Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Best of Bali According to Lonely Planet

by Barrie | August 17th, 2011  

There are people who swear by guide books and the value of their usage. Where in part I agree with the value of them in so much as things to see and do, most of the time you will find that a lot of things are out of date by the time the guide book is published. This mainly applies to hotels, restaurants, entrance fees to local attractions and the ilk. It’s a fact of life that hotel prices rise and restaurants shut and new ones open up.

The traveller’s bible is without a doubt Lonely Planet and so often you see travellers lugging these tomes around the streets or browsing through them at departure lounges in airports. What is interesting is Lonely Planet have just released a list of 25 things visitors to Bali and Lombok should do and see. Although it is a relatively short list there is so much more on the island.

Further Reading:

A Few Things to Do in Ubud
Exploring the Markets of Kuta & Denpasar
6 Offbeat Things to do in Bali
Places to Visit in Northern Bali
Things to Do in Central Bali
Things to See and do in East Bali
Things to Do in South Bali
Things to Do in West Bali
Things to Do in Nusa Dua

Two Upcoming Events in Bali

by Barrie | August 25th, 2011  

One thing I enjoy when travelling is attending festivals, carnivals or fairs. Not only are they a great way to experience the local culture and customs but there is always good food available! Besides, it’s a good way to meet people and interact with the residents. Bali, being tourism generated, has a lot of festivals throughout the year. A majority of these festivals are excellent for families on holiday in Bali and most are a definite must-see mainly because of what they have to offer.

There are two excellent upcoming events that truly are not to be missed. One is geared for those who are just lovers of literature and the other, for those who enjoy the botanical. One of the best events on the island of Bali has to be the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival. Now in its 8th year, the festival will be held in over 50 venues around Ubud. The theme for this year’s Festival is “Nandurin Karang Awak: Cultivate the Land Within”

The 8th International Ubud Writers & Readers Festival will take place from 5th – 9th October 2011. Since its beginning I have only managed to attend one of these great festivals and believe me it is well worth the visit. What I like about the festival is that is has so much to offer. There is a wide range of writing related workshops for adults such as travel writing, writing for the media, editing and publishing, memoir writing, short story writing and novel writing.

The second event also promises to be spectacular to visit and enjoy; especially if you are botanically minded. The Flower Fiesta – National Festival of Flowers and Plants will be held on Sanur’s Matahari Beach in Bali November 19-22, 2011. It certainly will prove to be well worth attending as 190 different regions from across Indonesia have already registered to participate in the fiesta.

Muslim Americans Most Tolerant in United States

By Muqtedar Khan

A superficial study of the media coverage in the past two years conveys a misleading picture about the state of American Muslims and their relationship with the rest of the nation. The terrible attack on Fort Hood by Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the attempted June 2010 bombing of Times Square, the shrill rhetoric and legislative activism of the anti-sharia brigade, and the incessant targeting of Islam and Muslims by conservative politicians, media personalities and political entrepreneurs all combine to suggest that life for Muslims in America must be tough.

But on the contrary, large sample surveys and in-depth studies conducted recently provide a more complex and optimistic picture about Muslim American reality, especially when it comes to three of the most talked-about issues: radicalisation, American Muslims’ perceptions of the United States and religious tolerance.

A US Department of Justice study about Muslim American radicalisation conducted in 2010 by researchers from two North Carolina universities argued that terrorism actually committed by American Muslims was surprisingly low. They attributed this low number to the anti-radicalisation efforts of various Muslim communities and mosques in the United States. This in-depth study not only reassures law enforcement agencies that the fear of Muslim radicalism in America is overblown, but it also underscores the reality that US mosques are allies in the struggle against extremism – not a source of extremism as some right-wing pundits and politicians insist.

When it comes to how American Muslims perceive America, there is more that is surprising. Another study, “Muslim Americans: Faith Freedom and the Future”, a large sample survey conducted over a period of two years by Gallup, reveals that American Muslims – more than members of any other community – claim that they are “thriving in America”. This is a remarkable condition for a community which is under so much scrutiny from the media, law enforcement and the US Congress itself.

