How Not to Spoil the Magic Pudding

By Hector

Most people, especially the Balinese you would think, are acutely aware that our island is rather less than the unspoiled paradise the tourism sector promotes it as. Most are also aware that having packed the place with millions of tourists, we now need to provide working infrastructure. Proper planning and effective budgeting would of course put the horse before the cart rather than the unworkable reverse of that configuration but, hell, you can’t have everything. And muddle through is much more fun. Isn’t it?

All societies change to accommodate new realities, or else they ultimately implode or fracture. This is something Indonesia’s tiny minority of fanatic Muslims need to consider, rather urgently. There is a vast gulf between educating for ethics and morality and enforcing unnecessary, unworkable and religion-specific rules and legislation upon an unwilling citizenry. That’s an aspect of life here that columnist Novar Caine canvasses in this edition.

At the same time, we need to look to the health of Balinese society. If 60 percent of the island’s farmers live below the official poverty line, then something is desperately wrong. They may be resistant to change but again, effective socialisation of new ideas and ways to bolster farm incomes could provide not only benefits but also a demonstration that the strict social boundaries that have hitherto existed in Balinese Hindu culture can be stretched.

Udayana University Professor Wayan Windia, an expert on the subak (traditional irrigation) system, says he opposes plans for a second international airport in Buleleng in the north, and the governor’s Thomas the Tank Engine railway plan, because such developments will hasten the destruction of Balinese society. That’s an overly narrow and pessimistic view that does not give sufficient thought to the ability of people to manage essential change.

But it is not necessary to fully subscribe to the professor’s arcane conservatism to see that he has a point. Outside the fleshpots of the Kuta zone, foreigners travel here to see Bali as Bali should be (or could be with a little effort). It’s a modification of the old ways, of course. Atrophy is not good public policy. But if your idea of a holiday is to see something unique or at least different from your normal environment, then the inside of a hotel that could be anywhere or a loud and uncouth bar (ditto) is probably not where you should be.

Those of us who live here – and who would not want to live anywhere else – understand that Bali needs a strategic plan. You hear that refrain constantly among your Balinese and other Indonesian friends. There is no place in strategic plans for instant good ideas or for kneejerk responses to perceived problems. Such a plan, in Bali, must include a workable arrangement to develop agriculture in productive and income-building ways. Landscape is everything (unless you’re a myopic bar-fly).

Bali’s natural and social environment is magnificent. It just needs considered and sensible help to make the long-delayed transition to modernity. 

Sock ’Im

We heard a lovely little story the other day, from a new and remarkably young Facebook friend, from Yogyakarta but Bali-resident. It seems she was on her way into town on a recent Saturday night, riding pillion on her best girlfriend’s motorbike, when a passing rider molested her in a rather forward way.

She told her friend, an apparently rather feisty young Balinese woman, about this unwanted encounter. She (the feisty Balinese) took grave offence – and took off in hot pursuit of the miscreant. They caught up with the defaulter. She (the feisty Balinese) laid one on him. With some force, we hear.

Wish we’d been there to see it.

Round-Table View

We journeyed to Ubud for a lovely dinner on Saturday, which included a magnificent spicy chicken soup a la Medan (thanks, Santi). It was an interesting evening among health professionals and a lawyer (with The Diary thrown in for amateur value) and discussion was equally wide-ranging and the views disparate.

But there was complete unanimity on one issue: the need to confront rabies head-on and to reduce the number of dogs. Given that the gathering was at what might be described as the high end (excusing the presence of the yellow press) it might surprise that the view on what to do about rabies is so close to the popular view. That is, shoot them.

That assessment is that rabies can be controlled where there are limited (and also controlled) numbers of dogs. It comes from experience in the field, not from Wish List land or from supine acceptance that a decades-long vaccination-focused rabies management programme is the only way to go.

This may be something the dodgy lobby (oops, sorry, doggy lobby) and the Bali government might like to consider.

Double Dutch

We were in one of our favourite eating houses the other night when the resident eminence commented that he had had a chat recently with a member of the passing trade, someone from the Netherlands via New Zealand and Australia, who said, on learning that The Diary occasionally dined within, that he would really like to meet the scribbler.

The Diary responded: “Well, Hector would like to meet him, but he’s a cockatoo.” (For evidence of this essential fact, look at the logo that heads this column.) Back came the response: “No, he’s a Dutchman.”


Put It to BEDO

Ric Shreves, who may or may not himself be digitally enhanced and who has lately been updating people on something called Joomla, which is a complete mystery to diarists, gave a talk to the Bali Export Development Organisation this week. The organisation, a not-for-profit outfit dedicated to the essential task of building productive business in Bali, is engagingly known as BEDO.

Shreves was talking about effective techniques for generating awareness and driving traffic to your website. He knows all about this (someone has to!) and would be a good person to listen to on a lot of topics.

Water&Stone, of which he is a principal and which bills itself as Bali’s only full-service digital agency, was driving traffic towards the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival site last year. Its work, though Bali-based, is global – another signal that if you’re in the right business and you have the skills and energy, you can do anything from Bali.

That should put to bed the pervasive belief of so many that Bali is just the New Age Mallorca and who do everything possible to avoid making sentience part of their business plan.

VIP Flight

Some friends arrived last Sunday for a little holiday in Bali. They flew up from Perth on Strategic, the Australian full-service airline that offers an alternative to Garuda – whose cabin service is excellent, by the way – and the pack-’em-in low-fare providers.

It was just after Mt Bromo overlaid the aviation map of Bali with all that unpleasant high-altitude ash, causing many airlines to temporarily cease services and – no doubt – creating confusion in the minds of some intending travellers.

But at the same time, it is frankly astonishing that Strategic’s Airbus 330 had all of eight passengers aboard. The eight-strong cabin crew would have been swept off their feet, poor things, having to deal with that burdensome flight attendant/passenger ratio.

Strategic also flies from Brisbane to Bali, presently via Port Hedland or Townsville, though a direct (non-stop) service is due to start next month.

Garden Path

Janet de Neefe is just back from India, we hear. She was apparently in Mumbai buying a pashmina or two (or possibly trying to avoid buying them). There was a photo of her on her Facebook of her with one pashmina salesperson. Well, a girl’s got to find something to be photographed with in her downtime.

We see, also from her Facebook, that she received advice from Michael Made White Wijaya on what she should really have been looking at in the former Bombay. Naturally, it was one of his culturally interpretive designer-gardens.
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