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At the end of February 2016 Wendy and I took a package deal to visit Bali.  These days almost everyone knows that Bali is a smallish island off the east tip of Java in the Southern Indonesian archipelago, just south of the equator.  Longitudinally it's just to the west of Perth, not a huge distance from Darwin.  The whole Island chain is highly actively volcanic with regular eruptions that quite frequently disrupt air traffic. Bali is well watered, volcanic, fertile and very warm year round, with seasons defined by the amount of rain.

 

Bali Bali2
Bali3 Bali4

Aspects of Bali

 

I had not been to Bali since 1973 and it has changed remarkably.  Back then Bali was low on the tourist agenda and the only tourists we saw there were fellow travellers from the ship we were on - the P&O steamship Orion, on our way from Sydney to Singapore.  There was no wharf for cruise ships, so we moored in jungle lined harbour where there was a small jetty and used the ships boats to come and go. We were the biggest thing to hit the island for some days or perhaps weeks.  A collection of motorbikes with side cars and what are today generically called tuk-tuks met each boat arrival and took us off to see temples and to Ubud and Denpasar where chooks (chickens) ran in the street and colonial buildings decayed. 

The main local tourist oriented enterprise, apart from the motorbike guys, were perfume sellers who each had several litres of each popular scent on a little wagon that they decanted into smaller bottles when a selection was made: 100 ml of Chanel No5 - that will be $5.  At Ubud we bought a primitive carving of a fertility god that was given the name Ubud and went the rounds of friends who thought it might help in their quest to fall pregnant.  Like a borrowed book, eventually Ubud was no longer returned but is out there still, either gathering dust or having his/her belly stroked by another generation.

Suddenly here, the culture was Hindu blended with pre-Hindu animist religion.  There was also a smattering of Muslim Indonesian officials and a few European expats to make things a bit more complicated.  We didn't know much about anything. We took some photos that I can no longer find of tablecloth clad statues.  But my memory of a rainforest interspersed with rice paddies serviced by narrow roads and inhabited by charming small dusky people who seemed to have a great deal of time on their hands for what seemed to be endless religious parades, festivals and observances.   Back in 1973 the total population was less than half that of that today and to naive travellers like us it was an apparent paradise.  Yet appearances are often deceptive, as you will read later.  Less than a decade earlier those same rainforests ran with blood of one of the greatest mass murders of the century and in 1963 the screams of those killed by volcanic pyroclastic flow, similar to that which destroyed Pompeii, echoed down these valleys. 

 

 

 

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Travel

Hong Kong and Shenzhen China

 

 

 

 

 

Following our Japan trip in May 2017 we all returned to Hong Kong, after which Craig and Sonia headed home and Wendy and I headed to Shenzhen in China. 

I have mentioned both these locations as a result of previous travels.  They form what is effectively a single conurbation divided by the Hong Kong/Mainland border and this line also divides the population economically and in terms of population density.

These days there is a great deal of two way traffic between the two.  It's very easy if one has the appropriate passes; and just a little less so for foreign tourists like us.  Australians don't need a visa to Hong Kong but do need one to go into China unless flying through and stopping at certain locations for less than 72 hours.  Getting a visa requires a visit to the Chinese consulate at home or sitting around in a reception room on the Hong Kong side of the border, for about an hour in a ticket-queue, waiting for a (less expensive) temporary visa to be issued.

With documents in hand it's no more difficult than walking from one metro platform to the next, a five minute walk, interrupted in this case by queues at the immigration desks.  Both metros are world class and very similar, with the metro on the Chinese side a little more modern. It's also considerably less expensive. From here you can also take a very fast train to Guangzhou (see our recent visit there on this website) and from there to other major cities in China. 

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Fiction, Recollections & News

The Book of Mormon

 

 

 

 

Back in the mid 1960's when I was at university and still living at home with my parents in Thornleigh, two dark suited, white shirted, dark tied, earnest young men, fresh from the United States, appeared at our door.

Having discovered that they weren't from IBM my mother was all for shooing them away.  But I was taking an interest in philosophy and psychology and here were two interesting examples of religious fervour.

As I often have with similar missionaries (see: Daniel, the Jehovah’s Witness in Easter on this Website), I invited them in and they were very pleased to tell me about their book.  I remember them poised on the front of our couch, not daring or willing to sit back in comfort, as they eagerly told me about their revelation.  

And so it came to pass that a week ago when we travelled to Melbourne to stay with my step-son Lachlan and his family and to see the musical: The Book of Mormon I was immediately taken back to 1964.

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Opinions and Philosophy

Sum; estis; sunt

(I am; you are; they are)

 

 

What in the World am I doing here?

'Once in a while, I'm standing here, doing something.  And I think, "What in the world am I doing here?" It's a big surprise'
-   Donald Rumsfeld US Secretary of Defence - May 16, 2001, interview with the New York Times

As far as we know humans are the only species on Earth that asks this question. And we have apparently been asking it for a good part of the last 100,000 years.

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