Random bits

USS Carl Vinson off Fremantle, May 1983
  • The photos shown today are new scans from my old slides of 1983 and later. I’ve got shelves full of ring binders with thousands of film slides. If I’m to have any chance of moving to Bali, everything has to be reduced to electronic form, so I’ve now embarked on scanning everything I have and ditching the physical things. Wow, it’s hard to throw things away, but… what am I to do? No-one will ever take them off my hands, they’re hardly museum stuff, yet I can’t just bin them without keeping some record of 40 years’ work.
  • I’m sure you know by now how computer-centric I am. So was it just a coincidence that my room number at the Bali hotel was 2e8? Computer nerds will know what I mean.

Star trails, June 1983 from Northcliffe, WA
  • I’ve just been chatting to the newsagent in my local shopping centre. I noted that the price of a magazine that I used to just buy automatically every month up to about 5 years ago, Popular Photography from the USA, has risen yet again this month. Even though the A$ is now on par with the US$, and the magazine’s US cover price is US$3.99, the price here is now $16.50!!! That’s risen from $14.95 last month.

    When  I used to buy it, the A$ was as low as 0.70c to the US$ so we accepted that the exchange rate and transport costs made a local price of $8.95 just something we had to live with.

    But the price then started to jump about 4 years ago: from $8.95 to $10.95 in one hit, then $11.95, $12.95, $14.95 and now $16.50, even though the exchange rate has been steadily improving and the US cover price has changed very little.

    Do I need to spell it out? We’re being fleeced. It’s legal robbery. Where does it stop?

    Yet in Kuta, Bali last week, the current issue (not the two month delayed issue we get in Australia) cost the equivalent of A$12! It used to be that magazines and books in Indonesia were hard to come by and very expensive, but I found the Periplus book store chain up there stocks all I could ever want. In fact, there was a wider choice and more up-to-date copies than here!!!!

    So why don’t I just subscribe and have it mailed to me? I did that some years ago, but despite filling in the subscription card in the magazine for overseas subscribers at surface mail rate, I found they just overcharged me by about 20% on my credit card. When I complained via email, it took months to get it sorted and they never explained the extra cost. Too bad. So I don’t trust them enough to subscribe again!

    I mentioned the latest amazing price rise to the newsagent and he said, yes, it’s Gordon & Gotch and they just couldn’t care less what the newsagent says or what the customers say. G&G is a subsidiary of News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch’s empire and a monopoly in Australia. The newsagent has to take a contract with G&G to get his magazines to sell and therefore he has no say whatsoever in the pricing or what G&G supply him with. He can take on more magazines to customer wishes (as I’ve requested once or twice), but he can’t refuse what G&G dictates he carries.

    Worse, he has to pay up front for a certain number of magazines and books whether he thinks he’ll sell them all or not. If they don’t sell, yes, he gets refunded on the returns, but G&G have had his cash for a month or even longer, earing interest for them, not him. In some cases, he said, he has to carry cookery books for up to four years, so since he’s had to apy G&G in advance, that means he’s made them an interest free loan of the cost of the books which they get to bank and earn the interest on!

    What can he do? If he protests, they don’t care, and if he declines their terms, he has nothing to sell. Hmmmm. This is not the first time I’ve heard this tale from a newsagent, by the way.

    The answer is to download electronic versions from the Zinio web site. I’m going to have to do that, but the result will be that my local newsagent loses yet more of his business, which is already badly affected by the very poor supermarket in the shopping centre driving customers away.

    So on and on it goes. I wrote much earlier in this blog about all the shops and services we’ve lost in this area in the past 20 years. More and more businesses are being forced out by predatory tactics by the big chains and the monopoly marketing practices described above. We may as well all move to China now!

Hot chick, May 1983. I have no idea who she was, but she looked good.
  • It was hot in Perth today, 34.9C (94.8F) and after working up a small sweat at about 5.30pm doing a maintenance thing with my car, I started the air conditioner in this room. It’s set at 25C, but after initially starting, it hasn’t run since! That means the room temp must be already below 25 degrees. stupid fool me!
  • If it had reached 35C, we would have had day 1 of a heat wave, since tomorrow will be 37C and Friday 38C. Apparently three consecutive days above 35C is the definition of a heat wave. It’s not quite a record for November, as it has occurred before in 1933, 1958 and 1976 apparently. But it indicates that we’re already heading for a hot, hot summer.

    People say they couldn’t hack the heat in Bali. Well, if you’re in the shade in Bali or anywhere up there, every breeze is a cool breeze, I say. Yes, it’s much more humid, but you really, really do get used to it. This hot, windy, dry heat gets me down, I can tell you.

  • I am being driven MAD by the bugs! Two kinds of bugs: the moths on this warm night are swarming to the light and will not let me alone.

    But the other bugs are also driving me mad: the bugs in this blogging software. It is riddled with them. Trying to use this as a word processor is an exercise in frustration.

