Getting Along

Spiders on bats!

Like the spiders and the bats, we should try to get along, right?

If you’d got the impression I was irritated by this hotel in the past two days, then I have to tell you, I’m REALLY angry now.

First, I’ve realised that it’s an Islamic owned hotel, so there’s no bar and no alcohol available for sale. If you order a club sandwich, expect to get what they call beef bacon, like corned beef. Don’t expect bacon with your eggs for breakfast either, or pork to be on the menu.

But that’s not a gripe. My gripe is first, that requests at the desk produce no action. “We’ll get back to you” means nothing.

  • After two days, I still haven’t got a rubber shower mat and it’s pretty clear I won’t get one.
  • After two days, a promise that the manager would contact me re lack of wi-fi in the room has produced nothing.
  • After 36 hours, my complaint that the fridge doesn’t freeze ice cubes has produced no response.
  • As well, there’s a safe in the room, but it’s locked and it’s at floor level. Yes, I could get it unlocked, but I’m not getting down on the floor to operate it.

But yesterday, they really excelled themselves. They delivered a letter asking me to contact the desk re the New Year’s Eve celebrations.

What did this mean? So I asked at the desk after breakfast, what am I supposed to collect?

“Your ticket for the New Year’s Eve party, sir.”

But I didn’t ask for this, nor do I want it, nor do I want to pay for something I didn’t ask for.

“Your travel agent requested it, sir.”

Well I did not ask them to, and I can’t attend any party because I’m sick! and I pointed to my distressed face with runny nose, teary eyes and feverish brow. I don’t want this.

“Sorry sir, our manager will contact you.”

Well, 24 hours later, they haven’t, as I’ve come to expect.

Today I’m going to say I do not expect to be charged for this. I will not be attending any New YEar’s Eve party. I would add, especially a dry New Year’s Eve, but I’d better not.

But late yesterday, they beat all that.

I’d run out of rupiahs and asked at the desk where the nearest ATM is. The guy looked confused, then said he didn’t know, but he thought I would need to take a taxi. There’s nothing around here.  (I already knew the Circle K across the street didn’t have one.)

I walked away, but went back and said, OK, can you change this for me please, and handed him a $50 note, Aussie dollars.

He looked at it suspiciously and said, “Sorry sir, only US dollars.” What! I said. This is Australian currency. It’s now stronger than the US dollar.

“Sorry sir. I think you need to take a taxi.”

But I haven’t got any Indonesian money. I can’t take a taxi!

He just shrugged. So I walked away fuming! They can see I’m becoming more and more upset, but it just doesn’t seem to make any difference.

I also discovered today that the room cleaners (men, not women) don’t replace the glasses and cups and teaspoons you use, they just rinse them under ther tap in the bathroom and put them back on the shelf!

————————————————————————–

Kewell, eh?

Later, I walked 150m down the road to the RTC Centre and found an ATM, no trouble at all. Who are these clowns at the hotel?

I went to the RTC Centre (a big electronics/laptop/computer centre) to see if I could buy a USB modem with a data allowance to overcome this lack of WiFi. No problem! A USB 3.5G modem with 2 weeks’ data allowance – A$55. Bargain! The lovely Marisa from Sulawesi sold it to me but I needed to go back to the hotel to get the laptop for her to install it.

Monkeyin’ around on the lap, top

Boy, traffic at 6pm, be careful. I crossed several roads OK, but even when you thread through stationary cars, motorbikes suddenly come at you over the double lines on the wrong side of the road! Or even on the footpath! They ride up at you to bypass the throng on the road!

So I took the laptop back to the shop but after an hour of install/uninstall/reinstall/call-the-expert, it just wouldn’t register any signal at all. Yet it worked in the shop’s computer and in the expert’s laptop. What’s going on? I gave up at that point (7.45pm) as I was knackered and said I’ll bring the laptop back tomorrow (today).

This tallies with a Digitech High Sensitivity WiFi adapter I bought in Perth which will not work, because the computer just won’t recognise it as a USB device. Same with this modem.

