Aum Swastyastu ... Welcome to the Stranger in Paradise

(Published in the Bali Echo Magazine, May 1997)


THIS MONTH: Spice Girls in the Spice Islands, pouting pudenda on the new Bhima roundabout and solem n ceremony for the stranger’s original sponsor, Now read on……

NON-U HINDU UP-DATE: Has everyone seen the three metre high photo of sultry supermodel Christy Turlington facing of Bhima, the Rambo of the Ramayana, at the new Kuta round about?
Is it a sign of the times? In the 1950s, President Soekarno launched a huge campaign to ban Bali’s “topless” tradition. Do we now need someone to stop the ladies ‘dropping their dacks’ in full affrontal?
“Where to now my lovely” indeed!!
Who are these silly “Spice Girls” doing deep knee squats and squishing apolitically. “Soft bottom” say the masseurs at the “Whispering Palms”
My ultimate spice girl Zandra Rhodes was also here in May, a picture in shocking pink (the “navy blue of India”). Old Legian hippes will remember Zandra’s ravishingly freaked-out fashions in the swinging 60s (including Princess Anne’s wedding dress). Zandra’s museum of Textiles and Fashion opens in London next year.

Kuala Lumpur ,15 th April 1997 :
To Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia , to deliver a paper at the first ASEAN interior designers’ conference. The opening ceremony for the well-attended, and well-sponsored (thankyou Artwright), seminar was held at a music hall-cum-traditional malaypalace called “SRI MELAYU”, the last of its kin in K.L. (which is startingto look like BLADERUNNER).
The evening’s dance offering , by the CINDAI DANCE COMPANY troupe, headed by Nil Malek, a leading landscape designer (I challenged him to high kicks at twenty paces), was a court drama danced in the Kelantan style.
The choreography was so rich in classical Javanese dance techniques that all the Indonesian contingent were reminded of the ebbing and flowing that must have gone on between the courts of the archipelago (Indonesia) and the peninsula (Malaysia) in Majapahit times (14-17 th Century).

I meet Yang Mulia Raja Dato’ Bahrin Shah and his charming wife Toh Puan Norila, architect owners of the sublimely beautiful ARYANI boutique hotel, in Trengganu, on the East Coast of Malaysia. With the affable Dato’ I visit his other masterwork, the Trengganu Heritage Museum, which has a collection of traditional Trengganu and Kelantan houses set it romantic malay gardens. The modern museum buildings, inspired by the local architecture, house a handsome collection, ethnographic and royal, illustrating, the culture of this little know Malay state.

Footnote : Many Moslems in Negara, West Bali, trace their origins to Trengganu.

23th April 1997, Ketewel Village : My star gardener the “Dewa Animal” (a nick-name given due to his leopard-like grace), who carved the “graffiti” doors designed by Stephen Little for David Bowie’s Mustique studio-cottage, who broke the toaster of the “Legian’s” art consultant and who is the dreamtime darling of the North Singapore Philipino Maids’ Association recenty went to a pray-in with Megawati Soekarnoputri, daughter of the late great Soekarno and former head of the P.D.I. party (the rest my office are Golkar I haste to add). After the prayer session Dewa flew into a trance, possessed perhaps by the spirit of the great “proklamator“ himself (the ‘spirit’ is rumoured to reside in room 327, the Grand Bali Beach, amongst other places).
With occurrerences like this happening daily, how can one expect western journaljts to understand the vagaries, vanities and votice vortii of this incredible country! “ Malaysia Boleh” but “Indonesia Serba Mungkin” said one learned scolar .

24 th April 1997 : the washing of the King’s body at Bongkasa Palace: It was a sad day for Bali when I. Gusti Agung Gede Oka of Bongkasa passed away threeweeks ago. For almost a decade “Pak Oka” had been head of the regional office of the Dept. Of Arts and Cultureand, in the capacity, my sponsor during the years 1997-1983 when I taught English at the dance academy. He was a prince of the realm (Bongkasa ‘principality’), father to a fine family and titular head of the CHICAGO GROUP, Bali’s embryonic karaoke crowd. He was much loved in Balibecause he was the consummate Kssatrya, a lord protector who ruled with a firm but brightest consort, the most gorgeous daughter-in-law (the legendary Rosye of “Rosye Salon” and Modelling”) the best an shop in Sanur and a handsome son who was a golt champion.

They were my Sanur family and I loved them and was proud to be association, as free-range cyber-serf, with their quiet classiness. Today, at the lavishly refurbished Puri Bongkasa Palace, all the truly nice Balinese gathered to witness the body-washing ceremony which preceeds the cremation (in this case by six weeks). It was a somber affair – the corpse, the bereaved, the village community – with many poignant moments: Pak Oka’s Brahmin brother-in-law (Bapak Ida Bagus Kompiang, of the Segara Beach hotel) conduced the rites; the widow, Ibu Kompiang, produced the king’s rings from a satin purse and placed them on fingers which, in death, had assumed the beauty of a Rodin catafalque; Rosye flung herself at the corpse’s feet, herperfect coif embraced by grisly toe-nails.
In the royal pavilion an honour guard stood silent witness – great dancers, dukes of realm and dotty old Pedanda (High Priest) Dalang of Bongkasa whose brother was the first to dance the baris at Versailles.

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