Friday, June 27, 2014

The Germans are laughing in my bloody pool bar so I won't be there this year ...


... but I try again next year!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Roaming in the gloaming

Roaming is the word used to describe using your mobile phone on another network for a short period, while still being billed by your existing provider. Your mobile phone number remains the same while roaming. When you are roaming on another network the temporary mobile phone company will bill your usual mobile phone company for calls you make while roaming on their network. (Note: It is important to note that even calls you receive while roaming when you are overseas may be charged to you and not to the caller.)

Here's my advice: DON'T ROAM! Using your Australian mobile phone in Indonesia and switching to roaming can be prohibitively expensive. I have heard of instances where a tourist's roaming bill amounted to more than all his airfares and hotel expenses combined!

What to do?

1) As soon as you arrive in Bali (or wherever), remove your Australian SIM card from your mobile phone. (Keep it in a safe place as you will want to re-insert it as soon you have arrived back in Australia.)

2) Buy a prepaid Indonesian phone card. They come in various denominations and start from as low as Rp.6000 (about 60 cents) and you can always top up later on. The "3" card has the most extensive coverage in Bali. Other providers may offer better coverage in other parts of Indonesia. The "3" card is sold in countless shops all over the island.

3) Insert the new phone card in your mobile phone. Now call your friends and tell them your new mobile number which is written on the wrapper of the card. All incoming calls while in Indonesia are FREE, regardless of where they originate. You pay the local rate for local calls and a very low rate for calls to Australia. Unlike home, your Indonesian SIM card is prepaid so there is no need for a contract. On completion of each call, the provider sends you an SMS which tells you how much credit you have left. You can top up your credit by paying an additional amount of money at any one of the many shops selling the "3" card.

Please note: the shopkeeper who sells you the card will probably tell you but just in case he doesn't, here's how you make an overseas call (e.g. to Australia): dial 01088, followed by the country code for Australia 61, followed by the area code, say 2 for Sydney, followed by the actual phone number.

P.S. Your Indonesia SIM Card requires a SIM-unlocked GSM 1800 compatible international cell phone. If you have a locked compatible GSM phone, you can easily unlock it. To do so, visit

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Banjar Hills Retreat is now under German management


My favourite hide-away in the cool hills of northern Bali has been for many years the small Banjar Hills Retreat - read here how I first discovered it.

It has recently come under German management. Ralf Pelzner and Anke Sawalies came to Bali for the very first time five months ago. Back in Germany they had been waxing bodies - see here - , now they are waxing lyrical about Bali. After just one night's stay, they had fallen in love with Banjar Hills and leased it for the next two years with an option to buy (of course, no foreigner in Indonesia can "buy" real estate which is something else they've yet to discover - click here).

As they don't speak the local language, know nothing of the local customs, and, most important of all, have not yet been confronted by the everchanging imigrasi rules which require them to maintain valid residency permits and working visas, they're facing many problems, all of which reminds me of this little story:

The Devil appeared to a man on his deathbed. “I’m going to give you a choice between Heaven and Hell,” he said. “And just to make it fair, I’m going to let you see them first.”

And there it was, Heaven, just as it was supposed to be: halos, harps, the lot; pleasant but dull.

Hell, however, looked terrific: drinking, music, dancing girls.

“I’ll take Hell,” the man said.

After he had died, though, Hell turned out to be exactly what you would have imagined it to be in the first place: flames, screams, demons, pitchforks.

“Wait a minute,” the man complained, “this isn’t what it looked like before.”

“No,” the Devil said, “but then you were a visitor; now you're a resident.”

I had blogged about their potential problems but was immediately shouted down by them in an email full of capitalised letters, even though only a few months earlier I had given them a well-meaning recommendation on Well, it didn't assuage Ralf's fierce Teutonic anger. "UNVERSCHÄMTHEIT!!!" (impertinence), he screamed in capitalised umlauts and demanded that I IMMEDIATELY take down his facebook photo which, even though in the public domain, is, according to him, "VERBOTEN" under German law to be shown anywhere else.

Well, Ralf, as an "inn-keeper" you had better get used to being a public figure who can no longer invoke Lèse-majesté! However, I do realise it's time for me to find myself another Bali hide-away, one that is run by charming Balinese, and leave Banjar Hills Retreat to those Germans and their laws! Which is just as well because Ralf has already put up the room rate by 30% to 450,000 - that's rupiahs not Deutsch-Marks!