    Although I don’t like harming the moths, at least I can spray the insecticide and get relief for a while, but there’s no spray for these stupid software bugs!

  • So why don’t I close the flywire door? Well, when you have dogs who want to go in and out all the time, a flyscreen door is a pain. Minnie’s too big for a doggie door, so I took the fly screen off years ago. It might have to go back on. That means I’ll have to get up and open the screen door for her all the time, but that’s not a bad thing, is it Keith!
Wow! Over WA 10 November 2010
  • I’m editing all the Bali vision from the Nusa Dua Peninsula tour last Tuesday at the moment (crumbs, was it only a week ago?) and wooee! HD video, once tweaked and sharpened and the Mercalli Stabiliser software applied looks MINT!

    Mercalli is a German piece of software that takes your wobbly shaky bumpy vision shot in the car (taxi) and makes it look as if a $100,000 Steadicam had been used. It’s fantastic. The pictures are beautifully clear and sharp in HD and the audio from the little camcorder’s microphones in stereo is fantastic. Mind you, it’s mostly aircon and vehicle noise, but it’s actual, real ambient sound. Add music and wow!

Oh, it’s late. Time to check the video rendering and stabilisation process (it takes a long time) and go to bed.


More speed

On Saturday I finally made the move to a new wireless internet connection which I hope will give me much more speed. It’s the Vivid Wireless ViViFi portable wi-fi modem.

It’s like a portable mobile phone shaped like a very sleek, smooth, white cake of soap. It connects to up to five of your computers by wi-fi within a 20m radius or so and links them to Vivid’s 4G network.

The promise is speeds of up to 40Mbits/sec but I doubt I’ll see that kind of speed, but already this morning I saw 13Mbits/sec in one test. The best I’ve had in the past two years with other wireless networks is 1mbit/sec tops, usually half that.

What will it mean? Have a look at this:

I uploaded this same video last week from Bali but it was only a small window and heavily compressed. I’ve just recompressed it but at a bigger window size and ended up with a 10MB file. It’s uploading now and I don’t know how it’ll go, but it should look a lot better. Of course, it’ll be much slower for you to download and view too, so apologies if it takes a while. Let me know if you need ideas on a good download helper and way to view it.

The other advantage of the ViViFy modem is that it’s battery powered, so I can just unplug it from the charger, put it in my pocket, put the laptop in my bag and hit the road. Internet anywhere, not dependent on finding a hotspot. I can also sit out at my outdoor patio table and work out there under the umbrella. Oh, the decadence!

Aha! In the 5 mins it took to write the above, it’s finished uploading and I can check it. That would have taken at least 30mins in Bali, if it was possible at all.

OK, it looks good to me. The window doesn’t look bigger on this page, but if ou dowload and view the movie separately, it will be 852 x 480 pixels.

So for $199 plus $29 for 3GB of data, it looks hopeful so far.

I forgot a bit

I forgot to talk about the sightseeing drive on Tuesday 9th. Can’t leave that out.

I hired a hotel based driver for four hours, midday to 4pm, to drive me down to the southern peninsula of the island. Four hundred thousand Rupiahs, it cost, by the way, or A$44.

I wanted to see Benoa, Nusa Dua, Ulu Watu, all the places we used to ride our motorbikes in the 1980s. I also especially wanted to see Kuta and the Kuta Seaview Hotel where we had such good times in those days.

Another motive was to see what some of the real estate looked like. Didn’t see a lot of that, but that’s OK.

Well, what an eye opener. In 1983, the Benoa peninsula (on the middle right) was just a dusty collection of villages connected by a rutted road leading to a beach where they brought turtles ashore (trussed up and for eating, that is!).

Bringing the turtle catch ashore 1983
It’s traditional, but it’s still a tragedy. 1983

Now it’s jam packed with huge international luxury hotels, restaurants for the rich tourists, water sports and amusement parks, traffic, apartment blocks and clutter. That’s progress, and it’s also jobs, money and survival for the Balinese, so who am I to complain. That’s life.

Our first stop was at Benoa harbour. I can’t be sure, but this beach:

Benoa 2010

looked familiar. Could this be the same beach? I’m not sure.

Benoa 1983

From there the driver tried to show me the beautifully manicured gardens of the massive hotel where the international political conferences are held. Very nice, but I said no, this doesn’t interest me. Let’s go.

Time was slipping away, so we just drove up to the highest point where the TV transmitter towers are. There were a few nice views, but I wouldn’t want to live there. Nothing wrong with it, but it’s a bit remote and agricultural.

Then it was down to Jimbaran beach near the airport where I told the driver I was busting for a pee. I asked the Indonesian word for this. It’s kinting. Fine with me.

