Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Travel Diaries: Uluwatu - Kuta - Lembongan

(Published in the NOW! Jakarta Magazine, September 2014)


Above (Top and bottom): Turis Domestik in the floating restaurant at the beautiful Bulgari Bali

An East Javanese friend recently lost his bride-to-be in a horrific car crash (she was on her way to the wedding), so I invited him to Bali for a Lebaran holiday treat.
Every day I sent my guest Rifky out on a motor bike with Awi, one of my staff, and they would discover places I didn’t know existed — such as the mangrove walk in Benoa Bay (soon to be F-1 circuit, so get here soon) and the coterie of almost completely naked Perth matrons that hang out on the beach in front of the Discovery Mall. Once they saw the throbbing post-Lebaran herds of Javanese tourists outside Beachwalk — all covered head to toe in Moslem beach wear — they felt at home.
On Legian Beach they found a gay beat of daddies; one Canadian senior tried to follow him home. Fortunately I had told my guest — as he left the house — not to pick up any stray Canadians.
They came back with hundreds of hideous photographs but, sadly, their quest to get photos of white titty failed miserably. Each time they’d approach a gaggle of topless white women and ask “May I take photo with you?” they were rebuked, which seems rather unsporting on the part of the foreign ladies.

LEFT: Holiday-maker Rifky (right) and stray daddy on Kuta beach; RIGHT: A pensive moment on Kuta Beach as Rifky searches for white titty

One day, I took them to the Bulgari cliff-side café where they were bored senseless. Really, for the domestic tourist, it’s not interesting unless there are at least 1,000 motorbikes parked behind tank-proof barriers and lots of Surabayan aunties in calypso outfits with fake Vuitton bags.
The Bulgari bar was divine, I must say, and the gardens alone are well worth the detour; I am doing some remedial work on my gardens there to accommodate a new wedding venue.

Mega-star Jakartan developer Soetikno Soedarjo (Bulgari Bali) and his fiancée Lana Jong at their Bulgari residence

On Rifky’s second day, Amir, my butler came back from Lombok with a bottle of bush honey and a woven handbag with Sasak Party Animal woven on the front. Both were for me.
Amir's brother had been apprehended the night before leaving the Lombok ferry with four dried turtle paws in a box of genetically modified soya bean cakes (very wicked).
“How did he get busted?” I asked.
Amir said the cops asked his brother what was in the box and he fell apart, gugup to the max. “Did he get fined?” I asked. He would have, Amir explained, but we had a few excuses like, “We bought it from a man who bought it from a man, not direct from the fisherman.”
 Travellers are advised to remember this simple ploy when apprehended smuggling endangered species. 

The fabulous fire dance on a Friday night at Kumala Pantai, Legian    

On the Sunday afternoon, I took Rifky with me to meet Australian living treasure marine biologist, Valerie Taylor at the Kumala Pantai hotel on 66 Beach, Legian. Valerie was in town as a guest of the Lindblad’s, who have chartered the ‘Orion’ for National Geographic and are running cruises throughout Eastern Indonesia with Legian heartthrob, Dr Lawrence ‘Ring of Fire’ Blair, as lecturer.
Legian Beach is somewhere I haven’t visited for 30 years, since the heyday of the Made’s Warung to Oberoi night crawls, and boy has it changed!
The Kumala Pantai is a beach hotel classic which is a heady mix of East Kalimantan Chinese kitsch interiors and lush Balinese gardens. The food is excellent. The pork spare ribs in the beachside restaurant are to die for. Every night there is a tango demonstration by local hotties in red sequin outfits, or a fire dance, or a belly dance. 
The beach in front is Bali's answer to Bondi Beach, Sydney, on a bank holiday. There are any number of outlets selling cold beer. Temporary tattoos can be rented at the beach entrance. Non-Australians are advised to keep any foreign language talk to a minimum and only address the Australians as 'bro'. 

The beach drummers and sunset crowd on Double-Six Beach, Legian

On Sundays, the beach hosts 30 Balinese drummers who play drums from all over the world. By sunset the water’s edge is throbbing with flash mobs dancing to the frenzied beat. Needless to say my houseguests loved all this mayhem: my valve slammed shut at first sight of a prawn on a Barbie and I was gently fanned back to consciousness by gentle mountain Balinese for most of the afternoon. 

Rifky styled by Awi in front of a giant Ramayana butter statue    

Of course, Rifky mentioned “Joger” (the mega-popular T-shirt shop) and I told him that if he mentioned it again he could walk home. I mean how is it that every single domestic tourist, no matter from which far flung corner of Indonesian he or she hails, only wants to come to Bali to go to Joger. I find it irritating.

Surprisingly the Bali Bomb Memorial has become the favoured backdrop for group photoshoots for the Bali Body-builders Co-operative (BBC)

7 August 2014: I take some English  friends on an outing to see a rare ceremony on Lembongan Island. We take the Rocky express from North Sanur Beach and are on the island within 25 minutes.Our host Ketut Suri from Lembongan village  has arranged for us to stay at the delightful Tanis  Beach Hotel, Mushroom Bay.

 It is lovely over here with the he-men and the sea-oaks. Loony atmospheric Sanghyang Grodog in the village last night. Fishermen dragging big things on wheels (see photo this page) through the village under the banyan tree and hurling them in the air and smashing them up while women in white wail hauntingly. Part of an 18 day once every two years demon placating ritual. (Video Sang Hyang Grodog http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mtpdTrMfGA)

• • •

We returned to Sanur the next morning with packages of rice from Men Pulak’s famous harborside warung at Jungut Batu beach. The prawns, be grang (dried bait fish) and spicy fresh squid are legendary. August sun-seekers are everywhere: Rifky can’t believe seeing all the ladies’ bottoms flapping below the pareo line. (see photo this page)

Fisherman carries Sanghyang Jaran float through the village square, Lembongan, 7 August 2014.

Ketut Untu Ageng, Rocky Lembongan cabin boy of the month.

Nice Spanish girl at Men Pulak’s warung, Jungut Batu, with bottoms hanging out of Pareo.

TRAVEL TIP FOR FREQUENT FLIERS if you have a long layover in Dubai airport and are flying EMIRATES business or first stay at the hotel in concourse B -- its wonderful . The lift lobby is just after you pop out of transit screening and just above the lounges, which one can raid at will for supplies, U K papers and Hello mags. The Timeless spa , full of Balinese, is next door. The hotel is run by charming efficient pinoys. The rooms are deluxe and all have views over the quite stunning interior architecture and parked planes. Sunday the terminal is empty. Downstairs is the pharmacy, duty free and arab perfume shops. 






Engagement of Dayu Putri of Geria Kepaon and Ida Bagus Ketut Suamba of Geria Pengayasan, Intaran, Sanur, 4 August 2014

Domestic tourist beach wear 2014.