Saturday, April 25, 2009

"Where the Bali hell have you been?"

"There and back. Just there and back. And now I'm back. And this is the end. Or the start. Or whatever. Take your pick. Blog off!"

--- but not before having viewed some last impressions of Bali:

Click here for larger image

Friday, April 24, 2009

Last rites

Well, I've booked my wake-up call for 5 a.m. and my airport shuttle-bus pick-up for 6 a.m. One more sleep and I'm homeward bound!

Judging by all the single mothers sitting in the cafés along Mitchell Street and sipping their Pina Coladas (don't even know how to spell the stuff let alone waste $10 a pop on it!), yesterday must've been "Pension Day". Darwin has a "Canberra-ish" sort of feel to it as, being the seat of the Territory government, it has at the bottom of every highrise building housing the myriad of government departments a constant cluster of so-called "public servants" taking their 'smokos'. My theory is that even non-smokers in the "public service" become habitual smokers so as to be able to cut down on their present-at-work hours (in other occupations known as 'working hours') from the required 7-and-a-bit to probably less than 4 or 5.

Q: Why have public servants stopped looking out of the window in the morning?
A: Because otherwise they'd have nothing to do in the afternoon ...

I have no idea what it would be like to walk around in this hot weather (or, for that matter, in any weather) with hemaroids (hemorrhoids?) up one's butt but I'm convinced it couldn't be much worse than having a heatrash up one's groin. And so I spent the afternoon in an air-conditioned arcade just outside a COLES supermarket, sitting in one of those coin-operated massage-chairs. Except this one was out of order which kind of summed up everything as I sat there with this large sign stuck on the wall above my head which read, "OUT OF ORDER".

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Putting Descartes before the source

I've been away! Have I been away? Or have I just been dreaming or hallucinating?

There was a a chap in the seventeenth century, René Descartes, who opted for reason over a divine source of knowledge. He probably wishes he'd never said, "Cogito ergo sum" ("I think, therefore I am"), because it's all anybody remembers about him.

He arrived at the cogito through an experiment in radical doubt to discover if there was anything he could be certain of; that is, anything that he could not doubt away.

He started out by doubting the existence of the external world. That was easy enough. I do it all the time! Then he tried doubting his own existence. But doubt as he would, he kept coming up against the fact that there was a doubter. Must be himself! He could not doubt his own doubting.

Maybe he should have said, "Dubito ergo sum."

There can be no doubt that I've been to Bali! I've got the sunburn to prove it. And the prickly heatrash in the groin. And an empty wallet.

"I'm sunburnt and heatrashed and without money, therefore I must have been to Bali."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I Still Call Australia Home

I've been to cities that never close down,
from New York to Rio and old London town,
but no matter how far or how wide I roam,
I still call Australia home.

I'm always travelIing, I love being free,
and so I keep leaving the sun and the sea,
but my heart lies waiting over the foam,
I still call Australia home.

All the sons and daughters spinning 'round the world,
away from their family and friends,
but as the world gets older and colder,
it's good to know where your journey ends.
Someday we'll all be together once more,
when all of the ships come back to the shore,
I’ll realise something I've always known,
I still call Australia home.

Click here for larger image

I will always call Australia home! Bloody oath!


Leaving Bali just before midnight and arriving in Darwin at 3 o'clock in the morning is murder. I had a spot of bother getting my bag's of apostrophe's through Custom's. As they told me, "We've got heap's of apostrophe's in the country already; we don't wan't any more import's." However, after consulting various regulation's, two senior Custom's official's allowed all my apostrophe's in. But they did suggest that in future it would help if I didn't enter on my arrival card under "Occupation" the words "Apostrophe-NAZI".

Never arrive anywhere in the dead of night and expect a welcome! Darwin Central was booked out. The night porters John Dada and Umit were most apologetic but full is full! So were all the other 24-hour reception places as there are a couple of conventions in town. Anyway, they were all around $200 a night and more!

(Actually, there was a "backpacker-ish" sort of place that had a single, self-contained room for $75, and while the reception-guy's dreadlocks didn't inspire confidence, I was prepared to take a punt but blew my fuse when he wanted to inspect and photocopy my passport as part of the registration process! Inspect my passport? And photocopy it? In my own country? I realised later that this seemed standard procedure in the Top End to catch out illegal immigrants but at the time I considered it an affront to my civil liberties.)

