Monday, June 29, 2009

Last full day in Bali

This is our last full day before we return to Perth tomorrow. We have had a good time, but it is time to eat some regular Aussie food.
Though the omelettes at brekky are really good

This morning I found Wally outside the hotel and confirmed our booking for 9am tomorrow to get us to Denpassar airport. Wal reckoned we could leave later, but his old van could break down and we want to be in the Garuda Executive lounge with plenty of time to spare and no stress.

I used the hotel WiFi to download Skype, set it up and we deposited A$16.00 into our account so that we could use SkypeOut which allows calls to landlines. We called daughter Helen in Aus. And talked for at least five minutes for a grand total of $0.25. The reception was great and Helen decided to download Skype so that she can talk to us for free on the computer…must save every 25c we can in these times.

Last night we walked up to a small restaurant and had a cheap and reasonable meal. I had beef Rendang which was a bit disappointing. The beef was from an old pensioned off water buffalo and the accompanying vegetables were steamed. Most of the other vegetables we have had have been either crispy fresh or pickled.

Joan had Lumpia which although tasty was deep fried to a crisp. Mostly the food has been excellent. No rabid dog or monkey, Paul.

The owner of the restaurant, Kalamantan, is a Yank who has owned the place for the last 20 years. It is reminiscent of Ricks Gin Joint and the regulars were right out of Casablanca. Its reputation draws oddball characters, which isn’t all that bad.

This morning after breakfast I took a few snaps of the things that are very familiar to us, but probably not so to people who have not been here before. Are there any Australians who have not been here before??? I shot the gamelan players who play the repetitious trance inducing sounds of Indonesia, a rest house in the gardens and some outrigger canoes. Sorry no audio for the Gamelans.

On previous visits to Bali we have stayed at the Grya Santrian Hotel, also on the Sanur beachfront. This hotel, the Segara Village Hotel (free plug here) is a far more friendly place with much better free facilities for the guests. There is a tennis court, two pools, the Jacuzzi bar which is sort of a pool, table tennis, chess and billiards. Also there are lots of quiet places to sit or sleep in the breeze.

We have noticed that when we greet other guests the ones who respond with any enthusiasm. are mostly Australians or Americans. The Europeans, who seem to be mostly German, are a bit reserved and usually gather together on their world-dominating table.

That’s a bit harsh Kev.


Update: Joan and I had both had a long foot massage for $5 plus a small tip. Not too bad at all!
After the massage I had a haircut at a nice salon on the beach for an extortionate fee of just under $5. Which included the eyebrows, ears and a hair wash. She promised to make me handsome…the cut is OK but the promise unfulfilled.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Of coconuts and Haus Winds

Our hotel room

Today we have been relaxing, reading and having a couple of drinks. Joan did venture down to the beach markets and bought two sarongs; one silk and one cotton, both Batik printed.

I took the laptop over to the ‘meeting place’ which is a beautiful Balinese ‘house wind’. I used the free WiFi to download Skype and we will call Helen using Skype on the computer this evening.

Later I took a few photos of the structure, but felt intimidated by some unfriendly Europeans there.

Wish we could get something as beautiful back home.

Sitting out on our balcony we saw a sudden gathering of grounds-people near a coconut palm. A young fellow quickly climbed the palm and sent down a dozen or so small coconuts for the assembled mob. Whilst he was up the palm, eyes were ever watchful for the administration. In no time at all there was no evidence of what had taken place and the remaining nuts were skilfully arranged to look like nothing had been taken. I was tempted to yell out ‘Security is coming’ to see how they would react.

Our neighbours left to return to Sydney town this morning. They offered us a half bottle of Scotch and I am loathe to admit that we didn’t take them up on their offer as we already have two half bottles of spirits to get rid of before Tuesday when we also leave. The last time we were here we tried to leave with a half bottle of vodka and customs confiscated it on the grounds that “Must be full bottle; cannot be half bottle’. Thieves!

