Saturday, December 24, 2005

Javajive goes to Bali

Brandon Hoover is an American who lives in Jakarta and posts outstanding photographs of Indonesia on his flickr account and at his blog, Javajive. The one above is of Tanah Lot, the famous sea temple west of Kuta. He goes to Bali from time to time, and is there now, though he won't be posting his photos till his return to Jakarta. A blog to keep an eye on, particularly now.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Carved boundary wall at Seraya Shores, Seraya Berat, East Bali

There is a lot of carving at Seraya Shores, including this lovely boundary wall. Room 1 is next to it.

The rooms at Seraya Shores

Looking from the sea, "daydream" (left) is the leftmost bungalow, and then the one we stayed in, half the price of all the others, described on the website as "bungalow" (right). Room 1, described on the website as "loft" is the righthand-most in the line of accommodations, and between it and the pictured bungalows is "seaview", a double storey bungalow which can be booked as one or two separate accommodations. I tell you all this because the staff don't seem to use the nomenclature adopted by the website, and Nick O'Neill's Bali Blog came up with a whole different system of taxonomy.

The pool at Seraya Shores and the adjoining bale for looking out at the ocean

The pool at Seraya Shores, Seraya Berat, East Bali, at dawn

One of the cats at Seraya Shores, Seraya Berat, East Bali

For some reason, I like this photo of one of Seraya Shores' cats.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Food at Seraya Shores, Seraya Berat, East Bali

There is no menu, but it was relatively easy to influence what's for dinner. We asked for satay lilit (minced seafood satay) and water spinach, and tempeh, and that's what we got. I went to the Amlapura market with Susa and bought the ingredients, and then Miss K and I hung out in the kitchen with Susa and Wayan and learnt how water spinach is prepared (shallots, chilli, garlic), and taught Sussa and Wayan how to make hibiscus tea, to wit: remove the stamen from a hibiscus flower and pour boiling water over the petals, add sugar and lime juice; it goes from purpley black to bright red. Lunch can be whatever you like I expect, but we had salads and toasted sandwiches. Somehow or other I managed to wrangle food included in the room rate. Whereas in many places, that might be a curse, there it was not. (Food is so cheap in Bali that free food is something that tethers you psychologically but irrationally to eating the guff that comes free.)

The photo is of the dining bale. Night photography is like great, right, but what it does not show is the beautiful ocean which the bale gives onto. A nice place to eat.

Breakfast at Seraya Shores, Seraya Berat, East Bali

Breakfasts were good; tea, coffee, ginger tea, eggs, bacon, tomatoes, good bread toasted, French butter, pancakes, fruit, etc.

The food at Seraya Shores, Seraya Berat, East Bali

Susa (pronounced "Suss-a") is the cook and manager and was assisted by the charming and graceful Wayan and Comeng. He cooks inventively: one night we had an unusual vegetable curry unexpectedly redolent of nutmeg and cinnamon; another night we had mahi-mahi, a fish, topped with tahini and capsicums, with a kind of deep fried grated potato pattie and small boiled potatoes. The black rice pudding was good too. It was not necessarily traditional Balinese fare by any means.

Jamie, Seraya Shores, Seraya Berat, East Bali

I said to Jamie one afternoon "Suddenly, I need a beer" and one thing led to another. I had quite a few Bintangs with him over a short time up on the balcony of the fourth room, which he was good enough to shout me, and Wayan and Susa came along from time to time with more, and with tempeh in a violently hot sambal, popcorn, and peanuts. I had been carrying on about how very hot was, like, way cool for me. Then I rubbed my eye and tears jerked out of it in spasms for the next ten minutes. There I was, wearing the ridiculous gear described below, on the way to drunkenness, squirting salt out of one red eye, protesting that the chili was not too hot for me, and talking about the world government aspirations of the UN. Memorable.