Took a taxi back out to the airport and was determined to catch the first flight down to Sydney. What stopped me was that the next flight out was only on Wednesday. And it would have cost me another $427 on top of what I had already paid. Took the shuttle bus for the second time into town and found a room at the inn - the Poinciana Inn on the corner of McLachlan and Mitchell Streets, to be precise - where Esther, the night-porter - from Kalimantan!!! - even allowed me a very early check-in at 6 am so that I could go to sleep immediately. It's right in the centre of town at the top-end of Mitchell Street which is the entertainment strip of Darwin with wall-to-wall bars, restaurants, and discoes from one end to the other. It's a slightly ageing but spotlessly clean place of the kind that reminds me of hotels in the 60s except that this one must have been built at least ten years later as Cyclone Tracy wiped out all of Darwin at Christmas 1974. At $125 a night it's just a very ordinary hotel. Compare that to the $15 a night I paid at the exquisitely appointed and rather exclusive Banjar Hills Retreat! Saying 'good-bye' to Bali meant saying 'good-bye' to low prices, to immediate eye-contact and friendly smiles!

I have a sneaking suspicion that the owner of the hotel is a German. Although I have not actually seen the word "VERBOTEN", the place has sticky-taped signs everywhere: 'NIGHT-SWIMMING PROHIBITED", 'NO SMOKING IN ROOM - PENALTIES APPLY", "NO UNATTENDED CHILDREN IN LIFT", "NO SPITTING OFF BALCONY", and "PUT LITTER IN BIN PROVIDED".

It's now midday and I'm almost rested and sitting in an internet café called Cheap AZ Travel in Knuckey Street next to SUBWAYS which is half the price of any other internet place in town and where half the world seems to meet as there are people of all shapes and shades living in their own parallel universes.

I've had some Chinese food, or, as the Chinese call it, food. I've also been into Woolworths and bought Swiss cheese, sliced ham, crunchy breadrolls and apple juice, and some traditional soft licorice - all the sorts of things I couldn't get in Bali.

I am now ready to explore the city. First impressions: it's hot, hot, and hot! And it's a huge concrete jungle! No real feel of an outback town or what the Darwin of old used to be.

I was going to visit the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets on Fannie Bay tonight but was told that it won't start again until the 30th of April. I'll be on the morning-flight to Sydney on the 25th, then the bus, then the old CAMRY up to Riverbend - and I'm ready for a long, long holiday at "Riverbend"! Home sweet home? You bet!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hengky Tambayong, Bali's best hotel manager


Best Hotel Manager

Hengky Tambayong

When in Bali, stay at the HARRIS TUBAN and be looked after by their friendly staff under the leadership of Hengky Tambayong. Anybody who's made it to the cover of TIME Magazine must be good!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

It's 'Selamat tinggal' to Bali ...

... and quite soon 'Hello' to "Riverbend" again - which isn't all bad as I remind myself of what the Mole said to the Rat in "The Wind in the Willows":

"And you really live by the river? What a jolly life!", to which the Rat replied, "By it and with it and on it and in it. It's my world, and I don't want any other. What it hasn't got is not worth having, and what it doesn't know is not worth knowing. "

Well, this rat is going back to its home at "Riverbend" - with a five-day detour to check out the rat-race in Darwin!

I'm staying for one more night in the lap of luxury at the Harris Hotel in Tuban before being seen off by their friendly staff. Killed a couple of hours in the Buglis Bar across the road. My recommendation? Don't!!! It's a rip-off joint! And a totally depressing experience - unless you consider it an uplifting experience to meet in one place all the down-and-out Bali expats ranging from run-away husbands to worse!

On the shuttle bus from Hell

The driver of the shuttle bus from Ubud to Kuta ran every red traffic light in a particularly Indonesian way: as he approached a red light, he immediately changed to the left-turning lane (which here can always turn left, even on a red light), sped up the sidestreet for a hundred metres or so, did a sharp U-turn almost without slowing down, and dashed back to the intersection whence he'd come, and turned left again, beating the whole red-light queue he had refused to join!

Try doing the same in Australia and you'd be collecting traffic infringement notices for jumping lanes, crossing white lines, doing U-turns, and for dangerous driving - not to mention for speeding, as all this was done at breakneck-speed! And with a commuter bus full of frightened passengers!