The neighbours were a little concerned at possible delays checking in at Denpasar Airport as there is a very large contingent of Christians and their families leaving today after their annual jamboree or whatever a gathering of happy Christians is called – perhaps a crusade? It is rumoured that they number around 600 and that they return to the Bali Beach Hotel annually because they some years ago discovered the Bali Beach’s cheesecake.

yesterday's outing; Bali Bird Park


Wally drove us to the Bali Bird and Reptile Park yesterday. It is about 20-30 minutes drive away from the hotel. We were impressed; very lovely set-up with a wide variety of birds and reptiles. During the main bird show which featured about six or so impressive large birds flying to set stations and handlers, a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo stole the show by hanging upside down, wildly flapping its wings and screeching like a mad thing. A typical Aussie on holiday!

Most of the birds were in large cages, but many were free to walk and fly around. There was one pretty sad Kookaburra in a cage without a mate. I was photographing a cranky looking Ibis and it quickly did a walk around me and had a go at my backside, luckily fended off with a growl and hand wave.

Wally delivered us back to the hotel and we have his card and will probably use him to get us to the airport next Tuesday morning. We are still amazed at the complete calmness shown by drivers and riders in the mess that is Bali traffic. There is absolutely no road rage! Drivers use their horn for a variety of signals…’I am overtaking’, ‘look out I am coming through’, ‘please don’t try and turn in front of me’ and ‘hello pretty girls’.
In all our times here we have not seen one scrape or accident which is truly amazing as cars, trucks, vans and motorcycles weave around either side of slow traffic and through intersections. Motorycles can carry a rider and up to three or even four passengers. The rider has priority on the helmet, mum and kids travel bare headed.

That evening, relaxing on our balcony, we struck up a conversation with our neighbours. They are ‘we’ve been everywhere and done everything’ people from Sydney. We had a Six Degrees of Separation moment when she told us that she had been on Sale Of The Century years ago. I mentioned that we have a friend/colleague who was also on Sale and lost two BMWs and a truck load of cash on the last night. The lady next door/balcony said that she was beaten by a young fellow name Peter who was also up for the same prizes. It turns out that it was the same Peter…Peter Harmsworth we know. Amazing!

We have the DVDs, the watches and new shoes, so we don’t think we are going to enhance the economy of Bali much over the next three days…just food and drink, Wally’s fare and the departure tax.
video

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bali day four continued

Wally gave us a good price so we made our trip to Hardy’s with him. He waited while we visited a few other places, including an internet cafĂ© where we uploaded the blog. Then to Hardy’s for beer and nibbles. We also bought some fruit and milk – we both dislike the powdered coffee creamer. Back with a box of groceries – no eyebrows raised as we breezed in past Reception.

We decided to eat in the hotel restaurant. Very nice: Kare Ayam and Ikan Sambal (chicken curry and spiced fish and coconut). Came back to our room, replete. Then a drama ensued.

The room key wouldn’t work, just turned round and round in the lock. Off to Reception. Security guy comes with a master key and suggests we had made some error. He tries the master key – same result. The lock is cactus. We had also barred the door to the balcony (we are upstairs). However he proved to be resourceful. There was an empty room two doors along. He opened it with the master, then clambered over the ledges and balconies between rooms, past an occupied room, to get to our balcony. After a fair bit of pushing and banging, he gained entry and opened the door from the inside. We wonder if the people next door (who we think are Russian) phoned Reception about a break-in or just decided it was wise to take no notice.

So now we can get out, but not in. We were offered the empty room, but thought it was too much of a hassle to gather everything up and move. Tomorrow we will take it in turns to have breakfast. They have promised the maintenance men will be here by 8.30am. Wally is taking us to the Bird Park tomorrow at 9. Maybe he will have to wait for us this time.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Bali Day 4

Yesterday when we were in Kuta we tried to escape the hard sell on the streets by jumping into the main department store Matahari. Just inside the entrance some enterprising bloke(s) had set up some low plastic tanks with surrounding seat for tourists to pay RP 100,000 (A$12.50) to dangle their legs in the water and have small fish (Gambusia) nibble at loose skin and hair. There was a waiting line for 20 minutes of what we used to do in our fish pond back home. I didn’t read the spiel, but it probably trumpeted health benefits.

