BALI - July 1978

Sanur beach on 16th July 1978

Sanur beach on 16th July 1978

14th July 1978

I got a flight to Bali on Friday evening with Andrew S and Mr Lesmana, an artist who had been commissioned as an agent to secure paintings and sculpture for the Mandarin Hotel. At Bali we were met by Chandra, one of Lesmana's artist friends, and he drove us away very slowly in an enormous old yank-tank. It had a blown gasket and rattled and puffed.

We stayed at the Normada Hotel next to Sanur Beach, quite typical for Bali having an open air restaurant and a series of bungalows or chalets around a garden with flowers, palm trees and creepers. Bali had one multi-storey square-block hotel near Sanur beach but it looked so hideous that the planning rules were tightened so that no building could be higher than the palm trees. Sculptures were everywhere, some displayed for tourists to buy. The doors to our rooms were highly carved and there were carved stone panels in various places.

Sanur tended to be more expensive than Kuta and appealed to the richer more mature people such as businessmen from Hong Kong or Singapore. Kuta had better surf and a sandier beach and appealed to younger people, particularly the Aussie back-packers and surfers. There was a village beyond Kuta called Legian that I preferred as it was almost undeveloped at the time and had a pretty new hotel called the Legian Beach Hotel. The road from kuta was only a track between the woods in 1978 but when I returned in 1982 it had been merged with brash Kuta and there were wooden cafes and souvenir stalls all along the road.

In Sanur we usually got breakfast brought to our rooms, possibly fifty yards or more, and on this occasion we seemed to be the only guests. Kuta on the other hand was pretty uncivilised with pop music and basic rooms with no frills.

There were plans to develop Nusa Dua in the south of Bali but it was just wasteland at the time. Now it is a major tourist area. The Balinese have succeeded to a large extent in keeping tourists all together in the south of the island.

15th July 1978

In the morning we hired a car with driver (another old yank-tank) and set off to see the wood carver. Of course he hadn't started, there were just tree trunks on the ground but he promised to start immediately. Lesmana's full-size sketches were pinned to the wall and discussed.

Sinteg's family compound near Ubud on 15th July 1978

Sinteg's family compound near Ubud on 15th July 1978

We moved on to Ubud and walked along a track to a nearby village to see Sinteg who was to do some pictures. He lived in a family compound alongside a simple dried mud and gravel track. Old men squatted at the side of the track talking and caressing their fighting cocks. Pigs, geese and chickens ran around in the walled compound and rice was being threshed on the ground.

I don't think tourists often came into these kampung or village areas much, the locals seemed curious about strangers. At one place we disturbed an old man bathing naked in a stream. Instead of turning away or sitting down in the water he covered his private parts with his hand and just stared at us.

At the end of the track near Ubud there was a studio belonging to a Spanish artist called Antonio Blanco who had been there for about twenty years. He sold his paintings for vast sums abroad, some were inevitably very erotic nude studies. He charged $5,000 for a portrait. They were superb, but Victor M built a complete Balinese house for 6,000. In fact Victor married Blanco's sister-in law, both local Balinese girls (see Interhash '82). We visited Antonio and he seemed a real eccentric with his wiry body and piercing eyes, dressed in loose cardigan, beret, slippers and red neckerchief, talking rubbish.

After lunch we returned to the wood carver who had roughed out one of the cherubs for a vulgar Michaelangelo-type sculpture that was to go in the lobby bar. I don't think Andrew liked it much but felt duty-bound to accept it.

We went to look at the Tanjung Sari, an informal group of bungalows around a landscaped garden that we had wanted to stay in, but it was full. Later we went to the 1973 Bali Hyatt Hotel - a really big hotel designed by Palmer and Turner, the same architects as the Mandarin Hotel. It was a revelation. As chunky blocks were out of the question they had designed all the kitchens and so on virtually below ground. The ground floor was one huge open-sided lobby like a barn with over-size bamboo and thatch roof, sculptures, etc.

The rooms were in four-storey conventional blocks to one side surrounded by palm trees. Outside were beautiful floodlit landscaped gardens leading onto the beach. This design was feasible in Bali, that day was a typically balmy 80 degrees F with a slight breeze and fresh sea air, not at all stuffy like Jakarta.

We went for dinner at the Swaztika Restaurant in Sanur, a typical open-air place in a walled garden with bamboo thatched shelters. We had a lobster each and a baked fish between three, then ice cream. Paradise.

Lesmana asked the taxi driver to take us somewhere for a massage, but the driver returned saying he couldn't find a place, (or didn't want to) so we went to bed. I didn't want a massage anyway. Apparently the Jakarta government had been trying to ban vice and massage parlours for some time. They still existed but perhaps the taxi driver was trying to follow the government line. I thought that the Balinese disliked the Javanese a bit anyway so he probably didn't want to be helpful.

16th July 1978

One advantage of Sanur is the view of Gunung Agung (Bali's highest and sacred mountain) across the water. It was a bit hazy that day but often looked lovely in the early morning sun. Indonesian families were out with their children for a walk or swimming before tourists got up. Sanur has rather sharp coral sand, Kuta is less hard on the feet.

Lesmana appeared with a heavily bandaged foot. Indonesians are used to squatting over a hole in the floor when they shit. When they are given a wc they squat on the china rim even though it must be slippery or uncomfortable. In this case the rim had broken and he had got cut. The wc was wrecked and we had a joke about it and I took a photo.

The women's pool at Pujung on 16th July 1978

The women's pool at Pujung on 16th July 1978

We visited the wood carver again who had started on the other cherub, then went on beyond Ubud. At one village Lesmana wanted to go down a steep, stony, bumpy track to see an artist at another village but the driver wasn't keen. Westre, Lesmana's agent in Bali, paid a small Colt bus to divert from its route for us.

We went towards Pujung and got out on a hillside overlooking a large carved stone bathing pools and clothes-washing pools. We waved to the bare-breasted women to ensure they had seen us so that they didn't mind if we took photos.

After lunch we visited the disused royal bathing pools near a main road which weren't as interesting as the ones being used at Pujung. Returning to the wood-carver we found he had started on the main female centrepiece. On the way back to Sanur we passed a woman with a large load on her head walking along next to fields. A common enough sight except that she had hitched up her sarong, spread her legs apart and was having a piss standing up, still balancing the load on her head. It was difficult I suppose to take the load off and go down to some more secluded place.

We went to the Bali Hyatt for a drink, then went to Kuta for a meal. Don G, an Australian, had recommended The Pub but this was a typical Aussie drinking bar with no food so we went to Lenny's. I had a reasonable beef and cauliflower, chinese style, while Andrew and Lesmana has steaks that they waited ages for and were very tough. We stayed away from Kuta on later visits.

Bali photos - July 1978
Bali photos - August 1978 and February 1979
Bali photos - April 1979
Bali photos - March 1980
Bali photos - Interhash '82