Reminds me of a joke:

Pat:  "Mike, I'm calling you from the freeway on my new cell phone."
Mike:"Be careful, Pat. They just said on the radio that there's a nut driving the wrong way on the freeway."
Pat:  "One nut? Hell, there are hundreds of them!"

A message from the President of the ARJANA Ool Club!

(Motto: We've kept the p out of our ool; please keep it that way!)

With my impending departure from Bali, I hereby officially dissolve the ARJANA Ool Club! Would all past and present members - be they back in the U.K. (or West Indies) or Belgium or Holland or still in Bali - please tender their official resignation by email to Subject to sufficient interest, a meeting may be held twelve months from now at the Nomad Restaurant in Jalan Raya to renew past memberships. Members who resided in "Rathole Number 1" will be exempt from paying membership fees. (And don't think for one moment that this is too much of a long shot: you've been touched by the big wide world and I don't expect that you will meekly settle back into domesticity in Holland or Belgium so here's to a reunion in 2010 in Bali!!!)

I hope you have enjoyed as much as I our many and long conversations even if they were, in the words of Longfellow, as between ships that pass in the night. "Terima Kasih" and it's "Selamat Tinggal" from me (who's leaving) and "Selamat Jalan" from you (who are staying), and may you keep fond memories of our hours by the oolside! Further news may be gleaned from the blog

Peter Goerman
(Self-appointed) President of the ARJANA Ool Club
Jalan Kajeng
Ubud, Bali

P.S. Pictures to follow (after they've been released by the Censors) but it may take some time. After all, I'm still on Bali-time so why procrastinate when you can perendinate?

P.P.S. Have just checked out the Darwin Backpacker Job Centre for you. Quite a number of suitable jobs. See Emily Tyler at the Backpacker Job Centre at Shop 20, 69 Mitchell Street (that's in the centre of town), and start pulling beer or serving hamburgers the next day!!!

Other backpacking jobs are at

The Club premises and some of its members:


Sonnet: " Lift not the painted veil . . ."
by Percy Shelley 1818

Lift not the painted veil which those who live
Call Life: though unreal shapes be pictured there,
And it but mimic all we would believe
With colours idly spread, --- behind, lurk Fear
And Hope, twin Destinies; who ever weave
Their shadows, o'er the chasm, sightless and drear.
I knew one who had lifted it --- he sought,
For his lost heart was tender, things to love,
But found them not, alas ! nor was there aught
The world contains, the which he could approve.
Through the unheeding many he did move,
A splendour among shadows, a bright blot
Upon this gloomy scene, a Spirit that strove
For truth, and like the Preacher found it not.

An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog

Good people all, of every sort,
Give ear unto my song;
And if you find it wondrous short,
It cannot hold you long.

In Islington there was a man,
Of whom the world might say
That still a godly race he ran,
Whene'er he went to pray.

A kind and gentle heart he had,
To comfort friends and foes;
The naked every day he clad,
When he put on his clothes.

And in that town a dog was found,
As many dogs there be,
Both mongrel, puppy, whelp and hound,
And curs of low degree.

This dog and man at first were friends;
But when a pique began,
The dog, to gain some private ends,
Went mad and bit the man.

Around from all the neighbouring streets
The wondering neighbours ran,
And swore the dog had lost his wits,
To bite so good a man.

The wound it seemed both sore and sad
To every Christian eye;
And while they swore the dog was mad,
They swore the man would die.

But soon a wonder came to light,
That showed the rogues they lied:
The man recovered of the bite,
The dog it was that died.

-- Oliver Goldsmith

Click here for larger image

And here are three more short stories by Somerset W. Maugham: "The Lotus Eater", "German Harry", and "The Outstation".

“There is so much weariness and disappointment in travel that people have to open up — in railway trains, over a fire, on the decks of steamers, and in the palm courts of hotels on a rainy day. They have to pass the time somehow, and they can pass it only with themselves. Like the characters in Chekhov, they have no reserves — you learn the most intimate secrets. You get an impression of a world peopled by eccentrics, of odd professions, almost incredible stupidities, and, to balance them, amazing endurances.”
—Graham Greene, The Lawless Roads, 1939

Friday, April 17, 2009

Bali Goes Bust

Bali is in crisis. Tourism has dried up since the terrorist attacks and now Jakarta might introduce a strict pornography law that would ban bikinis. Locals worry it could be the final straw for the tourist trade.