Neither bad economy nor odious politics seem to faze American Muslims’ faith in America. Eight out of ten American Muslims approve of US President Barack Obama, whose overall approval ratings are at the lowest point since he assumed the presidency, and American Muslims have the most confidence in the honesty of the American political system, more than any other religious community.

But perhaps the findings on religious tolerance offer the most reason for optimism. The Gallup report found that American Muslims are, along with Mormons, the most religiously tolerant of groups. Only eight per cent of American Muslims feel estranged from other faiths, while 92 per cent of them are “tolerant” or “tolerant and accepting” of other faiths!

I suspect that this high regard for pluralism is actually a reflection of holding a high regard for religion itself. Muslims who attach a great deal of significance to their faith naturally have an affinity towards those who share their reverence for God.

I hope that those Americans who are being misled by the so-called anti-sharia initiatives in the United States read this report. It casts serious doubts on the assertions that Muslims – members of America’s most tolerant religious community – aspire to impose their faith on others.

Finally, there is an interesting sub-story in this report, especially for those Muslims who believe that all Jews are “out to get” Islam and Muslims. According to the Gallup poll, American Jews more than any other group recognise the prevailing Islamophobia and prejudice against Muslims in America. In fact, 80 per cent of American Jews, next only to American Muslims (93 per cent), believe that American Muslims are loyal to America. Of all religious communities, Jewish Americans are least likely to believe that American Muslims might be Al Qaeda sympathisers. Both Muslims and Jews in America also have very similar views about the Arab-Israeli conflict: 78 per cent of Jews and 81 percent of Muslims support the vision of a Palestinian state coexisting alongside Israel.

I hope these findings give further impetus to the Muslim-Jewish dialogue and relations in the United States.

As we reflect on the tragedy of 9/11 and its aftermath, I hope we allow facts and reality to shape our thinking and reject the dark incitements that led to the tragedy in Norway.

Dr. Muqtedar Khan is Associate Professor at the University of Delaware and a Fellow of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. He is the author of American Muslims: Bridging Faith and Freedom and his website is

Filed under: Opinion

Hotels Awarded For Treatment of Staff


Three Bali hotels were among businesses recognised by the Labour Ministry in a recent awards ceremony for employer-employee relations.

Hotel Melia in Nusa Dua, Amankila in Candidasa and Sanur Paradise received the award at a ceremony in Jakarta last week.

Businesses from other parts of Indonesia included manufacturing and sales companies, but all three Bali-based awardees were hotels.

“The selection criteria include the level of communications openness between management and employees, as well as the extent of management’s willingness to fulfil obligations to the employees and vice versa,” said Putu Satyawira Mahendra, a member of staff at the Melia who collected the award on behalf of the hotel.

Mahendra, who is also the Badung representative of the Indonesian Hotel Workers Union, said he hoped other hotels would follow the example of the award-winners, and to improve treatment of staff, and allow employees to form unions.

“Only 10 percent of companies in Bali have a fully functional workers’ union,” he said, adding that in Badung only 55 of the 2,500 registered tourism businesses had unionised staff.

Filed under: Headlines

Hindu Leaders Back Smoking Ban


Members of the Bali division of the Parisada Hindu Dharma Indonesia (PHDI), Indonesia’s main Hindu organisation, said on Tuesday that they would support moves to ban smoking in all Hindu temples.

Bali chairman of PHDI, I Gusti Ngurah Sudiana, said that as temples were the hub of Balinese Hindu society, they should be kept smoke-free. He said that entire temple complexes, rather than just the inner sanctums, should remain free from cigarette smoke.

“Essentially, anywhere in the temple area should be free of cigarettes, not just the middle or inner temple,” he said.

Sudiana was speaking during a meeting with government officials in Denpasar on Tuesday to discuss developing an island-wide series of anti-smoking policies, entitled Commitment to Development and Application of No Smoking Zone Policy. He said that avoiding smoking in temple grounds would help to heighten spirituality, as the temples were supposed to be sacred places.

