Monday, 20 June 2011

Travel Diaries: Balikpapan - Samarinda - Bali

Published in Now! Jakarta, July 2011


Family Planning statuettes from Sumba.

In Indonesia one finds great art in the most unusual places.

In the string of tourist shops high above Ubud in Bali, for example, one can find incredible modern sculptures and unique mirror frames; by the side of the road in Tanjungpandan on the Riau island of Belitung I found a ‘for sale’ sign for a second-hand Singer sewing machine that was pure Basquiat! In Sumba I found some family planning statuettes that were like miniature Modiglianos.

Street art in Indonesia

Last month in the oil-town of Balikpapan in East Kalimantan I found an art gallery called Hi-X, which had a startling range of good modern art at affordable prices.

I had discovered these artists from an installation in the lobby at the charming Novotel Balikpapan (“Free flow beer at “Anzac’s”, pool-side, 7–8 p.m.”).

I asked them back to the hotel for pizzas and to watch China win the Sudirman Cup for the umpteenth time.

LEFT: Artist Cadro Tarompo in front of one of his paintings.
RIGHT: Provocative painting by Balikpapan based Bugis artist, Cadro Tarompo.

One of them was built like an ox so I asked him to press down, firmly, on my bottoms while I planked, in a nice not a nasty way, on a purple poof in the lilac and pink fantasy Wedding Promotion tent in the lobby (see photo this page).

The artists — who had dread locks and ganja motifs on their jeans — were thrilled to be discovered and we talked about the specialness of the Dayak culture and the beauty of Borneo.

LEFT: Painting of Mahakam Riverside village near Samarinda. Artist: Joe’y Borneo.
RIGHT: Sado-masochistic street art in Central Balikpapan.

LEFT: A painting by Heriadi of the spooky Hudoq dance of the Dayak people of East Kalimantan (Barong Berutuk dance in Bali).
RIGHT: Arty shot of carpenter at work on the new ‘Boncafe’ Balikpapan, which my office designed.

While shooting a video on the Pasar Klandasan Market for YOU TUBE this trip (check it out) I discovered that this superb market was recently voted No. 2 in Asia, after Sydney’s legendary fish market.

No mean feat!

The view to the Celebes Sea from Klandasan Market.

LEFT: The first family of the Klandasan Market in Balikpapan — they run two stalls at the prestigious Eastern entrance.
RIGHT: Market beauty Endang.

At the famous Tahu Sumedang pit stop warung — along the Balikpapan – Samarinda Road (see You Tube posting) — I discovered that mafia-style menswear is all the rage in the Mahakam Basin: hustler shoes, studs, black satin shirts with, silver sunburst accents are all de rigeur amongst Dayak tahu-seekers. The ladies wear ten inch black patent leather heels and little black dresses with, generally, an acrylic sweater or cardigan thrown over the shoulders, for a leaner silhouette.

20th June 2011: A chance meeting with some Kuta pilgrims at the Balikpapan Airport

At the beaded peci shop I bump into Bapak Ketut Ardiana eldest son of the legendary Mama Dollar, owner of the Yasa Samudra Bungalow in Kuta Beach (now the Hard Rock Hotel). He is with 30 friends from his village — all in beach wear — doing a yatra (Hindu pilgrimage).

Kuta people never really move on from beach-wear, and Gidget Goes Gianyar hairstyles, but that’s part of their charm. They are famous for being devout so I’m not overly surprised to find them launching out to far flung Hindu holy spots.

Yesterday they prayed at the new temple in the police barracks and then immersed themselves in the tepid, murky waters of the mighty Mahakam River at Samarinda. Now they are heading home with basket loads of tourist ticky-tack to add to the mountain-loads in Kuta.

Domestic spiritual tourism is the fastest growing sector in South East Asia!

21st June 2011: To a glitzy gated community in Surabaya

Garuda has a great new full-service flight from Balikpapan to Surabaya and on to Bali, so I stopped on the way home to visit my old garden at the exotic Hotel Bumi, and to visit some friends at Pakuwon Estate.

Tonight is the 800th anniversary of Surabaya’s founding and the broad avenues — deeply decorated with all sorts of horticultural high-kicks — are spotted with little, illuminated ‘broaches’. On one road I spotted two Bambi and a gold fish; on another Spongbob and a Keris dagger.

On traditional T.V. some very saucy dangdut dancers are steaming up the stadium with hydraulically-enhanced hip-swivels and other pyrotechnics.

A corner of the recently restored Majapahit style garden of the Hotel Bumi (designed some 15 years by my Bali office,
the garden design had been tampered with by progressives).

At the Tunjungan Plaza One, Surabaya’s iconic hyper-mall, I find the Fiesta Madura shop still open “All the Madurese batik artists are dying off” the vendeuse laments.

It seems that Bali is the Madurase batik industry’s biggest client now: in Java ladies don’t wear batik in the streets anymore, just on formal palace occasions; the heavily upholstered beaded and bolted Iranian fantasy look is all the rage.

Finally I find Pakuwon gated community on the road to Kenjeran Beach. It is a homage to wedding cake architecture in the ‘Gone with the Wind’ category, but with snatches and patches of black glass and chrome, as a concession to modernism. The McMansions are tight-packed-tooth and jowl — with a liberal sprinkling of swan and geese fountains in the public areas.

Everything is triumphal and terrifying except the mall, which seems made out of Lego blocks.

I came running out of there looking for a warung to rest my tired eyes. If I lived in Surabaya I would get architect de jour Andramatin to design me a big Hermes Birkin Bag windmill on Kenjeran beach, with a tunnel to Tunjungan Plaza One.


30th June 2011: To Singaraja, for a friend’s son’s wedding

I always forget about the architectural delights of North Bali’s capital.

Cloaked in colonialism, the large spacious courtyards of the Singaraja gentry are a delight, especially after visiting the tight-packed, deftly-decorated palaces of Ubud and Peliatan.

The front courtyard of the Geria Pande, singaraja

LEFT: Newlyweds outside ancestral home, the Geria Pande, Banjar Beratan, Singaraja.
RIGHT: Indonesian-Dutch Art Deco survivor in the back courtyard of Beratan, Singaraja (Pande) home.

Today’s wedding is proceeded by a mass tooth-filing in a ‘geria’ (a Brahmin or high-priest’s palace). It is in fact a ‘Pande’’ clan geria, once home of North Bali’s most celebrated silversmith. His son, my old tennis-buddy from tennis-coaching days, is today a Sri Mpu high priest and our host.

The palace has a strictly Balinese layout but with quirkish colonial-era bungalows and Chinese-style decorative elements in its vast house temple. The tooth-filing ceremonies are ancient but egalitarian — in the true spirit of the ‘Pande’ clan.

I thoroughly recommend to lovers of Balinese traditional architecture that they spend a few hours poking around the palaces and temples of Singaraja.