Showing posts from July, 2009

UNESCO is mulling over adding Batik to its cultural heritage list

If added, batik would become Indonesia’s third entry, the others being the kris, a traditional dagger, and the wayang puppet theatre (nope, dangdut hasn’t made it onto the list yet).

Personally I’m not a great fan of batik. The shirts are generally made of thickish material and not that comfortable to wear unless you are in an air-conditioned environment such as at an indoor wedding ceremony (which is when they are mostly worn of course).

Batik shirts are also a complete bitch to wash. Stick them in a washing machine with your white business shirts and say hello to a new bunch of light brown shirts in your shirt collection a short while later; the old white shirts mysteriously gone.

I’ve got a few batik shirts at home myself – just like every foreigner who has lived for a while in Indonesia I guess. They are the standard Jogya and Solo designs (sludgy brown and yellowy - Batik Keris I think) and, all credit to the tailors, they have served me extremely well and have not fallen apart at t…

Are we more like chimps or orangutans?

A couple of biologists have caused a bit of an uproar in the scientific world by suggesting that our closest cousins are orangutans rather than chimps (the DNA of chimps is much closer to our DNA than orangutan DNA apparently).

But rather ironically, the question would actually fall on deaf ears in the countries where the orangutans actually come from (Indonesia and Malaysia) as neither chimp nor orangutan is considered to be our closest cousin in those countries - Darwin’s work may be considered a comical farce but it also poses a threat to the conventional wisdom. Bring in evolution and the bloody great tower of cards simply collapses.

Personally, I’d have to side with the chimps. They are better actors after all (do you really think orangutans could have done those PG Tips ads?!)

But then again, the chimps don’t have beards. Hmmm…

Angelita Pires: on trial for being a “girlfriend”!

It’s not getting much attention in Indonesia, but the trial of a not-unattractive Australian woman named Angelita Pires for her alleged involvement in the attempted murders of East Timorese President Jose Ramos Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao is totally bizarre to say the least.

The murder attempts took place on February 11 last year when:

the rebels came down to Dili and broke into two groups. One, led by Alfredo Reinado, allegedly went to the President's compound where Reinado was shot dead and the President badly wounded by one of the rebels. The other group, led by Reinado's second-in-command, Gastao Salsinha, positioned themselves outside the Prime Minister's house and ambushed his motorcade.

But why is Angelita being tried in the attempted murders?

Well, not for actually being directly involved in the attacks, but – wait for it – being the girlfriend of Alfredo Reinado, the leader of around 600 rogue soldiers who opposed the East Timor regime! Ms Pires is accused …

Missing out on the solar eclipse

It was rather galling to read about the total solar eclipse taking place over parts of Asia on Wednesday while having to miss out on the show in Indonesia. So near yet so far, you could say. Oh well. Not the end of the world admittedly, but solar eclipses are a bad omen nonetheless and are even said to exert extremely strong negative energies on planet Earth. Stock prices fall like camel shit drops to the ground. Could even explain I suppose why the moonbats take to slaughtering innocents in five star hotels – if you could ever find reasons to explain the totally unreasonable of course.

But if the solar eclipse really is a bad omen then we should be grateful that the next time one will be seen in Indonesia will not be until March 9, 2016. That’s a long time, but would it be expecting too much to hope that the terrorist vermin are gonna be quiet until then?

It’s not only the moonbats who are blinded

Irony lost

I couldn’t stop laughing when I saw this ad in Sunday’s Kompas. :)

Michael Jackson is liberated in Bali!

Michael Jackson visited Bali a number of times - apparently because he fell in love with the place, but perhaps, for more dark and worrying reasons (and I’m not suggesting he liked any herbal either!) Of course the truth is never likely to come out, but what is certainly true is that Michael got to visit Antonio Blanco, and even commissioned a few paintings from the Spainish maestro (hopefully not of little Balinese boys playing in streams!)

But even though Jacko is gone – at least from this world – there are apparently concerns – justified in my opinion – that he might be tormented in the spirit world for what he had got up to – or down to as the case might be – on planet Earth. So up crop a US trio of music lovers who liberate Michael Jackson’s soul in a moksha (liberation) ceremony at the Nava Mukunda temple at Tirunavaya in India. As for Bali, no ceremonies have been conducted thankfully, although now might be a good time for the Balinese to start praying that the terrorist lunatic…


Some people obviously don't.

