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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 www.hkjournal.org, 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 www.baliadvertiser.biz