We didn’t feel much like a major Indonesian meal last night so ventured out to a beachside restaurant and ordered a club sandwich. The only saving grace to this meal was the complimentary tomato soup….we couldn’t finish eating the sandwich.

We were about to take a walk along the beach and fend off sellers of all kinds of stuff and massage, pedicure and manicure ladies waiting like birds of prey along the route. The alternative is to walk inland a bit along a roadway with dozens of car drivers trying to take you somewhere either now, tomorrow or the rest of the holiday. The footpaths are much better than when we were here last, but there are still unexpected gaps and drops.

Many years ago our son fell into an open sewer hole, just managing to save himself by extending his elbows. As I desperately extricated him from a very smelly landing a bloke selling silver jewellery was tugging at my sleeve, suggesting I buy from him. I didn’t!

We decided to go to Hardy's by cab to buy some shampoo and beer. Waiting outside was Wally, the guy we had booked yesterday, but who didn't turn up. His friends told us that his car was broken down etc etc. When we told Wally that his mates had given us a load of BS he just laughed inferring that he would have done the same to them. I could see that situation turning a bit nasty in Australia!

Bali Day 3

This morning at 7am all the pool lounges were tagged by personal possessions. One featured a Lufhansa beach ball. The same ball was still there at 2.30pm...enough said!


I don’t normally read when there are other distractions like TV. But in Bali TV is 2/10 and yesterday I read the latest Tim Winton book, ‘Breath’.

I am a Tim Winton fan and his books
have always just felt right. It is probably because he is a Western
Australian and I know the places he talks about and I have known most of the characters.

One of his best, I think, was ‘Cloudstreet’ set in suburban Perth in the late 1940s. Sometimes I think he is a fan of another similar writer Tom Hungerford who is now in his nineties. Tom; and I feel I can call him Tom because he was a childhood friend of my mother, writes with a suburban feel in his anthology of short stories named ‘Stories from Suburban Road’. It is very similar in some ways to Winton’s ‘Cloudstreet’. I suspect Winton is a Hungerford reader!

Hungerford wrote two novels in the 1950s, one dealing with his wartime experiences in New Guinea. It is a great read, but only published in Australia, it entered a quite small market. It might well be that had he published ‘The Ridge and the River’ in the 70s, people would have been prepared to look at war as a topic again?

Anyway, back to ‘Breath’. The first third of the book built the strong characters of the story and the last third a successful denouement.
The middle section of the book appeals to surfers and left me a little frustrated that I had to wade through so much to get the guts of the story.

Nevertheless I would love to be
able to write like both authors, just like I would love to be able to play guitar like Tommy Emmanuel…..it ain’t gonna happen!.

When we went out to the front of the hotel to meet with Wally, our booked taxi man, he wasn’t there. Kev had the once in a lifetime opportunity to ask “Where’s Wally?”, but nobody got the joke. Wally didn’t turn up on time and other drivers gave us various reasons why he didn’t and why we should take their cab. ‘His radiator has broken’, ‘He is sick’ were a couple. We gave Wal about 15 extra minutes and then we took another bloke.

Kuta is a very busy place and is teeming with scammers. We’ve seen the scam before. A scratch card is given ‘Free’ and every one is a winner. All you have to do to collect your free dinner prize is attend a dinner party where the timeshare spiel is given. No thanks!

Another annoying thing about large stores in Bali is that most, if not all, the staff is on commission and when escaping the street spruikers by dashing into a department store you find a new lot working in the store trying very hard to sell their wares.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Day 2 BALI

Our first day in Bali was quiet. We had a late lunch then in the evening, went out along the beach to a restaurant named the Bonsai. Joan had a mixed sate and I had traditional Nasi Goreng. Very nice food and a pleasant atmosphere on the beach. It cost us less than $20A which included two large bottles of Bintang. Bintang is 5% alcohol, but it must creep up on you as I don't feel it like I would a beer back in AU.