He said smoking had already been totally banned during temple ceremonies in Sanur Kauh and Tembau villages in the Denpasar municipality.

Meanwhile, Dr Rohani Budi of the Data Processing and Information Centre told the meeting that treating smoking related health issues in Indonesia was costing an average of Rp186 trillion (US$21.3 billion) each year.

“This amount is triple the cigarette tax revenue obtained by the government each year, which amounts to Rp62 trillion (US$7.3 billion),” he said.

“Based on data from a recent survey conducted by the Ministry of Health, each year 265 billion cigarettes are produced by official factories in Indonesia,” Budi said, adding that total revenues from tobacco were thought to be in the region of Rp250 trillion (US$29.3 billion), though most of that money stays with the producers.

Filed under: Headlines

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Garuda Keeps Abreast of Attendants

by Barrie | August 26th, 2011  

If you like flying, internationally and domestically, and have an urge for a vocation change and like the idea of being a flight attendant then make sure you don’t have more tattoos than Amy Winehouse or your breasts have been modified to enhance their appeal, then applying for a job with Garuda Indonesia Airlines might not be the way to go.

I was mortified to read an article in the West Australian newspaper about the process that prospective flight attendants are put through just to gain clearance to be accepted at ‘flight attendant school’. According to the article, Would-be flight attendants in South Korea have accused Indonesia’s national airline of making them strip nearly naked and have their breasts handled in medical check-ups, provoking a storm of criticism.

The article goes on to say, Several dozen candidates for 18 highly-coveted female flight attendant positions with Garuda Indonesia were required to strip down to their panties to screen out those with tattoos or breast implants.

Seems like just an excuse for some people to enjoy a good perv on what are obviously genuine candidates and lovely girls.

Public Opinion, Political Strategies and the New Egypt

By Dr. H.A. Hellyer

There’s a new Egypt now — an Egypt where public opinion actually matters. The country has gone through a tumultuous seven months and Ramadan provides something of a break from politics as Muslim communities engage in a month of fasting and spiritual contemplation.

But parliamentary elections are drawing closer — probably within the next few months — and political actors need to consider their strategies. It is clear that divisions already exist within the revolutionary ranks, between those focused on being agitators and those focused on the elections. Ramadan gives these people the time to discuss, debate and, afterward, to regroup.

Public opinion cannot be ignored like it was under the former regime, even while public opinion does not (yet) rule the country. While political factions are already speaking their minds in the new Egypt, good ideas alone do not make good leaders. Even when they disagree with the public mood, successful politicians must speak to the public’s concerns.

The economy, religion, the military and social media are four of the key issues politicians will need to understand and consider. The Abu Dhabi Gallup Center is now tracking the country’s pivotal transition on a monthly basis — and data from the last few months reveal some intriguing intelligence on those four issues.

Egypt’s political parties have yet to provide fully constructed economic plans — something they are going to need to do quickly. Gallup’s data show Egyptians are more optimistic about the future after the revolution; they want to know how they can improve from this economic situation, which they know will be bumpy in the short term, to a much better one in the future. It is important to emphasise that, according to public polling, the improvement of the economic situation tops all other concerns. No political force can afford not to address it properly.

The role of religion in the public sphere is another key concern — at least in the media — both nationally and internationally. According to Gallup data, there may be some benefit in reconsidering this focus.

Egyptians (Christians and Muslims alike) are generally receptive of other religions; after the Lebanese, they are the most likely population in the Middle East and North Africa to welcome a neighbour of another faith. At the same time, most Egyptians (96 per cent) feel religion is important, which suggests Egyptians may want religion to play a similar role as it does in European countries with established churches — to provide a moral core in the public sphere.

However, a respect for religion does not necessarily translate into an Islamist vision: the main political Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, polls at only 15 per cent support, and less than one per cent identify Iran as Egypt’s political model. Religion need be a fault line only if parties decide to make it one.

Regarding the military, Egyptian media outlets are rife with criticisms of the armed forces on a variety of issues. However, for all of the discontent expressed in different mediums, justified or not, the army enjoys widespread public popularity. Gallup recently found 94 per cent of Egyptians express confidence in the military, something any successful political force will have to consider carefully.

