Aum Swastyastu ... Welcome to the Stranger in Paradise

(Published in the Hello Bali Magazine, )

Local Hero Ngurah Wardana

The 1997 - 98 Gems of Modern Balinese Design Awards

 The gorgeous Niko Hotel, which defied the “no taller than the palm trees” rule by building 14 stories down the cliff, has won the prestigious BEST HOTEL GARDEN IN BALI GOLD MEDAL from the combined Departments of Tourism, Agriculture and Horticulture.
In the 1970s, when I visited the, then, extremely remote clifftop Barong Temple of Sawangan, I used to gaze down on the future Niko site : it was, a piece of land that time had forgotten, reached only by scaling down an eighty metre cliff drop, a perfect crescent of palm grove that spilled into an unbeleivably beautiful azure sea.
Today it is announced by a camel park and an arc de triomphe, ingeniously modelled after Ionescu of Romania’s arsenal. A metal temple gate and 500 gilded ducks lead to the view, down, to the ghost train gothique fake rocks that now smother the palm grove and beach. It is an environmental and aesthetic marvel and to celebrate this award the STRANGER here inaugurates his SAINTS and SINNERS AWARDS for 1997 - 98.


Has everyone seen that little Chinese boy with the cross-eyes on the roller-coaster. Is he about to throw up? I did when I saw the Taman Festival from the beach at Sanur. Is there not enough culture in Bali that one needs all these fake volcanoes and camels?? But the Taman Festival does take the cake for audacious advertising!

The Empu Kuturan Award for Defiance of Town Planning
Whose idea was it to turn Sanur Bay North into a car park for the fun new Taman Festival? Certainly no-one asked the local balinese because on the beach they’ve been having processions to the sea that terminate in ‘explosions’ of ceremonial bliss for at least the last 1,000 years. Despite the invention of a new verb for the occasion, “karangisasi” (i.e. to smother a previously beautiful coastline, animal or wetland wildlife habitat with limestone boulders) the balinese won the day, God bless them and help them (for hell hath no fury like a crossed developer) with the help of the hereditary Cokorda (King) of Kesiman, East denpasar, Ngurah Wardana, who wins this years Golden Garuda for fearlessness.
I knew Ngurah as the quiet crown prince of Bali’s nicest Kingdom the very Byzantine Kingdom of Kesiman. His great-great-great-great-great-grand-father, Cokorda Sakti Kesiman, was a seer who, reportedly, would nightly commune with the spirit of Uluwatu temple, the ancestor spirit of Dhang Hyang Dwijendra, Bali’s answer to Joan of Arc Ngurah was, as a young man, a trail bike enthusiast and a bit of a boulavadier : I would see him every few years, standing, impeccably dressed, with the royal dukes in a high pavilion at some palace function or another. He became a King and a father, in that order, and then a member of parliament, without my noticing, and I was thrilled, conservative monarchist that I am, to hear of his victory against the timber barons and the cause of “karangisasi”.
The beach is back. Ngurah is a local hero. Long live the King!

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The Crimson Barong’s Butt for Work in Obscuring a Temple View
It pains me to have to give this award to the Bird Park as I know and respect all the new owners and managers. How could you? How dare you : the most ravishing view of the Pura Dalem Singapadu, the Notre Dame of Bali, is now completely obscured by your very nasty, germanic big sign. The Stranger is not fond of plain-talking but the pox upon you, dear fellows, for you all know better. Bring on the dancing girls! (VISIT THE BIRD PARK - ITS FABULOUS).

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The Bagus Sunset Award
The new Made’s Warung in Seminyak is so perfect, so successful and has such great parking : the BAGUS SUNSET AWARD for lifetime achievement goes to Peter and Made, legends of the lumpia, ever-charming hosts, the people who bought sashimi to the satay-satiated in the 70s, never burnt a crisp, never discriminated against cross-dressing, never gave a discount but were always there for us .... Thankyou. You two are wonderful. For design excellence in the face of mass frou-frou, this years STRIPED PLANTER BOX AWARD FOR FEISTY FASHION goes to the Nyoman Gunarsa “Museum Klassik Bali”.
You know, I’ve know Nyoman since before he poured his first truckload of concrete, when the ever-ravishing Lady Gunarsa, Indrawati, would dive down the well in their modest Jogjakarta studio (soon to be a Museum Megastore) in search of Nyoman’s paintbrushes. Many thousands of square meters of Wayang painting later, the maestro, who has never wavered in his commitment to Balinese classical art, has taken to the ultimate imperial pastime, the private zoo, to complete his incredible collection of art, artefacts, old folks, palace style, artist’s studio and four concrete policemen. Nyoman, we love you. Indrawati, we beg you ... BUILD MORE! And keep the colour and enthusiasm ever bright!
(Visit the Gunarsa Museum just before Klungkung, on the main road).

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Now, I would like to give a star to the Four Seasons group for doing the Ganesha Gallery (the cement poured onto the riverbanks of the sacred Ayung River is not their fault).
The brainchild of local expert Bruce “Karen” Carpenter and former hotel G.M., Neil Jacobs, the boutique art gallery, designed by Grounds kent Architects and Wijaya Corp., occupies a site that was originally hotel village kitchen and buggy garage. The Gallery functions as a real art gallery, publishing.
Before Closing the Awards
It gives me a great pleasure, loyal fans, to introduce with this column a new star in the S.E.Asian constellation Mr. Chang Huai Yuen of Johore Baru who starting this month is our resident illustrator.

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