Saturday, July 30, 2011

Made Tanou Onederful (aka Reginald Hochmuth)

Made Tanou, compleat with unicycle sticking out of his backpack, about to leave the temple

The whole world meets at Ibu Kade's warung which is where we met 'Made Tanou' (not his real name but an honorific given to him by the Balinese), a charming 24-year old Austrian 'Taugenichts' who seems to live on a dollar a day - and possibly less. He sleeps in the nearby Brahma Vihara Arama Buddhist Temple's dormitory (no set price but a donation is appreciated), picks his own vegetables from the surrounding fields and has them cooked by Ibu Kade for a nominal charge. Here's a video clip of him at the nearby hot springs:

In this manner, he has lived and extensively travelled through Burma and India, and is now already in his second month in Bali.

Keep it up, Made Tanou! As Mark Twain wrote, "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did."

P.S. Made Tanou (or whatever your real name is), if you read this, email us as we would like to hear how the rest of your trip went.

Reginald Hochmuth contact tanouenergywork[AT]

Bali expats

There are all sorts of expats in Bali, hiding out in this shifting community of the planet's "homeless and assetless", languidly killing time like characters in a Graham Greene novel. They are Westerners who have been so ill-treated and badly wounded by life that they've stopped the whole struggle and decided to camp out in Bali indefinitely, where they can live in a gorgeous house for $200 a month, perhaps taking a young Balinese man or woman as a companion, where they can drink before noon without getting any static about it, where they can make a bit of money exporting a bit of furniture for somebody. But generally, all they are doing is seeing to it that nothing serious will ever be asked of them again. These are not bums, mind you. This is a very high grade of people, multinational, talented and clever. Everyone used to be something once (generally "married" or "employed"); now they are all united by the absence of the one thing they seem to have surrendered completely and forever: ambition. To quote my favourite writer Joseph Conrad: "... in all they said - in their actions, in their looks, in their persons - could be detected the soft spot, the place of decay, the determination to lounge safely through existence." Needless to say, there's a lot of drinking.

Having come to Bali after they've made a mess of their lives back home, they decide they've had it with Western women, and they go marry some tiny, sweet, obedient Balinese teenage girl. They think this pretty little girl will make them happy, make their lives easy. Good luck to them because it's still two human beings trying to get along, and so it's going to become complicated because relationships are always complicated. Some have their hearts broken, others just their bank balance, some actually make some sort of living selling real estate to other Westerners who've fallen for this misguided dream of a Balinese paradise.

Of course, Bali is not such a bad place to putter away your life, ignoring the passing of the days. Most Bali expats, when you ask them how long they've lived there, aren't really sure. For one thing, they aren't really sure how much time has passed since they moved to Bali. But for another thing, it's like they aren't really sure if they do live there. They belong to nowhere, unanchored. Some of them like to imagine that they're just hanging out for a while, just running the engine on idle at the traffic light, waiting for the signal to change. But after several years of that they start to wonder ... will they ever leave? Conrad again: "Their death was the only event of their fantastic existence that seemed to have a reasonable certitude of achievement."

There is much to enjoy in their lazy company, in those long Sunday afternoons spent at brunch, drinking beer and talking about nothing. Still, the outsider who's just passing through, feels somewhat like Dorothy in the poppy fields of Oz. Be careful! Don't fall asleep in this narcotic meadow, or you could doze away the rest of your life here!

Friday, July 29, 2011


The internet reception at Banjar Hills is VERY slow, so I was pleased to discover this internet café almost hidden away in the village of Tegeha.

The enterprising owner, Ketut Wahyuda, and I became good friends. Being a long-retired and frustrated accountant and management consultant, I discussed with him his business which has only been running for some eight months.

It turned out that he wasn't even covering his costs as he hadn't allowed for the amortisation of his eight computer stations and various other costs. I convinced him that based on a three-year life cycle of his computer equipment, and in order to make what he considered to be an acceptable profit margin of Rp.1,000,000 a month (a mere $100), his daily takings would have to be at least Rp.100,000. Based on an estimated 20 visits a day, he would have to charge at least Rp.5,000 a visit instead of the current Rp.3,000 for unlimited use.