I’ve tried every trick I know – turn off Anti Virus, Run as Administrator, disable laptop’s own modem, but nothing works. How come this top-of-the-line Sony laptop with a standard Win7 installation won’t recognise USB devices which work fine in another computer? GRRRRR!

Calm, calmer, karma
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Moving around

First, which of these is correct?

Answer, they both are. This is “design”, I think. OK, but how do you hold them, fill them and set them down? It makes you feel on edge.

Another faskinatin’ day in the land of surprises. We had a big wind storm last night. This was the view a few days ago:

This was the view this morning. All the camouflage netting blown away. I was woken during the night by the noise of rain on the windows but I didn’t realise how strong it was until today. Trees were down causing traffic chaos, as I found out. No worries in Bali.

Anyway, I moved from the Harrad’s to the Aston in Denpasar today and wow, this is 5 star. All glass and marble and murals and bas reliefs and corridors like airports, wide, vast, endless. Beautiful paintings everywhere, for sale too. They’re originals, not prints.

That’s the facade. The room is less salubrious than Harrad’s was, narrow, dimly lit, chipped paint.  But the window opens! This means I’ll be able to sleep with the beautiful night air wafting in. Aaaah! And the beds are the softest I’ve ever felt. Can’t wait.

But there’s no wi-fi in the room!! I protested, to no avail. I have to go to the lobby. This is not good and I’m going to protest again to the manager. I’m paying top dollar for this 5 star room and I’m going to stamp my foot for once. It’s ridiculous in this laptop age.

The counter staff are ice cool, slender, beautiful, dressed in immaculate black, embroidered style conscious uniforms. And that’s just the guys! No, it’s the cool wanitas, the girls. Not nearly as friendly as Harrad’s, but maybe they’ll warm up.

OK, once I’d been brought here by the scenic route: right up over the top road through rice paddies and villages to try and avoid the traffic chaos, taking about 45 mins and costing Rp75,000, I settled in.

I texted Yudi, the Hibiscus villa owner and sales guy and asked him to collect me in Denpasar. Wow, traffic jams on a rainy day. Anyway, he eventually arrived at 4.30pm and we set off, I thought, to Sanur to see the villas I saw yesterday. But I soon realised that Yudi likes to talk, and talk, and talk, and show me his studio and his restaurant and his art and sculptures and how well off he is. He’s a developer and architect, he says, and if it’s true, he really is.
So we went by an amazingly circuitous route to his premises, which really are terrific:

Yudhi, the architect/designer/developer of Hibiscus Villa.

He has an office, restaurant, art studio and a huge parcel of land in his own 10,000 sq.m rice paddy location near Sanur. Wow.

He served me coffee, or rather his girl Weewill did (don’t know the spelling). What a gorgeous lady. It seemed to be an attempt to impress on me how creative he is – why, I don’t know. He has lived and studied in Perth and his father lives there, in Fremantle, and he wants me to deal with his father in this villa sale, so I have to wait for his dad to arrive on 5 January from Perth. Maybe his dad’s the enforcer.

Anyway, after rushed coffee we set off to the villas I saw yesterday, the subject of all this waffle. These are the Hibiscus Villas in the map yesterday right near the Mercure Hotel.

It turns out that the one I would have wanted, the smallest one, is already sold. The other two are for sale but one is two storey and the stairs are external. I just couldn’t cope with them. If they’d been internal, I might have installed a chair/stair lift but I didn’t waste time on this. That left the middle one:

Yudhi, Komar the housekeeper, Hibiscus Villa.
Hibiscus kitchen/dining/living
The bathroom of bedroom 1 is completely open air! There are no walls except the one you see.

 It’s just occurred to me that if I bought the two storey villa, I wouldn’t actually need to go upstairs. It’s only the two spare bedrooms up there – the main and one other are at ground level. Anyway…

Look, if this was all I was offered in Bali, I’d be happy. It’s beautiful, it’s amazing, it’s brand new, it has fantastic potential to be furnished and decorated and I could live here very happily. But somehow, despite the location, it has oddities. Yes, it has four bedrooms, but each main is a pair with a smaller one and they share bathrooms. There are only two bathrooms, not four as the brochure says.