He called me "man" all the time, which was fine, desirable even in a conversation between a hotel owner and his guest. Had I been a surfer, I reckon I would have been "dude". It might have been because I was wearing what Miss K calls "the rug", a holiday ritual like buying and reading "The Economist" (substituted with "The Monthly" on this occasion). The rug is a thickly woven waistcoat clearly intended to be worn alone. It is the most uncharacteristic present ever received from my parents, though purchased in rural Turkey at a time when I expect I had long hair, green glasses, and was in the early years of university. It has a bit of a lapel like a suit on either side, and it has tassles. It is kaftanesque; in colour it is white, red, green, and brown. It doesn't get a lot of wear in Australia, but some talismanic quality has protected it through each wardrobe purge, like a pair of overalls from a rig in the Timor Sea I scored while working as a photocopier at BHP, quadruplicating the manual for each and every bit of machinery on an oil rig named I no longer recall what, day after day for a month.

We talked about drugs in Bali (he professed complete disinterest in whether Schappelle did it), whether you were as likely to get poisoned by the stewards on Qantas as on Garuda if you are a human rights activist (he thought so) and whether the United Nations had double standards in dealing with Apartheid and whatever the Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe is called (yes). Also about his grandmother (a friend of Donald Friend) and his grandfather (a highly decorated war pilot).

The guy is kooky, successful, an artist and a hard man, hedonistic, smart, Australian. I enjoyed drinking with him. The photo is room 1, the one of the interior of which I posted a photo earlier, Jamie's and Amanda's home away from home.

Jamie and Amanda, Seraya Shores, Seraya Berat

I spoke to Jamie and Amanda separately. Listening to them you'd think they both conceived of, designed, purchased, developed, and owned the hotel themselves, and that the other did not exist except in some entirely ancillary realm.

The photo is of the soap dish in room 1. It's taken at night. Most of the photos in this part of the blog were taken at last light first light or little light.

Jamie and Amanda, Seraya Shores, Seraya Berat, East Bali

Jamie is a surfer first and foremost ("these arms are paddling machines" he told me), a big bloke who couldn't possibly be anything but Australian. He studied design, and his ceramics and paintings dot the place. The pair have exquisite taste which the French lap up like thirsty dogs. The whole hotel has a laid back humour to it, if you look closely which is, I think, very Australian.

A year and a half ago or so he married Amanda, then general manager of the upmarket Alila Manggis. More recently, they had Jude. The Alila Manggis, generally very well reiewed, is in Manggis, near Candi Dasa; the village's name means mangosteen. The pair had private rooms at the Alila, an enviable little asset. It is sister to the Alila Ubud, formerly the Chedi. They ferried back and forth between the two places, and seemed to have carved out lives of more or less leisure for themselves.

The photo is of the interior of room 1 which is kind of Jamie & Amanda's bolt hole when they're there, and kind of a room to be rented out when they're not. It was like no hotel room I have ever stayed in. A bookshelf full of books is a great look in any room.

Seraya Shores, Seraya Berat, East Bali

They bought the land for a ridiculously small amount (say three-quarters of one-tenth of what my small house cost) several years ago (whether Australian or American dollars, I no longer recall), and built 3 bungalows for the cost of a couple of decent bicycles. Since then other expatriates have moved in, turning the little strip into what Jamie calls "Hollywood Boulevard". Someone is trying to sell a bit of land a few blocks down the coast and smaller (from recollection) than Seraya Shores' for A$500,000, in the realm of ten times what Jamie and Amanda paid.