Anyone for scaly anteater soup?

Fetus version, of course:

Source: National Geographic

Yikes! Now if that’s not the sickest thing I’ve seen since, er, the absurdly OTT funeral of a world-famous pedophile wacko, then I don’t know what is.

And not the sort of thing you’d want the Misses to serve up for your evening meal.

Hell, I’d rather eat bakso. I would. I really would….

Note: The Indonesian variety of the scaly anteater is called Sunda Pangolin and it takes its name from the Indonesian word pengguling (something that rolls up). And right now, our scaly anteater friends are being hunted to extinction by morons to be supplied to other morons who believe that these endangered creatures somehow make you more virile. Now that’s obviously a load of old cock, and – more to the point - couldn’t these people just take the little blue pill anyway?

Getting married in Bali

The business of high-cost nuptial ceremonies has excellent growth prospects in Indonesia.

At least for marriages among foreigners.

Indeed, the tropical resort island of Bali is Southeast Asia's leading marriage and honeymoon spot. Most foreigners who go there to be married are from neighboring Australia; but the island also attracts couples from the world over.

Among Westerners to get married in Bali, Rolling Stones legend Mick Jagger must be the most famous example. He married model Jerry Hall there on 21 November 1990, in a spectacular Hindu ceremony.

But while it may seem romantic to get married in a place like Bali, what most foreigners don’t realize is that the marriage certificate might not be worth more than the paper it is printed on.

Which was, fortunately as it turned out, the case for Mick Jagger, as his “marriage” with Jerry went sour and the leggy American tried to screw the poor Brit for everything she could get. (She may have argued that Jagger had previously only wante…

The true story of the Tulamben (USAT Liberty Glo) shipwreck

At the Matahari dive resort in Tulamben, Bali there is a poster on the wall which explains the fascinating story behind the Tulamben shipwreck. This is the text:

USAT Liberty Glo, a United States Army Transport Ship, was built at the Hog Island emergency shipyard in Philadelphia during World War 1, but was completed after the November 1918 armistice. Shortly after the U.S. entry into World War II, Liberty Glo was torpedoed by the Japanese and beached on the island of Bali and is now today a popular dive site.

Hog Island Hull No 517 was laid down as SS Scooba on June 12, 1918, but by the time it was launched on June 14, 1919, it had been renamed SS Liberty Glo. Delivered to the US Shipping Board on 2 August, 1919, she was a cargo ship of 5,000 GT and 7,825 long tons of deadweight (DWT), 394 feet (120 meters) long, and 54 feet (16 meters) beam. Liberty Glo was the 36th Hog Islander built and one of 12 built as “type B” troop carriers. (Liberty Glo was NOT a Liberty ship, whic…

Family trees and creationism

When I was a kid my mum made a family tree.

2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great grandparents and so on. Very quickly it gets very big. Going back only 6 generations to around the year 1800 and you already have 64 great-great-great-great grand parents.

But then I thought. Just how many great.. grandparents did I have say, 1,000 years ago when King Harold had to pull an arrow out of his eye at the battle of Hastings?

Well, 1000 years ago is - roughly speaking - about 40 generations. And I’m sure you’ve noticed the series above expands exponentially as you go back in time.

Okay then, so we have 2^40, which is…


or 1099,511,627,776

or 1099 billion great grandparents!!!!!!!!!!!!!

WTF - there are only 6 billion people living on the planet at the moment!

I asked my mother for an explanation, but she didn’t have one. And as I couldn’t find the answer anywhere else I didn’t think about it again until many years later on Sunday night, when I read the answer in Bill Bryson’s “A Short History…

How much money do you need to retire in Bali?

Well how long is a piece of string? It all depends of course on your lifestyle and how much you will need to support that lifestyle.

But however much money you need, the basic principal behind retirement is the same: build up a large enough nest egg that is invested securely and provides a steady stream of income. Easier said than done of course – as anyone who has invested in stocks will tell you after their savings had been heavily depleted as a result of the financial markets’ meltdown.

And to live in Bali is not as cheap as many people make out. Sure a lot of things are cheaper here than in developed countries but there are plenty of expenses that can easily make the best planned retirement plans go awry.