I was surprised to find, too, that the housekeeper is already in employ and on the premises. Her name is Komar (above) and she speaks no English. She wouldn’t suit me, I don’t think.

This video is 1m 39s and shows the drive, Yudhi and Komar and the villa. I hope the quality comes though this time.
 
So despite the great location and all, I didn’t feel I had to grab it, which is lucky I suppose. He says he has other rental properties to show me, so I’m sure we’ll be talking again. Nice enough bloke, despite the silver tongue.

All in all, a nice day, nice and cool and wet, with lots to interest me. Even the drive to Denpasar in the morning via village routes to avoid the traffic jams, was cantik. Love this place.

Btw, property in Bali is appreciating on average 20% pa and there’s a new second airport planned. Due to restricted finance and conservative banks, it’s also not subject to wild speculation. Hmmm.

I’ve just done a first: ordered a room service dinner. Too tired and disshevelled to go out. Appetiser and Tom Yum Goong soup – Rp84,000 or $9.33. I may never leave the room again!

Oh no! I’ve just discovered – there’s no spoon for the soup!!!

Malam.

Wed morning: despite being a dog lover, the local hounds set up a performance of A Christmas Oratorio by Johann Sebastian Bark last night at 1.10am. I couldn’t get back to sleep again, so watched the trash CNN and Discovery American rubbish for a while. There’s no light over the bed! Couldn’t read in bed.

And I reckon my CPAP mask is introducing bacteria into my nose. I’m constantly sneezing and coughing and generally feel crap with a sore throat and slight fever. I have anti-biotics here, but I’m reluctant to start as they’ll upset my gut bacteria. I may have to visit the BIMC on spec to try to get to a simpler fix. It’ll be a good experience.

Again, the shower recess is like wet glass. I’ll complain again and try to get a mat. There are only two bath towels, no hand towels or face washers! In a 5 star hotel! And at 8.30am, the door bell rings and it’s a guy asking if I have any laundry. What??!! If I’d still been in bed, or in the shower, I would have been even more annoyed.

Now, at breakfast in the restaurant, I’m even more irritated. It’s vast and very noisy, full of Asian/Chinese kids. I have to walk a good 20m, even 30m to reach the food tables. I picked up a tray to save walking back and forth, but a hotel employee took it off me!!! I’m not allowed to have it evidently. He took my OJ and delivered it, but I had to collect all the fruit plate, toast and the eggs/veges on two plates stacked in my left hand. Couldn’t find the butter – hidden from view behind a pillar. Got back to the table (25m walk), found the papaya had stuck to the underside of the top plate and some of it fell on the floor.

Sat down and found I had no knife!!!!!!! Another 25m walk to get one. This time I grabbed every utensil I thought I could possibly need, whether I did or not. But I forgot coffee. Grrrrrrr. A waiter got it for me, but despite me asking for milk, he didn’t bring any. I sent him back. But the coffee’s cold anyway.

And the mini-bar fridge in the room was empty. I put water in the ice cube tray, but despite 4 hours yesterday, it didn’t freeze. I got a bowl of ice sent up, but it’s clear the fridge won’t freeze it. This morning, the ice cube tray was still water.

And the road outside is a three lane each way highway. There’s a hotel employee there just to stop traffic for guests to cross. Take life in hands.   Would I recommend this hotel? No way, Jose

Calm, calm, karma.

Better and better

Bali just keeps throwing up surprises. It gets better too.

I waited around all morning for Dedey to contact me about the Emerald Villa, but nothing happened. Nor did I hear from the Emerald management. Uh oh, guys, you’re going to lose me.

OK, so I was browsing the web and realised that the Mercure Hotel Sanur is far better than the Puri Dalem I’m booked into on Monday 3 January for not much more money (4 star vs 2 star for $40/night more, and a much nicer location). I don’t really want to be in Denpasar, so I looked at cancellations but it seems I’m stuck with DPS due to the New Year’s Eve thing. (I wish they’d hold New Year at a differnt time of the year.)

I’m paying $188 for Friday night! and I don’t even want to be there. But I just can’t find another hotel on that night. My credit card has already been charged, so I’m stuck with it. It’s a pretty spiffy hotel, even so.