"Things are very hard right now. There are no tourists", despairs one beach seller. Now, there's a new threat to Bali's reputation as a tourist paradise. In Jakarta, politicians are considering a new law which would prevent people going to the beach scantily dressed. "It could kill tourism totally."

Watch this video clip.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Always go before you leave home!

A Balinese ‘dunny’ is a traveller’s worst nightmare – and the worst of the worst is probably one you’ll be asked to pay for! I’ve frequently seen stalwart companions-in-need get just inside the door (often just an opening in the wall really), do a U-turn and exit without perceptible pause, looking pallid and strained.

Never approach them in bare feet or with only thongs or flip-flops on. Can you use a toilet with only one hand? You will have to because your other hand will be needed to hold your nose. And don't ever contemplate sitting (on those that are of Western design)

Don’t think for one minute that nice shops, department stores, or even hotels at times, will have anything other than DUNNIES! Above all, don’t expect toilet paper. ALWAYS take your own toilet paper for emergencies. It’s as important as money as soon as you leave your hotel. And remember your dear old mother’s advice, "Always go before you leave home!"

East or West, Home is Best!

Picture of myself,
looking all sweaty
and homesick,
to follow

I'm into my third week, and am beginning to think of home. As they say, "The best part of travelling is coming home again", and I'm reaching that stage. There's no place like home! Sleeping in one's own bed, waking up to familiar sounds, being surrounded by everything one holds dear - and surprise, surprise for one who constantly daydreams of once again living in the tropics, going for a walk without breaking out into a sweat within the first thirty seconds!

"Riverbend", here I come!


Bali is also a Paradise for movie lovers as DVDs are very cheap: Rp.15,000 each (that's less than AUS$2 !!!), and if you buy five, you get a sixth one for free! I bought:

THE LIVES OF OTHERS (Das Leben der Anderen)

By contrast, some other things are expensive: discovered on a restaurant menu a bottle of very ordinary Jacob's Creek Chardonay for Rp.450,000. That's a cool AUS$60 for what in Australia costs less than AUS$10. Not that I was interested as I was already into my second glass of local rice wine!!!

The Dolphin Story

to follow

Today was a very full and tiring day: a 3-hour bus ride to Lovina with kids in their wheelchairs, then a beautiful lunch at the poolside of the Melka Excelsior Hotel, followed by a swim with the two dolphins by each of the ten disabled kids.

You should have seen the joy in their eyes! It made the whole day so worthwhile!

Our thanks to Carl Meyer, the owner of the Melka Excelsior, his wife, and all the staff who were so helpful!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Bali Difference

It’s funny to watch and compare the two genders dance around each other in Thailand and Bali. While in Thailand, mainly in Bangkok, Pattaya or Phuket; most of the sex tourists are usually the old, saggy type of men in their late 50s up, it’s almost unheard of that women travel to Thailand for Sex.

The show is completely different in Bali: Here you usually see a younger crowd of men, but most of them bring ‘beer to Munich’ or ‘owls to Athens’, as they travel with girlfriend or wife. Rarely you see typical male sex tourists (in the classical sense) flock to Indonesia.

Instead, there is the other species of single or lonely older women (40+ onwards), sometimes heavily nipped-tucked, which seem to make the main bunch of the female tourist crowds here (apart from the drunken Aussies Gals in the bars, of course).

These middle-aged singlets are usually taken care of by the so-called Bali Boys or ‘Kuta Cowboys’. As one Bali expat observed:

“Now when I say Balinese men flirt in the bars you need to understand this is a euphemism. The world hasn’t seen such heavy-handed, obvious advances since the Third Reich marched into Leningrad.

To sit in a place like the Putra Bar and watch the Bali Boys in action is a joy to behold. And highly entertaining. Kuta, the beach area to the south, is even more notorious for this. In fact, they have a nickname for them down there: Kuta Cowboys.

Their body language is obvious. After all, no one has ever had to ask a vulture why it’s circling its prey. And even though their English is usually pretty good - since they’ve obviously heard the phrase “Know thy enemy” - sometimes it can be difficult to be certain you know exactly what they mean.