Then it was a quick bowl of clear seafood soup – absolutely delicious – and while sitting at the restaurant table I had another feeling of familiarity. “Where was the terrorist bomb blast in 2007?”, I said.  Yes, that’s right, it was this same spot a few doors down. Ugh!

Time was running out by then, so it was off to Kuta to see “Bemo Corner”, which I remember well, and the Kuta Seaview. What a contrast! What a difference! Bemo Corner was open then, uncluttered, ringed by restaurants. Now it’s a walled jungle.

Likewise, this was the Kuta Seaview beachfront in 1983:

Kuta Seaview Hotel 1983

This is the same area (from a different angle) now:

Kuta Seaview Hotel 2010

Phew! How glad I am that we did our trips in the 1980s.

I also made a quick call in to the Mata Hari department store to look for an item (didn’t find it), but had a good chuckle at what was happening on the steps in the entrance. There were two quite large tanks of water with people sitting on the rim with their legs in the water. A closer look showed that there were hundreds of little fish about 25-30mm long in the water and they were nibbling at the skin on the people’s legs! They were eating the loose skin. People were paying Rp.10,000 (A$11) for 20 minutes of this.

Well, why not? I asked a European looking girls what it felt like. It tickles, and is not unpleasant, she said. I laughed and said, make sure you’ve still got both legs when you get out.



Home again after a good trip. Bunkus means package, complete, finished and that’s how it feels.

Balinese hand luggage test frame.

All went smoothly for the trip home yesterday. My transport to the airport arrived early and so I had plenty of time to have a bit of lunch and buy a final gift. That was good because I’d had a hell of a job trying to find a suitable item (a purse for my sister). I had one, but wasn’t at all sure she’d like it. Finally, at the last duty free shop, there was a genuine item (not a copy) that grabbed me straight off. No need to hesitate – it felt right, so bunkus. Thank goodness for that.

Bali airport is very nice, the departures section, that is. The arrivals section was a bit old, just as I remember iot from 20 years ago. The departure terminal is way better than Perth! But then every airport is better than Perth.

I’d done a web check-in and when I arrived at the check-in counters there were long lines and my heart sank. But a security guy saw my web-printed boarding pass and ushered me straight past the queues to a line with only two people in front of me! Wacko. I’ll bet the surfie bogans in the long queues were thinking, “Who is that guy? Why can he go to the top of the line?” Hah! Seniority and smarts, mate.

After all my careful packing, having ditched a towel, a T-shirt and a pair of shorts to save weight, my bag came to 19.7Kg. Nice. (There’s a CPAP machine, a tripod, a monopod, a fair sized camera, a laptop charger, three camera chargers and a million cables and power adapters in there apart from clothes and toiletries, after all.)

I’d put the T-shirt, actually a collared polo shirt, and the pair of shorts in the bin in the room. They were of no value, just cheapies. The room cleaner guy saw them and asked if he could have them. Sure, I said, but they’re size 4XL, that’s XXXXL! No problem, he said. He wanted them for his son, I think e said. So I signed a scap of paper with his name on so that could show he had permission to have them. He was very pleased.

The AirAsia departure lounge ain’t very comfortable – steel seats, bad air-con, but that’s what you get when you fly on the cheap. You also have to walk across the tarmac and climb the stairs to the aircraft – no aerobridge for us. It’s getting a bit hard for me to go up those steps, but I made it. Same seat as the flight up, and the same people next to me, the ones with the kids who want to swap seats all the time. Ugh. But we swapped so that I had the window seat for photography, so it was alright in the end.

We’d heard that another airline had diverted a plane around a cloud of volcanic ash from Merapi, so I was slightly apprehensive, but our flight was completely uneventful, without even any bumpiness. They do these Perth-Bali-Perth flights twice a day, every day of the week, so I think they know the way and the conditions pretty well by now.

Who’s driving the bus?

The plane is a pretty new Airbus and from row 6 you can see into the cockpit (you couldn’t call it a flight deck) when the pilot and cabin crew open the door. On bigger aircraft the flight crew have their own toilet so that the heavily locked door doesn’t have to be opened in flight, but not here – the captain or first officer pop in and out to use the front loo and have a chat to the cabin staff. Security? No worries, mate.

STOP PRESS: ABC News is carrying the story that Jetstar has restricted flights to daytime only into Bali due to the requirement to see any ash cloud danger. There’s no suggestion that there’s any problem, but better to be safe. Since I’m writing this at home, we made it! Hah hah.

The flight provided a late afternoon sunset light show over the rugged Kimberleys of Western Australia and was one of the best photo flights I’ve had. I was on the east side so I didn’t have the sun shining right into the lens.

An ancient landing strip?
Closer to Perth
Self portrait, 2010

We touched down at 1923, seven minutes early, and I was one of the first off the plane. walking toward the duty free shop I noticed a lonely glowing machine called an eSmartPassport machine. “Hello, machine,” I said, “what can you do for me?” So I stuck my recent electronic chip-equipped passport in, told it I hadn’t been in South America recently, honest, and it gave me a red striped ticket about half the size of a boarding pass. Hmmm.

