BALI - August 1978 and February 1979

27th August 1978

I had booked to fly via Bali to Darwin and on to Brisbane via Ayers Rock to see my uncle and cousins. Merpati seemed to be the only airline flying to Darwin, but when I checked they had delayed the Bali flight by nine hours but the Darwin flight was not delayed, so I booked a Garuda flight to Bali a day early on Sunday 27th August.

I did not trust Merpati so I went to their offices at Kemayoran airport and asked them to confirm the flight to Darwin. I was told it was at 8 am, twenty five minutes earlier than scheduled. I was sure they didn't check, they just told me something to keep me happy.

I got the Garuda flight to Bali and it landed at Yogyakarta. Just after we took off the steward said we would be passing close to Mount Merapi in about two minutes. I was on the other side of the plane so I stood up. Immediately, after much less than two minutes, I saw the ground pass by the window, so close I could see individual stones and bushes, literally at wing-tip distance. It was all in early morning sunshine, a lovely sight. I reached for my camera but realised it was passing too quickly. I did get photos of Mount Bromo later though.

Legian Beach Hotel on 28th August 1978

Legian Beach Hotel on 28th August 1978

I went to the Legian Beach Hotel where I had been booked in and rang Merpati. They said the Darwin flight had been delayed until Tuesday, which would mean that I would miss my Alice Springs connection. The Merpati man said he would telex Darwin to see if I could get on the Wednesday flight from Darwin. I felt stranded in Bali, but what a place to be stranded! I went to the beach to discover that hardly any girls were wearing bikini tops. Several men were naked and one fat middle-aged woman. I wondered if my secretary Erna knew where she had booked me in.

On Monday I rang Merpati again to see if my Darwin flight to Alice Springs had been resheduled, but he had had no reply because of a telex and international telephones strike in Australia. It seemed that the Merpati flight had been delayed because they only had one old Boeing 707 and it had a problem rumoured to be lack of fuel in Hawaii. Younger girls totally naked that day.

Tuesday. I went to the airport where we hung around and were given lunch, then told the flight had been delayed until Wednesday because of the lack of a co-pilot (reason not given). We were bussed to Pertamina Cottages Hotel, an expensive hotel. Passengers were by now beginning to know one another and I agreed to share a room with an American mormon medic who was also going to Ayers Rock and had also missed his flight.

Wednesday. We are bussed to the airport and the plane was there, but still no message for me regarding my resheduled flight to Alice Springs. We took off and had an uneventful flight to Darwin where we both managed to get on the afternoon flight to Alice Springs.

Lesmana, his wife and grandchild with Andrew S and Ramin's sculptures for the Mandarin Hotel on 9th February 1979

Lesmana, his wife and grandchild with Andrew S and
Ramin's sculptures for the Mandarin Hotel on 9th February 1979

9th February 1979

I left for Bali in the evening of Thursday 8th February 1979 with Andrew S as he wanted to inspect the artwork for the Mandarin Hotel. Mr Lesmana, the artist and agent, came as well. It was a long weekend as it was a national holiday on Friday. We booked into the Gazebo, a pretty small hotel with thatched bungalows in a garden near Sanur Beach. Rooms were about 9,000 rp per night and breakfast about 1,500 rp.

On Friday we went with Westre, Lesmana's agent in Bali, to see the coral sculptures by Ramin. Andrew wanted them taller and slimmer on higher bases, but they were too low and wide. Then we went on to Sinteg the Ubud artist to see some paintings for Don G but he hadn't got any finished. Lunch was in Ubud at the restaurant with the bamboo and thatch ceiling that we liked. In the evening we went to the Swaztika restaurant.

On Saturday we went to Klungkung to see some antique doors that Lesmana might buy. They were the typical Bali doors, a pair of planks with much carving, forming a pair of narrow doors with a carved headpiece. Then on to Besakih, Bali's holiest temple where we hired sarongs to visit the temple.

We returned towards Denpasar to see Westre's home. He was a waiter at the Bali Hyatt who Lesmana had met and did some liason work for Lesmana as an extra income. He no doubt got handsome tips at a hotel that big. His house was what we would call a spec-built estate house, except Bali-style. Inside it was all plastic skirtings nailed on, net or plastic curtains, chrome this and plastic that.

Outside, his house was beautiful. It was made of traditional materials and he had had three enormous brick and carved stone piers built in the front garden for religious offerings. He was having a dining room extension built and had bought an expensive TV/radio/cassette machine with Lesmana's money (all paid out of Lesmana's commission from the Mandarin Hotel development). Compared to the poverty of Sinteg's thatch and rattan home it was luxurious and Westre was still young enough to make a lot more money. The house cost one million rupiahs (800) to build. What English waiter could buy a house like that outright without a mortgage at a young age?

Lesmana was building a house for himself and Ramin seemed to be taking it easy, so profits must have been good. In the evening we went to the Marco restaurant, then on to the Bali Hyatt where there was soothing gamelin music down by the pool where people were having an al-fresco buffet.

Lesmana went back to Jakarta so Andrew and I went by hired car to Mengwi, a big temple on Sunday 11th February. A priest was placing food offerings at various places and every time he moved away a dog jumped up and ate them.

Tanah Lot on 11th February 1979

Tanah Lot on 11th February 1979

We went on to Tanah Lot, a temple on an island cut off at high tide. Our driver didn't like the rough track so we had to get in a bemo for the last bit from the main road. Our driver asked what the cost was and was told 2,500 rp for two. We knew that the standard charge for locals was 50 rp each. After bargaining we got it down to 1,500 rp for two.

Tanah Lot was very spectacular, especially as the tide was in. We started walking across the shallow water but the sea floor was very bumpy and we felt we would fall over. Other people paid for a piggy-back. We still had to pay 100 rp to be led across and at the temple we had to pay 100 rp for a sarong and 100 rp for the priest's offering.

We walked in the water around the rocks into a cave and looked up into holes above the water line where poisonous sea snakes were sleeping.

On the way back to the bemo we were accosted by a young girl again trying to sell souvenirs. She kept saying pitifully "You say you come back to me, you PROMISE". Tough, we didn't buy anything but they certainly prey on your emotions and don't give up easily. She almost certainly made the coral chains and necklaces herself.

We returned to the hotel, walked along the beach to the Taverna and had a pizza. Dinner at the Swaztika again and another drink at the Bali Hyatt but Westre wasn't there.

We were woken at 3.30 am on Monday for our early flight back to Jakarta, a bit too early so I sat around listening to the birds. Westre arrived unexpectedly and said the truck would not be able to leave for Jakarta that day because permissions had not been given. It didn't matter that much as the Mandarin Hotel's best suite wasn't quite ready to receive them. We left for the airport at 4.30 am.

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