For example, when they say “You have beautiful hair”, it’s not that simple. What they really mean is, “Let’s have sex.” In case you’re a female who’s planning on visiting Bali - or a male, since the Cowboys couldn’t care less if a boyfriend or husband is standing next to their target - here’s a Kuta Cowboy-English Dictionary to help you out:

What they say What they mean
Where do you come from?Let’s have sex.
Where are you going?Let’s have sex.
Are you married?Let’s have sex.
How old are you?Let’s have sex.
You have charisma.Let’s have sex.
You make my hati (liver) quiver.Let’s have sex.
Can I buy you a drink?Let’s have sex.
I forgot my wallet, can you buy me a drink?Let’s have sex.
Why don’t you ride on the back of my motorbike?Let’s have sex.
I’ve never done anything like this before.Let’s have sex.
You like Balinese paintings?
You sure you don’t want to have sex?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Patch of Paradise

The author of this book, Gaia Grant, was becoming increasingly unsatisfying and stressed out in Sydney. She wasn’t getting as much as she wanted out of her relationship, her child or her work. A nameless urban ennui was setting in.

Professionally and emotionally unfulfilled, the dream of taking off work and escaping for a year kept her sane in an increasingly insane city environment where people were bombarded by "on average, 3000 TV, radio, newspaper and magazine ads in the course of a day."

So she dared to start a new life with her family on the breath-stoppingly beautiful but feudal island of Bali which was the deductive result of her need to find a tropical, idyllic and affordable beach environment. To keep her husband happy, it also had to have good surf.

This is not a travel book. There are no high adventures at sea, no hair-raising surfing stories, no visits to remote tribal territories. It does contain the sensitivity, wisdom and perspective of a woman’s efforts to start a new life; also practical and amusing advice on how to drive a car on Bali, and how to recognize moneychangers’ ruses. And she reveals how she found her patch of paradise.

A Doris Lessing or Anais Nin she is not, but Gaia Grant’s verve for life is inextinguishable. She’s a keen observer of Balinese compounds, temples, ceremonies, all wrought in overwhelming detail.

When your life is over, you do not regret that you had not spent enough time at the office. You regret that you did not spend nearly enough time with the people you loved. The writer understands this. For instance, she made a pact with her young daughter, Zoe. At least once a day she will go to the beach with her, no matter what, even if it was for just 10 minutes.

In the last pages of the book, Gaia Grant warns her readers not to expect too much of Bali, not to choose the "geographical cure." People searching for their own patch of paradise may end up taking their unhappiness with them no matter where they go. Those seekers must first be prepared to search for and deal with their unhappiness at its source.

Perhaps the book’s most important raison d’etre is to convince people how easy it is to start a new life. It’s sub-subtitle could almost be "You can do it, too!" Bali, Gaia writes, is "for people with an open mind and an accepting spirit who can reap the treasures of a tropical, community-oriented lifestyle."

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bali 1910, 1932, 1946 and today

Bali 1910

Bali circa 1946

Bali 1932

and today!

ARJANA Bungalows in Ubud

I slept beautifully in my big ARJANA bungalow amongst the rice fields just a short walk up Jalan Kajeng outside Ubud. And it's a mere Rp. 125,000 a day - that's about AUS$15 in real money! It has a beautiful swimming pool. Went out for a chicken-curry and BIR BINTANG last night. Slept right through a huge thunderstorm and now it's very hot and humid. I think I stay here for rest of my time in Bali with just a day-trip on the 15th to Lovina to swim with the kids from the Kupu-Kupu Foundation in the dolphin pool at the Melka Excelsior Hotel.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Bali Candy

In Indonesia there is a widely accepted practice in stores country-wide, that instead of small change they give you candy. That means for every Rp 100 they owe you, you will get a piece of candy. Sweet or annoying? A welcomed treat for sweet tooths - annoying for some; as some Aussie smart pants tried in reversal to pay his purchases with the same coin.

In what is believed to be the first case of its kind in Bali, an Australian expatriate attempted to pay for purchases at a Kuta supermarket with a wallet-full of candy, shop management said. The 32-year-old, who accumulated his bulging wallet of cheap individually wrapped confectionery during months of supermarket spending, failed in his endeavor.

Putu, who was on checkout number 3 on Tuesday lunchtime, was surprised that he proffered a fist-full of candy to pay for his items, which included a head of broccoli, three cans of beer and a chocolate bar, and a pack of condoms.

She demanded cash. The man, identified as Stuart Longhorn, a civil engineer, said he had accumulated his stockpile of candy as part of the store’s policy of giving candy as change and saw “no reason” why he couldn’t use the unusual-yet-accepted candy currency to pay for goods.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Did Hitler ever go to Bali?