Then I bought my 2.25 litres of duty free grog (wow – an increase in the allowance? Unbelievable) and headed downstairs. The queues for passport control were full already and stream of people were coming out of the eSmartPassport channel. I knew I had my little ticket, so I entered the clear channel and was the only candidate. A Customs guy said, “No sir, you have to use the machines over there.” I said, “No, I’ve got a ticket.” OK, just stand here on the marked point, pop your ticket into the slot, look directly at the lens of the camera about 1m in front and look as bored as your passport photo. Ten seconds later, two little barrier gates open and the Customs guy says “Hurry, hurry, before they close again.” I grab my heavy camera bag and duty free bag and scurry through, if you can imagine an elephant scurrying!

Bag pickup took ten minutes and when I reached the Quarantine entry, the lady saw my card said all noes to the questions and said, “First time to Bali, sir?” No, many times. “Any wooden or straw items, sir?” No, I said, I know the ropes. OK, onto the X-ray machine, no problems, no need to open bags and that was it. I was out into the wide blue yonder at 8:03pm – amazing. But it’s about time it was made easier for models of seniority and rectitude like me, harrrumph.

So a good end to a good trip. It was better than I expected – Sanur was quiet and relatively uncrowded and the hotel, although a little frustrating at times, was good. My bed in the room was more comfortable than my bed at home, I think, so I slept well each night. No sickness, no accidents or mishaps and the Aussie dollar exchange rate just keeps getting better. It was up to near Rp.9000 to the dollar at times, even higher than the US dollar, so prices were pleasantly cheap. It rained nearly every day but who cares? I’ve complained long and loud about the food, but eventually I realised that if I emphasised that I wanted it spicy and traditional, I got there in the end. My final meal at the hotel was Ikan Bumbu Bali, fish with Balinese spices, and I said to the waiter, “I like it spicy.” It was just right. Fantastic.

Oh, yeah. After my comment a few days ago that a March 2011 completion date for that villa complex next to The Village restaurant looked pretty pie-in-the-sky, I noticed that the foundations are being laid even now! Amazing. It could happen after all. I’m impressed. MUCH more research to be done, though.

And I can’t do anything until my health improves. I am so dreadfully fatigued that I can hardly do anything, even getting up out of the chair is difficult. Back pain, foot pain. I’m having serious mobility problems. Such is life.

Lots of things to do now that I’m back home. Funny how a change of scene perks you up, gets the brain working again. I have lots of ideas now to make small improvements at minimum cost to make life more pleasant. The trick is to keep the fire burning. Selemat malam.


Mouse glue, anyone? Surely it isn’t what it says? Poor mice. Mosquito essence? Freshly squeezed?  Another sign on a motor repair shop says “Cat Oven”. I know about hot dogs, but surely not …?

At last, an enjoyable meal. No, not the PETS FOOD – Made’s Restaurant, Jalan Tamblingan, Sanur. It has quite a large Asian section on the menu and apart from a Chinese bias, there’s a reasonable choice of Indonesian dishes, including Rijstaffel if you don’t mind waiting and paying a bit more.

I had a Coco Surprise, prawns served in a half coconut. The coconut was genuine, but not the kind you can eat, just a container. The prawns were tiny shrimps with sliced champignon style mushrooms, plus chopped tomato and onion (I think) on lettuce. It was covered in a seafood sauce straight out of a bottle, I reckon, but it was passable.

By the way, in Indonesian, kelapa is coconut and kepala is head, so it’s easy to mix them up and get a smile when you do.

Then finally, for the first time here, I had beef rendang. It wasn’t as fiery hot as I expected, but it was delicious even so, rich and full of coconut milk flavour. The beef was beautifully tender and broke apart with a fork, no steak knife needed, even though one was provided. Nasi putih on another plate with a mix of tiny chopped beans and bean sprouts and bawang goreng on top. Excellent. I’d go back there for sure.

The highlight of the evening, though, was our waitress Widi (pronounced Wee-dee). She was full of humour and bouncy personality and very pretty to go with it. I made sure to tell her I was sendirian* and she called me boss man after that. She wore no ring – I wouldn’t mind being swami* to her. She’s only early twenties, though. Sob.

Boss man

I’m also very chuffed in the barang* department. I brought my camera bag, but it’s too big, heavy and bulky so I’ve been carrying everything around in a plastic shopping bag. Not very secure and not much protection for cameras.

Walking back to the hotel after lunch yesterday I stopped in at  a smart looking clothes and accessories shop (just for a browse, you know) and although it’s mainly female oriented, I saw a brown Dolce & Gabbana bag with a laptop compartment that just grabbed me. It’s all zips and straps, but very male and a beautiful soft leather, chocolate brown and real leather (here, sniff).

