Aum Swastyastu ... Welcome to the Stranger in Paradise

(Published in the Hello Bali Magazine, May 1999)

Not since Gita Mehta's timely classic"Karma Kola" has Hollywood been'rocked' by Hindu outrage: this photograph
of actor Mike Meyer's , as Madonna's alter-ego (?), promted
considerable negative reaction from Hindu intellectuals


Has anyone else noticed the outbreak of Californian Fried Buddahism? Die-hard gun molls are taking the vows of chastity; celebrity children are taking refuge.

. . .

Confusion reigns in much of the western world about anything eastern: Hollywood has type-caste Islam as a terrorist co-operative; Singapore has invented the moniker NEW ASIA to escape detection and Bali is the eternal bridesmaid for nirvana-scouts. Is there no place in paradise for a type A personality anymore? The stranger ponders these questions and others of spooky portent in this month’s column:

15 March 1999, The Big Island, Hawaii
"The big island" always sounded like "Marlboro country" to me so I was thrilled to find an "Interpretive Centre", to explain the local culture, at the beyond gorgeous Four Seasons Resort, on historic Kapalua Bay on the Kona coast. There, in incredible detail, was described poi-stewing and lei-making and the native trail that runs across the back of the 18th hole.
Courtesy hostesses eyes glaze over as they speak of the Aloha spirit: "My name is A’stor’ii" crooned our barman, "it’s a long story — it speaks of burly men on long boats, and dolphin escorts". I was gob-smacked—I mean, here’s a culture hanging on by a thread and its standard-hearers are complete pros. In Bali, where you wade neck deep in living medieval culture from dawn to dusk, everyone is so nonchalant!
I was determined to try out my aloha spirit ordering breakfast the next day: "No, No, No" I screamed "Aloha … Helloooo …. I can’t eat soft rolls …. I was abused once in a K.F.C.".
"Mahalo … thankyou for sharing" came the dulcet-toned reply.
But seriously, Hawaii, and it’s surreal respect for its native culture, does set you to thinking about theway things are taken for granted in Bali, and the abuses that are creeping in. This week, the Bali Post has been running a series on the "Wedding Business", the new white collar crime whereby, they explained, cashed-up white woman (this was implied, by the presence of a startling photo of the former Joyleen Dobson of Newcastle chained to a mortar and pestle on a mat in a sordid native hut (see photo below) take local husbands only to buy up vast tracks of Legian and open lifestyle shops. Meanwhile, a band of earnest New-Balinese fashion magnates have adopted a meteorite in North Bali (that an astronaut in a passing space shuttle saw illuminated by a blue beam) and regularly placate the cothonian influences with crystal bowl concerts.
But these are isolated incidences — the real demographic shift is happening in the fun bum belt — i.e. the homes of the expatriate hill tribes of Ubud and environs — where matrons flock by candle light to hear the sermons of visiting holymen. ‘Aggro’ merchants are turn into bleating lambs overnight - us heathens and pagans (read Balinese animists) are labeled "sensation-seekers" and pitied through half closed lids. Well, Basta, Baby, us gong bashers are going to make a come-back, Big-time. Let there be more offle umbrellas and splayed chickens in the name of enlightenment I say.

French Ambassador Thierry de Beauce, the Stranger, and Neil Jacobs Four - Seasons Resort Jimbaran at the TUMPEK LANDEP (Holiday for metal objects) ceremony at the FSR gardeners camp.
Full Moon: April 1, 1999, The Holiest Day on the Hindu Balinese Calendar
At the temple festival at the Pura Mertasari I am shocked to see that the old harbour of this once coastal temple has been filled in and a wall built where once teenagers flirted (see "Heavy petting in a Temple Setting," Stranger in Paradise," March 1979). But the fabulous furry freaks brothers BARIS CINA martial arts dance is spookier than ever, held, in dangerously close confines (considering the dozen flailing sabres) of the brand new Jaba outer court of the ancient temple complex. Indeed it seems hard to imagine that this neighborhood, home to celebrities like Leonard "Ultimate Island" Leuras and Made "Uluwatu" Jati, was once a ‘forbidden field’ where leyak (spook) battles happened on black magic nights. It seems that a whole new generation of Balinese, and expats, have grown up in Bali who know nothing about the "night crawlers" and flying armpits that once terrified South Bali.

In Singapore only the taxi drivers keep track of the spooks, it seems, or is it that only pontianak and the plumeria paranoia survive from the once vibrant animistic culture? My old colonial house near the Johore Straits in Singapore is haunted by a 19th century military officer who has been sighted on several occasions by clue-y Balinese house guests. He resembles the Baris Cina dancers of Mertasari , I am told.

30th April, 1999, The Tremble of New Asian Incursions Are Felt on the Fabled Isle.
I am shocked to receive a subscription form for my new magazine, THE POLENG(available at a bookstore near you), that has been vandalized by aesthete-bashing graffiti (see below; recommended for mature readers only). The implication is that the Stranger is "old hat," "over the hill," "finished" and that the new expats want cheaper thrills. They want fusion food, "licked with karmic energy," and flat screen T.V.s and lemming-like migrations from Seminyak to the Sydney Mardi Gras. "Say Bye-Bye to Barong," is tattooed on their newly-formed breasts and they mince in sarongs, not stride. Well I’ve got news for youse bottle blonde bungee beach boys (which, by the by, is the latest look in radically avant garde Balinese temple fashion) — the Balinese culture, at any level, even meteorite fetish, is more interesting than the Jungle Drum follies of the desperately seeking Sushi set. Who is Wayan Krupuk anyway?

Wayan Krupuk, the Hugh Hefner of cultural prostitution, and support staff: How dare these floozies play Baywatch bimbo on a beloved Nyepi guardian.

How many more mock Balinese ceremonies do we have to endure in the name of white supremacy. Get your ya-ya’s out, big girls, cause Chucky’s back and he’s in legong costume, fans flaring!

Peace, Love, Harmony


(Above) East meets West and South-South : A member of Bali's Hari Krishna Community shown here at the univeiling of the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Denpasar on 15 April 1999.

P.S. None of the above has anything to do with Rio Helmi’s noble seminar of Tibetan Buddhist learning, March ’99.

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