February 19-25, 2010

Welcome Home the AirAsia Way

THE Diary stepped aboard AirAsia from Denpasar to Perth last Friday, en route to a necessary reconnection with the residual Australian elements of life that seem mandatory for expatriates from the Great Southern Land. It’s not so much the Vegemite – now Indonesia has worked out that it is not actually something that should be on the poisons register you can get it in Bali easily enough, though at a price – as other things. Such as reminding oneself why it is so much better living in Bali, where you can pass your time for the most part unmolested by do-gooders who demand you do not smoke or otherwise engage in elected self-abuse; where a meal out doesn’t automatically cost you an arm and leg; and where the nightly television news is not all about the latest collection of tattooed angry beards and similarly tattooed fierce-faced women protesting about something or other that is, on any objective analysis, of absolutely no consequence whatever.

Bali traffic is missed on these trips. On our little island, driving conditions better match the colourful and essential anarchy and mischance of life. In Australia, in contrast, people stop at stop signs. They look right – for oncoming traffic – at intersections. They don’t honk their horns five seconds before the traffic lights turn green. They keep in lane. They even do so at traffic lights, never thinking to create eight lanes out of the two marked on the road surface. They (mostly) observe the speed limits. It’s all very unsettling. And there’s virtually no drama. Being able to drive 200 kilometres in two-and-half hours is a novelty, granted, although a little unsettling when at home a 40-kilometre round trip into Denpasar and back, with a short stop in the middle to conduct the business you went there for, can take you longer.

But we digress. AirAsia’s Bali-Perth services are very popular and rightly so. If the seats are little narrow for the Western build and the pitch of them such that if one is more than 150cm tall one’s knees tend to spend the flight time up around one’s ears, there is consolation in the fact that one has paid only a low fare. And it’s only a short flight (it too can take less time than a “quick” trip into Denpasar and back – see above).

The Diary’s trip this time was not without adventure. We boarded, on time, and were pulled out from the parking bay. But then the aircraft wouldn’t go. It made some horrible noises – rather like one’s water pump at home after the latest PLN power outage – and remained stationary on the apron for rather a long time while the pilots worked out what was wrong. A helpful (Australian) woman behind The Diary – in row 23 – said it was strange it wouldn’t go forward since it had been able to reverse (away from the aerobridge) quite easily. Doh! Some Aussies really shouldn’t be let out without a minder.

Clearly it was the hydraulics. The cabin staff said it was the air conditioning. But never mind. They’re trained not to frighten the horses, or even the passengers. We returned to the aerobridge and were offloaded. Five hours later, and in a different aircraft, we took off for Perth. These things happen. This was handled very well. And it is really rather better that such problems become apparent on the ground before you fly rather than afterwards, especially as this one involved the flaps. As in those little gizmos that go up and down behind the wings to assist with all sorts of important things, like lift (essentially for takeoff), for example.

Then on arrival in Perth, a lovely thing happened. The cabin announcement welcomed all passengers to Perth – all airlines do that – but then added, “And to all Australians on board, welcome home.” AirAsia is not an Australian airline. So that’s great PR. And it’s a great airline.

Bit of a Stink

IT will not be long before The Diary is back enjoying Bali days. In the meantime, our island-wide network of spies – including the strangely silent Stella Kloster, our bling-and-bolly girl, who must surely have been to a party or two at which we wouldn’t even bother being a fly on the wall – is hard at work spotting for us.

Thus it is that we hear that reports of the large puddle at Double Six – it’s a seasonal thing – have surfaced in the Indonesian-language press. Apparently it has been noticed that this water is (1) deep; (2) stagnant; and (3) smelly. It has even been identified that the problem flows – so to speak – from drainage, or rather, the lack of such facilities.

This significant absence of infrastructure has been spotted by local legislator I Wayan Puspa Negara, who told the Bali Post last Saturday the problem was that the drainage channels do not have good elevation. We think he meant they were not provided with the necessary downhill slope (it only needs to be one degree to recruit the magic of gravity to its purpose) to ensure the water ran away rather than gathered in large unruly pools. If knowledge of this element of engineering is now is wide circulation in Bali, it’s a good thing. A curriculum change must soon be upcoming at the civil engineering faculty at Udayana University. And it means we may be able to look forward to drains that drain in due course.

Lawmaker Puspa, a member of the Badung legislature, worries that problems such as the noisome super-puddle at Double Six, where tourists go, might have an adverse impact on our island’s attractiveness. He could be right, of course. Unaccountably, many tourists take the view that places they go to are better off without stinky pools of water from unidentified and therefore suspect sources. To be fair, the Balinese themselves think this. They know, too, that uncontrolled stagnant water provides mosquitoes with breeding areas.

But unlike tourists, however, most of them seem content with the concept of drains and other facilities that fail to work only for half the year. That is, only during the rainy season. When it’s dry, as they will point out (often with an air of exasperation), the drainage system copes more than adequately with the work it is required to perform.

Pickled Again

SPEAKING of bolly, we can report that reader James Watling, the Hello Bolly man, wonders – seemingly via that curious little BlackBerry communicator matrix we now run on Page 1 of the paper and which, The Diary is assured by people who (1) are convinced it does in fact work and (2) apparently care – whether in the light of the newspaper’s grasp of today’s technology Hector will be withdrawing his several calumnies against such technology. We think he was speaking tongue-in-cheek (should that be “interfacing,” we wonder; or even “matrixing”?).

Way back on July 10 last year, when Watling apparently was similarly devoid of anything useful to do, he sent a note to William Furney of this newspaper who had, in his Once in a Bali Lifetime column, canvassed the idiocies of the BlackBerry age.

The item reported as follows:

It came from James Watling (who signs himself off thus: Hello Bali The Island Key Powered by Matrix BlackBerryR) and is remarkable for having been written – on his BlackBerry, natch – while supposedly at a dinner.

James disagrees with William. On BlackBerries and other associatedgizmo-gear. He says he would find it hard to live in Bali without his, since he can email and browse and even post to Twitter upon the little object, and that this is good because Indonesia’s cyberworld infrastructure is less than perfect.

Among much else, he tells us (well, William) that in “a fit of peak boredom during this dinner function” – was this boredom at its height, we wonder, or was he just piqued? – he found himself scanning the latest edition of The Bali Times (it’s a sterling read he says; we agree) and chanced upon the “Mobile Moan” article, to which, he further advises, “I must put finger-to-button in response.”

But, sadly for reader Watling, Hector’s view of over-supplied technology and its results (BlackBerries, PickleBerries and any other Berries; and the terminal decline in good manners these things have facilitated) has not changed.

The presence of a little BlackBerry matrix on Page One is an irritation of the sort felt by the Picts when that fellow Hadrian turned up to build his wall in Britannia to keep them out. And Hector is not a chap to tangle with in such arguments. As he is apt to say, himself, when pressed on such matters: Watch out chum or I’ll pull your plug.

Back to Front

JANET DeNeefe, Ubud restaurateur, cooking school chief and Luminary at Large at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, will by now – surely? – be turning her mind to this year’s festival. It’s on in less than eight months. Perhaps her long Australian sojourn over the southern summer and her further peregrinations on the Indian sub-continent thereafter were not entirely recreational and will provide some input for the big bash.

It would be good to hear what’s planned, though, since URWF is such a central element of Bali’s crowded cultural calendar.

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