Not wanting to appear too eager and needing to check whether the laptop fits (I didn’t have it with me), I feigned lack of interest and turned to the other shelves. Wallets, got wallets, ho hum, wait, what’s this? Bally men’s wallet, perfection in chocolate brown leather and fine patterned tough synthetic. Instant “gotta have it”.

Again I tried to look bored, noted the prices and went back to the hotel to have a snooze and work out the exchange rates.

An hour later, very refreshed after a solid sleep, I needed waver no more. I took the laptop with me in my elegant plastic shopping bag and headed for the ATM to get some cash, because I wanted to avoid using credit cards if I could.

How crazy is it? I needed about Rp. 1,500,000 – yes, a million and a half. The ATM won’t go that much – Rp.500,000 is the limit. I tried typing in the full million and a half and it said “Computer says no,” and rejected me. Did I say “sniff”?

Anyway, I made two consecutive withdrawals of Rp.500,000 each and that would have to do. Even so, that’s a thick wad of 20 Rp.50,000 notes. I’m rich, I’m rich!

To the shop (50m away), the laptop fitted perfectly, the wallet was still there, so I decided to risk the kredit kad anyway. “Oooooh, can you pay cash, sir?” No, I can’t get enough, I say.

Oh, did I forget to mention the prices? A miilion rupiahs?? “Aaayy, terlalu mahal!” Well, I didn’t feel the need to haggle too hard: the magnificent D&G bag was Rp.810,000 = $90 and the wallet was Rp.388,000 = $43. I reckon a bag like that would cost $250-$350 at home and the wallet would be in the $70-$100 range.

So I jokingly started haggling and got it down to Rp.800,000 for the bag and Rp.375,000 for the wallet, $88.88 and $41.66 respectively (wow, what a haggle expert!). These are machine printed price labels with bar codes in a franchise shop, not something the shop keeper makes up on the spot. So doing the bag on kredit kad and wallet for cash, honour was satisfied.

And here they are. Not your bag? Too bag!.

Pleased as punch! Makes the trip worthwhile on its own. Not too expensive, not too heavy or bulky, and something to last me for years and years.

There are other wallets there by Burberry, Dunhill, Prada and so on, in excellent styles that I just don’t see at home. I may buy a couple more.

 I’ve just discovered that there’s a rock pond in the grounds with a pair of resident tortoises which see you arrive and come looking for food. I have hi-def vision! And a dark red chukta, a dragonfly.

Now to check email, send this and get moving!

* look it up in Wikipedia Translate

Bland is the new black. Land of the Bland!

Cosy Corner, Kuta, 1980 – those were the days – real Bali food

My search goes on. Surely I can’t be the only person, in this area of Bali anyway, who wants good spicy traditional Indonesian cooking? It must be just the way Sanur has developed – geriatric city for the older group of Aussie tourists who don’t want hot food.

We went to a different restaurant for dinner last night. I won’t name it here for fear of retribution in the future (just joking), but it’s owned by an Australian couple. Very Balinese decor – AFL footy shirts on the walls. An owner who asks what footy team you barrack for, and if it’s not Carlton, he’s out to convert you. Other pictures of elephants and tigers, those traditional Balinese animals.

The menu was mostly steaks, burgers, sandwiches, Italian and so on, but there was an Asian food section and my eyes latched onto murtabak as part of an Asian Basket. Murtabak is one of my favourites, a griddle-cooked thin flat-bread pancake folded over with spicy minced lamb, spinach, onion, pepper and so on. It’s not far different from the Turkish pide at Warwick food hall, but much spicier. I needed a wet towel when I had it in KL.

Oh my goodness. What I got was a basket of two mini dim-sims, two standard Chinese army issue spring rolls, two chicken nuggets (!!) and one fried, folded, flattened seafood (I think) parcel.That was the murtabak. Chips were piled on top.

I tried, but it was like eating packet stuff from the Woolies frozen food cabinet.

Then for main, I chose Kweytiau, which from the description I took to be Kuay Teow. I love this in Singapore – flat noodles (present, sir), onion, garlic, prawns, squid, chopped chicken, and lots of pepper, chili, crispy onion etc etc.

What I got was a sort of pale whitish soup with the noodles and maybe a bit of chicken and onion, but it was as if they’d soaked all the flavour out with blotting paper. It was one of the most taste-free Asian dishes I’ve ever eaten.

The owner’s wife came over and said, “Everything OK, guys? Speak up if it isn’t, and I’ll go and tell the chef to get his act together.”  I didn’t dare say anything. I couldn’t have politely expressed my disappointment. I just put my head down and ploughed on.

It wasn’t cheap, either. It was about Rp. 55,000 or $6 for that dish. OK, no great loss, but I give up.
The other guys enjoyed their prawn cocktail, steak and salad, American club sandwich and fried chicken (just like the Colonel’s) with chips, and banana splits for dessert.

