Wednesday, November 30, 2011

HECTOR'S DIARY The Bali Advertiser, Nov. 30, 2011

Holiday Break

The Diary has just spent two weeks enjoying the pleasant ambience of the Nerang River in Queensland. It was, though not in the way Hyacinth Bucket (“It’s ‘Bouquet’”) achieved it, a riparian delight. We were well away from the faux glam glitter of the Gold Coast’s beachside tourist strip and – courtesy of some lovely friends of very long standing who courageously opened their home to Diary and Distaff – enjoyed all manner of domestic comforts.
     It gave us a chance to catch up with people we haven’t seen for many years (at least six, since we left Queensland for the sybaritic delights of Bali) and to reconnect with what for the Diary is truly home. We also spent a couple of days well inland, on a formerly frequently visited farm, the domicile of other dear friends. It is a place with plentiful cups of tea and long views of beautiful mountains:  the sort of landscape that the weather and Bali’s love affair with dysfunctional internal combustion engines so often conspire to deprive you of at home.
     We drove down into New South Wales to visit another old haunt, Byron Bay, and had a beer and some lunch, but were blown back from the beaches by a stiff northerly half-gale. Ah well, never mind; next time perhaps. We went up to the Gold Coast’s own special “mountain,” Mt Tamborine, a 500-metre high ridge nowadays littered with wineries, and sampled a few vintages. These are mostly from Queensland’s distant Granite Belt which is so high and so cold you actually can grow wine grapes there. We dropped in on a liqueur maker who was doing a roaring trade (the wattle myrtle vodka is a killer –Za vashe zdorovye!). Hector left a note in the visitor’s book.  We lunched at a Bavarian restaurant, far too well, and had to take the rest of the afternoon off.

Idiots’ Week

The peculiar Australian custom of “Schoolies Week” – an annual event during which young people who have just finished senior school go off and have a holiday with their mates – is a pernicious occurrence not only in Bali, where little idiots arrive and do foolish things, but also at the Gold Coast in Queensland. This year’s risk of choice there, among the mindless, was balcony jumping. That’s one way of bringing yourself down quickly from a party high, we suppose.
     But it was events in Bali that enraged the Diary; events as portrayed of course. A segment on tabloid television’s “current affairs show” ACA related the sad case of some other little idiot who had travelled to Bali to run amuck and had injured his foot in a motorbike accident. The enragement was less because the accident occurred – they do, with depressing regularity, though they mostly involve locals who are of no interest to visiting Aussie tabloid TV teams – than with the fellow’s determined refusal to acknowledge that he had been the author of his own misfortune because he was (a) drunk and (b) stupid.
     In that regard it was good to see BIMC chief Craig Beveridge on the programme explaining that his establishment sees plenty of such cases.  Perhaps some lapsed parents in Australia saw that and took it in. Well, just perhaps: sentience tends to be a genetic thing.

Blog for Health

High profile conferences and diplomacy are of course vital to the business of managing international relations and bringing assistance to countries and communities that need help (in whatever form) but it is at the lower, less visible, end of the equation that most of the practical work gets done.
     So it is with the Australian aid agency AusAID’s great Indonesian gig to get bloggers to help increase awareness of HIV/AIDS and of World AIDS Day (December 1). Active bloggers were invited to enter a dynamic online competition themed “HIV and Youth.” The competition called for young Indonesian bloggers to write about their own experiences or opinions on HIV/AIDS.
     Australia’s ambassador, Greg Moriarty, says of the competition: “Indonesia has one of the fastest growing HIV/AIDS epidemics in South East Asia. We need to do all we can to raise awareness of this disease.”
     The competition was aimed at tapping into Indonesia’s thriving social media scene – which has 38 million Facebook users and more than 3.2 million bloggers – to expose the country’s browsing community to inspiring and easy to read information about the disease. It was held by AusAID in partnership with Viva News, one of Indonesia’s leading news sites. Submissions closed on November 30.
     The winning blog entries will be announced on December 20. The top three bloggers will win computers, cameras and high-tech phones.
     In 2010, Australia’s $100 million Partnership for HIV provided services to 50,000 prisoners, helped 26,000 injecting drug users to gain access to clean needles, methadone maintenance programmes and harm reduction services, and improved access to medicines for people living with HIV.

