Stranger In Paradise

Bali’s Power Pedanda : The Rise of Bali’s High Priests

Explore Bali | Jan 15, 2019

Bali’s high priests have stepped it up a few notches of late — in jewelry, showmanship, and stamina. As more and more Balinese opt for the higher utama form of ceremony, which require high priests, pedanda are these days busier criss-crossing the island at all hours. Fourteen of them went off to East Java last […]

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Farewell to The Stranger in Paradise

Stranger In Paradise | Jan 01, 2017

It was with great sadness that I heard of the sudden and unexpected passing of Made Wijaya, my long time friend and columnist of both NOW! Jakarta and NOW! Bali magazines. Made was one of the great characters of Bali: a designer, writer, philosopher, artist, videographer, raconteur and the only foreigner that I know to […]

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New Trends in Balinese Creativity

Stranger In Paradise | Oct 26, 2016

Last month, at a Bongkasa high priest’s cremation, I saw a contemporary-cum-ceremonial dance performance staged around the funeral pyre. It resembled a chorus line from a very classy Balinese production of CATS. In a 1940s ditty, legendary songster and wit Noel Coward wrote, rather snidely, that the Balinese suffered from far too much creative endeavour. […]

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A Grand Farewell for a Great High Priest

Stranger In Paradise | Aug 31, 2016

Many of the late pedanda’s disciples are wearing commemoratives t-shirts emblazed with the message ‘Death is life’s friend’. Balinese history is rich in celebrated Brahman high priests. All were great teachers and reformers, starting with RsiMarkandya, who introduced Brahmanism in the 8th century. At the beginning of the 11th century, EmpuKuturan united all of Bali’s […]

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Calonarang Season – A Star is Born

Stranger In Paradise | Aug 02, 2016

Last month I let loose my handsome protégé Mustakim of Malang (East Java) on a string of Calonarang performances in exotic temples, to test his mettle (mettle-testing is my forte). He performed with flying colours. Calonarang are the popular spooky witch-dance dramas that that are held sporadically in Balinese village squares. They involve teams of […]

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Bali’s Expat Beauty Warriors

Explore Bali | Jul 20, 2016

Despite architectural hacks filling in every vacant lot — and a few not so vacant ones (green belts, for example) — with cheesy modernist schtick, it is to the work of a handful of die-hard traditionalists and classicists that the Balinese design world looks. Bali has a reputation as the cutting edge of tropical hotel […]

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Water Palaces in the Age of Rajas

NOW! Bali Opinions | Jun 09, 2016

The original water garden, built in 1901 on the site, was called Kolam Dirah. It had been used by the old raja for exorcism rites, but the municipal follies put an end to all that. Last month I was interviewed for a French cultural television documentary about the Taman Sukasada water palace of the last […]

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Tale of Two Kingdoms

Explore Bali | May 17, 2016

Many social observers (expat experts and such) falsely believe that the Age of Rajas is over in Bali. The truth is, the feudal nature of Bali and the pre-eminence of the nobility in civic government is still strong. In the mid-14th century, the prime minister of the Hindu-Javanese Majapahit Empire  sent a young prince, Sri […]

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Clouds Gathering Over The Rainbow?

Explore Bali | Apr 17, 2016

Developers screaming “culture neutral” is much more of a threat to the way of life than a Gay Pride parade It’s hard watching the mangroves of Benoa Bay disappear, bit by bit, as they are  turned into heli-pads, cable ski enterprises and chain restaurants. They are the only green space left in South Bali and […]

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Ubud’s First Family of Royal Indokrupuk

Explore Bali | Mar 03, 2016

Last month, representatives from Ubud’s Rent-a-prince and Gay Rotary Ubud community, all gathered at Ibah Warwick, the Kerthyasa-owned hotel, for a blessing ceremony for the wedding of Tjok Sri Maya Kerthyasa and her Australian husband Marcus Tesoriero. ‘Indokrupuk’ means mixed blood or half-caste. It is my favourite word in the Indonesian (slang) language, because so […]

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