Finally, social media, the impact of which has been so widely publicised, is unlikely to be pivotal in the elections. World Bank figures show one-fifth of Egyptians use the Internet overall, let alone access sites such as Twitter or Facebook. Despite claims to the contrary, 25 January itself was not a ”social media revolution”; only eight per cent of Egyptians say they used Facebook or Twitter to get their news about the protests, according to Gallup’s data. Social media was not then, nor is it now, the core information medium for the average Egyptian. There are no shortcuts in reaching out to that “man on the street,” and all parties must be perceived as trying to do just that.

Ramadan can give political forces a time to strategise, but Ramadan will soon end and elections are nearing. No one can take popular support for granted. Gallup’s data show a majority of Egyptians as political party agnostics, with no party polling more than one-seventh of the population. Those who react strategically to public opinion stand to benefit greatly in this environment; equally, those who underestimate it stand to lose substantially. The time for planning will not come the day after Ramadan — it came the day Mubarak was forced from power. Those who have not realised this need to catch up, fast.

Dr. H.A. Hellyer is Senior Analyst at the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center (UAE)/Gallup Center for Muslim Studies (USA), and Fellow at the Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations at the University of Warwick (UK).

Filed under: Opinion

New Melanoma Drug Approved

A breakthrough drug that could extend survival in some patients with advanced skin cancer has been approved by US regulators, offering the first new treatment for melanoma in 13 years.

Zelboraf was given the nod by the US Food and Drug Administration more than two months early, after a global clinical trial showed it could work better than chemotherapy by targeting a gene mutation found in about half of patients.

While the drug, made by Genentech, a US subsidiary of the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche, is far from a cure for people with metastatic melanoma, its approval was hailed as “a really big deal” by research advocates.

Zelboraf (vemurafenib) is the second melanoma drug to obtain approval this year, following Yervoy (ipilimumab) in March.

The treatment only works in patients with advanced melanoma whose tumors express a gene mutation called BRAF V600E, meaning it could help about 10,000 patients in the United States, according to experts.

Just a few treatments for melanoma currently exist, with little success in extending the life of patients. Most people diagnosed with advanced melanoma die within 11 months, said Tim Turnham of the Melanoma Research Foundation.

“This is a really big deal,” Turnham said. “This is two drugs after 13 years of nothing.”

Zelboraf works by blocking a protein that is involved with cell growth.

“This is a whole new approach to tackling melanoma,” explained Turnham. “This actually goes into the malignant tumor cells and shuts them down.”

The FDA said the approval of Zelboraf comes with a diagnostic test called the cobas 4800 BRAF V600 mutation test to determine if patients have the type of cancer that the drug can treat.

“Today’s approval of Zelboraf and the cobas test is a great example of how companion diagnostics can be developed and used to ensure patients are exposed to highly effective, more personalized therapies in a safe manner,” said Alberto Gutierrez, director of the Office of In Vitro Diagnostic Device Evaluation and Safety in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

The regulatory agency had set a goal of deciding on the drug by late October, but issued the decision early after a promising results from an international trial of 675 patients with late-stage melanoma with the BRAF V600E mutation.

The FDA said that compared to another anti-cancer therapy, dacarbazine, Zelboraf showed longer overall survival, or the length of time between the start of treatment and the patient’s death.

When measuring median survival, those on chemotherapy reached eight months with 64 percent of patients still living, while the median point for Zelboraf “has not been reached (77 percent still living),” the FDA said.

Early findings from that phase-three clinical trial were presented in Chicago at June’s conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

Lead author Paul Chapman, a physician at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, called Zelboraf “the first successful melanoma treatment tailored to patients who carry a specific gene mutation in their tumour.”

Side effects include joint pain, rash, hair loss, fatigue, nausea and sensitivity to sun exposure, and those taking it should stay out of the sun, the FDA said.

Roche said the drug should be available in the United States in two weeks, and said it has submitted new drug applications for Zelboraf in the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, India, Mexico and Canada.