Dream Road

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard was among the squadrons of international political leaders who attended the East Asia Summit in Bali two weeks ago. These jamborees are important – genuinely, they’re not just photo opportunities or occasions for grandstanding as some of the more jaded among us might sometimes think – even if, for most of the population under the flatfooted footprint of the attendant VIP protection effort, they are chiefly occasions for mass inconvenience.
     Gillard took the opportunity of the summit to visit the Bali Bombing Memorial in Legian on November 19. She described it as a moving experience. It always is, of course. The Diary visits the memorial at least once a year to read (silently) the 202 names listed.
     Amid tight security, including roof-top snipers, Gillard placed a wreath at the memorial site and chatted with Australian tourists.  She met Governor Made Mangku Pastika, who as Bali’s police chief in 2002 led the investigation into first bombing.
    But what caused the Diary a particularly dyspeptic sigh was the ABC report that said she then left to return to Nusa Dua “about 20 minutes drive from the memorial.” Yeah, right. That would be about the travel time, if you’re in a high-speed VIP motorcade and everyone else has been shoved rudely out of the way.
Great Idea

The big bash at the Westin Nusa Dua from November 16-19 included, as is the fashion with modern day international group navel-gazing events, a number of side events and bilateral meetings. These were conducted at the Bali International Convention Centre and at the Westin itself.
    One of them was a think-in about Women’s Empowerment, hosted by Indonesia’s Ministry of Same and chaired by First Lady Ani Yudhoyono. Now that’s an area where a lot of work is needed.

What’s Cooking?

Janet DeNeefe, Fragrant Ricist and Festival Founder, is back in print with another little tome on Bali cuisine. Bali: The food of my island home, runs to 272 pages and was published by Pan Macmillan Australia on November 8.
     It’s always a joy to read publisher’s blurbs. This one invites potential readers to follow Janet on a spice trail through Bali and its rich food culture, with chapters exploring sambals, rice dishes, curries and coconut, street food, ceremonial food, modern offerings and sweets.  It notes that each recipe is accompanied by an insight into the local culture, while key Balinese ingredients – such as kencur, candlenuts and shrimp paste – are explained in an extensive glossary.
     And it says the book is not only a cookbook but also an incredible photographic journey. It sounds like a dream.  Perhaps it will feature in 2012’s writers’ and readers’ festival.   

Artist in Residence

If the Diary ran to an artist in residence, then we should have to choose Leticia Balacek. This is not just because she’s a decorative Argentine, or even because her art is first rate. It has to do with vivacity, verve and vitality. You need all those to properly engage with people.
     So it was good to hear that more of Balacek’s work is on show at Black Sheep (Jl Drupadi 69, Seminyak). It’s a mix media collection that includes Textures (Life is Paradise – Bangkok; and Transformations - Buenos Aires) and a work she hasn’t shown before, For a Little Bit of Sun, from Berlin, in A4 size.  The show runs until Saturday (Dec. 3).
     Gaya at Ubud is also showing Balacek’s work in an exhibition to celebrate the Mother as the central point of human society.  The organisers say the concept was born of the desire to honour and connect to the Mother through creative expression.  It’s true that everyone has an individual story that relates to this theme, which has unquestionably created who we are.  Works scheduled to appear at Gaya from December 17-24, by various artists in many media, include painting, photography, ceramics, sculpture, drawing, written poetry, video projection, song, spoken word poetry, dance and music.
     We hear, by the way, that Balacek will be exhibiting in Jakarta next year.