This morning we had breakfast in the hotel restaurant and later around 10am grabbed a 'taxi' driven by Wally. He took us to Harvey's, a department store and waited until we had done our shop and brought us back to the hotel for RP60,000. That sounds a bit frightening, but each A$ can be exchanged for RP8,200. Tomorrow he is booked to take us into Kuta for a bit of shopping and he will collect us at about 3pm.

At Harvey's we bought real toilet paper. The stuff in the hotel could be broken by a young mosquito! Same goes for the soap; they supply us with the smallest cakes imaginable. We bought a real sized cake of soap. Joan 's packing skills had failed her and she had to buy a hat. Of course we did stock up on mixers and snacks.

The hotel room is quite nice but as with most buildings here the finish is not tradesman-like as we would know it in Aus. There is some dodgy plumbing and tiling and repairs done look like someone has sent his 13 year old son to do the job. Still, it is comfortable; the airconditioning works well and we have free WiFi in the room to write the blog and send and receive emails.

The grounds of this hotel are magnificent. Water seems plentiful and all the paths are washed down continuously. There seems to be dozens of grounds people busying themselves all over the place. One of the pools is the spa bar where the bar staff are inside a 'pocket' inside the pool. Very smart!
Jacuzzi Bar
Beachside Pool

My friend Paul has a bit of a thing about big things...bananas, sheep, quokkas etc, so I have included a pic of the big lobster on the beach.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bali Hai

Well, we are in Bali and settling into our hotel room. The flight up with Garuda was in a Boeing 737-800 and I was happy to be flying in an aircraft made by Boeing. They’ve been in the business for a very long time and Airbus have had a few rough flights of late…one so rough that the plane seemingly fell apart.

It was a pretty smooth flight even though the skipper told us that there was a westerly cross-wind of around 100 mph. There were a few interlopers trying use the toilet in business and the cabin crew soon told them where they should go….up the back of the plane! The cheek of them!

We cruised through customs in no time and secured a taxi from a company in the airport. A couple of hangers-on grabbed our bags and walked with us to the parked cab about a hundred meters away. They demanded a $6 tip to share, but Joan gave them a $2 gold coin each. It was still money for jam!

We were too early to check in to our room so we had a drink and a meal. The meal was very nice ….Cap Chay; a rice, prawn and chicken dish with crispy vegetables and a delicious sauce. RP 50,000 each which is about A$6.00.

The hotel, The Segara Village Hotel in Sanur is very nice with three large pools. There are notices up saying that lounges near the pools should not be held by absent swimmers by placing personal items on them. All the lounges had stuff on them and only 6 or 8 people were either swimming or sunbaking.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Gastric upset

Our friend John has once again flown the coup from his nursing home. He was found walking down the middle of a busy road and some one called an ambulance and he was taken to Fremantle Hospital where a comedy of errors took place and he was, after some four hours, released into family care and returned to the nursing home.

His nursing home is in a lock-down situation due to an outbreak of a gastric bug. I was on my way to visit him and cut his hair when Joy, his wife, told me about it and I am thankful that I am not about to land in Bali tomorrow with a dose of the poos!

Brother Graham is collecting us tomorrow morning early and driving us to the airport at 4.30am. I apologised for the early call out and he replied that it is no different than coming home from a night club at that time....but sober.

Graham's 60th birthday bash went off well with about 60 guests at his house. I was just a little concerned that we might have some party gate-crashers, but looking around at at some of the older guests I figured that any crashers would have a rough time dealing with his guests. The party did finish up at 4am with two hangers-on. I went to his place to assist with the clean up. The usual half empty bottles of beer were found in various strange places around the house. His rubbish bin was collected today and it would have made a noise like a multiple car crash when dumped into the truck.