"Om Swasti Astu". With this mystical greeting, guests are welcomed to the island of Bali, a Hindu enclave in the Indonesian archipelago, home to volcanoes, reefs and pristine beaches, gamelan orchestras and temples protected by troops of monkeys. The visitor is offered everything from surf, nightlife, markets and Bintang beer.

Bali is nothing short of paradise, an island of grandeur and mysticism. Beyond the pure tourist attractions however, the traveller with an interest in military history and militaria could not but be struck by the abundance of swastikas throughout the island. To the unknowing, the immediate reaction is to somehow try to relate the island's symbology with the Third Reich, or some resurgent neo-nazism movement, but unfortunately Hitler's adoption of the symbol has perhaps forever tarnished the swastika's ancient significance.

Hotels, restaurants and businesses on Bali bear the name 'Swastika', while almost everywhere else on the island the swastika appears on statues, tiles, banners and temple friezes. The actual word 'swastika' is derived from Sanskrit, the language of ancient India, meaning 'well-being', partly reiterated in the Balinese greeting "Om Swasti Astu". The swastika itself, in various forms, has been a Hindu symbol for thousands of years -- a sunwheel representing the continuous progression of life, death and reincarnation, optimistically interpreted as prosperity and good fortune.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Where the Bali hell are you?

Where the bloody hell are you? Apparently not in Bali.

In the wake of two bombings and bad press surrounding the high-profile Schapelle Corby, Bali Nine and Michelle Leslie drug trials, Australians are shunning Bali big time.

The number of Australians heading to the tourist island has dropped from about 224,000 to just 95,000 - a 57 per cent slump that has had a devastating impact on the island's economy. During the same period, the number of European tourists heading to Bali has fallen far less - by about 15 to 20 per cent.

It's a contrast Australian businessman Brett Morgan has played up in an online viral marketing campaign he has launched to spark a resurgence in Australians packing their bags for Bali. The campaign features a tongue-in-cheek video that shamelessly twists the controversial Tourism Australia tagline, "Where the bloody hell are you?" to "Where the Bali hell are you?"

It stars a smiling Balinese guide who highlights how Bali's delights are now being lapped up by tourists from other parts of the world while Australians miss out. "Hey look, the Japanese are surfing your bloody waves," the guide says as a group of surfers runs along a beach. "The Russians are in your bloody spas. The Dutch are wearing your bloody thongs. The Americans are doing your bloody shopping. The Italians are drinking your bloody beer. The French are eating in your bloody restaurants. The Germans are laughing in your bloody pool bars."

At the end of the clip, the guide asks: "Aussie ... where the Bali hell are you?"

Sidoarjo on the way to Trawas

On the way to Trawas we drove past what is probably one of the biggest disasters affecting tens of thousands of people. Here's the story:

A leading Indonesian environmental group has sued an energy firm and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono over a mud volcano that has displaced more than 10,000 people in Java, its chairman said on Tuesday.

The torrent of hot mud has been flowing since an oil drilling accident in May and has inundated entire villages in Sidoarjo, an industrial suburb of East Java's Surabaya, Indonesia's second-largest city.

Numerous attempts to cap or curb the flow have failed and it has become a political and environmental issue, with the government under fire from critics for what they say were lax safety standards behind the accident and for not doing enough to resolve the situation.

Environmental watchdog Walhi filed the suit in a Jakarta court on Monday and named the company blamed for the mudflow, PT Lapindo Brantas, its partners, Yudhoyono and other local officials as defendants, said the group's chairman, Chalid Muhammad.

"The mud flow has damaged the local ecosystem and removed residents from their villages. The current effort is not effective and its funding is controlled by Lapindo," he told Reuters.

The suit demanded that Yudhoyono require Lapindo and its partners to bear all the costs for stopping the mud flow, compensating victims and restoring the environment.

Lapindo and PT Energi Mega Persada Tbk, which indirectly controls it, dispute whether the mud flow was caused by the drilling and also whether Lapindo alone should shoulder the cost.

Energi is owned by the Bakrie Group, controlled by the family of Indonesia's chief social welfare minister, Aburizal Bakrie. Lapindo holds a 50-percent stake in the Brantas block from where the mud is gushing.

Energi International Tbk holds 32 percent and Australia-based Santos Ltd the remaining 18 percent.