Back Home

It’s great to have an alternative to Virgin Australia on the Bali-Brisbane route and Air Australia, formerly Strategic, is filling that role very well. The Diary flew both ways with them on the recent trip to the old home town.
    While the airline is using Airbus A320s on the route there is the little matter of the “technical stop” on the uphill leg – the 320 doesn’t have the range to fly Brisbane-Bali non-stop against the headwinds and lands at Darwin to refuel. The downhill leg is fine. Pushed along by a friendly tailwind the Diary made Brisbane in around five hours and twenty minutes on November 11. The return trip on November 25 was somewhat longer.
    When Air Australia (then Strategic) commenced its Brisbane-Bali service it was using an Airbus 330 which doesn’t need to drop in on the Northern Territory capital en route.  Maybe we’ll see the bigger aircraft back on the route sometime.
     Air Australia has big plans – and not just for Bali, from where one imagines it should pick up a good proportion of the Bali-originating Brisbane trade. We’ll be back on board.

Hector's Diary appears in the fortnightly print edition of the Bali Advertiser and on the newspaper's website

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser November 16, 2011

Mum-in-Law Says

Domestic order has been disturbed at The Cage, domicile of Diary and Distaff, by the departure of our prized pembantu. She was apparently prised from our grip by the iron grasp of her mother-in-law, who seemingly saw benefit in depriving her household of one of the two regular incomes it received.
     We think she didn’t want to go. She’d been with us as our housekeeper for four years; we all enjoyed a joke and a laugh together; we gave her extra money for additional tasks, and her husband too, for providing overnight security (and messing around with our TV) during any of our absences from home; her work schedule was regularly (or rather, irregularly) amended to meet her need to attend ceremonies and to the other, many, demands of local life; and there were other benefits, including a regular supply of clothing for herself and her child brought to our house by visitors from overseas who had heard about, and often met, our Wayan.
     It’s a shame. It points up the impossibility of applying here employment rules such as might exist in more formal economies (notice? what is notice?). It reinforces with stark clarity the single most significant fact of life in Bali for foreigners living here: that they are ATMs, nothing more, and rate only the label of Public Convenience.
     But worse than that, it demonstrates that those who promote the concept of women’s equality (or even basic rights) in Indonesia have a long and very hard row to hoe. In Indonesia generally, and in Bali’s iconoclastic and restrictive society particularly, a woman’s place is in her home. Doing what her husband and her mother-in-law tell her to do.

Just So You Know

We dined some little time ago at Dava, the signature restaurant at The Ayana Resort and Spa, the guests of Ayana’s chief spruiker Marian Hinchliffe, who couldn’t be with us on the night but had nonetheless arranged a complimentary glass of nice Chilean red.
     The occasion was to sample the degustation menu of Singapore chef Jusman So, over which Dava divas and other paying guests have been swooning. And so they should – it’s top tucker. We opted for a five-course sampling (the Distaff, who lately has been breaking out, chose two desserts) and added our own purchase of a bottle of said Chilean red (the Lapostalle merlot) to help the medicine go down. That cost a pembantu’s monthly salary plus extras, which is why Dava doesn’t see us all that often.
     For those with the readies, however, the degustation menu is just So ...  fabulous. Should a lottery win eventuate, the Diary might dine at Dava very regularly indeed. There was no lavosh among the complimentary breads, unfortunately, but Ottmar Leibert seemed to be providing the tunes to chomp to, which almost made up for its absence.
    The Diary had the gorgonzola, duck foie gras, purple potatoes, wagyu beef and fondant. The Distaff made it through a salad and fish (grouper) and beef dishes before hoeing into her two desserts.
     So is also now presenting his full a la carte menu, by the way.  We might come back to that. But you shouldn’t miss it, if your plastic stretches far enough.

 New Look:  Aussie colour in the air

Go Green and Gold

Strategic Airlines, the Brisbane-based carrier that serves Bali from the Queensland capital, changed its name and its livery on November 15. It became Air Australia and went green and gold – the country’s sporting colours – instead of red, white and blue.
     As well as this, it went low-cost, dispensing with cabin service included in ticket costs in favour of the buy-on-board option. It has big plans to become Australia’s true low-cost carrier – Virgin Australia long ago having junked that idea, preferring instead to reinvent the airline duopoly that served Australia in the past – and plans to expand its Bali services among many other developments.
     It will be retaining business class on its aircraft, however.

