Aum Swastyastu ... Welcome to the Stranger in Paradise

(Published in the Bali Echo Magazine, January 1997)


Nero fiddles, white whistles, 1000 plates of gado-gado head down Sanur road and the dredgers move in in Turtle Island.
Now read on.........

Singapore , 20th September 1996.
There have been some responses to my plea for support in my column: Ellen Bai, who writes the “I slept with ex-pat boss” pieces for her “HER World” magazine (Singapore), has volunteered, in writing, that she always savours her STRANGER, over sates, at the American Club; the Bali Echo has disappeared from the coffee table arrangements at the French Ambassador’s residence, and my editor, who dared question the relevance of the Stranger’s words of cross-cultural wisdom in this, the age of bungees and slam-dunk tourism, has the country after the last cover, of a mangled number plate.
Curse of Wijaya? We shall overcome.

The official opening of the Sanur Beach path by (right to left) the Minister for Tourism Post and Telecommunications Mr. Joop Ave, the wife of the secretary General of the W.T.O. Madame Frangiali, Ida Bagus Kompiang representing the Sanur village community (the Bali Hyatt's dynamic G.M. Marc Hediger, is behind Mr. Kompiang.

Sanur, 26th September 1996
Every two years the World Tourism Organization (W.T.O.) holds a convention with members from almost every country in the tourism world. Bali was a clear favorite for the 1996 convention as Indonesia’s popular Minister for Tourism, Joop Ave, was recently elected chairman of both the Pacific Area Travel Association (PATA) and the W.T.O
Bali is also an incredible place for a convention, as many of use witnessed, under the full moon, on Sanur Beach. As unofficial caretaker of the roadside planting from Middle to South Sanur (retired) I had been invited, by the Sanur Beach Festival Committee to help with the design of the dinner show venue (1000 guests) for the W.T.O’s closing ceremony.
My pathetic attempts at designing a neo-classical amphitheatre were quickly swept aside by the artistic minister who wanted “Red Sails in the Sunset” and a 10,000 ton steel stage dropped on the foreshore for the “Save the Ocean and Bali Kaleidoscope” theme night. It was also to be the official opening of the minister’s new beach footpath, a royal cremation and kris dance, so it was hard to know what to wear. I arrived with a party of ten battle-hardened Bali-o-philes whose eyes were quickly on sticks: the sight of 100 outriggers with Bhutan-red sails bobbing of the Bali Hyatt foreshore, backlit by a blazing moon, was one of outrageous beauty.

Wayan 'Kevin Costner' Mataram

We all strolled down the beach past booths of Balinese life―tooth-filing, legong lessons, rice-pounding, demon-effigy skirmishes, palace ladies weaving offerings, pig offal on the roast, two marriage celebrants and a pear-shaped Dutch tourist in a frangipani tree...GWTTING IT ALL ON VIDEO. Four gamelan orchestras and the giant bamboo Gejog from Jembrana (G.B.G.J) provided a cacophony of sound to go with the kaleidoscope of images............and the official party, looking like the U.N. security council in party hats, and lead by the proud minister, were suddenly coming the other way.
I dropped a deep curtsey, for amongst the group were royals from Senegal to Sweden, as a Bali-besotted battalion of local and international tourism experts raced for the 100 tables. Everyone was wild-eyed with wonder. Those who had never witnessed anything Balinese were frothing at the mouth from the ‘overdose’ and those of us who thought we’d seen it all just reveled in the new condensed version.

Congratulation Mr. Minister.........once again your showman’s sense of the spectacular, dovetailed with the enthusiasm of the Balinese has showcased the nation’s most incredible asset, cultural tourism.
Special mention to the people of Sanur who made this opening of the inaugural Sanur Beach Festival so amazing; Mr. Marc Hediger, G.M. of the Bali Hyatt and chairman of the Sanur Beach Festival and the Bali Hyatt’s legendary chief engineer, Wayan Mataram, whi, with ‘his secret service’ walkie talkie, orchestrated the whole production with “Bodyguard”-like finesse.

Sayan, 3 November 1996
The riotous success of the 1979 once-every-hundred-years Eka Dasa Rudra ceremony sent the Hindu-Balinese into a new century of festivities. So successful was it, in fact, that once-every-hundred-years or other multiples seem to be springing up with starling regularity!