Next posting will be from Bali where the temperatures range from a low 24c to 30+c. We are going to hate leaving cold Perth for 8 days.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Nursing homes

We have my sister staying with us for a week. She is ostensibly here for our brother's 60th birthday party this Saturday, but also is on a major shopping mission. Having a sibling as a house guest is, I think, not as easy as having a friend stay.

This morning I was searching through our pantry for some coffee beans. I know Joan had bought some recently... eventually I found them down next to the packets of different sugars and coffee bottles. Obvious?? Well, not for me! I suggested that Joan make a mud map of the pantry for me in case she goes before me. 'Go look for it' she offered. Both of us hope that we will spend the rest of our lives looking for things in our own house rather than ending up in a nursing home.

Our friend John is in a nursing home and visiting him is often sad. Joy, his wife, visits every second day and I feel a little guilty that I only visit occasionally to give him a haircut. John is losing weight, but otherwise is quite healthy and looks like he is going to be around for some time yet. I have a theory that once dementia sets in, people usually live longer. They seem to have fewer worries. In John's case this theory doesn't hold up. He is often worried about things and these worries are the major subject of the conversations we have.

We are off to Bali early Tuesday morning. Brother Graham is taking us to the Perth International Airport and then heading off to work. Daughter Helen can collect us when we return to Perth. On Monday morning I will drop of sister Shirley at the domestic airport for her flight back to Esperance.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Yesterday we went to Joy's 70th birthday party. There were about 70 people attending also. A very nice day!

Earlier in the day I collected some 20 computers from a publishing house in East Perth. The company decided that I could place them with needy people rather than trying to dispose of them themselves. In typical office use of computers there is a lot of sticky tape and post-it notes on the cases which will have to be cleaned off before I can feel good about working on them.
I have placed quite a few computers with educational games loaded on board with aboriginal families and have had very good feedback. A lady collected a couple more machines today and has requested quite a few more. I know that they are mostly going to relatives and that is fine with me. At least the lady distributing them to rellies is Mac literate and can help out if her family needs backup.

On a local news feed 'WA Today' there was a report about the police and pollies bringing in a grog ban in the north west of the state. Attached to the article was an advert for grog!
I do not know how police or indeed government can legally ban a product to a selected group of Australian citizens?

And lastly a death notice in the local paper. Slobodan Milosevic is not the bloke mentioned, but he is a despot!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Lockie the loser

After attending the Alternative Energy show recently we waited patiently for a rep. from the solar energy company to come visit and sign us up for some solar panels before the federal government's cutoff date for the solar energy subsidy which was to end on the 30th of June. Then yesterday news broke that the federal government did a bit of a panic about what that subsidy was costing the nation and suddenly gave it the chop with about two hours' notice yesterday. No free electricity for the Locks!

The state government has also dumped its water subsidy which gave cash back on purchases of water saving devices and wetting agents. This subsidy covered a range of items from 'wetta soil' to household items like water-saving shower heads to water tanks.....all gone!

Today on talk-back radio (ABC of course) a caller asked why the government still allows the sale of water guzzling washing machines and dishwashers when there are machines on sale which do use water wisely. I guess that argument could also be used about gas guzzling vehicles?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sport

The main weekend sporting did not favor us in the West. Both footy teams lost to the Eastern States bullies. Each team in the AFL has coaches, assistant coaches and coach-coaches, medicos, a psychologist and of course the management team. The main thing they are missing is a choir master to tune them up before they belt out the club anthem in the change rooms. A National Disgrace!

Also on sport one of Australia's star cricketers has been dumped and sent straight home because he is a pisspot and gets stuck into the booze. His story is in all the newspapers of the nation and some people are arguing we should let him stay with the team...win at any cost!

Meantime whilst Australia reels in the wake of this sacking, thousands of people throughout our world have been starved to death, murdered and indiscriminately slaughtered. If I were a conspiracy theorist (and I'm not) I could put forward the theory the governments all around the world spend vast sums of money to support sports and sporting facilities just to placate the masses and keep them happy. A happy mob doesn't bitch too much about the economy!