So what is a reasonable sum that you could live on in Indonesia?

Well here are my estimates for living in Bali (per month for two people):

Rental of a small but nice house (no swimming pool): Rp3 million
Electricity: Rp500,000 (assumes 1 aircon)
Telephone/internet: Rp300,000
Food: Rp5 mi…

Speedboat to the Gili islands?

In the good old days it used to be pretty hellish getting from Bali to the trio of beautiful Gili islands, just off the west coast of Lombok.

Sure you could fly to Mataram’s Selaparang Airport on mainland Lombok but you still needed to take a long taxi ride from the airport to Bangsal - probably one of the most miserable little harbors that you can find in the whole of Indonesia – before taking a small and always overcrowded boat across to the Gili’s.

And as for the slow ferry from Padangbai?

Well don’t even mention it!

Unless, of course, you are a sucker for punishment and enjoy melting away in what is effectively just a huge rust bucket which moves (but slowly; very very slowly).

But those were the old days and they are long gone.

Because now it’s possible to get a fast speedboat directly to the Gili’s from South Bali!

Admittedly it’s not cheap, but then again, the prices are not prohibitive either.

Here are some of the deals worth checking out:

1) Bluewater Safaris. Daily departure (8.00am…

Lake Batur Map

Map of Lake Batur and the surrounding region including the villages of Penelokan, Kedisan and Toya Bungkah.

The Big Apple and the Spice Islands

Quite incredibly, no one can be absolutely sure where the “Big Apple” tag comes from. As in most things that affect this great city, there are diverse opinions. However, the romantic view, held by many, is that the “Big Apple” phrase has its origins in New York’s musical and sporting heritage. Most of the credit is given to well-known horseracing columnist John Fitzgerald. He apparently picked up on the term after talking to stable hands who had used it in describing New York City's racetracks in the 1920s. But it wasn’t until the 1930s that the term became widely used. In that decade, a new black dance called the “Big Apple” took the city by storm, and the city’s jazz musicians soon latched onto the expression.

But a much less glamorous - and one might even say rather sordid account - links the phrase to an aristocratic French immigrant. Back in the early 1800s, along with many others, Evelyn Claudine de Saint-Évremond of France traveled to New York to flee worn-torn Europe and st…

Borobudur: one of the seven wonders of the world?

The Borobudur Temple Complex  is considered by many to be one of the seven wonders of the world. And no wonder. It truly is a remarkable architectural achievement, being the largest Buddhist monument on earth.

If you want to visit the complex it’s best to base yourself in the historic Javanese city of Yogyakarta which is located just 25 miles away – around an hour’s drive – from the Temple Complex. How you get to the  depends on how much you want to spend: public bus is dirt cheap but tricky, taxis are a better bet, but if you want real independence, rent a private car and simply drive there yourself!

Best is to go real early in the morning to avoid the local tourist mobs who tend to converge on the temple at the weekends and especially on public holidays. The light at sunrise is also very special and makes for an even more enjoyable experience.

But be prepared for the racist ticket policy!

Admission is cheap – if you are Indonesian. Foreigners, however, are obliged to pay about seven t…

Mount Bromo Volcano East Java : an ethereal experience

When armed conflict broke out between the rebellious Islamicized coastal districts of East Java and the Hindu Majapahit Empire at the end of the 1300s, the nobles, priests and artisans fled to Bali (the famous Tanah Lot temple was built by Javanese priest, Sang Hiyang Nirarta).

But the ordinary Hindu folk fled to the Tengger Highlands, a spectacular mountainous region, surrounding the magnificent Mount Bromo volcano.

Undoubtably, this place is really worth a visit, and whatever you may have heard, you won’t be prepared for this ethereal, unforgettable spectacle. The caldera around Bromo is absolutely vast, and when you do the early morning walk up to the crater you really feel as if you are walking on the moon or something.

The best approach to the volcano is from the village of Cemoro Lawang, only around 3kms from the crater, where there are plenty of cheap hotels, hostels and homestays.

Be warned though, it’s damn cold up there and if you arrive wearing only a T-shirt and jeans (like me…

Tanah Lot Temple Bali @ sunset

Tanah Lot is merely a rock formation with a temple on top.

