Aum Swastyastu ... Welcome to the Stranger in Paradise

(Published in the Hello Bali Magazine, October 2001)


For the last five years my Sanur home has been base camp for the summer sirenes. Indeed it is known by babe-magnets island-wide as the E.E.Z. (The Eurotrash Erogenous Zone). This summer was no exception: luscious Hons and Rebels with severe Diet Pepsi dependency descended on my designer bedrooms like the Lufftwaffe. They drank me dry, clogged up the toilets and left bountiful ashtrays brimming with filter tips wherever they went around the compound. Sorties of Balinese surfie stud-muffins were spotted one dawn leaving the sirene's smoke-filled chambers, just as I was turning on the night session of the U.S. Open. Venus Williams never had it so good.

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What is it then about the Balinese male? What's the secret to their babe-magnet success? Having done no research in this area I fell upon the idea of canvassing all my girlfriends married to Balinese men to get to the bottoms of this phenomenon. "When I first married Ketut" said Diedre of Townsville, Queensland "He was all over me like a rash, but lately he has had more affection for his fighting cock." This was a typical lament. "Balinese men are Hot Totty" screamed the Hon. Honor Fraser in her August column in our beloved sister journal, the Scotland Today. "They have great, small-framed bodies and a natural athleticism that would make any woman throw herself across a Balinese dining table." The tartan tartlet, former star model for the House of Chanel and Elle U.S. covergirl, is just one of many starlets who descended on Bali this summer to "mop up the men".
"Lapping it up" was the title of Mz. Fraser's piece in Scotland Today and a jolly good column it was. She spent most of her time in Bali, by her own public admission, "in horizontal mode" (visit for details). Mz. Fraser is descended from the legendary William Fraser, Resident of Delhi (1820-1830) and related, by marriage, to William "City of Jinns" Dalrymple, the world's best travel writer (see "I was a blonde slave in Delhi" S in P, June 2001). Dalrymple tells us," that William Fraser pruned his moustaches in the Rajput manner and fathered as many children as the King of Persia from his harem of Indian wives. While he slept, his bodyguard of Indian tribals would unroll their mattresses and sleep around his couch." Mmmmmm.

23rd August 2001: A trip to ground zero EXPATRIA–Seminyak
Has anyone else noticed the new emerging power-bulés of Bali: They trail shell-shocked nannies ("Come on, Komang") and drive recreational vehicles like bats out of hell. They're here for "the lifestyle" and what one five-star fluff called: the "available glamour". Heaven help any native who gets in their way!
Power-bulés speak a patois called Legian-speak (descended from the olde hippy phrase "bagus sunset" first uttered in Golden Village, Seminyak, in 1974). Legian-speak is a mixture of Strine (Australian slang) and pidjin Malay. The cartouche of this new breed would be a bottle of cosmic massage oil, a babysitter and a plate of sushi.

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Tonight, I am at Carlos' old house (1976-1986) for the wake of my old chum John De Coney (1946-2001). John came to Bali as Lissa Minelli's ex hairdresser, and has now, 30 years later, left a tribe of gorgeous widows and spirited children. He was a leader in the ethnic chic stakes–his long houses for Uberhairdresser Paul MitchellÕs Hawaiian dreamhome, modelled on the traditional long houses of Sumatra (Nias), and Toraja, inspired a generation of designers, including this Stranger. He elevated the faded mini sarong, over leotards (with a matching (Esky) handbag filled with bottles of Vodka) to a new level of shabby chic-ness. As the Errol Flynn of Legian, he inspired a generation of mature ladies-men, before the invention of Viagra. He will be sorely missed by his tribe. At the wake, the last Mrs. De Coney, Sylvia, an Italian pianist with a fabulous figure, danced a spirited joged, under a full moon, in front of the giant bamboo orchestra from Negara. As her shimmy-shammy approached Mach II one of the young blonde Wayans emptied a pitcher of iced water over her gyrating womanhood. Suddenly, the gamelan musicians woke up: a few leapt off their bamboo 'chariots' to request the honour of a dance! Mini pizzas circulated, as did leaflets for an evening of tantric learning at Milo's. Now this is the Expatria I remember!

24th August 2001: To Kedisan village on Batur Lake, Kintamani, for a mass cremation.
Wanting to avail myself of some "available glamour", to balance an August overloaded with exposure to expatriates, I travel to the village of Kedisan inside the caldera of Mt. Batur for the cremation of a friend's father. It is a mass cremation, called a ngerit, which seems to be standard practice in highlands villages these days. At noon, the procession set off towards the cremation ground, through the cabbage patches at lake's edge. A flotilla of lake canoes shadowed the procession of floats, devotees and gamelan orchestras. At the lakeside cremation ground, groups of family members were waiting with extraordinary effigies, hung with the deceased's, hairpieces and ceremonial finery (a Kedisan custom). Photographs were decorated with the deceased's jewelry. It was an amazing spectacle in a most picturesque setting–the ancient rituals are alive in mountain Bali.

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While in Kedisan I visited the 'clinic' of local shaman Mangku Meme, star of Strangers in Paradise over the decades. I found the indominatable octogenarian in fine feisty fettle–dispensing coffee, rubies and stories of the spirit of the late President Soekarno with whom she still holds regular meetings. Is this "available glamour", or "bewitching reality"??

26th August 2001: To Sayan village for another Ngerit mass cremation
Sayan is a village, like most in the Ubud area, famous for the colour and spectacle of its possession, and particularly its cremation processions. Today's ceremony included a party from the Puri Sayan palace, which added a grand air to the event. I was there to honour my friend Wayan Rumi's mother, Ni Nyoman Reteg, sister to Walter Spies' cook in the 1930s, and legendary Sayan sweetheart. The procession consisted of a relative zoo-load of singa tiger and lembu cow byres, spirited to the graveyard by gangs of local youths. The coconut grove garden of the Taman Bebek hotel behind the setra (graveyard) provided a verdant backdrop to the tableaux vivant of byres, pyres and palladia.
Bravo Sayan!

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