I’m booked into the Puri Dalem on Monday 3 January, but having seen it on Saturday, I think I’ll pass. Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be (Sam Goldwyn).

The Mercure looked excellent, but I was amazed to find that the web site said internet payable. What??!! So I taxied over there with the intention of saying, “This is a deal breaker. I want to book, but internet has to be included.”

It turned out that it’s payable extra if you want a computer provided! Er, sudah, guys. I already got one. So I’m going to cancel Puri Dalem and book into the Mercure from Monday through to the following Wednesday when I fly back to Perth. Wow, what a beautiful hotel. All the rooms are bures, thatched roof cottages and the grounds are just gardens leading down to the beach. I felt good about it. Better than the Besakih, but at $96 a night, it should be.

That doesn’t include breakfast! That’s $15 extra. No thank you, but straight across the street is a beautiful little restaurant that serves, wait for it, breakfast! They’ll be seeing me.

OK, that sorted, I set off jalan-jalan along Jalan Mertasari. What should catch my eye but this:

I walked up the lane (a good 1.5 car widths, meant for vehicle access) and found this:

Hibiscus Villa, garages

There are three villas, all vacant, each with a 2 car garage.

 This is the smallest of them, which is the one I’d be happy with. There’s a cheaper one, but it’s two storey and I can’t handle stairs. I couldn’t see much, but they looked pretty nice through the fences. These are villas for sale, but again, the location is terrific and I loved the look of them. All are different but all are 4 bed, 4 bath, with pool and two car garage. Each is on about 500 sq.m. of land with its own bore and freehold. Modern, recently built. Magnificent design.

So with a new spring in my step I grabbed the brochures and found they’d already been reduced in price by about $20,000 each from the sign price. Wow.

So I just walked around there and loved the street, it being full of nice restaurants and other villas and swish houses and hotels. This is a nice area!

I walked and walked, in the rain and the cool wind, feeling very mellow. This is getting better all the time.

The path I followed, above, was about 1.5Km and I was pretty tired, so taxi back to the hotel about 4pm, where I looked up the web site for the villas and found they have a huge range for sale and for rental, starting as low as $220 pw and going up to $1,000 per night and more.

Anyway I’ve left an email asking them to contact me in Denpasar tomorrow and I hope to view the villas asap.

Daring men? This is a real photo, not altered.

Meanwhile, the Ray White agency has just phoned me and it’s the other guy who was there last Thursday, Lucky. He informs me that Emerald Villa management will charge me $700-$800 per month management fees (an extra $8,400 pa) and he can get me a special deal of about $32,000 on these villas!

Ha! If it wasn’t so pathetic I’d wring his neck. My friend Len in Perth, who’s an old Bali hand, says, “Walk away, fast as you can!” and that’s what I’m doing. It looks like Emerald Villas are not going to work after all.

Makan.

Later: I had my final meal in this hotel’s restaurant and it was another farce. The guys are really nice and try to get it right, but they just don’t. The Nasi campur was described as coming with peanuts on the menu, and I pointed it out to emphasise that I was looking forward to them. He nodded enthusiastically.

But 5 mins later he’s back saying “Sorry, sorry, we have no peanuts.” No peanuts in a restaurant/bar?? OK, too bad. But when the dish arrived, there were two hard boiled eggs instead of one, and then they brought out a bowl of krupuk, the prawn crackers, adding to the ones already on the plate. Not just any bowl, a large soup bowl full of the things. It was way over the top and far more than I wanted or could eat.

They try, but too often the reality doesn’t match the menu. Last night I ordered fried fish with a green chili sauce. “No bones?” I asked. No bones sir. I expected a fillet of fish. But it turned out to be three small pieces of fish in a batter, but with the tough texture of chicken, and tasting nothing like fish.

I ordered a small bowl of sambal, soy sauce with chopped chilis in it, and I couldn’t help noticing the endorphins flooding through my head as I ate it. It’s both pain and pleasure at once.

Next morning’s all pain and no pleasure though! Malam.

Benoa to Benoa

Selemat malam,

It’s been a quiet day today – bit of a sore throat. But I did get out to Benoa this afternoon.

