WHAT a delightful story we reported on our website during the week (it’s in this week’s print edition too) about the Ngurah Rai International Airport VIP scheme having been suspended but one of the operators of same saying yes, it had been suspended, but they could still offer the service and indeed were doing so. That’s Bali – and Indonesia – in a nutshell: Rules mean nothing; decisions are ignored.
We don’t think the VIP fast-track system is necessarily a bad thing. If you’ve got the spare readies, why stand in a disorganised muddle when in exchange for some currency you can be through and out the door in no time flat? But it leaves several important questions not only open but writhing on the floor in what should be, anywhere else, considerable pain.
The visa-on-arrival queues at Ngurah Rai are a shambles. Actually, they’re a disgrace. Processing is slow, not helped by the fact that many desks supposed to house a helpful – if naturally and sensibly cautious – immigration office are unattended at peak times. If this is a roster problem (if not enough officers are detailed for duty) then those responsible for immigration at the airport aren’t doing their job.
That’s no surprise of course. Hardly anyone in official posts here actually does their job, at least in a recognisable fashion. For some visitors, perhaps, this is just part of the ambience of the place. It’s laid-back, right? For others – and we would suggest this is probably the vast majority – it is an unnecessary and unpleasant initial experience of our island.
If the authorities wish to abolish the VIP fast-track private system – other than for genuine VIPs who of course should be accommodated specially, as they are anywhere else – then fair enough. But then they must ensure it is actually abolished. And before they do that, they should get their act together to clear the cattle-crush in the arrivals hall.
The new biometrics checks were suspended because – like other Indonesian impediments such as customs clearance on the wharves and cargo handling generally – new rules just make for more chaos. That’s not necessarily because the rules are bad; it’s because implementation and command and control are foreign to the lexicon of Indonesian administration.
Get with it, guys. If tourists have to stand in line for hours just to get into the country, sooner or later, a lot of them are going to decide it’s not worth the effort.
How It Should Be Done: Not all cheap-flight Aussies are immune to advice or anything but desirous of doing the right thing. Ungasan resident Wayan Sarson (she’s in the middle of the photo here) is hosting some of her Australian family by marriage here at the moment and took them to Uluwatu temple to see the real Bali. The lads, who are in full regalia in the photograph because they visited Uluwatu on the day of important ceremonies, are here to surf (good on ’em) and, it seems, to dress up a treat.
Sign of the Times
NOW that hordes of Cyrillic characters are going to be pouring off planes direct from Mother Russia on a scheduled basis – with Aeroflot and Transaero winning traffic rights to Bali and due to start flying here regularly from December – we must all brace for an epidemic of indecipherable text on signage and restaurant menus.
A minor outbreak of hieroglyphic disease has been present in Bali for a while. Like many other places, The Diary’s favourite Nusa Dua restaurant – it’s in Bualu, where the prices are reasonable, the food’s great and the staff are friendly because they want to be – already has Russian on the menu along with English and German. It makes for a sizeable menu, but maybe one day The Diary will be able to order ikan pepes without making a borsht of the whole thing.
All this is probably very good news for a new chum of The Diary, Edo Botkunov, who has set up hereabouts as a native Russian speaker who can be of service; he is a web designer and originator of a new internet social network. He could end up being a very busy chap indeed.
Gee, I’m Wonderful
WE don’t usually bother, especially since it costs Rp30,000 (more than US$3) if you actually buy a copy, but the May issue of NOW! Bali, the glossy non-real estate advertising vehicle put out by former insurance broker Alistair G. Speirs, caught our eye while dining out recently. We’d already exhausted the supply of actual reading material available at the establishment.
The exclamation mark is a no-no, an excrescence (we mentioned that last week in another media context). But what got your Diarist’s goat – as a really old media hand – was Publisher Speirs’ public exercise of self-gratification in what one assumes is an “Editorial.” Complete with photo. It’s classic whickering by the whacky worriers stuff.
It’s also a bit rich claiming the glory for not taking real estate advertisements (and gallantly forgoing this revenue) on the grounds that by doing so you’re somehow protecting Bali, when your front cover (a promotional shot provided by a spa, picture perfect for an issue devoted to sponsored exposure of this sector of Bali’s service economy) is a view of Ubud rice terraces taken from a structure that profits from standing on what were once rice terraces.
Speirs’ little mag is home to Made Wijaya’s strangely ruminant offerings, of course. We are reminded that while Stranger is a noun, it is also an adjective.
SPEAKING of adjectives, the unseemly behaviour of some Australian louts, who forgot common sense (if they ever had any) and their manners (ditto), and drank and smoked and generally made noise at Uluwatu Temple a couple of weeks ago, an incident that attracted the attention of this newspaper, also attracted a lot of feedback on our website. We published a selection of those comments in last week’s print edition of the newspaper.
One we didn’t publish came from Wijaya (the former Michael White), who is clearly intent on being ever stranger in paradise. Here’s his post, verbatim:
“Md Wijaya B.A. (Bule Aga) Says: The tourists are not to blame: These are a new breed of genetic mutations born at the Royal Freemantle Hospital in Perth in Bir Bintang T-shirts with a beer bottle fused biologically to their hands. The bottle is periodically filled up during ‘pub-crawls’ (pit stops) called ries de passage. The promotion of bali as a ‘cheap exotic getaway’ has attracted them to these shores.”
Thanks, Michael. Good to see you keep up with The Times. It’s Fremantle, by the way.