They wanted one more beer at the end, and I’d seen wine on the counter, so I thought I’d see what was available and give it a go. Only two choices by the glass – both the same local brand, Hatton’s, I think. One was in a bottle and described as a sweet, fruity white (Ugh! “Tidak manis, yah?”, I said). The other choice was a cask white, described as dry, elegant. OK, I had a glass for Rp. 35,000 or $4.

Well, the memory lingers on, just like the aftertaste. I couldn’t finish the glass. Astringent, metallic, with a lingering sensation on the palate would be a good description. Shall we say the food didn’t overpower the wine. Oh well, at least I know now.

The guys were going to go later, at 2am, to a bar to watch the Brazillian Grand Prix by satellite feed, but the beds were too soft and seductive, I think.

In the Ulu Watu area, 1985. Wonder what it’s like now…

I’m going to try to hire a taxi for a few hours today and go out to the Nusa Dua/Benoa/Ulu Watu areas to see where some of these villas for sale are located. I guess it’s changed in the 25 years since I rode my motorbike out there last time…

Lots more rain yesterday. Good stuff. now to look for real estate on the web.

Sunday, I think?

What a beautiful morning. Sunny bright but dewey and misty, warm but not too hot.

Kuta 1985

 I went for a swim in the pool yesterday and felt better for it. To be honest, I haven’t been swimming for the last few years and I really noticed how bouyant I felt in the water. It’s all the fat, you know. It floats to the top!

Fat City 2010

I have to be so careful not to slip! Wet concrete, steps and changes of level everywhere, slippery tiles, cracks and grooves waiting to catch the errant sandal – it’s an accident waiting to happen. OK so far…

The good old days. 1985

I was also a bit diffident at first about exposing my flab, but this is Fat City! And Geriatric Rest Home No. 1. This is definitely not your young crowd, not in Sanur, so that’s OK then. There’s even an old lady being wheeled around in a wheelchair.

Anyway, it rained buckets yesterday, with thunder and lightning. There were some nice fine spells, but it was a good, wet day. That’s fine with me, I love it. After dessicated Perth, it’s like days of old.

Speaking of which, sitting at breakfast this morning looking out over the beach and bay, I was taken back to the 80s by the smells and sounds. But I realised that it’s not the same. Back then I was slim and had energy and I was ready to take my rented motorbike and hit the road. I thought nothing of riding by myself up to Kintamani and down into the crater via the twisty rutted road, then riding back to Sanur via other small villages, a full day of it. I have the photos to prove it.

Lake Batur from Kedisan 1985 – Gunung Batur in the clouds
Down at the lake. I rode my motorbike down there!

But you can’t go back. Thank goodness I did it then, because it’s impossible for me now. I haven’t made it to Kuta yet, maybe this afternoon, but even that in an airconditioned taxi is going to be a big effort for me. Too late to recapture that Bali past, I’m afraid.

The food saga continues – my quest to get good Indonesian food is not yet satisfied. For lunch yesterday I had Tom Yum Goong, the Thai soup, and that was moderately hot, but nothing like the Thai heat. Very little meat and very tough, chewey mushroom slices, but it was OK.

Then last night we went back to the best place we’ve found so far, and this time I asked for “more spicy”, with sambal on the side. I even asked about ikan bilis, peanuts and crispy garlic/onion, but I didn’t get any though.
At least I got sliced chili in the food and I got through a full dish of sambal, and it was pleasant, but still no prizes. I reckon I could cook Indo food better than this. Maybe I need to go upmarket and pay more? To search out recommended authentic restaurants? I only paid $10  total for an entree, main course and a Bloody Mary, for goodness sake. And the owner threw in a scoop of beautiful ice cream at the end because we are such regular customers at this place.

I’ve been shooting a little bit of video and putting it into a slide show, and I marvel at how well it all works. It’s incredible. I’m shooting high definition video, editing it, then making a high def slide show mixing the video with still images and it just works! No format troubles, no crashes, no waiting, no weirdnesses, all on a laptop in my room. It’s fantastic. Let me try another upload.

Despite the above, the audio seems to have gone missing on this. I can make it happen, but the file size gets enormous, so…

OK, ’till next post, cheers.

Saturday, a day off at last!

Pagi, pagi,. Beautiful rain and thunder for the last couple of hours. Soft, cool breeze here in the open air lobby. Aaaaah.

Hmmm, interesting afternoon yesterday. I made myself do the 800m walk to the Hardy’s department store down the road and got there OK. I stopped, wiped the sweat off and had a rest a couple of times, but I felt better for having done it.

The interesting thing was that I saw a sign right next to The Village Restaurant that made me perk up and take notice (and photos). Here it is:

It’s right next to The Village Restaurant in Jalan Tamblingan here in Sanur, on the beach side of the road.

