Ode to Pemuteran

Pemuteran is a gently developed fishing village in the north-west of Bali, with a quiet and refined lassitude that I liked. It has spacious, elegant resorts which are currently great value, umbrageous trees on the sand, inexpensive guest houses and warungs, unbelievable snorkelling, and proximity to many activities associated with Bali’s sole national park.  Not a beach hawker in sight.  It’s a great base for a trip to climb the great volcanoes of Eastern Java, Mount Bromo and Ijen. And it’s a model of community eco-tourism. But damn this village hurt during COVID, and tourism is only slowly coming back.  I promised the friends I made there to give the place a plug, so here it is.

Continue reading “Ode to Pemuteran”

18 good places to stay in Bali, none of them in Kuta

I’m off to Bali and Java soon.  An instructress too and as I gathered together for her some good places to stay in Bali today, I thought to share them with you; my other post about Bali is lost in the increasingly large archives.  Brush up on the Schapelle Corby saga before you go to improve discussions with taxi drivers.

 South Coast Desa Seni (Canggu: the far western extremity of the Kuta connurbation) Hotel Tugu (Canggu) Tandjung Sari (Sanur, not quite part of the Kuta connurbation) This cliff-top home in Bingin on the Bukit Peninsula (surfing territory) Mu Bali in the same region.

East Coast Seraya Shores

North Coast Taman Selini (Permuteran) Cilik’s Beach Garden (Yeh Sanih)

In the middle Taman Bebek (in Sayan, bordering Ubud) Murni’s House (central Ubud) The Tjampuhan (central Ubud) Bambu Indah (outer Ubud) Bali Eco Stay (Mt Batakaru) Bali Eco Lodge (Mt Batakaru) This Ubud home on Airbnb or this one, nearby. Or this one, or any of the same owner’s properties. This homestay ($55 per night) near Ubud.    

I lent a Malian bean lady $25

Mali is a great place.  When I was young, I once met a now-famous architect, Kai Uwe-Bergmann, in Casablanca, and we decided to travel together, commencing next day, to Timbuktoo, which we did, up the Niger River, in a pirogue.  There was a time when the Niger River was so big it was as if we were at sea.  No shores to be seen.  Now, I yearn to go back to attend a Festival au Desert.  We also rode horses with some Peace Corps folk through Dogon Country, a place so fascinating that it gives rise to the joke ‘Q: How many people in a traditional Dogon family?  A: Five. 2 parents, 2 children, and one French anthropologist.’  Sounds like the crowds have descended now, and there is even an eccentric hotel.  But that is all by way of self-indulgent explanation of why, when I re-discovered the website Kiva a few months ago, I chose some Malian women from the Niger River town, Segou, who wanted extra capital with which to diversify their wares, principally beans in the case of the group’s leader, to lend $25 to. I would hope that most readers of this blog would have heard of Muhammed Yunus, the Bangladeshi founder of the Grameen Bank, and of micro-credit more generally.  He won a Nobel prize. Kiva is a newish web-based form of micro-credit which allows rich Joe Bloes to lend small amounts of money directly to poor Joe Bloes and know what they are going to do with it.  Kiva runs the website and arranges the transfer of funds to and from the microcredit agencies they partner with, and those agencies actually administer the loan on the ground.  Below, I have proposed that we join together to lend to a Mongolian taxi driver who lives in a ger, which is, as you probably know, the Mongolian yurt. Continue reading “I lent a Malian bean lady $25”

The travels of food

Like the tuna, I’m going across the seas, to a new nation whose Prime Minister is the Che Guevara of our time, a charismatic guerrilla poet reluctantly coaxed into power from time to time by his people who aspires instead to tend his garden. Now Alain de Botton is a good writer.  Consider, for example The Art of Travel. His latest work, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work (Hamish Hamilton, 2009) does not really live up to its title, but is brilliant in parts.  Why a photographic essay on the less than 60 hour journey of a tuna caught in the Maldives on its way from Indonesia to Somalia, to the Bristol dinner table of Linda Drummond, accompanied all the way by de Botton, is in a book called The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work is an interesting question, but I am glad it was:

‘The tuna has never been this far out of the water, has never seen light this bright, but he knows instinctively that he will drown in so much air.  The fishermen need him to stop flooding his arteries with blood in panic, or he will darken, and therefore ruin, the appearance of his flesh against a dinner plate.  So the captain’s brother swiftly wrestles him between his rubber boots and raises aloft a large, blunt mallet, resembling the archetypal club of a prehistoric man, carved from the trunk of a coconut tree.  He brings it down heavily.  The tuna’s eyes jerk out of their sockets.  His tail convulses.  His jaw opens and closes, as ours might do, but no scream emerges.  The mallet strikes again.  … The fisherman is himself enraged now, striking the beast vengefully, cursing the dying creature in Dhivehi: ‘Nagoobablba, nagoobablba, hey aruvaalaanan (‘Bitch, bitch, you’ve had it now’).  This is the first tuna he has caught in eight days, and there are six children waiting at home.’