The kaleidoscope of Balinese Cultural activities

The more the merrier for the ceremony-loving islanders. Loyal scribes will have will have noticed over the past decade – in fact, since the Puri Saren, Ubud-sponsored con-secration of the giant Hindu Temple at Lumajang in East Java – that there has been a tendency towards ‘militancy’ in the temple attire of the fashion-conscious Balinese: the crisp white bespoke “Nehru jackets” with faux ruby buttons have replaced the exotic plumes of previous decades. This week we can add white whistle to the obligatory outfit for the chefs de securite who police the tail ends of all processions as the squadrons of motor-bikes try to sneak past.
Now, the less pious amongst us, or the more pragmatic, might ask is it perhaps time to, heaven forbid, spend less time with gazes fixed to the four corners of the universe and more to the foreshores and river banks the naughty developers are filling in, what what??!!



The cafe at the Chedi, Pahyangan. Ignore the tank traps and other Albert Speerian attributes.........settle into perfect Vietnamese noodles and scrumptious deserts in this view, platform suspended over a verdant valley, like the bow of an ice-breaker!! Jikhyun Aark, the chef, is a wonder woman.

“Ramayana Bagus” on Jimbaran Bay (in the middle of the strip of lean-tos of the beach near the Keraton Hotel). Perfect grilled seafood, baked potatoes, salsas and Italian sambals. To die for. Host “baggie” treats every customer like a potential land deal victim―so goes for it. Voted No. 1 “Liberation”, Paris.

Poolside at the Four Seasons or the Amankila or the Amandari. A feast for eyes as well.

The passing parade on the new footpath as viewed from the Tanjung Sari bar is funky over fergedels.

The pizzeria on the beach at the Bali Hyatt Sanur, the new Made’s Warung in Seminyak, the Tanjung sari on Legong (Saturday) Night, Nyoman’s “hole on the wall” warung opp the “Presidential Suite” at Taman Bebek Villas, Sayan.........all old favorites that are still cozy and cuisine-conscious.

Nias Island, North Sumatra. See the stone age village squares before the planter boxes arrive Stunning scenery, great beaches, fascinating culture: one still feels a sense of discovery just being there!

Milo’s new “ Milo and Friends” boutique on the corner of Matahari complex in Kuta. All the rage in Oman and Brisbane this summer, Milo’s fabulous floral fabrics, inspired by his sixty-five years in Bali and his passion for textiles and gardening, are a great buy for the lithe and the wilting.

A facial at the Nusa Dua Spa (“Clarins for Kevins” is their motto); a John Hardy signature spotty dick razor from the Four Seasons’ Boutique “Aladdin’s Cafe” (also great cotton shirts from the collection); cotton ‘chinos’ or Mumbai Bloomers’ from Mr. Bali at Kuta and Ubud.

Klick―Innovative art shop (photo-art and gift) adjacent Cafe Batujimbar (also highly recommended) on the Sanur Road, in front of the Banjar Batujimbar.

Warisan Gallery―a good first stop in the Bangkasa (past the Oberoi turnoff) ‘basin’ where many great buys can still be found.

For those of you who are living in mobile homes and moving upland as the planter boxes approach, the back road from Besakih to Kintamani, via Suter, is still asli (original). New roads around East Bali (the Ngis and Buda Keling areas) offer access to previously remote and most picturesque villages! The drive from Karangasem to Tejakula in North Bali is still spectacular.

“THE POWER OF PLACE” (Rajas in Batik. Ed.)
‘One hundred years ago, the highlands of the Bukit Peninsula were the private hunting grounds of Balinese kings. Wild grassland covered the high plains, and there were wooded valleys thick with game. Their quarry was the deer and wild cattle that trampled the fields of the Bukit’s remote hamlets (Anyone for fondue? Ed.)
The kings were the lynch-pins of the domesticated cosmos, mediating between heaven and nature, and ruling by virtue of their sakti―their spiritual power―and they knew that sakti came from heaven by the way of Visa. They knew the power of place, and that certain sites were charged with holy force, that plants and trees carried a hidden heavenly language, and that the sea was the realm where began and began again. (Yo, sister, where do we stop here?? Ed.)


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