It’s wondrous the way your teenage boys, scarred and bloody, take pretty girls down the lanes after the bouts, while their uncles sit on platforms drinking palm toddy and eating pork delicacies. Tenganan Pegringsingan, oh my Tenganan Pegringsingan, why are you so lovely. Why do you build a stage in the middle of your heavenly ancient Bali Aga village and let your men-folk thrash each other with pandanus leaves while we take photographs; and arrange for your teenage girls in golden headdresses to watch, like princesses viewing medieval joisting matches.

It’s wondrous the way your teenage boys, scarred and bloody, take pretty girls down the lanes after the bouts, while their uncles sit on platforms drinking palm toddy and eating pork delicacies.

Tenganan Pegringsingan, oh my Tenganan Pegringsingan, why are you so lovely. Why do you build a stage in the middle of your heavenly ancient Bali Aga village and let your men-folk thrash each other with pandanus leaves while we take photographs; and arrange for your teenage girls in golden headdresses to watch, like princesses viewing medieval joisting matches.

It’s wondrous the way your teenage boys, scarred and bloody, take pretty girls down the lanes after the bouts, while their uncles sit on platforms drinking palm toddy and eating pork delicacies.

Oh gorgeous Tenganan, we love you for arranging this festival for all of us outsiders to enjoy and gaze awestruck at your beauty.

This year, your days of ceremonies were magnificent: the haunting sound of your selonding gamelan still rings in my bones. Who is that dashing warrior who helped his dancing and trancing grandmother down the stone ramp, entwined like a pair of graceful, sailing swans. Who does your make-up? The village decorations, so raw and rustic, are exquisite. I followed one procession of angels to the Pura Banjar in the far South-East corner of the village and found the shrines decorated in gringsing cloth, like the men-folk, and the temple’s votive statues in a nest of thick white string.

Everyone welcomed me and bade me get merry on tuwak (palm toddy).

All the five-star photographers were there — Jill Gocher, Mario Blanco, Emile Satyawarman, Andrew ‘Men of Indonesia’ de Jong, Luciana Ferrero — and a thousand more. Even the vestal virgins in the long pavilion which overlooked the joisting arena were shooting the scene with pink mini iPads, like Paris Hilton. After the show, in the cool afternoon light, I sat with four Balinese mates at the bottom warung watching Jill Gocher gnaw her way through a rock-hard pisang goreng. It was heaven. Hundreds of motorbikes roared past, and the beer was warm, but who cares — we were all drunk on the ambrosia of Tenganan.

Footnote:

Don’t refurbish anymore of your unique and extraordinary temples with andesite, please don’t, and do tone down those plastic gold brooches on the virgins, least they full prey to the island-wide trend, nay stampede, away from traditional Balinese dress, in favour of the bride-zilla look.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

By chance I am having breakfast at a major 5-star with my good buddy, the hotel owner and I mention how a well-known Jakarta investor has just received a presidential decree to fill in Benoa Bay. “That was quick,” his assistant replies.  I am shocked. I thought I knew these people (for 20 years). I thought all educated people, even developers, were against filling in scenic harbours for greedy development on paradise islands, but apparently I am wrong.

•    •    •

Meanwhile, at Denpasar’s major square, thousands of Balinese are gathering to protest the presidential decree. They have a brilliant poster (see opening page) and a huge following. It will be the end of South Bali if it happens: reclamation won’t stop once a precedent is established, until all the roads are full, and coming to Bali means renting a car to sleep in, in a permanent traffic jam.

There is a large crowd of pro-reclamation activists there too. What or who could they be supporting: more jobs for dredgers? The villa construction industry? The developers, whose C.E.O. recently disappeared mysteriously? The mind boggles.

My scrabble buddy thinks it’s all a P.D.I. plot. Ha Ha!

22 May 2014:  The first ever expat demonstration in Bali’s history takes place in Ubud

One week ago, a lovely English aid worker, Anne-Marie Kathryn Drozdz (45) was murdered in her Ubud bungalow by a construction worker. This horrible event — she was beaten and strangled — was the latest in a recent series of violent crimes against (mostly) western women on the island, once famous for being crime-free.

This is the result of unchecked development and urban sprawl. Itinerants (including seasonal workers) in Bali now represent about 40% of the population. Western women on bikes are considered soft targets by the gangs of boy-snatchers that have sprung up. The incidence of villa-breaking-ins has escalated too. Villa owners don’t feel safe anymore.

Tonight’s vigil organized by Meghan Pappenheim of Yoga Barn and Spirit Festival is attended by about 300 people both expats and Balinese.

It feels like a seminal event that will lead to bigger ‘protests’.

26 June 2014: A bigger protest

If last week’s Ubud vigil was subdued, today’s sunset vigil for the Korean girl (18) victim of a bag-snatching gone horribly wrong at Batu Bolong Beach is a circus! Over 2000 westerners and Balinese, all in white, most with marigold Leais. There are three or four gamelan troops, pale-face Hindu priests with devout prayer circles gathered around crystals and Ganesh statues, half-naked surfies and a Balinese lady warung-owner clutching a white glove.

Footnote:

As a result of these vigils a special unit of the Bali Tourism Police has been set up to, principally, address concerns in the expat community.

VALE Winifred Danyal Soles

(Great fan of the Stranger)

Born Bandung 1950 — died Bali, 12 June 2014

Danyal was one of the star shakers and movers of the early 80s Legian-Sanur scene. Romantically linked to all the stars she was a great lover of Balinese culture too. Her father was a Sundanese army officer and her mother Dutch-Canadian. She grew up in Bandung and at the age of 12 left with her mother for a life in Montreal, Paris, Amsterdam. She married a French-Canadian during a longish break from Bali during the nineties and had a handsome son. She returned to Seminyak about ten years ago and set up shop designing and making jewelry. She will be sadly missed by the remaining members of the Senangski Group, Batujimbar Ibu PKK, and many other old Bali hands whose hearts she touched with her haute bohemian charm and grace. She is survived by her two sons, Tom and Erin, and her grandson, Tyler. Selamat Jalan Sayang.

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Visesa Ubud
Royal Purnama

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