And some of the rock is not even original. In fact, around one third of it is artificial. It was placed there when restoration of the site was undertaken in the early 1980’s.

For the Balinese, the temple is undeniably of great importance – many come here to make a pilgrimage.

Even so, the Tanah Lot complex is also a prime example of how a religious site has been denigrated by commercial exploitation. To get to the site, for example, unhelpful and arrogant complex guards make sure you walk through a complex of carefully placed souvenir shops that cover either side of the path down to the sea. It doesn’t get much more crass than that.

But why do so many tourists come here though? After all, there are thousands of temples spread across Bali. And in many cases, they are much more aesthetically impressive than Tanah Lot. Well, perhaps it’s because of the incredible sunset views that can be seen here on the cliff ridge just behind the t…

The fast boat to Lembongan Island? Sure, why not!!!

Lembongan Island is a small island located just off Bali’s southern tip to the south east.

How to get there?

a) by public boat
The cheapest way to get to Lembongan is by the public boat which leaves from Sanur beach at 8.30am every morning. A ticket will cost you about Rp60,000 if you buy it from the guy in the ticket locket (a small building near the end of at the end Jalan Hang Tua where the road meets the sea.). But be warned: guys will start to approach you as you near the locket and ask you if you are going to Lembongan. Don’t buy a ticket from them - they are touts!

The public boat to Lembongan isn’t called the public boat for nothing, of course. It can get really full. Because like most Indonesian boats, it has no capacity constraints and can carry as many people as want to go in it. Magic!

But the real fun starts after 10 minutes or so. Where the sea between Bali and the island is usually very choppy! It’s at this time that you wish you hadn’t had such a big breakfast. And don’t lo…

Lake Batur Bali Indonesia

Every society is based upon lies. Our society of today is based on conflicting lies. The man who lived in a simple, stable, single-lie society absorbed the single-lie system into a unified self and spouted it for the rest of his life, uncontradicted by his friends and neighbors and unaware that ninety-eight percent of his beliefs were illusions, his values artificial and arbitrary and most of his desires comically ill-aimed.

> Luke Rhinehart

One of the highlights of a recent trip to Bali was Lake Batur: a simply beautiful lake with an ethereal ambience at dawn when the mists slowly lift to reveal the lake’s incredible beauty and the high walls of a vast crater rim.

While walking around the lake I came across a bunch of kids treating a stray and mangy dog in a manner which, well, would not exactly win commendations from the RSPCA.

The poor blighter was being used for target practice. Direct hits scored 25 points and a headshot counted double. So I picked up a stone to join in the fun. …

Gili Trawangan the perfect island getaway

Note: this article was written a number of years ago when Gili Trawangan was still a hidden gem. But alas, that is not the case anymore. For info on what Gili Trawangan is now like – as of July 2010 – click here.

It is said that if you want to know what Bali was like 20 years ago then you should go to Lombok.

Much more laid back than its larger sister 45 km to the west, Lombok is a great antidote to the commercial excesses of Bali, where on some beaches at least, there now seem to be more hawkers than tourists and a moment’s peace is as rare as a reasonably priced can of coke.

Many travelers visiting Lombok for the first time head for the wonderful Gili islands – three coral ringed islands off the northwest coast of Lombok. Here you will find dazzling white sand beaches that kick the pants of those in Bali, with crystal clear aquamarine waters to boot.

The furthest of the islands from the mainland, Gili Trawangan, is also the largest of the three. Even so, it still takes less than three h…

Amed and Tulamben: Bali's north east coast

Bali’s tourism industry is currently enjoying a strong resurgence as large numbers of foreign tourists are once again visiting Indonesia’s best-known holiday destination following a number of poor years in the wake of the devastating Kuta bombing back in October 2002. The beaches in the south of the island are again proving to be a strong magnet to the younger crowd who seek sun, sand and a variety of hedonistic pleasures, while the older and generally better-heeled tourists are heading for the cooler climes of central Bali where they are able to savor the island’s rich cultural traditions in places such as Ubud.

However, neither of these locations will appeal to those wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But there is no reason to despair. Because one of Bali’s little known secrets will reveal itself to those willing to make the effort to get there: the magnificent northeast coast.

This area is thankfully free of the excessive commercialism and crass cultural…