Another little bitch about sport is the stupid waste of perfectly good champagne which seems to be showered over the winners at motoring events. Let them use soda water!

Advice for the elderly: Don't wear black when you have dandruff.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Segara Village Hotel, Bali

We are all booked for our Bali trip on 23rd June. That is just two days after brother Graham's 60th Birthday party. Hope the head has cleared up by departure time.

We are staying at a fairly up-market hotel on the beach at Sanur. It has free wi-fi and lots of other services. We hope that it is not the high season for European visitors known internationally as Towel Placers, due to their habit of reserving a deck chair at the pool(s) by placing a towel on it for the whole day even if they have gone shopping etc. That doesn't really worry us as we don't have the bodies to show off around the pool.....not that that worries Dutch and German oldies.

The news about an Air France plane crashing is not good news when we will be flying on the same aircraft operated by SE Asia's own dodgy airline. We are flying Business Class so that should make us a bit safer than those in Cattle Class...shouldn't it??

This weekend there is an IT disposal throughout the metro area of Perth and Fremantle. It is sponsored by Apple Computer and not restricted to Apple products. I have quite a few monitors, printers, scanners etc to go. Recently I was given a couple of Apple 20" CRT monitors and they are huge and heavy! This morning I was offered a few more 24" monitors and had to decline as they are very hard to place. Not only hard to place, but hard to carry!

A friend Joy called asking for advice about finding lost data on her computer. She is writing a sort of Bio and after typing up the latest chapter, pressed a key and all is gone. I visited this morning and looked in all the regular places without luck. I have download a demo version of Data Rescue and will return to see what it can find. The Demo gives you one shot at finding a file.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Sustainable Energy Expo

Yesterday we decided to train into Perth to visit the Sustainable Energy Expo. We drove to the train station and got the free trip for oldies. We left from the Murdoch station and it is about a ten minute fast trip into the city centre. One thing I hadn't noticed before is the smart escalator. If no one is riding it it slows right down but if a passenger get on board it speeds up. Maybe I need to get out more!

The so called Sustainable Energy Expo was a bit of a swizz. There were a number of booths selling solar power roof units, but mostly it was the Royal Show type of booth exhibition and selling all manner of household products, including steam cleaners, vacuums, spas etc etc. We did glean quite a bit of information about solar power units and a representative of one of the companies is to visit us this week to look at our needs and household set-up. We think we will end up purchasing before the state government subsidy is terminated at the end of June. After the subsidy of $8,000, the cost to us is about $2450.

We had lunch in Perth city and as we seldom visit the city were surprised at the crowds there. Perth and Fremantle have seven days trading. There didn't seem to be as much trading as parading!

On the train home there was a young bloke coiffured and dressed and to stand out, taking up a priority seat. He was encouraged to stand for us and proceeded to sketch nothing in a sketchpad and then read a picture novel from the back page forward. When a spare seat became available he grabbed it putting his feet on the seat and taking up both seats. Needed a good slapping!

Today has been a computer fixing day. A friend who is a Mac Guru had damaged the power input to a hard drive, so I visited with my soldering iron (which is not made of iron!) and re-soldered the broken joints. Next, a friend had a spam attack telling him that a scan of his PC hard drive had found 164 virus attacks and a dozen or so worms in various places on his Windows something directory. Trouble is he is running a Mac and I believe the message is a trap to get young players to purchase their anti viral software. In this case old players!
The message is set up so that the computer operator cannot just delete the warning message. It hangs around like a bad smell until (in Firefox) under the Tools header you delete personal data including cache etc. Lastly my brother Graham had a bit of trouble scanning a document on his new Canon all-in-one printer. I visited and ran through the process with him. Whilst there he gave me a little job; to make an invitation to his 60th birthday in the form of a Summons to Appear.