However, Turnham noted that while the drug can work wonders for some patients, its effects do not typically last.

“For a lot of people, it works like magic. Two weeks after taking Zelboraf, the cancer is gone. It’s amazing the way it melts tumours away.

“But the median response time is six months, then the tumors start coming back. There is a real need to find ways to extend that response time, perhaps by combining it with other drugs,” he said.

The National Cancer Institute says 68,130 new cases of melanoma were diagnosed in the United States last year and about 8,700 people died from the disease.

According to the World Health Organization, skin cancer leads to 66,000 deaths annually worldwide, 80 percent of which involve melanomas.

More than half the patients are under age 59.

Filed under: Health

Road Tripping in Bali

by Barrie | August 13th, 2011  

I once spent a whole month on the road in Bali. When I finally returned to Kuta, my natural ‘high’ dissipated fast. Anyone who visits Bali and never ventures out of the tourist strip is not experiencing all that Bali has to offer. It doesn’t matter whether you hire a driver or get a form of transport of your own, or even do a hotel tour with a group of people, when you venture out on the open road then you can truly say ‘Yes, I have seen Bali’.

Although only a small island there are many roads you can travel that are away from the regular tourist routes taking you off the beaten track. Besides these adventurous sojourns there are a host of places where you can stop, take a breath and soak up the beauty before your eyes. Bali does have some stunning attractions.

However, if you do go with a tour group then enjoying the stunning panoramas Bali bestows upon you will leave you with endless memories. Being an island and surrounded by ocean it is only natural that road tripping the coastline will afford you many views that will leave you astounded.

The one thing you must do is prepare for your road trip and bring the necessities. All to often I have spoken to people who have had crappy road trips because they didn’t take the few things that make a road trip pleasurable.

Five Great Mountain Temples to Visit in Bali

by Barrie | August 18th, 2011  

The temples of Bali are a significant part of Balinese culture and life. To visit a temple during a festive period is a magical experience for the traveller. There are temples, big and small, scattered all across the island but I have always found the mountain temples to be the most beautiful and fascinating. Although temple settings vary from one to another, they are intriguing in their structure and component.

To the Balinese, mountain temples are highly sacred and as a traveller visiting one of these magnificent structures you can well understand their significance. The mountainous areas of Bali are quite simply, beautiful and stunning. The cool air and freshness of the surrounding flora only enhance any visit to a mountain temple in Bali. It is always important to observe entry requirements and naturally, be respectful and discreet when taking photographs especially during a festive period.

Pura Besakih: The most important temple in Bali. Known as the Mother Temple, Besakih sits on the western slop of Gunung Agung, the most holy place for Balinese Hindus. The temple is actually a complex made up of twenty-two temples that sit on parallel ridges. It has stepped terraces and flights of stairs which ascend to a number of courtyards and brick gateways that lead up to the main spire Meru structure, which is called Pura Penataran Agung. All this is aligned along a single axis and designed to lead the spiritual upward and closer to the mountain which is considered sacred.

Besakih is not just one temple, but a large complex of temples extending up the mountain, over a distance of 3km. The official opening hours are daily 8am-5pm. In respect to the culture wear a sarong and sash, available outside from the many vendors. Besakih temple’s history dates back to megalithic times, with the most ancient section Pura Batu Madeg (temple of the Standing Stone) built around a central rock.

Pura Ulun Danau Batur: Located next to the main road about 1km north of the village of Batur sits one of the most important temples in Bali. Pura Ulun Danu Batur is a kayangan jagat, or directional temple, and protects Bali from evil spirits from the north. Pura Ulun Danau Batur is dedicated to the Goddess Ida Betawi Dewi Ulun Danau, who provides water for the eastern part of Bali.

The temple is large in area and was originally located inside the crater. An eruption in 1924 forced the temple to be moved brick by brick and rebuilt on the crater rim. Along the northern edge is the multi-tiered meru and from here spectacular views are afforded of both Gunung Batur and Danau Batur. The temple is pre-Majapahit, meaning it was built before the arrival of the Majapahit Empire in Bali. In 1343 Bali was conquered by Gaja Mada who was the prime minister of the Majapahit Empire in East Java. Entrance to the temple is by donation and it is compulsory to wear a temple sash and sarong.

