New-Deal PLN Has Started So Well With Its ‘Only Nine’ Blackouts

By Hector

It’s very brave of PLN to promise Bali that it will have no more than nine unfortunate blackouts this year. You’ll know what we’re talking about: when it suddenly goes black and PLN’s surprised; and the customers affected are, to be polite, exasperated. Apparently it’s all part of the new-look PLN, the brand spanking-new and shiny exemplar of public utilities. The one that says it will now do maintenance on a needs basis, not on a timetable. There are, we are assured, to be no more instances such as: “This connection’s faulty? No, it can’t be. It’s not due for inspection for another four months.”

Or perhaps they’re just thinking no one will keep count. Perhaps few will, inured as people here are to the sorry fact that the 220 volts PLN is mandated to supply is often more like 80 and may not be delivered anyway. But The Diary encourages counting: it seems essential, really, in so many areas of life. And we’re keeping count here at The Cage.

PLN, adept at inventiveness in public comment – “Our undersea cable was struck by lightning” is still the stand-out best; it comes from the farcical 2009-2010 round of extraordinary excuses for inexplicable service failures – so they’re no doubt already primed to go and scripted with another astonishing list of things “my friend did.”

But just so they know: We’re two thirds of the way through the first month of 2011 and Ungasan has already had three little surprises from the gallant lads at the power monopoly. At that rate they’ll have blown their “budget” by the end of March. But that’s no surprise, either.

Sore Point

The Diary watched, fascinated, the other day when a cast of several turned up in the little park across from The Cage and set about a lovely Flamboyant, in full bloom, with a mixture of gesticulation, shouted advice, and one little saw.

By happenstance, or possibly the curious fact that the Balinese always seem to know about a lot of things they don’t actually ever mention to foreign devils (sorry, guests), it was just before tropical storm Vince, late of Australian waters, sailed past well to the south of Bali but nonetheless gave us (or at least the Bukit) a full gale and driving rain experience.

The little saw, we saw, was wielded by our handyman, who moonlights for The Diary and others when not doing his day job. He was chiefly assisted by another nice chap we know, who is employed as caretaker at one of the White Elephant Corporation’s many nearby establishments. There were several housemaids about, apparently to add descant to the chorus of shouted advice, though ours, who sensibly works half days – two non-demanding bules are hardly worth a full shift, after all – had long gone home. Even the neighbouring Balinese family compound sent along a party of observers.

The lovely little flamboyant’s offence was that some of its branches were entangled with the sagging PLN power cable. And of course the tree should be kept trimmed – as PLN now advises, having itself lately discovered that wriggly little branches and its pathetic power cables don’t mix. Especially when your power cable is such a total sap that it will fall down if hit with a wet twig. But why you should wait to doctor a tree until it is in beautiful full bloom is a conundrum, or would be, if this were not the country it is.

Our Man climbed the tree. He sawed. Limbs – tree limbs luckily – one by one became subject to the inexorable process of gravitational force. Thus impelled they fell, unimpeded by corrective human action, into the power cable. Luckily, but only just, the poor thing survived this assault. And our power stayed on until later that night (see above).

Doggone It

We were surprised to read in last week’s paper that Klungkung, with the assistance of six provincial officials among an army of others, had conducted a mass cull of wild dogs on Nusa Penida, the iconoclastic little island off East Bali’s southern coast that is part of Bali’s smallest regency.

They did this in response to the first rabies death on the island. It is terrible to think that 1,000 dogs were killed, but even more terrible to consider that if the available reservoir for the rabies virus is not savagely reduced more people might die of the horrific but entirely preventable disease.

Bali’s government did have a policy of culling – though too late, it having dithered too long when it became apparent rabies was present on the Bukit way back in 2008 – but just after Governor I Made Mangku Pastika restated the policy, last September, the international doggy lobby got in his ear and waved sheaves of promissory notes. Shortly afterwards, Bali’s official policy for not effectively dealing with rabies was changed to find-the-mutts-and-vaccinate-them.

Readers will be aware that The Bali Times views the present policy as madness; a lot of our readers do, too. Nusa Penida is an isolated island – that’s a point made in this week’s ILAND column on Page 9, by the way, which we recommend you read – and maybe (just maybe) a quarantine and extermination policy would work there. It needs strict, no exceptions, enforcement, however. And that’s a tall order here, as we know.

There’s been a further rabies death on Bali’s mainland, too – a man from Tanjung Bungkak Satu in Denpasar, just off Jl Hayam Wuruk. He had been bitten by a neighbour’s pet four months before he became ill and hadn’t got the post-exposure vaccine. The Klungkung victim hadn’t either.

The death toll from rabies is now 121.

Treat in Store

If it pleases the gods, The Diary may get a chance to indulge the senses in the fine Perth Festival, which is on now and runs through to the beginning of March. A visit to Western Australia is on the cards. It’s a private visit, so no questions please.

Should this occur, and time in Perth is allowed in the schedule, the festival programme is a winner. It includes films, one of The Diary’s great loves, and other entertainments.

Sadly, on the proposed schedule, the final element of the programme – the Writers Festival on the University of Western Australia’s lovely Claremont campus – will be missed. That’s a real shame. We love a good writers’ festival. 
Pin-Up Girl

Janet de Neefe’s 2011 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, from October 5-9, is themed Nandurin Karang Awak – Cultivate the Land Within. To plough the first furrow, organisers have put on a poster design competition that offers prizes worth more than Rp20 million (that’s around US$2,200 at the moment).

Thanks, Citibank. The competition closes on February 20. Details are available from UWRF on

Get painting!

Say Cheese

A new place to eat at Bukit Jimbaran has caught The Diary’s eye. It’s called Gorgonzola. It does great thin-crust pizzas – try the Blue – and fabulous pasta. What more could a hungry Diarist want? Well, maybe the mousse …

Officially it’s also a wine bar, but to The Diary’s mind the place better suits a cold beer (make mine a Bintang) which seems to go with the ambience. There is wine available, however, which is always a bonus; and great espresso, which is even better.

The place is doing a roaring trade. Last Sunday night when The Diary dropped in (for the Blue pizza, natch) the roofed but open-air section was packed with diners, as were the comfortable sofa settings outside on the terrace. We squeezed onto a sofa setting. Then it rained (again – surprise!) and the under-the-roof section became suddenly a lot more crowded.

But owner and Maitre d’ Gibson Saragi – he’s from Sumatra – had things under control in no time. There’s an air-conditioned dining room as well. It’s usually where the Indonesian diners go. That may be where the mahi mahi gets eaten as well.

Gorgonzola’s been open for around six weeks and does takeaway. The new immigration detention centre is just up the road – Gorgonzola is on Jl Raya Uluwatu, on the left as you head uphill – but we haven’t yet suggested to Gibson that he should add qabili pilau, Afghanistan’s yummy national dish of baked brown rice with lamb and raisins, to the menu to cater for the absconding Afghan trade.

Perhaps we should. We hear this trade could from time to time be quite brisk. The last lot to do a bunk, courtesy of the four sleeping immigration officers on duty, said their official digs and the food they got were just not up to scratch.


Last week we had an item on the Banyan Tree at Ungasan, a fine establishment with a fabulous ocean cliff-top view and a signature restaurant where the cuisine is a gourmand’s delight.

Unfortunately we wrote that the restaurant was called Ju-Ju-Ma. Don’t know why; it was correctly named on Hector’s Blog. It must have been a gremlin or a joker in the works. Or maybe it’s just that the juju was too strong. It’s Ju-Ma-Na.

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