The pool at Seraya Shores, Seraya Berat, East Bali, after sundown

Seraya Shores, Seraya Berat, East Bali

Jamie and Amanda Pummer, the one from Noosa Heads, the other from Perth, have created in Seraya Shores a little patch of stylish green out of the dry scrubby shore of East Bali in the village of Seraya Berat, a couple of headlands north from Candi Dasa (pronounced "Chundi Daasa"), and a fifteen minute walk down the road from the water palace in the village of Ujung (pronounced "ooj'ng"). The regional capital, Amlapura (also known as Karangsem, apparently), is closer than Candi Dasa. It is on the coastal road from Ujung through Seraya and up into the string of villages which are collectively known as Amed (including Aas (pronounced "arse") and Lipah. Though only about 25 km from Amed proper, the journey takes more than an hour by car and, inexplicably, is said to take the same amount of time by motorbike. The villages along that coastal road seem very impoverished and far far away from the modern world of tourism. It is a fascinating drive though inconvenient for the drivers. Take it if you get half a chance. There are large fishing villages with hundreds of fishing boats hauled up on the black beaches, and steeply terraced slopes of scratchy dirt which are cultivated only in the wet season. Then there are lush landscapes on the other side of ridges. It's windy and the views are great.

The dry and scratchy landscape around Seraya Shores, Seraya Berat, East Bali

The luxurious verdure and pool of turquoise was a stark contrast with the dusty and scratchy landscape in which Seraya Shores has been implanted. The patch next door was for sale, but at a price which had the wealthy Australians' need for it way factored in. There are no real estate agents which deal with little pieces of land like this out in the sticks. Little signs posted to trees marked "di jual" signify the place is for sale, and from there, it's direct negotiation with the villagers.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

That pool

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Especially at dusk

Which brings us to Seraya Shores where the pool is very nice

The pool, which is divine, is a relatively recent addition. It is as good to swim in as it is to photograph; though I was a particularly keen photographer of the pool, it was amusing to watch each new arrival get out their digital cameras and snap away at it. I did not find out how they treat the pool, but it tasted of fresh water.

The management recommended against swimming in the sea during July and August. I was ready to ignore the advice, but the slippery rocks over which the waves surged defeated my enthusiasm.

There were 5 other guests while we were there, and there was no danger of the pool being crowded. At this place, the chances of having the resort, or the pool at least to yourself are good.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Jeff Greenwald's despatch from Bali from

Today, I am pleased to bring you something genuinely interesting from the web. It's about the water palace at Tirta Ganga which I did not visit, having been rather underwhelmed by the water palace at Ujung, and it's about poo, which is being treated by architect and environmental engineer, Emerald Starr, who has lived in Bali since 1988 and designed the Sacred Mountain Sanctuary near Sideman. (If you want to see what someone named Emerald Starr looks like, there's a photo of him on the seacology page linked to.) I popped into the Sacred Moutain Sanctuary when driving past. I cannot recommend it to the casual traveller. The bamboo bungalows are a bit weird, and the whole place looked very underfrequented. It caters, I think, mostly to spiritualists' retreats, and my driver told me the gardener whispered to him that the whole thing was for sale.

It's also about relatively benign sounding Balinese royalty, like the pictured Dr. A.A.M. Djelantik, the 86-year-old son of the Balinese king who built the Tirta Gangga Water Palace in 1948. He is said to have been internationally honored for his work in public health. I am deeply suspicious about benign royalty, but I keep reading about them in Bali, and Dr Djelantik looks so lovely. Who can rip open the seedy underbelly of this oligicharcical remnant? Anyone?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

A yuppy's eggs

This has nothing to do with Bali. It has to do with Babka, a bakery and absurdly popular breakfastry on Brunchswick Street, Fitzroy. That's in Melbourne for all you Danes and Puerto Ricans. It only got through my very strict relevance test on the basis that it's about blogging, and is inherently amusing.

Some guy goes around enthusing or not enthusing about breakfasts he eats at super-expensive places around Melbourne. Pictured are his eggs, which were fantastic but didn't quite make up for the bad service. I wish I'd thought of the idea; then I'd be eating free breakfasts regularly at super-expensive restaurants and people would not have to suffer so service-obsessed a reviewer.

