Noevember 20-29, 2009

Warung-Hantu

That’s the spirit: The new warung on the Sari Club site this week.

The Joys of Sulawesi Street

THE Diary spent much of last Saturday on bag-carrying duty in Sulawesi Street, the Denpasar precinct where silk, cotton, linen and all sorts of other fabrics are to be found in the hands of many traders, some useful, some less so. It was an interesting experience, though not nearly as much fun as dinner later (at Zanzibar on the beach at Double Six) where the merits – and demerits – of that wonderful mobile communication device, the PickleBerry, formed part of the round-the-table discussion.

Sulawesi Street is bizarre, as well as a bazaar in the more traditional sense. The traders themselves are an eclectic bunch. Some are very helpful and – like everywhere – respond to courtesy. There are many bargains to be had and plenty of smiles to be found. The persistence of the touts is tedious: we all know everyone needs to make a buck, but touts – especially in Indonesia – do not seem to understand they are slightly more likely to make one if they avoid irritating the ordure out of potential customers. In the mellifluous lingua franca of Indonesia, as the simplest of primers will tell you, “tidak” means “no.” It is not some arcane codeword that means “keep trying and I’ll give in eventually.”

Among its many entertainments is the fact that it is sited directly opposite the Badung Market car park exit, where the driving skills (sic) that are a ubiquitous element of Indonesia are prominently displayed. The Diary was deeply engaged at one point by the single-minded purposefulness of a motorbike rider who stopped in the middle of the ultra-narrow street, made narrower still by the apparent belief of car parking attendants that you can squeeze an SUV into a push-bike space, to make a mobile phone call.

It seemed to take him an age to realise that the reason he could not hear his friend on the other end was that the drivers of several dozen blocked vehicles behind were tooting him rather urgently and very loudly.

Warung Hantu

KADEK Wiranatha, the nightspot man, Jaguar enthusiast and failed airline entrepreneur, has apparently signed off on a cosy little interim deal at the Sari Club site in Legian, where a dimly lit warung now offers fare to the passing trade. We won’t be going there, but we thought readers should see a photo of Pak Kadek’s latest insult to the spirits of the many people – a lot of them his countrymen – who died on that spot on October 12, 2002.
It’s our main photo this week.

Wiranatha, who also publishes an advertising fortnightly (apparently for the expatriate community, or so it says), obtained a 30-year lease on the site from its Jakarta owner earlier this year and in August announced both this significant investment in money-grubbing and that he would be implanting yet another restaurant-bar-entertainment venue in the area.

He said, when the inevitable chorus of protests was raised (including from the Governor, whom Pak Kadek clearly views as just another impediment to his profit line), that he didn’t care what people thought – he’s not in the news business, then, if he believes this to be startlingly new intelligence – or that there were existing plans for a memorial garden and reflection centre on the site.

The sorry saga of the Sari site, it needs to be said, largely results from the fact that the Australian advocates of the memorial plan would have difficulty running a chook raffle.

For those who don’t know: hantu is the Bahasa word for ghost.

JULIA-PEREZ-Condom-Ambassad

Prophylactic: Julia Perez
Latex Faire

APPARENTLY it is to be National Condom Week early in December. It is a sad commentary on modern life that we need “national weeks” of this and that, and an international array of special days and the like, to remind us that it is sensible to be sensible.

Such is the modern condition. It is the ruling dynamic of post-modern human existence: the unavoidable and sour dichotomy found in the solitary, sad fact that the more we know – the more knowledge that passes into human hands – the more profoundly ignorant we become.

Never mind. Human frailty produces all sorts of entertainment, including risibility. Here’s one laugh: While we are all supposed to be wearing latex in December (The Diary assumes that like most things in Indonesia, such a decree is compulsory but will be universally ignored), we can have a giggle about an actress, Julia Perez (widely known as Jupe and pictured here), who has agreed to be condom ambassador for the National AIDS Commission.

