Wednesday, December 14, 2011

HECTOR'S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Dec. 14, 2011

Pep Talk Required

When Pepito Express opened on Jl Raya Uluwatu near GWK on the Bukit a couple of years ago, the occupants of The Cage along with many other nearby residents rushed its doors. Inside there was not only a good range of products often otherwise unobtainable in Bali shops, but also aisles down which one could progress without first having to become bulimic to fit. It was a treat.
     Sadly, and no doubt in search of immediate feet through the door rather than a steady build-up of high-spending local consumers, things have changed. The place has become a calling point for huge buses which disgorge crowds of confused and apparently impecunious Taiwanese and Korean tourists (they never seem to understand the marked price or have the right money). The aisles have been stuffed with convenience foods (seaweed snacks seem to loom large) and there is no longer room to wheel your trolley down them with even the vague hope that you might find a regular Oreo as well as your normal range of western consumer products.
     One evening recently when The Diary and Distaff called in on a substantial resupply mission the place was impossible. The aisles had assumed trade store dimensions (and the assorted obstacle courses of cardboard cartons that goes with this genre of shopping); the staff apparently had better things to do than look after customers; and the salad shelves were full of listlessly limp post-greens.
     We may just have hit them on a particularly bad night, but the result of this un-Pepito-like experience was that the facilities of our formerly favourite emporium much further away, Lotus on the bypass at Jimbaran, suddenly looked rather attractive again.

Leap Before You Look

One of the more engaging of the local habits is the practice of walking out into the traffic and signalling a sort of pelan-pelan (slowly-slowly) instruction to oncoming drivers and riders. It’s a way of getting across an otherwise virtually gridlocked road, certainly.
     In many ways it is not dissimilar to the happy habit in Hanoi, Vietnam, where pedestrians wishing to cross the most frenetic of roads (and worse, intersections) simply plunge into the mayhem and walk steadily and on a fixed course in their chosen direction. They are confident the ubiquitous motorcycles will miss them. The buses sometimes don’t, though that’s another matter.
     But (that essential codicil!) you have to know what you’re doing. It helps, too, to know where you’re going.  If you are unsure of either of these things, and especially if unsure of both, do not attempt to tempt the traffic.
     Near Ungasan crossroads the other day there was a lovely little incident. A chap in a vehicle – a Bule of course; no fists would have been raised otherwise – who was (un)happily crawling along at 10kmh in the lengthy line of traffic behind yet another defective and overloaded yellow truck, was horribly surprised when a passing local gent suddenly leaped from the footpath (sic), put up his hand, and walked out straight in front of him. The vehicle’s driver slammed on the anchors: It’s so much easier than finding out the idiot you’ve just nudged happens to have 5,000 cousins in the immediate vicinity.
     In true Bali fashion, the incident was locally viewed as entirely the fault of the Bule.  After all, if he hadn’t been on the island, he wouldn’t have been involved.

Jingle Belles

The Diary got a lovely invitation from jewellery designer Tricia Kim – we go back such a long way, she and we, all the way back to the 2009 Yak awards where we ran into each other upon the steps at the then new Cocoon and didn’t know each other from a bar of soap, something now pleasantly rectified – to attend the launch of her 2012 collection on December 7.
     It would have been delightful to be there, for Tricia’s svelte and energetic company through a relaxing afternoon, the new collection of course, and the afternoon tea including cupcakes (can’t resist them) and sandwiches along with mojitos. A complimentary mani-pedi available on a first come, first served basis would have been good too. The claws could do with a buffing.
     And then there was the venue: Di Astana Villa at Kerobokan (it’s in Jl Batu Belig on the way down to the beach there).
     Unfortunately we were in Ubud on other duties at the time and couldn’t make it. But we’ll catch up with the collection later.

No Need to Duck

Sakinah Nauderer, the decorative and delightfully enigmatic proprietor of Senggigi’s Asmara Restaurant – a place of fine resort when in Lombok – tells us her Christmas plans this year include no more rubbery local ducks. Imported turkey will fill that role (and a lot of tummies) this season.
     She plans a Christmas Brunch Buffet on the day itself, starting from 12 noon, and at 1.30pm the children’s gospel choir from Ampenan will entertain guests with appropriate vocals. This Christmas treat costs Rp175K for adults and Rp50K for children aged six to 12. If you’re under six, you don’t pay at all. There’s a lucky draw after the turkey and the choir.
     Here’s the menu: Welcome drink and bruchetta; creamy lobster soup; stuffed turkey with gravy and cranberry sauce (prawns are available for non-turkey-eaters); spiced red cabbage; cauliflower and broccoli cheese; potato croquettes and roast potatoes. Desserts on offer are cheesecake, apple pie and chocolate cake with whipped cream. There’s coffee and tea to follow if by then you’re not as stuffed as your turkey.

Cook Up

Janet DeNeefe’s new book collecting recipes and photos of Bali and just published by Pan Macmillan Australia has been snapped up by a keen cook in Australia who – naturally enough – read about it in The Diary. He tells us he’ll be trying out his personal top choice from the menus when next he arranges a candlelight dinner.
     After our original item in The Diary last issue, DeNeefe told us copies of her book (Bali: The Food of my Island Home) were a little scarce hereabouts. They were “still in Surabaya.” We sympathise. So much that should be cleared through the wharves and customs in no time flat instead finds itself in limbo as a result of that pernicious and endemic disease, Surabaya Syndrome.

Hill Town Daze

We took some very special visitors to Ubud recently – The Diary’s sister and her husband, who spent a week with us just out of the UK via Bangkok on their way to two months in Australia. The Diary is a Wayan – so is the Distaff, which occasionally creates problems of precedence – and the Brit Sis is a Made. All this was made clear over a gin and tonic or three.
    Ubud was its usual self: spiritual, quaint, eclectic and jammed with huge charabancs quite unsuitable for the little town’s streets. We stayed at Beji Ubud Resort at Sanggingan, where sadly, this time, the internet connection was rather below par; we dined one night at Café des Artistes, refreshed ourselves at The Three Monkeys (de rigueur for diarists who die for pumpkin ravioli and who are now looking forward to trying out the new T3M at Sanur) and did a few other eating and musical things, including the new-look Jazz Café. Oh yes, and we made sure we walked right past Naughty Nuri’s. We like a little elbow room with our eating experience rather more than we like the in-crowd.
    Sister Made was on her way to see our other sister (she’s a Nyoman; there’s a Ketut brother who lives in the USA) who long ago made the chilly choice to reside in Canberra, the country’s notional capital 600 metres above sea level  in the frankly frigid Southern Tablelands. The Diary worked in that fair city for some years, on a FIFO basis, and was always glad his office was in Parliament House. It always has a plentiful supply of hot air.
     The travelling sister’s Australian itinerary does include more sensible parts of the country, including tropical – and thus truly warm – Queensland.

Merry Christmas

Christmas has long since been a global retail opportunity, a celebration of consumerism and a far cry indeed from its origins in the Christian faith and its belief that Jesus Christ was born in a cow byre in Bethlehem. Nonetheless, amid all the commercial pap, it does serve to remind you that charity and goodwill, along with forgiveness, are essential elements of life.
    So Merry Christmas to all. 

Hector's Diary appears in the Bali Advertiser print edition published every two weeks and on the newspaper's website

You can follow Hector on Twitter @Scratchings and join him on his Facebook (Hector McSquawky)

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