Complaints about service are a source of constant revulsion to me, and the point of this post is that they were a source of revulsion for this woman who almost certainly is not Marilyn Buck, and may or may not have been one of the waiters described by the blogger as "chick #1" to "chick #3".

Which just goes to show, you can never quite delete a comment.

Lighter side of a Hindu Bali wedding: The Jakarta Post

Here is a somewhat interesting article about a Balinese wedding. Truly a weird and foreign culture, this one.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Abdul Aziz - The Book - "The Artist and His Art"

Well, here's another book just out about an artist in Bali, but this time it's a Javanese, Abdul Aziz. He made violins as well as painting and sculpting.

www.artistabdulaziz.comis heavy on hyperbole -- it seems a great shame to put the words "remarkable" and "virtuosity" next to each other. Nor should "genius" appear anywhere near "Indonesian" when next to "Mona Lisa" but what the hell, it's written by his wife. The book can be yours for only $US70. Thanks go to Bali Discovery Tours' Bali Update for this story.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

See what I mean? The pool at The Ibah

Of course such beauty comes only at a price: rooms start from A$290 according to the website, though I would be interested to know how much they can actually be procured for. The aforementioned advertorials claim 100% occupancy. My recollection is that the Japanese were lapping it up a few years ago. So much money, so little time, the Japanese.

Three articles about the Ubud Royal Family

Here, here, and here are three articles from the Malaysian newspaper The Star on the Ubud royal family. They are quite interesting though suspiciously like a junket-induced advertorial for The Ibah a set of fantastic luxury villas. As usual I soaked up its atmosphere by shelling out a few dollars more than a mixed drink was worth rather than by spending hundreds of dollars on a room. I can assure you the bar, and the gardens, are extravagantly beautiful. It's just down the road from the Tjampuhan Hotel, also a royal holding.

The photo is of Tjokorda Raka Kerthyasa, a prince and the creator of The Ibah who has lived in Australia and married a Sydney kindergarden teacher.

View from the gardens of Apa Kabar, Bunutan, Amed

Dragonfly at Apa Kabar Villas, Bunutan, Amed

I love dragonflies, and the dragonflies which flitted about the ponds of the hotel were the best thing about it.

Foliage and flower at Apa Kabar Villas, Bunutan, Amed

The gardens, it has to be said, were very beautiful.

Our room at Apa Kabar Villas, Bunutan, Amed

Apa Kabar Villas, Bunutan, Amed

We went to Apa Kabar Villas in Bunutan in the Amed area. We did not like it. Compared with the other little places we stayed, this was too hotel. There were more rooms than we expected, and we got dumped into one of the larger family suites with two bedrooms, one of which they locked on us so we couldn't mess it up presumably. There were weird French magazines with erotic comics in them along with English teen zines. The room was very dark. The rooms with a loft are much nicer, but some guest had broken the lock checking out and it wasn't fixed by the time we arrived. Though I would have been happy to inhabit a room whose lock was being fixed, we did not get a choice. When the lock was fixed, they gave the room away to a French couple. The gardens were beautiful, but the cafe was pretty backpacker, with no emphasis on Balinese cuisine. A man we met on the beach told us the whole village hated the greedy owner, and for some reason I believed him. And, they got me to sign for the room rate being $US100 a night when in fact I had booked at a lesser rate. There was a room with two computers connected to the internet. The connecttion over there was so slow that I could hardly bear to use it. We didn't like it and left after one instead of two nights. There were dramas about the second night's room fee.

