Thursday, March 29, 2007


Been away for awhile, a busy few weeks, then one week of relaxing in Bali with my brother who flew out from Perth to join me. Needed the break, it’s been a huge term at school, and by the end of it I was feeling more than ready for timeout. It was good to see A, he was looking good, cheerful, happy and keen as mustard to sample the delights of Bali. We flew over on Tuesday, Garuda, and while I’ve never been a nervous flier, this was the first time I actually held my breath, slightly, as we landed in Denpasar. Smooth landing, I think someone has told them not to bump the passengers around unduly. Silently cheered and we headed out into the bright sunlight to find the hotel. All in all, it was a good break in Bali. Stayed in Kuta, not my favourite place in Bali by a long shot, too busy, but for bars and places to kick back and watch the passing people on the sidewalks it was ideal. Must be getting old, the night clubs held no interest, the roaring thump of bass permeating the muggy night air as one walked past was enough to turn away the sternest souls. But a few places along we found a bar that opened onto the street with a table facing out where we could sit, sip cold bintangs and watch the people walk past. Ideal. Food was okay and the friendliness of the bartenders not over the top.

We visited Pasar Sukawati, a big market which sold just about everything at a fraction of the cost of the same stuff in Kuta and Sanur, sat on chairs on Sanur beach with toes curled into the sand and ate lazy meals accompanied by the ever faithful bintangs. Played pool in the back area of a dark but cavernous bar (Crusoes) recently purchased by a West Australian who, by all indications, had no idea how to run a bar but the people were friendly and the beer cold. Wandered through arts and crafts shops admiring the ingenuity of locally made products, sat by the pool, had a couple of rather perfunctory massages (not as good as to be found in Surabaya, then again, I guess I’ve been spoilt by the knuckles in type of massage found in Java where at the end you feel stretched and tenderised till the body is limp lettuce).

We walked the streets till late at night, wandering down and through back lanes and streets etched with the drizzle of rain, stumbling at times over broken pavements and potholes, but ever eager to see what was around the next corner. By the end of it we were exhausted and most probably a bit dehydrated, soon to be sorted when we found a place to stop at.

Interesting thing about Bali. All the bars and restaurants, well maybe I generalise, but just about all of them are open air, the proprietor’s obviously thinking that patrons want to experience the real Bali and feel the muggy weather first hand, sweating away as they sit and sample platters of delicious foods. A and I agreed that while in some aspects it was nice, Kuta was crying out for a bar where one could retreat to in the heat of the day, behind cool panes of glass, watch the street and the passer-by’s, shoot some pool, drink beers and enjoy the surrounds without feeling as if we needed yet another shower. In short, if just one enterprising person were to open a bar on the main street in Legian with aircon and also a place to sit outside if one wished, it would make a killing. The number of times we saw weary and red faced tourists, tired parents and children, and thought if someone had the idea to open a place where one could retreat to, even for awhile, the place would be full.

Another interesting conclusion was the lack of tourist numbers in Bali. While Legian street was busy after ten pm, it was no where near as busy as it used to be. The bar and nightclub scene had been reduced to a few scant metres of real estate, there was Bounty, Paddy’s, MBargo, a couple of small bars and one or two more trendy places and that was about it. All within a fifty metre stretch. Jalan Dyana Pura (towards Seminyak off Jalan Legian) was busy on a small stretch as well, the gay bar was doing a roaring business, and the trendier bars along this short strip were fairly busy. But still not as it used to be.

We noticed that the touts selling things along the streets were more insistent, an almost palpable air of quiet desperation in trying to make a buck. Every second step you took was accompanied by someone asking you step into their shop, all depressingly similar, all selling the same sort of stuff, and all quiet. Then there were the pimps/drug dealers. After about midday, these guys would start to ramp up their business by offering just about anything, all delivered in a sort of conspiratorial mumble. The quick patter of the guys delivered within an eye blink, so fast that at times you think you have misheard. “Did he just offer me cocaine?” I asked A at one point, and that was just the start. Cocaine, cannabis, women, girls, boys, and bizarrely, sunglasses (even though we were both wearing them), all were offered for sale. It got to the point that one gave up saying no thanks, and just ignored them. Sleeves were tugged, shoulders patted, pathways blocked forcing you to side step them, insistent sales pitches delivered as they hop along beside you.

This was a side of Bali I had not really experienced before, and A was just as surprised. I did ask a bartender what she thought of all of it and she laughed. The guys offering drugs are all con artists she told us. They’ll drag you into an alley, act all furtive, pass across a bundle of “cocaine” or “cannabis” and then scarper, leaving you the proud possessor of flour or dried parsley. Not that we were even remotely interested in entering into any sort of drug buy. One I am just too old for such shenanigans, preferring to leave it to the twenty year olds, and two, the promise of being thrown into jail for even the smallest amount of drugs is enough to turn the most depraved buyer away. However, according to our friendly bar tender, the sex trade isn’t a con. It’s alive and well on Bali, forced underground six years ago when street workers were banned from playing their wares. Now they stay in small rooms off the main streets, waiting for a tout to bring a tourist to make his choice.

If you can ignore the touts and the insistent sales pitch, it’s an okay place to visit. But I have to say that Sanur is still miles ahead in easy living. Its fairly quiet tout wise, lovely beach, though very calm waters do not make for interesting spectacles, good little bars and restaurants along the beach front, and a more relaxed air about it.

Not being a Bali expert, I’m sure there are other places just as good elsewhere, and next time will have to venture further afield to find them. Everyone has their favourite spot, and for me, nothing beats sitting on Sanur beach with a cold beer, piping hot sate, and a good book.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Todays Garuda Crash

This is the plane, Garuda PK-GZC, that crashed today at Yogyakarta Airport. It was apparently going too fast while landing, overshot the runway and came to rest in paddy fields before bursting into flames.

Reports vary, but it appears that there are 22 passengers dead, including Australians who were up front. Emergency doors that opened were only in the middle and the far rear door. This caused those up front to have to work through smoke and fire to exit. Most of those who didn't make it were from the front.
Reports are still confused as to exact numbers as some passengers left the airport after the accident

For a little while I was quite worried as my cousin has just been transferred to the Australian embassy in Jakarta and there were reports of Australian DFAT staff on board. He texted me this morning to say that he wasn't and was heading to Yogya to help.

I have just heard from him as I type, tells me things are still not clear. I believe he means the missing Australians. I'm at a loss as to what to say here.

The runway pics taken after the accident on an Indonesian flying forum tell a story:
Indonesian Flying Forum
More info: Professional pilot forum

This was the safest airline in Indonesia until today.


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