She was returning to the capital after a lovely weekend in Ubud and wished, oh how she wished, that her plane would leave on time.
We’re sure it did. No one would dare gainsay Desi.
Hector's Blog appears as The Diary in The Bali Times, Bali's leading English-language newspaper, out Fridays, and on the newspaper's website at www.thebalitimes.com. The Bali Times is available worldwide via Newspaper Direct.