Bali Agung Nirwana

We left Cilik's for Amed, and had lunch at Bali Agung Nirwana, east of Tejakula near the village of Les. I did not take any photos, but this photo is from its website, which is written by someone who knows what they're doing but usually just goes a bit far, and has a fixation with "250 percale, brushed Egyptian cotton sheets and 50% goose down pillows". For example:
By the way, the little girl top right that features throughout our web site is "Putu", a 7 year old from the village. She exemplifies our motto "Paradise, Purity, Perfection". She is making an temple offering called a Canang ("Cha-nung"), and her expression seems to say "You can't touch this". Perhaps a bit like our villas, when you compare them with other accommodations in Bali!
It is a beautiful place, but I was disappointed. The website is a lot for a place to live up to. It is certainly a beautiful hotel, but seven staff per guest is a bit much for me, and something about the place was just too concentrated on justifying the huge room fees (A$265 a night in August, though for an extra A$120 you can upgrade to:
a) Daily American / English buffet breakfast with jug of freshly squeezed orange juice.
b) Beds graced with our finest sheets (610 percale, Italian designer, brushed Egyptian cotton) and pillows (90% goose down).
c) Fresh sheets daily, fresh towels twice daily [a weird bonus at a place so ostensibly committed to the environment].
d) Full maid service plus personal butler / waitress from 7am to 9pm.
e) One hour each per person per day of spa treatments / massage.
f) Specialist hair and body treatments provided in your bathroom.
g) 10% off all restaurant / personal dining bale food.
h) Soft cotton dressing gowns.
i) All personal laundry included.
j) Complimentary (finest, fresh ground) coffee and tea.)
I was glad to have had the homeliness of Cilik's over this place. There were some particularly ugly fat Germans with sunburn staying there, eyeing us suspiciously, which didn't help the ambience. Nor did the fact that the particularly heavy seas kept crashing over the sea wall (a common problem I think in August) which had killed off the grass and flooded the little restaurant.

A little temple? shrine? by the side of the road

Who knows exactly what this was, but it struck me that shrines, or whatever it is, don't get a lot simpler than this. It was just by the side of the road on my walk.

The seawall along the north east coast of Bali

I actually walked most of the way from Cilik's to Puri Bagus Ponjok Batu, and it was on this walk that I took the photos of tamarind trees featured earlier. It was very hot, and the people I passed by were a bit starey. This was typical of the seawall I walked along.

Young rice, middle aged rice, dead rice

Rice seedlings nursery near Air Saneh, north Bali

I asked Cilik to take me to see some more sawah and he did. He exhorted me to take photographs, from the side of the road, of a wonderfully bucolic harvest scene like something from the pages of an Emile Zola novel, but I did not feel comfortable snapping away at people hard at work without talking to them first. The photo is of a little rice seedling nursery. Once you know that such things exist, you can find them around the place, and a more irridescent green is impossible to imagine than is present in these little corners of rice fields.

Coral as a building material; the washing away of beaches

Here is a photo I took to document the use of coral in building. It was this that washed away Candi Dasa's beach.

Pura Ponjok Batu (Temple at the Rocky Corner)

Kadek guides tourists around the nearby temple, which gets a good rap from The Natural Guide to Bali:
The temple is built on a special site oozing with energy, just above a small promontory beaten by the waves. Mystical stories and archaeological discoveries attest to the importance ofthis location. According to one of hte local guides, Pura Ponjok gatu was built at a time when the high priests believed that there needed to be a new temple on the north coast to maintain abalance of sanctuaries across Bali. Longbefore, however, the site of Ponjok Batu was already used for sacral purposes. An ancient sacrophagus was recently found in the area; it is displayed in a shrine outside the temple.

The temple is now dedicated to Danghyang Niratha, the Javanese priest who exerted a great influence on the Balinese religion in the 16th century. He is said to have liked to sit on these rocks and prray, meditate or write poetry, inspired by the energy of the waves. The story also says that one day, the local villagers witnessed lights radiating up from the ground in the area. During his meditation, Niratha forecasted the wreckage of a ship. Soon enough, a boat landed on the beach and the holy man brought the dying eamen back to life using fresh water from a spring that magically appeared on the beach. A statue of the ship can be found ona small rock amidst the waves, just below the temple. Another, smaller shrine in front of the beach marks the site where the sacred spring can be seen at low tide. At the entrance of the temple, yet another shrine is set in front of a giant tree. This devotion to tocks and springs attests to the animist spirit that runs through the Hindu Balinese religion.