Pura Luhur Batakau: My favourite temple in the mountains. Beautiful to explore andheading inside the outer courtyard, you pass through a candi bentar (split gate). Balinese temples usually have either 2 or 3 courtyards (outer, middle, inner). The jaba (outer courtyard) is the realm of the people, where public dances will take place, the jaba tengah (middle courtyard), is a transition area between the realm of people and the realm of the Gods. Offerings are prepared here and sacred temple gear is stored here. The jeroan (inner courtyard) is the realm of the Gods is the focus of all ritual ceremonies.

All shrines are here including the padmasana in the far right corner. The padmasana is the raised throne where the supreme deity, Sanghyang Widi Wasa, sits, his back towards the most sacred mountain, Gunung Agung. The padmasana is supported on the back of a cosmic turtle, the Bedawang, which carries the universe on its back.Temple layouts are slightly different, due to the unique sites that each occupy. Puru Luhur Batukaru has a section off to the right towards a watergarden.

Pura Luhur Lempuyang: Located at the summit of Mount Bisbis, Pura Luhur Lempuyang is a magnificent temple and dedicated to Hyang Iswara. Strangely, there dated record when Pura Lempuyang was exactly was founded. There are numerous theories but it is assumed Pura Lempuyang existed from the 10th century AD during the reign of King Marakata in Bali.

The temple is frequented by many pilgrims as this is a place where sacred holy water is obtained. Be warned though, to reach the temple you will have to scale 1,700 steps and is not recommended in the rainy season due to the steps being slippy and dangerous. However, once at the temple you will find it worth the effort.

Pura Ulun Danau Bratan: Located 2 hours north of Kuta on the shores of Lake Bratan. The temple is one of Bali’s kayangan jagat or directional temples and protects Bali from evil spirits but for the visiting tourist or traveller, it is a surreal and pleasant place.

Pura Ulun Danau Bratan was built in 1633 by the raja of Mengwi on the western shore of Lake Bratan. Dewi Danu, who is the Goddess of water and fertility, is the honoured deity. The temple itself sits in well manicured gardens and attracts local and foreign visitors. The two obvious part of the temple are the structures set on land and the ones set on a point, extending into the lake.

The temple on the shore, Pura Teratai Bang has its own 7-tier meru dedicated to Brahma, the Creator. You will often see Balinese worshipers inside this temple, taking blessings and praying. Being such a sacred place, you are asked to stay outside the inner courtyard, but it is possible to look over the wall and get good photos.
There is also a traditional market place in the carpark selling the norm but, there is a plethora of fresh fruit on sale as well that is the best to buy whenever you visit this place.

The Balinese people rely on their rice harvest and the Goddess of water and fertility, Dewi Danu, who is the deity honoured here. The temple itself sits in well manicured gardens. The two obvious part of the temple are the structures set on land and the ones set on a point, extending into the lake. The temples grounds have an assortment of structures including the multi-tiered meru.

Photo of the Day – Sangeh

by Barrie | August 28th, 2011  

The most popular place for tourists on Bali is, without a doubt, the Sangeh Monkey Forest. The forest at Sangeh has a mischievous clan of monkeys and now it will cost you a Rp20,000 entrance fee to be part of the thrill of being crawled over by simians. The monkeys here are friendly, to a point, downright thieves and can be aggressive especially if there is a baby monkey in the vicinity. It’s a cool place to go but has more to offer than just monkeys. Inside is a temple.

Being set within a large growth of nutmeg (pala) trees, Pura Bukit Sari was built in the 17th century as a meditation temple by the son of the King of Mengwi but now it is an irrigation or subak temple. It is definitely an eerie temple and especially at sunrise when the monkeys come down to feed as the streaks of early morning light filter through the trees canopy.

The grey-stone and weather-beaten temple is in a square compound with stone-carved reliefs and a thatched meru. Although not as appealing as many of the temples in Bali are, it is simply constructed and is a fine example of a subak temple and is important to the area.