Rovers’ Return

Many years ago the Diary gave up on both the UK and southern Africa and moved to Australia, shortly thereafter adopting Brisbane – appropriately the city is named after a Scotsman – as his place of domicile. It served admirably in this capacity for some 35 years before the Distaff, herself from another extremity on the Australian continent, sold the house and contents, packed the remnants in her dilly-bag, and moved us to Bali.
     That was six years ago and was (and is) a move in no way regretted. It’s warmer here, for one thing. And Australia’s vast and uncontrollably growing regulatory environment wouldn’t thrive in Bali either. Since we prefer to live freely by our own (reasonable and lawful) rules, and hate the very thought of a nanny state, let alone Big Brother and all the other meddlers, Bali’s where we have to be.
      Nonetheless, thoughts of home drift into consciousness now and then, and we flew down to Brisbane on November 11 – on Strategic (Air Australia) as it happens – for a two-week fix, our first since the big move though we regularly go to Perth.  It’s only a short visit, and a busy one at that – so much to do, so little time – but it’s great to see old friends and old haunts, to smell the eucalyptus, to enjoy long, smog-free vistas of distant gum-blue mountains, and visit favourite places.
      These include the Queensland Museum of Modern Art (in Brisbane) where there is a photographic exhibition on that the Diary is going to see come hell or high water, and the thoroughly seductive Byron Bay, scene of many past delights.     

In the Pink: Organisers of the Bali Pink Ribbon Walk at this year’s event

In the Money

Gaye Warren, originator of the Bali Pink Ribbon Walk, tells us this year’s event – it was on October 22 – was highly successful. She didn’t mean that this was because Hector wore pink and wowed the crowd. She meant – and this is really good news – that fundraising here and in Jakarta, and in Australia and Britain, looked likely to bring on purchase of a mammogram machine in 2012.
     Breast screening is an essential element in detecting breast cancer early enough to make remedial treatment a viable option. At present most women in Bali who are found to have breast cancer have gone to the doctor only very late in the progress of the disease. Having a mobile mammogram unit will help the Bali International Women’s Association (BIWA), which supports the Bali Care Cancer Foundation set up by doctors at leading hospital Prima Medika, to ensure that more women receive treatment early.
     The Bali walk alone raised Rp200 million, bolstered by similar amounts raised in Britain and Australia and a quilt made by Jakarta quilters was auctioned, raising further funds. One woman in a wheelchair travelled from Jakarta and wheeled her way around the course. That’s dedication.
     Another breast cancer fundraising event, a charity lunch organised by the Rotary Club Bali Seminyak  at Metis in Seminyak on October 28 and attended by nearly 200, raised close to Rp110 million.

On Your Bike

We all owe a debt of gratitude to Nyoman Minta, the Bali Tourism Development Corporation gardener who made monkeys of the presidential security corps in Nusa Dua a couple of weeks ago. Minta pedalled his pushbike right through the middle of the select throng chosen to hear the latest presidential pronouncement on the occasion of some international conference or other. He did so because, as he later told police, he always rode through there.
     Medals are in order. For Minta, we suggest the Medal of Freedom (from thought and everything else). For the commander of the presidential security corps, who said everyone else was to blame, we recommend the Grand Star of the Order of My Friend Did It (with Inventive Excuse clasp), even if he doesn’t also get the JDS (Jangan Datang Senin, known in the English-speaking world as the DCM – Don’t Come Monday).  And clearly the three cordons of security goons through which Minta insouciantly perambulated while they were watching, rapt, as the Indonesian Air Force put on an aerial display, collectively and individually deserve conferment of the Dereliction of Duty Medal with Nincompoop clasp.
     Perhaps the president himself should get a gong. He is reported to have ordered police to treat Minta humanely. The change of policy – a welcome shift from beating every miscreant in sight with batons – is to be commended.

That’s the Spirit

You’ve got to hand it to Tom Hufnagel at JP’s Warungclub in Seminyak ... he gets all the big acts. Star of their Halloween Monday Night Special on October 31 was Amy Winehouse, who they said would dance again for you all. Well, she might have been there in spirit. The non-ethereal sound effects were by Sound Rebel. Revellers who wore a Halloween costume got a free drink. The late Amy would have liked that.