First, the pool is alive!

Pond life

These are the first swimmers I’ve seen all week. I think they’re looking for coins.

I took a taxi out to Benoa at about 5pm hoping to get something comparable to this:

Gunung Agung 1986

I’m not sure where I took this from, but it was somewhere near Benoa, I think.

Well, it was a nice drive this afternoon, but Benoa is now so developed as a port that it’s not very nice any more. Not that it’s bad:

Riverboat steamers?

It’s just crowded and seedy. But I liked this:

I miss my Minnie!

By the way, what do Indonesians say when they answer their mobile phones? ‘Allo? Yes they do.

Here’s a bit of video – see how this goes:

This is HD from the Pentax SLR. I find it’s fantastic to only have one device to carry, but trying to refocus my eyes from the distance to the rear LCD of the camera is hopeless. In video mode, all I have to go on is the rear LCD. In bright light, I really can’t see much of what I’m shooting. I think the answer is going to be to buy another Pentax body, so that one is always set to video and I won’t have to swap lenses or reset the camera.

Besides, I suspect a new semi-silvered mirror model is coming in January. Gotta have the latest!

I hope I’ll be hearing from the estate agent and the villa management tomorrow, so that I can move on with securing the villa. The estate agent sounded quite offended in a reply email when I asked him why I needed to deal through him when I can deal direct with the management, but gosh, mate, who are you acting for? Me or the owners of the villa? Where are your loyalties? What do you add to the deal for me?

I hope Xmas has calmed him down. He’s a Catholic. All will be forgiven, I’m sure.

Dinner time. The restaurant frustrated me again last night. I had a beautiful prawn soup for entree, but the salt and pepper squid for main was NOT the same as I had earlier in the week – just not as good at all. Different chef, different dish. The most reliably enjoyable dish? Nasi Campur. Always good. After I’ve added extra chili, of course! What will tonight bring?  Oh well. Malam.

The Year of Living Dangerously

Hummer H2 – for rent

Boxing Day – it’s just Sunday here and another grey, rainy day. I love it. The rain was so heavy outside I could hardly hear the staff in the restaurant at breakfast. Nice!

The pic above shows the hotel driveway – the rain makes a heck of a din on the roof above. How about that vehicle, eh? It’s available for rent. Just the thing for a drive up to Kintamani. Don’t worry about the roads – just take a shotcut straight up the mountainside.

The title of this post refers to my concerns about this hotel. I dunno whether to say anything or just let it slide, but that’s literally what could happen and it could happen to me.

There are so many dangerous things about this hotel that if I fall and injure myself, I would definitely take action against the hotel for damages. I’m afraid my legs have become very weak in the past year and I’m having to use a stick. But:

  • There are about eight steps up from that Hummer level to get into the lobby. There’s a sloping ramp on one side, but it’s so steep that I have trouble negotiating that too, especially when it’s wet.
  • When you reach the top of the steps, you have to go through a security scanner. But to get through it, I have to put my stick and bag on a table and sidle sideways with nothing to hold onto along a slippery tiled route no more than 400mm wide. As I do this, the steps are just behind me. If I slipped, I’d go backwards down the steps!
  • Everywhere in the hotel is glossy smooth tiled, including the room. It looks great and feels nice, but if any water gets on the floor, for example outside the bathroom or in front of the fridge or after I come back from the pool, it’s a skating rink!
  • I may have mentioned the shower floor, but I will again. It’s also smooth tiled, with not a single handhold to be found. Once soap gets on it, it’s like walking on glassy ice. I asked the hotel for a rubber mat and to their credit, I had one within two hours, but it’s a hard industrial mat and a bit hard on the feet. This morning I found that they’d laid it down with the spikiest side up! By turning it over, it’s not so bad.
    Hah! I whinge when it’s smooth and I whinge when it’s rough. But it’s not difficult to get it right. There should be those friction strips or similar in the shower, or just the simple suction cup white bath mats.
  • The pool is completely railing and ladder free! There’s not a handhold to be found. I had a swim yesterday and getting out, up some underwater steps, as I stepped onto the paving I fell over. Not hard, but because I can’t get up again, and because there’s no railing, I had to slide myself back into the water and try again, successfully this time. No harm done, but…!
  • To reach the pool, you open a glass door and are confronted by a set of cement stepping blocks for a pathway. They’re about 500mm square and about 400mm off the ground, with gaping gaps between. It looks sort of pretty, but it’s a disaster waiting to happen. Smooth cement, water, and big gaps. If someone doesn’t slip and break a leg or hip I’ll be very surprised. There’s no alternative – no way to avoid them. You’d have to step off, down about 400mm onto a muddy surface. No thanks.

