Saturday, December 03, 2005


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.


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