Yudhoyono said in December that Lapindo would have to pay US$420 million to victims and for efforts to stop the mud. Lapindo has agreed to pay 2.5 million rupiah (US$276.5) per square metre for swamped land and damaged buildings, and 120,000 rupiah per square metre for inundated rice fields.

The suit also demanded the president set up a team with more powers to investigate the disaster and mobilise expertise to stop it, the environment group said. The court has not set a date for the first hearing.

... for more information on the disaster.

'Hello' to Chris in the Canadian arctic wastes!

I notice you're following my blog. I'm now in Surabaya. Plenty of misplaced apostrophes here! Being a confirmed apostrophe-Nazi, next time I leave home it'll be with a paintbrush and a pot of paint and I'll overpaint all those misplaced apostrophes wherever I can find them. Maybe I can turn it into a tax-deductible trip, freeing the world of misplaced apostrophes!?

Thursday, April 9, 2009


I'm flying across to Java today with GARUDA (which stands for "good and reliable under Dutch administration")to visit my parents-in-law in Surabaya and to meet "Professor Timmy" and little Cecil (who's just made it onto the cover of TIME Magazine). It's a short 40-minute flight on a 737-400.

Tomorrow the whole family will drive to Trawas, a mountain resort an hour's drive away from Surabaya, where we'll say at the Blessing Hills Hotel for the night.

Will probably stay for four days and return to Bali on the 14th.

Hello to Paul and Sarah in Brunei!

Selamat Pagi, Paul and Sarah!

I've just noticed you're reading my blog. I enjoyed my meeting you at Villa Agung. Keep in touch!

My email is

My webpage is and my other blog is

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Garden of Eden

I feel like I've woken up in the Garden of Eden! I had better leave that apple (or whatever it is) untouched!

Like in the original Garden of Eden, many things have turned sour here for unsuspecting foreigners. After I had told the Balinese lady who looks after the Banjar Hills bungalows that I had almost bought the place myself back in 2006, she asked, "You want to buy house? I show you!", and off we went down a slippery track only fit for a mountain-goat, skipped from boulder to boulder in a fast-running stream, and balanced across slippery logs over deep irrigation channels. We finally arrived at what is a typically Balinese walled compound built at the far end of a deep valley where not a single breeze stirred the oppressive heat. A (mad?) Dutchman had built it; two small houses, a kitchen/bathroom annexe, and the usual wooden shadehouse platform.

Evidence of some long-ago human habitation was strewn across the bird-cropping covered floors: old copies of the Dutch version of Reader's Digest, some Dutch magazines, and in a corner a mildewed pair of wooden shoes! Jungle- or gum-boots would have been more appropriate as this place is really hard to get to.

What possessed the Dutchman to build a house where everything had to be brought in on foot single-file? And if I had thought that we had come via some shortcut and the way out would be any easier, I was in for a shock as we had to struggle our way up steep and slippery hills on an hardly definable track. What would it be like during the rainy season?

I seem to remember having seen the place advertised for sale on a website which, however, made no mention of its "Heart of Darkness" location.

Another Bali Dream gone sour, just as for the Australian family who arrived last night to stay for a week. The woman, with a haughty and supercilious Penny-Penfold look on her face which made me suspect she was a school mistress, stated grandly, "We're here on business", whereas her husband, Keith, was a little more self-effacing when he confided that they had committed a lot of money to having a villa built at Lovina for their retirement but things weren't going too well. He's a school teacher which became apparent when he talked about 'pentatonic scales' after he had inspected my newly acquired kecapi. "Well, yes, indeed, and how different from the heptatonic scales we're used to," I couldn't stop myself from replying. Bloody show-off!

He pointed out the location from the vantage point of the hotel's restaurant: three tall palmtrees next to a terracotta-tiled roof. The builder, he said, was an Australian expat living in Bali which gave him some hope. Hardly a recommendation in my opinion as most of the expats I've met here so far are the sort of people I'd cross the road to avoid.

Next day, and after meetings with several Balinese people, the result was out: no building, no builder, no money! They're checking out already as it pains him to look down to the coast and see those three palmtrees mockingly waving at him!

When I jokingly ask him, "How's Bob the Builder? - or should I say Shaun?" (that being the real name of the Australian builder), he replied, "He's gone into hiding." Well, being a school teacher, he's just learned a lesson rather than giving one: never trust a builder, especially one who's left Australia to live in Bali!

Some pictures of the Banjar Hills Resort:


Some pictures of the "mad Dutchman's house":