US$299,000 is the same in our money now. Three big bedrooms, three full bathrooms, all rooms looking onto your own private pool in an atrium, 100m from Sanur beach without having to cross the road, a 250m2 dwelling (I assume that’s what 2.5ares means – that’s huge), full security as they say, right next door to a classy restaurant in a quiet area, with dozens of other restaurants nearby. Hardy’s supermarket is about 300m down the road for all your dairy and exotic foods. Australian, French and Californian wine is stocked, if desired.

As we were saying yesterday, you wouldn’t want to own a car here – taxis are so cheap. You could employ a maid (or two!) to do the cleaning and cooking. Either the maid would do it, or you cross the road for a $10 meal. Cheaper than grocery shopping at home. At the moment, this is what it looks like:

It’s impossible to imagine the March 2011 completion date being met, but I’m not ready either. Taking a 30 year lease? Not sure what that means, nor a 10 year option, but details, mere details…

I’m not talking timeshare or holiday home, I’m talkin’ selling up, cashing up, moving here. Perth is only 3 1/2 hours and $199 away. The Bali International Medical Centre is 10 mins down the road. You can vaccinate dogs against rabies, and quarantine for Minnie wouldn’t be difficult.
No need to trust local banks – maintain your Perth accounts and use the ATMs. I’ll be eligible for the pension in Feb 2012 – I’d still get it deposited into my Karrinyup bank account as usual. No problem.

Boy, it makes me think. So much to do here, so much life. Go to Singapore or Malaysia or Perth every three months to renew the entry visa. Hmmmm.   Just pipe dreaming.

My next door neighbour has sent me a long email saying Minnie is fine and happy, although she much prefers to be in her own yard. Excellent.

Sun’s out, steam’s rising, rain’s stopped. Kuta this afternoon, I think, to see how much it’s changed since 1983 when I last walked Legian Rd.

This was Poppies Lane in 1983. So uncluttered, so quiet.

I think I’m in for a shock.

Guy Fawkes night tonight

Selemat Pagi,

Guy Fawkes had nothing on Bali. Two nights ago I was hearing loud thumps every few seconds and I was so sure it was workmen using a sledgehammer to demolish brickwork on one of the villas around here that I didn’t go out to look.

But apparently it was fireworks! I saw a few again last night but only briefly and from a fair distance up the beach. I wish I’d seen the ones on Wednesday night. They must have been close.

Well tonight, November 5, is the Olde English Guy Fawkes night, so I wonder if they’ll put on another show. I wish the gods would put on a show, too. The weather is grey, cloudy, dull light mostly. I want some thunderstorm action or atmospheric dust from Merapi. No such luck.

First things first – here’s a better attempt at incorporating video. I hope it works this time. It’s quite good resolution and size, but this time I’ve got it down to 3.3MB instead of 47MB.

Here are some more pictures. I’m having great trouble placing them in the position I want them on the page.

OK, that worked well. This is a pano using Autostitch. I’ve worked the sky using a grad filter in Adobe Lightroom, Keith. I’m getting the hang of that program.

The squirrels are in the trees just outside the rooms. Beautiful. The birds try to fight them away from the food.

I went for a good trip last evening. Tripped on the double step in front of my room and went down hard. No damage, though it hurt a bit at the time. Luckily a hotel staff guy was right there and was very solicitous and helped me up. No problem.

We walked up the beach path in the other direction last night for dinner. I don’t know why it is, but almost all the restaurants were nearly empty, until we reached the one the guys had picked, the Duck’s Nuts or something. It was busy! All the tables on the sand were packed, but there were plenty of seats in the covered area, so that’s where we et (yes, et. Apparently that’s quite a valid English variation on ate.) I don’t know why they were getting the business, but…

The guys had steak, mushroom soup, sweet and sour chicken, all those local delicacies.

I had lumpia again, hoping to get the Balinese lumpia I know (big, spicy minced lamb and vegetables wrapped in a sausage shape like a Chiko roll with sweet soy sauce – kecap manis). Nope, spring rolls again, with sweet and sour Chinese sauce, just like I can get at Coles.

Then I had Nasi Goreng again, hoping for the savoury spicy rice full of prawns, chopped chicken, beef, pork and veges, with a fried egg on top and maybe crushed peanuts.  No way. Not a shrimp or other piece of meat to be found, artificially coloured rice, the egg was there and the peanuts were already on the table, and a piece of tomato on the side, but that was it. No chili, no spices.

Grrrr. This is food dumbed down for Aussie tourists, I think. All that was missing was fries and it could have been McBali. At $15.60 for the two courses and a G&T, it’s no great loss, but I didn’t come here to eat Aussie flavoured stodge.  The best meal I’ve had was on Tuesday night just 50m down the main road, Jalan Tamblingan, so I’m going back there tonight.