The gardens at Puri Bagus Ponjok Batu

It is beautiful, unexpected, cheap, quiet as all get out, and the food is good. I ate too much: nasi goreng with seafood (about A$2.75), and a magnificent dish of "young fern" which is, as far as I can tell, exactly as described, with grated coconut and other spices familiar from other vegetable dishes. The Natural Guide to Bali told me to try it, and I am glad I did -- I reckon it will be one of the culinary highlights of the trip -- and it only set me back about A$0.75. The beers were A$1.50 each.

Puri Bagus Ponjok Batu

Kadek told me that the owners are Bainese and German, and that they have the Puri Bagus hotel in Lovina on the north coast, a hotel in Candi Dasa on the east coast, and this restaurant in between. Transfers between the two often end up with lunch in the middle, a neat little model.

Puri Bagus Ponjok Patu

There is a plasant restaurant near Pacang, 3, or 5 km from Cilik's, Puri Bagus Ponjok Batu. It is in the middle of nowhere really, though near Pura Ponjok Batu (a temple). A sign advertises it 3 km in advance, and then a similar sign points up a driveway. Although I had seen both, I did not manage to stop the bemo until the temple. At the temple, I met Kadek, a man with good English and a "broken down hand", a disability he was born with. He took me up to the restaurant in a quite unnecessary bit of guiding which probably earned him a commisssion and ended up with me buying him a beer when he sat down with me at the table and stayed there throughout my meal. I didn't mind; although he regaled me with stories of hardship, he did so apparently without expectation and without self-pity, and I thoroughly liked him. He told me that his father sired him when he was already old, by his second wife. When he was 5, a virus wiped out the family's source of income, the particularly sweet and juicy Tejakula oranages much loved by Jakartans. He went to school and studied hard; he had no pocket money and could eat only palm sugar which he took in his pockets.


There is in fact no such place as Lovina, except in guidebooks. It was the name given by the king of the local regency to the bungalows he built there in 1953. One version of the story has it that it is a contraction of "Love Indonesia", which seems improbable. Pandji Tisna was a novelist and columnist, and this apparently attracted guests, spawned more bungalows, flourished, and petered out when tourism became top heavy.

I strolled along the beach. Few tourists were there to be remarked upon. There was an air of great indolence. A nice young man approached me, gave me some useful information, and soon enough, produced a cloth and invited me to see some of his work. I suspect there are a lot more people who claim to be selling their family's work than there are in fact. He had a little patter about how much he sold the little polished pearl pendants backed by polished coconut wood for in the high season (A$4.70 each) and invited me to name my price. The implication was that I could have them for whatever I was willing to pay, the old Indian taxi driver trick used everywhere where western guilt or ignorance, or a combination reveal over time that it is impossible to conceive of, or express orally, a price which is as low as the cost price plus a profit margin appropriate to the locale.

They were nice things. I named my price (A$0.60) and after some time it was accepted with good cheer even though to do so was going to bankrupt him at one stage. This price was the lowest I could bring myself to name, though I knew that it was probably far more than it could be bought for (different of course from what it was worth) since I had encountered peddlers in Ubud who wanted to sell me things for "one dollar". The carvings they unwrapped from cheap foam were very elaborate things indeed. I have bargained little on this holiday, buying what few things I have bought from unduly expensive fixed price boutiques, generally content that whatever price I pay for anything will result in me saving money by being on holidays (the suspension of my gym membership has approximately cancelled out my daily expenditure on beer, ironically). I actually bargain for a living, and have no difficulty with the concept of contention, and of its elegant management.