She was apparently chosen because she is considered an authority on sex. Hmm. Not sure we’d want that on our CV.

Terminal Droop

IF state power utility PLN was in the business of running a brothel, it would have gone out of business a long time ago. But it’s not, of course, since the sex industry globally is a profoundly enterprising sector and PLN and enterprise are mutually exclusive. PLN is a government monopoly that manages to combine the benefits of this condition – no competition and a national budget to subsidise its incompetence – with a singular lack of interest in the rights of its consumers, or indeed in supplying the product it is mandated to provide.

Leaving aside its treatment of Bali (about which there is more below), it is a public utility that has institutionalised the oxymoron: it is neither public (being a secretive and closed organisation that says as little as possible, and if letting anything out of the bag at all, makes sure it is merely a mendacious cat) nor of quantifiable utility.

So it was interesting to read a report a few days ago that its director, Murtaqi Syamsudin, had said PLN would give a 10 percent “compensation” – a rebate off bills in other words – to the thousands of consumers in Jakarta and surroundings that it has disadvantaged through blackouts.

The promise came along with that other promise, the repetitive one we hear consistently from PLN: they really are trying to fix their problems and desperately want to keep the lights on.

Talk is cheap. PLN’s uncertain, ephemeral and variable voltage electricity is not. And of course, it’s about to get more expensive.

Not Well Connected

THE farcical saga of Bali’s rolling blackouts continues. PLN publishes lists of them, but these are fictional. It says it won’t unfairly blot out the evenings of consumers but will ensure there’s a reasonable gap (in any area) between one three-hour-plus candlelight experience and the next.

So why did the Ungasan area have one of PLN’s little de-lights on Sunday and another two days later? Residents are beginning to suspect that the kepala desa (village head) is not well connected at all; well, it’s either that or like them he’s had enough and has told PLN where it can stick itself.

There seems little point in publishing a roster if no one at PLN bothers to read it.

Heroine’s Return

JANET DeNeefe, Ubud luminary, hotelier, restaurateur and literary festival person, has just come back to the world’s best “city” – ranked thus by some travel oriented outfit – from Paris. We hear that several centimetres may need to come off the new girth before she can reassume her preferred level of svelte decorativeness, as a result of a dearth of mie goreng in the city of love and the consequent need to consume vast quantities of violently over-kilojouled Frog fare.

Husband Ketut did not make the trip.

Guide-led Economy

INDONESIA apparently needs one tourist guide for every 200 tourists. Gosh, if the successive reruns of “Visit Indonesia Year” – we’re up to three and counting – actually ever work, there will soon be more tourist guides than public servants. And there are far too many of them.

We gain this information from I Nyoman Kandia, chairman of the central executive of the Indonesian Tourist Guides Association (HPI is its Indonesian acronym).

He said in Pontianak last week that Indonesia needs around 35,000 tourist guides in light of the target of attracting 7 million foreign tourists in 2010. There were 12,000 at present and for only 2 million tourists they needed around 10,000 guides. Most of them are in Bali.

Rover’s Return

THERE is a delightful sequel to last week’s item on the presence in London, on the eve of Remembrance Day, of Australia’s first Victoria Cross winner since the Vietnam War four decades ago. Our mention of SAS Trooper Mark Donaldson’s meeting with Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle brought a note from a reader in Australia, who told us one of Donaldson’s comrades in Afghanistan – where he won his gong earlier this year – has returned to duty in the war zone.

We don’t know the chap’s name, of course, and even if we did, for security reasons we wouldn’t publish it. But he is said to have hurriedly decamped when Taliban RPGs – rocket-propelled grenades – started pasting Donaldson’s patrol.

So it is cheering to hear that Explosive Detector Dog X, who probably missed his dinkum Aussie Army dinners while he was AWOL in the hills of Uruzgan Province, is now back on base and hard at work.

We’d love to know what he told his CO, though.

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