In the room, the deficiencies are so glaring that although I’m quite enjoying my stay, I’m getting frustrated. The hotel Sales Director with the marvellous first name of Ulysses seems to have taken a shine to me, so I think I’ll have to write him a letter for when I leave on Tuesday. There are so many silly little annoyances that could be fixed at almost no cost, yet are spoiling my stay:

  • No pen in the room (ball point pen, I mean) or note paper. There’s the usual folder of A4 paper and envelopes, but I just want a jotter, not a bloody letter.
  • The soap is not replaced as it wears down. I had to ask for more soap!
  • There are only two small glasses, and even one of those went missing one day.
  • There was a plastic swizzle stick which had a spatula end that I used to make my coffee, but after I threw the used one in the bin, it hasn’t been replaced! I have to take a teaspoon from the restaurant, but I keep forgetting, as now.
  • The packet coffee in the room was like leather it  was so old! It smelt like leather too. I had to buy Nescafe cappucino packet coffee – but you can’t get it without sugar.
  • OK, so I bought powdered Bali coffee. But I’ve got no spoon or milk.
  •  There was no creamer for the coffee. I had to ask.
  • The fridge is inside a cupboard which has a door with no handle or even a finger recess. It’s one of those push-push latches, but it doesn’t work, so I break my fingernails opening the door.
  • Being inside a cupboard, there’s no way for the fridge heat to escape, so it’s pushing sh..t uphill to keep cold.
  • The ice cube tray is very small and I can’t get the ice cubes out! I’ve actually broken the tray while twisting and turning it to extract the ice. When I do get the cubes out, they fly out onto the desk and floor. Now, of course, when I fill it with water, it leaks on the floor, making the floor dangerous as I said.
  • Again, being inside a cupboard, the ice is struggling to form overnight, because the fridge is so inefficient. Crazy!!
  • There’s no bottle opener in the room. Luckily I’ve brought my own, but if I hadn’t, I’d be damaging the furniture trying to remove bottle caps.
  • I’ve brought stainless steel wire rope cables for suitcase and laptop security, but there are absolutely no holes in the furniture to thread them through. I can’t use them. All I ask is some eye bolts or something to loop the cables through.
  • There’s a small room safe, but it’s too small to take this laptop, and this is only a 13.3″ one.
  • The desk chair is all fashion with white fake crocodile skin vinyl covering, but so uncomfortable!

See what I mean? All these are simple, almost no cost items, but they annoy the hell out of the customer. Not to mention laying themselves wide open to liability and damages.

I dunno why they don’t employ me as a hotel consultant, flying all over the world checking out hotels and advising them of my assessment of their rooms. Oh, Mr Croft, we’re so grateful, have a week in this 5 star in Nusa Dua and tell us what you think. Ha!

Waffle on, can’t I?

Optical illusion

Fried egg anyone? It’s the new, compact, easily packaged, stackable, non-runny fried egg invented in the home of convenience foods, good ol’ USA. It comes complete with holes for pegs on your plate to hold it in place while you eat. And “This side up” markings.

No seriously, it’s a new super efficient LED designed to replace light globes. It gives the same light as a 60W globe but uses only 11W. That’s just a liitle more than a compact fluorescent (8W), but with a theoretically indefinite life, unlike CFs which do wear out.

We are moving to higher and higher efficiency lighting. Even street lights can be LEDs these days, with far better efficiency and no burnouts. The installation cost is high, but the payoff is high too with no maintenance costs. And another lot of low skilled council workers lose their jobs replacing lamps. Can’t be helped, I’m afraid.