I named my price, waited, watched the young fellow bid repeatedly against himself, made the most modest feign at walking away, got my way, and part of me still felt ripped off. The other part of me knew that I had only bought the thing because of a combination of embarrassment at saying "I don't want one", the fact that I liked them, the fact that I had got 10 days into a Bali holiday without even thinking about buying something from the beach, the fact that I had nothing else to do, and the fact that I wanted to get something for Miss K.


I went with Cilik in his fancy new few months old car to Lovina and Singarajah. The trip took 3 hours with about half an hour in Lovina. Most of it was boring driving, particularly through the unexpectedly expansive, and even more ugly than expected Singaraja (pictured). Cilik deposited me in the main part of the main beach in the main village which along with other villages constitutes what is known as Lovina, and said "take your time".

Prosecutors recommend life for Pollycarpus: murder of Munir

Here's the answer to the question posed in an earlier post about where the trial of Garuda Captain and suspected secret policeman Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto is at. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The food at Cilik's Beach Garden

The food was really good, and apart from breakfast, authentically Balinese so far as I could tell. Breakfast had coffee, tea, ginger tea, toast from freshly baked bread, bacon, eggs, jaffles, baked bananas, pancakes, french toast, fruit salad, yoghurt. Otherwise, the food is Balinese, though there were some Thai dishes. We tried sayur ikan, a fish curry, ikan dalam daun, a kind of fish casserole steamed in banana leaf packages, mie goreng (fried noodles, and really an Indonesian rather than specifically Balinese dish, pictured), pepes ikan (usually fish wrapped in banana leaves, but here, fish wrapped in the leaf of the palm used for palm sugar) sate ikan (you should be able to guess what that is by now), urab, a dish of green vegetables (beans, water spinach, and sprouts) in garlicky coconut milk, and buncis dan Cabe Lombok green beans in a sweet and sour tomato sambal. All good. The fish is sure to have been caught the same morning.

In the boondocks it is best to stick to the local cuisine as a rule. That is true of Cilik's; the omelettes are not quite omelettes, the eggs and bacon just a little on the weird side. The yoghurt though, is made there, using a yoghurt maker, and was fantastic, good enough, in fact, to make me want to have a yoghurt maker.

There were a couple of warungs and restaurants nearby but the other hotels in the area have fallen prey to the downturn occasioned by the bombing. There is another home stay run by, or perhaps owned by, a German woman up the hill, with rooms for in the vicinity of A$10. The village of Air Saneh is one and a half kilometres east from Cilik's Beach Garden.

The kitchen at Cilik's Beach Garden

The kitchen is "no secret place" according to the English translation of the German literature left for guests by the owners, and Miss K and I hung out there while Miss K's ikan dalam daun (fish in banana leaves, not the thing in the picture) was being prepared. The cooks do not speak any English, and one of the other staff translates. I ground up the spice paste according to the wristy technique I had learned at Casa Luna cooking school in the big shallow mortar and pestle used there. We watched coconut milk being made, from grated coconut and water, the gratings squelched with bare hands. The method for folding up banana leaves was quite different, and considerably more elaborate than the version taught by Janet de Neefe. It beat me. Another time, we saw how sate sauce for chicken is made: chilli, shallots, tamarind goo (but this smelt more like molasses than anything I have tasted in Melbourne), tiny roasted peanuts with their skins on, and water. The paste was somewhat pale, and we learnt that chopped shallots and kecap manis, the sweet and thick Indonesian soy sauce, are added before serving. The satay sauce was quite different but equally good, on a tomato base.

It was good to be in the kitchen because it made us appreciate how much work went into everything on the menu, not all of which was always available whenever you wanted it. Most dishes involved taking raw ingredients and grinding them for a long time using manual labour into a paste which was then fried, or a mash which was steamed in banana leaves. The cooks worked from early in the morning until the evening.

Spank me! Another one

Forgive me, a sunset shot from Cilik's Beach Garden

Too much information?

The octagon's bathroom at Cilik's Beach Garden, Air Saneh, Bali

It was great showering in the sun.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Bali 2005: a new blog about Bali from someone who lives in a snowy place

Here it is.

