Astari, official face of Majapahit Style, posing in Bali.
Jakarta - Sydney
In November I launched my latest book Majapahit Style in Jakarta at the Aksara Bookshop in the stunning Pacific Place Mall (I have never seen so many Kim Kardashian wannabee yummy mummies!). I stayed upstairs at the equally stunning Ritz Carlton which is head and shoulders above the competition for best hotel in town, now that the Four Seasons is closed for a major overhaul. Majapahit Style is a comprehensive overview of the culture of that great kingdom; the book is to be reviewed in this month’s Tempo English so keep your eyes peeled.
The Ritz has only 62 rooms — all suites and all club class. The bathtubs are in their own bay window, with its own television and motorized curtains. I thought I would sell a lot of books to pay for the Ritz room — the idea of schlepping thirty of the three-kilo books across town from less expensive digs was anathema — but that didn't quite happen (the books are not cheap!) . The luxury of zipping upstairs after three hours non-stop chatting to puteri menteng with serious Majapahit credentials and a dozen journalists won the day.
Images from the Jakarta launch at Aksara, Pacific Place. MW with Jakarta All-Stars.
The Ritz Club Lounge does three excellent buffets a day with views over some of the world’s nastiest traffic snarls. The service is sublime: polite and intelligent with limited intrusions of the ‘how was your flight’ type from the porters. The mall also has a club class cinema and liveried lift operators!
• • •
Two weeks later I was off to Sydney for another launch at my old alma mater, Sydney University, by Prof Adrian Vickers; at the same event I launched Lempad of Bali, another spectacular new book by Editions Didier Millet of Singapore. Garuda Indonesia kindly co-sponsored the event with some free overweight but I still found myself dragging a 25-kilo cabin bag, stuffed with books, hundreds of metres along the thick carpet at both Denpasar and Sydney airports (why don't they make shiny floor surfaces mandatory at all airports?)
The special Sydney Edition of Majapahit Style with extra art by local artist Peter Kingston.
My Facebook post on Ngurah Rai Airport of that night bears reprinting here:
“The head of Angkasa Pura has a lot of nerve describing the new Bali Int’l airport as ‘revolutionary’, unless he means a new solution for seniors eradication. My right knee gave out tonight, dragging a 20-kilo cabin bag full of books, after a thirty metre detour through the serpentine of dagangs (because a snake oil vendor with a megaphone now blocks the short cut) so I spat the dummy and stormed through New Wafe cafe and bar, demanding that they remove the standing surfboard between me and gate 3. They were compassionate. I then dragged said bag down 200 metres of thick carpet — no courtesy trolley or drinking fountain in sight —winding between the new vendors now occluding up to 60 percent of the passageway for up to 30 meters. The Danish retail consultant who designed this obstacle course should be arraigned. Anyone have his email address? He needs to know about the discomfort he’s caused 5,000 passengers a day”.
Garuda Executive Class has revamped its in-flight service: one is now given a sea urchin cream puff after takeoff. Then, a comfortable hour later, a choice of gourmet Indonesian, Japanese or modern international (their term) suppers. Multi-cultural breakfasts follow 3 hours later, with eggs freshly cooked on board. What a pleasant change from the ham and cheese croissant they used to throw at you in days past.
Sydney early December is a real treat after the oppressive climate of Bali. Unlike Bali, Sydney has decided not to fill in its scenic harbour with real estate and one sees parks and such unobstructed by thick municipal borders and rows of leaning planter pots.
The Balinese on my flight seemed to all have ‘to do’ lists which included Bondi Beach, Crown Casino, a blond in the Bronte tunnel and the Opera House; much like the domestic tourists in Bali flock, like lemmings, to Pandawa Beach, Jogger t-shirt shop and Pura Luhur Uluwatu temple and theme park for the sunset or the son et lumière show which follows.
One good-looking Balinese — Ketut Yogi from Karangasem — did come to my book launch on the arm of an alternative Bali minor celebrity paleface from which he was quickly detached and put on my knee for a group photo at the signing desk.
Beauty has its own rules.
Ketut Yogi of Karangasem, Bali, asleep at the Sydney launch.
The launch was otherwise well-attended by a large crowd of elite Indonesia-o-philes including Jackie Menzies, former head of the Asia Section at the Art Gallery of NSW, Professors Peter Worsley (of Leiden and Sydney Universities and translator, of the early 13th century Javanese epic Sumanasāntaka), Jennifer Taylor (whose book Architecture in the South Pacific, also by Editions Didier Millet, was recently published) and Associate Professor David ‘Om Brewok’ Reeve who founded Jakarta’s Australian-Indonesia Institute back in 1980. Om Brewok opened that august faculty with a riveting lecture I was fortunate enough to attend on sea-cucumber trade between Perth and Batavia in the 17th century.
Tim Street-Porter with Made Wijaya
Ganesha bookshop Sydney rep. Wayan Jarrah and Professor Adrian Vickers who launched the book.
On the bride’s side were Marty Morrison, wife of former Australian Ambassador to Indonesia and her daughter Melanie, plus Sylvie Sidharta, sister of Jakarta writer and auctioneer extraordinaire Amir Sidharta. Also present were Tim Street-Porter, the above the marquee photographer for my book and Sydney University student Wayan Jarrah (indokrupuk Bali-Ozzie) representing Ganesha Bookshops of Bali, the sole distributor of both books on the fabled isle.
Palm Beach Sydney.
Heavenly Wylies Baths at Coogee Beach, Sydney.
Aussie life guard at Wylies Baths, Coogee.
In Sydney I saw the play Rupert, starring James Cromwell, at the grim Theatre Royal and an amazing show Pop and Popism at the NSW Art Gallery. The show featured the best of Australian and American pop art of the 70s and 80s.
Almost daily I drove from Lavender Bay to Wylies Baths in Coogee for a morning dip, a soya cappucino and a finger bun. Most afternoons I went to the Cemorne Orpheum cinema to see arty movies like Winter’s Sleep and The Old Lady — both brilliant. Bali and Jakarta expats are hereby advised to go regularly to Sydney, or Melbourne or Perth for that matter, to relieve stress, see great films and appreciate nature.
13 November 2014: To Nusa Penida for the first time in 30 years
It is so easy to get to the small islands off Sanur these days: smart five-engined speed boats leave regularly from Sanur harbour. The trips to either Lembongan or Nusa Gede (the big island) take under an hour.
A view back to Bali’s Mt Agung from Nusa Penida.
Classic Majapahit Style carving on an altar at the important Pura Ratu Gede at Ped, Nusa Penida.
I am motivated to go after reading Carole Muller’s book on the architecture and by recent Facebook chatter about the rare Baris Jangkang (with Baris Guak Crow Dance, a 1936 video of which I recently saw at the Dansmuseet in Stockholm in the Rolf de Mare collection) which is said to survive on the southern most village of Pelilit.
Full report next month!
Also next month: a visit to Palembang, the ancient capital of Srivijaya to visit the Balaputradewa Museum and Srivijaya Museum and visit the recently uncovered foundations of the old 7th century palace. Garuda now flies direct from Denpasar twice a week.