To attract more visitors (all of whom are local boys and girls), I suggested he should run free introductory internet classes. However, we both agreed that foreign tourists are the best source of income. Hundreds drive past his shop every day on their way to the Buddhist Temple at the top of the hill; however, none stop as his internet café is barely visible, and even if they wanted to stop, they couldn't park their cars as the lane is too narrow. Solution? Open a 'branch office' of his internet café in a warung next to the Temple! He's thinking about it.

Anyway, I was happy to be the first customer to pay the new fee of Rp.5,000.

Ketut Wahyuda and his charming wife

... and their lovely children

Visit Ketut's blog at EXOTIC MULTIMEDIA.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Warung Bu Pilih

The whole world seems to meet at Ibu Kade's WARUNG BU PILIH where we spent many hours whiling the time away, chatting and watching the tourists who came to visit the Buddhist Temple nearby.

Ibu Kade sells just about anything that can earn her a few dollars a day.

The Bakso Man arrives late in the afternoon to sell his delicious meatball soup.

And then there is my friend Guntur who is in charge of the nearby Temple's carpark.

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He only earns Rp.450,000 a month (about $50) which, however, doesn't stop him from indulging his fetish for shoes of which he possesses three highly polished pairs.

Lively and charming Nana, full of laughter and mischief, attended the Temple's "Sunday School" ...

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... while the village schoolkids were practising for the forthcoming Independence Day Marching Competition.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Villa for sale

This FOR SALE sign was displayed near the Buddhist Temple at Banjar Hills when I visited in 2010. Balinese friends had taken me down into the hot and windless valley to look at this "villa" which was owned by a Dutchman who came out once a year to live in it.

There was no path to get to it; instead, we had to cross a river by jumping from bolder to bolder and trudging through muddy rice paddies.

Anyway, it has now been sold. I don't envy the new owner living in this remote and hard-to-get-to location.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lion King

Singaraja (which means 'Lion King') is a fairly good-sized city (which is a good way of saying that I'm not sure what the population actually is) and Bali's second-largest, but it's orderly - even quiet - compared with Denpasar. With its pleasant tree-lined streets, Dutch colonial buidings and charmingly decrepit waterfront area, it's worth wandering around for a few hours.

It was the centre of Dutch power on Bali and remained the administrative centre for the Lesser Sunda Islands (Bali through to Timor) until 1953. It is one of the few places on Bali where there are visible reminders of the Dutch period, but there are also Chinese and Muslim influences. The port of Singaraja was for years the usual arrival point for visitors to Bali but is no longer used as a harbour because it offers little protection from bad weather - shipping for the north coast now uses the port of Celukanbawang, while visiting cruise ships anchor at Padang Bai.

They have been repairing things in Singaraja over the past few years and it definitely has a clean, open feel to it. The main shopping area is on Jalan Diponegoro and Jalan A. Yani. There is not much here in the way of tourist goods (masks, paintings, jewelry) but you can buy supplies for your stay in the north here - juice, boxed milk, diapers, toilet paper, cigarettes and beer are much cheaper than if you buy them in the tourist area to the west.

What is it that is unique about this place, or what is it that draws me to it? Maybe it's because Singaraja isn't really all that unique - just another friendly town in Indonesia where you can bop around, find some things that you need, meet some fine folks and live your life the way you want without interference from people that are convinced that they know how you should live your life.

I could live in Singaraja which reminds me a little of my old stamping-grounds in Malaysia, Penang and Port Dickson, with just a touch of Malacca. A friend, the well-known art photographer Tan Sioe Lay, lives in Singaraja.

He has his previous house in upmarket Jimbaran, south of Denpasar, for sale. At just R.1,250,000,000 (about AUS$140,000) is seems like a bargain but I prefer the wide streets and friendly folks of Singaraja.

Tan Sioe Lay's house for sale in Jimbaran

Monday, July 25, 2011