A little similar is Dutch conceptual artist Christien Meindert’s Pig 05049, which follows the transformation of a single pig into many different and surprising things.  I got onto it via this article, which says this, amongst other things:

‘The bladder becomes the skin of a tambourine. Haemoglobin goes into cigarette filters, and is added to ham to enhance its appearance. From pig’s bone fat we get antifreeze, floor wax, toothpaste, crayons, anti-wrinkle cream, make-up foundation, and hair conditioner.  And even bullets. Gelatine from pig bones helps move gunpowder into shell casings.’

On Vanuatu

Paul Theroux is a travel writer I like. Good travellers who are good writers are a rare breed.  I only know of one other instance (a childhood infatuation with Gerald Durrell aside): Eric Newby, author of A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, and that precursor to so many lesser books, A Small Place in Italy.  Theroux’s Happy Isles of Oceania is a good book.  Largely unimpressed by the South Pacific islanders’ ultimate acquiescence to missionaries and, worse, Mormonism, by their nowadays inability to navigate beyond the inner reef, by their infatuation with enormous tins of fatty low-grade corned beef, and pissed off after the breakup of his first marriage, he told it like he saw it.  Many South Pacific nations are still muttering loudly.  But he was charmed by the ni-Vanuatu.  And so will you be if you grab a cheap flight to Port Vila, hop on a freighter for Tanna just for the adventure (most people fly to Tanna in one of Air Vanuatu’s gleaming new jets), and stay at the Rocky Ridge Bungalows of my new friends, Tom and Margaret Naieu.

So impressed was I by Tom and Margaret and this new accommodation whose gardens are pictured that I made them a website.  Their bungalows are basic but charming, within and yet separate from the picturesque village of Iwiak. At well under $100 a night, they come with the enormous advantage that you do not feel like you are paying through the nose, a problem at Tom’s tenants’ place, the adjacent award winning White Grass Resort, where I stayed.  You can sit gazing over the same views White Grass boasts about from Tom’s simple but good dining room as the sun goes down over the darkening ocean, and eat a lobster one of his boys has just scooped off the bottom of the sea floor.  Or you can walk along a sun-dappled path through the littoral forest and eat with Japanese opera singers and successful salesmen from Frankston at White Grass’s dining room — it’s one of the most beautiful and most beautifully situated dining rooms I have ever seen.  The ‘Blue Hole 2’ snorkelling heaven White Grass Resort advertises is in fact accessed from Rocky Ridge Bungalows, and it craps on the snorkelling at the other places I stayed. Continue reading “On Vanuatu”

Ode to Dunalley

I took a holiday in Dunnalley, on the way from Hobart to Port Arthur, just 3 days after the Legal Profession Act, 2007 (Tas) finally came into operation on New Year’s Eve (more at the end of the post). Dunalley’s my kind of place: a tiny fishing village full of geraniums, a few remaining fishing boats, a waterfront cafe cum second hand store, a spectacular beach, a general store with a large collection of hunting magazines, a considerably above average (but not quite excellent) bakery, a post office with a keen cottage gardener at the helm, a superficially picturesque pub, a couple of beautifully situated and almost untouristed wineries, rural drives through countryside akin to my 7 year old imagination of The County when reading Tolkien punctuated by little roadside stalls selling cherries and raspberries worthy of interstate travel, many magpies, and a 40 minute drive from Hobart (and the Jackman + McRoss bakery in particular) and more or less entirely unknown to Google.

But it is the Dunalley Fish Market which made me fall in love with the place, in this era when buying fresh fish caught by fishermen in fishing villages seems inexplicably difficult. Every day or so, I got into our sardine can-like hire car and drove to the end of the road to the ramshackle place which is perched on the side of the bay, and purchased some fresh fish, or a $4 tub of ‘fish pate’, or some smoked octopus, or some excellent fish and chips, or shucked as you wait oysters, or lobsters — live or freshly cooked. One enchantingly laconic individual who commutes from Hobart runs the place. Presumably it is his Elvis posters which interrupt the otherwise marine decor.

If all that appeals to you, go stay at my mate’s inlaws’ quiet and beautiful place, Potter’s Croft, and have my mate Gus and his wife Vanessa take you on one of their incredible guided tours of a giant private property called Bangor with 35 km of spectacular coastline which has been in the same family since white settlement. Continue reading “Ode to Dunalley”