The Diary appears in the fortnightly print edition of the Bali Advertiser and on the newspaper's website at

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

HECTOR'S DIARY The Bali Advertiser, November 2, 2011

Island Interlude

A week in Lombok is not a long time, especially if most of it is spent on Gili Trawangan, aka the Party Island.  It’s always been an eclectic little community so far as expats go, strongly focused on accommodation and recreational diving.
    On a recent trip across the Wallace Line we stayed first in Senggigi, at the usefully central Puri Bunga, just across from the Art Market, where the tariff’s not a killer and waitress Novi, by now an old friend, remains as helpful as ever at breakfast.
    On Trawangan, we stayed at Gili Villas, the Manta Dive-linked operation just up the street from the Gili Deli next to the night market.  They are pleasant little villas and the cleaning, cooking and security staff members are enthusiastic, at least for the most part. And the limit-of-two-users free Wi-Fi was just manageable for a household of three heavy users.

New Experience

Flying into the new Lombok International Airport for the first time was an interesting experience. The tourism-oriented locals up Senggigi way call it Bandara Hutan (Forest Airport) since it is 47 kilometres and at least an hour and fifteen minutes away from where most tourists want to be. They’ll probably get over this angst if the airport begins to pick up additional international services.
    We flew Garuda (we have to keep adding a few unusable frequent flier points to the piggy-bank) and landed at Bandara Internasional Lombok, near Praya in the middle of the island, in the swiftly gathering gloom of post-sunset. By this time, 11 days after it had finally opened, its lighted signage was proclaiming “ANDARA IN-ERNASIONAL LOMBOK” and the “K” was looking as if it wouldn’t be around for long. Still, the runway lights seemed to be in place and working.
    The new highway that is supposed to speed honoured guests to the booming cash points in Senggigi and the boats to the Gilis so they can begin parting with their money to the greater glory of the island’s economy is, after the fashion of things in Indonesia, a cross between half-completed and notional work-in-progress.
    Our taxi driver skilfully negotiated his way through the narrow gap between two large signs clearly warning (in Indonesian) “road closed ahead” before he worked out he was on one of the work-in-progress bits and nearly drove us into the cavernous ditch at the end of this enterprise.

Fine Dining

A great highlight of our Trawangan visit was dinner with the delightful Diane Somerton, who markets The Beach House and the neighbouring Kokomo resort. Kokomo’s restaurant serves very fine fare indeed and the wine, chosen by Somerton, was a real prize.
    We saw her too at The Beach House for two of the Rugby World Cup finals series matches, including the one in which the All Blacks knocked the Wallabies out of their way while charging towards their first cup win in 24 years.
     This was hard for Hector, who’s been wobbly for years; especially since his travelling party on the trip included a Kiwi. Still, never mind; they do say rugby’s only a game.

Rock of Ages

Dream Divers, old friends from our own days in Lombok, took us to Gili Trawangan from Senggigi. The coastal road up to Teluk Nara/Kode and beyond must be Indonesia’s finest highway. It is really very good and some of the tighter bends have actually been engineered properly.
    While we were waiting at Dream Divers’ landside facility for our boat to Trawangan we went to pay our respects at Gerd’s Rock, the memorial stone placed there by Dream Divers staff after the death last year of founder Gerd Bunte.
    One of the workers on hand told us Gerd had chosen the rock himself. It seems that after his death last year they had been unsuccessfully looking for a suitable rock and, empty handed, were driving back to Senggigi, when the fine specimen now residing at Teluk Kode plunged down the hillside directly in front of their vehicle.

Taman Tales

Peter Duncan, Lombok resident, tells us the disputed ownership of Senggigi’s Taman restaurant has now been finally resolved. It was sold in a court ordered auction in mid-October; the buyer was Wiwik Pusparini, who is his wife.
    Taman, once a leading light along Senggigi’s restaurant row and former place of beneficial Duncan management, has been far from gleaming for a long time, after one of those interminable ownership rows that so afflict business in Lombok and elsewhere.  We’ll leave those details alone but it’s good to hear that the Duncan connection has triumphed and that Taman is likely soon to be spruced up and gleaming (and trading) profitably again.   