P.s. this was my 222nd post.

A Mexican in Bali: Covarrubias book sheds new lights [sic.] on the artist

Here are some snippets, not paticularly elegantly snipped, from Bruce Carpenter's Jakarta Post article about a new book on the friend of Frida Kahlo's bonk, Miguel Covarrubias (more about western artists in Bali about here in the annals of my blog; someone else's blog entry about Cavarrubias here and a lovely website associated with an exhibition of his work is here (sorry for stealing the photo Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin). Such a pity I haven't read the book because I'm sure the sentiment that "After all these years, Island of Bali remains the greatest book written about the island" is hyperbolic and one of those things that just keeps getting said while fewer and fewer people actually read the thing, and I'd love to be able to say that with authority.
"Friend and contemporary of the older, legendary artist Diego Riviera and other Mexico City artists, Miguel moved to New York in 1924 at the tender age of 19.

There he would establish himself as one of the leading caricaturists of his generation, creating numerous memorable covers, articles and illustrations for books and periodicals; including the popular magazine Vanity Fair.

In 1930, the successful artist would leave New York with his beautiful new wife Rosemonde Cowan, a Broadway choreographer and dancer, on an around-the-world honeymoon cruise.

It was their intention to spend several months on an exotic island in the Netherlands East Indies acclaimed by many as the "new" paradise on earth -- Bali.

The island at the time was also home to a colorful array of expatriate artists, scholars, eccentrics and hopeless idealists, including the handsome German musician and surrealist painter Walter Spies.

Spies, who had fled the jealous arms of the German film director Fritz Murnau, had set up court in Ubud where he entertained an endless procession of international guests, who arrived regularly on luxury cruise ships.

Guide and friend to Miguel and Rose, Spies introduced them to the highlights of the still pristine island and its peoples during a period that is often called Bali's Golden Age.

Smitten by the unique culture and lively company, Miguel was inspired to launch himself on a new career as an artist-scholar. After returning again he would publish in 1937 the classic book, Island of Bali, illustrated with his original work.

It was an immediate runaway best seller that brought widespread fame to the author and irrevocably lodged the island forever in the international psyche as the ultimate tropical paradise.

Richly illustrated, Covarrubias in Bali is complemented by two sets of texts. The first, written by Adrianna Williams, author of a 1991 biography of Covarrubias, gives an intimate glimpse of the wondrous experiences of the young artist and his new wife and their interaction with the Balinese and expatriate communities before the outbreak of World War II.

Her story not only covers their time in Bali but also the return to New York where a "Bali Craze" would break out after the success of the Island of Bali.

The second essay, by the Malaysian art dealer, Yu-Chee Chong, discusses the impact of Bali on the artist's work and vice versa. The artwork includes not only illustrations from his books and articles but also many lesser known works such as the sensuous oil painting Bather Holding Up Her Kamben, described by Yu-Chee as one of his masterpieces.

Even now, and in spite of earlier and countless later books, the Island of Bali, stands out as a monumental achievement considered by many the best book ever written on the island. I believe that Miguel's success was largely due to his Mexican roots, which allowed him to intuitively grasp Balinese art and culture, spiritually and emotionally.

While nominally Christian, Mexican culture still owes much to its animist, tribal past. This sense is the secret ingredient missing in so many other books and studies.

Ironically, for many years after his death, the art of Covarrubias remained in the shadows of this book. This changed in the 1980s when two exhibitions, one in the Smithsonian, and a second major retrospective in the Cultural Center of Contemporary Art in Mexico City stimulated new interest and established his legacy as more than being a mere illustrator or caricaturist.

Interestingly enough, one of his most avid early collectors was the first president of Indonesia, Sukarno. In spite of this, the booming Indonesian art market only really began paying attention to him five years ago when several major works appeared in the auctions."