I’ve been trying to get some photos again this morning, Ian, using the Fuji S100 for close-ups. Naaaah. I tried to get it to focus, macro, super macro, super mario bros, but it constantly said “Computer says no.” It’s good for lots of things, but when the going gets tough, the Canon 40D delivers. I found the same in Europe in ’08. I like the Fuji, but…

By the way, Sir Les? Les Paterson? All your sons are here, hundreds of ’em. Can you come and collect them please?

OK lunchtime. More later

Ya gotta laugh

Aaaah, ya gotta laugh. When I wrote about the room service menu yesterday, there were a couple of items ‘Cordon Bleu’. It was going through my mind that there could be a  malapropism lurking in there, but no, to their credit at this hotel, they had it right.

Not at the next hotel along, however. We had dinner on the beach along the footpath a bit and there, on the menu, was Chicken or Beef Gordon Blue.  He’s the red haired chef with the foul mouth on TV, isn’t he?

Two of the guys wanted pizza and it was prepared to full Aussie standard: crisp crust, pineapple, mozzarella, onion etc. as only the Balinese know how to do it. Just like you’d get at Domino’s or Pizza Hut. They enjoyed it.

The other guy had chicken teriyaki and didn’t like it much – too oily, crumby, scrawny.

I wanted local fare and asked if there was another Indonesian food menu, which there was. I asked for lumpia, which wasn’t actually listed, and got typical Vietnamese/Chinese spring rolls, just like I can get at IGA. Wow.

Then I ordered a seafood pancake, hoping to get a local variety. I got bland. Bland, cold, soft, chopped up shrimps, fish, calamari in a sorta nice white goo but with not a spice to be seen, smelt or tasted. And fries. Tasteless, forgettable, waste of time. Oh well.

At first there was no wind at all, and a little bit opressive, but after 30 mins or so, the breeze sprang up and it was beautiful. Distant lightning was flashing over Nusa Peneeda, far too intermittently to get photos unfortunately. Too far away for thunder, but there were a couple of golden yellow bolts and the occasional red flashing glow behind the island. Magic.

I was right about the camera. After posting yesterday, I went to have a light lunch (Gado gado – vegetarian and fantastic) and walked onto the beach. This time, I had the Canon 40D and I felt right at home again. A camera like this is built for the job! I can use the optical viewfinder perfectly, adjust it for my eyesight, and I can bang off shots as fast as I can see ’em. That’s better!

That’s just one of about 24 shots in 15 mins work, but everything works as it should and I don’t lose shots. I don’t think I can live with a little point and shoot. Oh, by the way, that’s Nusa Peneeda (island) on the horizon.

I was lamenting yesterday about my size being impossible to find here. No problem, says Tommy, a hotel guy. If I want things, they will make to order. It occurs to me that I could take my best polo shirt (a K-Mart brand made in India, but never to be found again!) and simply get them to use it as a template. Easy. Not sure if I can be bothered, but it’s worth a check.

Urrrrgghhh! Hard seats that cut into my thighs, hard wooden chair in the lobby for wi-fi, a table that I can’t get my knees under while I’m internetting. This is not what I expected. This hotel is mostly nice, but it’s 3 star and I’d rather pay a bit more for another star and things that work next time.

Ten thirty pm and the other guys have gone off to a bar run by an Aussie guy they know. Utterly out of the question for me. I’m knackered, everything hurts and I’m for bed, thank you.

Thursday morning:  I just got some more shots on the beach, using the Fuji S100fs this time. I’m slowly getting my motivation back, although I’m still finding it physically difficult.

The weather is still a bit boring. It’s very grey and dull light. I’m wishing for something like the above. That’s a shot from 1986 or so. That’s climate change for you – you can’t get a decent storm anywhere nowadays.

All these shots are, or were, on Sanur beach.

Thursday afternoon: We took a taxi over to Kuta this morning to go to the Carrefour department store, because the guys had heard you could get good DVDs and so on. Naaah. It’s a big place but nothing special.
I was amazed at the changes in the area, however. Last time I was here, all that south east side of Kuta was just open rice paddies and swampy areas. I have the photos to prove it. But now it’s all urban chaotic sprawl, all the way. It’s all been developed and built on the last 20 years, but it looks so old, as if it’s always been there. Special paint, I believe…

Now for some video. I’ve spent the last hour or so shooting, editing and compressing a hi-def video of 45 secs, much higher quality than yesterday. It’s 47MB in size, so I’m about to see whether it works. Good luck to us all.

Uploading now – I’ll check the news sites and come back later…

NB: I’ve just realised that I had my Settings to require all comments to be moderated (by me via email) before they appeared on the blog. Sorry about that, I hadn’t realised. I’ve reset it to allow immediate publishing.

Uh oh. It’s been uploading for over 25 mins and still not finished. I think I’ll have to bail out. How long to go? Seconds, minutes, hours? Plan B will be enacted tomorrow.