In the Pink

The Bali Pink Ribbon Walk on October 22 raised sums unspecified at diary deadline time to support breast cancer prevention programmes for local women, helped along by a wide range of generous commercial sponsors. Hector now has a pink T-shirt for his own effort in walking the allegedly five kilometre course around the manicured gardens and streets of Nusa Dua’s star hotels precinct (most of the walkers opted for their own shortened course) and also gained an insight into modern forms of entertainment.
     For some reason, the organisers thought a bunch of cross-dressing trans-gender boys acting the goat (well, the jenny perhaps) and pretending to (a) sing and (b) be Beyonce was just the thing. It’s certainly the nearest Hector has been to a raunchy nightclub performance in quite a while; probably since the days long ago when he might, unwisely perhaps, once or twice have worn a pink shirt.
     October is Breast Cancer Month globally. But the 2012 Bali Pink Ribbon Walk, organised by the Bali International Women’s Association (BIWA), will revert to May when the weather’s less likely to be humid. It’s on Saturday, May 26.

Growing better: The Sole Men collect a welcome donation from Banyan Tree Ungasan General Manager Reinhold Johann at the plush resort’s infant banyan tree.

Great Feat

Robert Epstone, originator of the barefoot Bukit Walk for a Sustainable Future which took place from September 22-25, tells us it raised around US$2,000 for the ROLE Foundation with more money still coming in. The walk promoted support for Homeless children in Indonesia, women’s and children's literacy and vocational skills training and environmental restoration projects in South Bali.
    Epstone, Rotarian Sole Man UK; Rotarian Sole Man French Daniel Chieppa; and Swiss Sole Man Beat Schmid de Gruneck presented to money to Mike O’Leary, ROLE Foundation’s founder; and the president of both charities, Mangku Ariawan, Hindu priest, politician, humanitarian and owner of Bali Island Home, who said: “It is great to have two important organisations combine their efforts and ‘go that extra mile’ to do good together. “
    Epstone tells us the walk presented a wonderful opportunity to share their story as well as hear the stories from people living on the Bukit. “Along our way we made many new friends, meeting with the local Balinese, hotels, owners of businesses, villas and restaurants; and the Uluwatu surf community,” he says. “We also discovered some inspirational 'silent heroes' actively trying to make our planet a better place.”
    Mike O’Leary adds this: “The Bukit peninsula and Badung regency is experiencing huge tourism development with new luxury resorts and world class waves attracting a global surf industry. Expansion is a given with progress but must also be sensitive to culture, social needs and the environment. When the coastline and land is being redeveloped we need to make sure simple communities such as seaweed farmers aren’t marginalised and people, women in particular, are given new opportunities to make a basic living.”


A little while ago the Diary dined at The Ayana’s great Dava restaurant, where Jusman So, Singapore culinary sensation, was presenting a six-course degustation menu. We’ll talk about that in the next edition.

Post Script

The Hong Kong Journal, an online effort that over 22 issues has sought to bring important issues into the public domain, is no longer being published.  A statement from editor Robert Keatley tells us the Smith Richardson Foundation, whose generosity brought the Journal into existence six years ago and has been its main funder ever since, is not renewing the grant that made its publication possible and that it has not been possible to find sufficient alternative funding. Although the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace will maintain the Hong Kong Journal’s archives on line for some time, there will be no future issues.
    Issue 22, posted some weeks ago at, includes an analysis by Anthony Cheung, President of the Hong Kong Institute of Education, explaining why so many Hong Kong residents are unhappy with their government and current social trends. It also has a report by Louis Pauly of the University of Toronto that outlines the reasons why he believes the administration needs more aggressive economic policies if Hong Kong is to remain an affluent, global financial centre in the coming years.
    The demise of the Hong Kong Journal is a shame. We need to see free thought from China’s only really free city.

Hector's Diary appears in the fortnightly print edition of the Bali Advertiser and on the newspaper's website