The W Retreat and Spa Bali – Seminyak

by Barrie | August 13th, 2011  

One of the latest additions to the Seminyak hotel family just happens to be opulent to the extreme. The W Retreat and Spa Bali is located on Jalan Petitenget and overlooks the ocean but it’s the hotel’s ambience and décor that has everyone talking about this new addition. If a hotel can boast having eco-merit for building on an existing resort and serve only imported bottled water then you can guarantee the price tag per night to stay there is beyond budget travellers.

I read about this hotel in the Age newspaper this morning and was totally blown away with the description of the décor. According to the article, Finished in silver and granite, with splashes of fuchsia, lilac and gold, the lobby looks more like a space-age airport terminal than a beach resort, and, The lower-category rooms fan out above the lobby, each with views over the multi-level WET area and Indian Ocean from their balconies. The more expensive rooms are in a different corner of the property; these gated villas have a private pool and ample living space.

None are cheap; the base category rooms cost from $US423.50 ($397.40) for a garden view without breakfast (add $US60 for this), jumping to $US6100 for the two-bedroom “Extreme Wow” suite.

Monday, August 29, 2011

In Search of Paradise

By Richard Boughton

Familiarity breeds contempt, as the old saying goes (to which Mark Twain added “and children”).

I don’t know about contempt, but certainly it brings a dulling of the edge, both of one’s own perceptions and attitudes, and of the “character” of the place one finds oneself in – yes, that same place that had at first seemed endlessly exotic and new.

In short, the longer one is in paradise, the more it begins to seem like Dayton, Ohio. Nothing against you Daytonians or your community intended. I could just as easily have said Phoenix, Arizona, or Boise, Idaho, or indeed Portland, Oregon, my own home town. Dayton just sounded funnier – an evocation of that Midwest sort of sleepy-sameness that infects the familiar in general – where, as Paul Simon songfully said:

Every day is an endless dream of cigarettes and magazines,
And each town looks the same to me, the movies and the factories,
And every stranger’s face I see reminds me that I long to be
Homeward bound…

I remember a time when my younger daughter was graduating from high school and was sick to death of “boring ass” Portland, Oregon. There was a big, wonderful world to be discovered outside our dreary city limits – sights and sounds and people and places, emerald cities which beckoned with promise.

Philosophically, I counselled that essentially “All the world is a stage,” and “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more.” I told her that every day is an endless dream of cigarettes and magazines. And so on.

What a fun dad, right?

Well, she decided forthwith on Seattle, Washington – that soggy yet luminous jewel of the West. And then on Atlanta, Georgia. Then on Washington DC. Then on Los Angeles, California. Then New York City.

She lives now in boring-ass San Francisco, where the golden sun will shine on her (on those rare occasions when it breaks through the fog). She is older now; she is married, and will likely soon produce a brood of children.

Ah, brave new world.

And so I tempt her in my old age with Bali – with the idea that paradise really did and still does exist – knowing full well that this in the end is as much a lie as Los Angeles (the city of angels) or Philadelphia (the city of brotherly love). Why? Because she herself is paradise. She, my children, my wife, my friends. And so I use her old dreams for trickery. Because I am selfish. Because I want to see her again, to touch her, to hear her voice. Email and text messages just don’t cut it.

I admit it. I revel is glowing portrayals of what appears to be my happy circumstance – writing home, posting pictures on Facebook – the swaying palms, the silver surf, royal feasts, costume festivals, girls in bikinis, sexy dancers! The responses I receive fortify my glad delusions. “So beautiful! So exciting! You’re really living the life!”

I can’t bear for them to learn that it’s just Dayton, after all.

The fact is, paradise comes in small doses – which are yet large for their momentary savour. Moreover, it is sprinkled liberally throughout the earth – from Bali to Singapore, Congo to Paris. And Dayton, Ohio, as well.

This is paradise: A Friday afternoon. They are launching kites at Padang Galak. They come in trucks. They spill out on the sand, setting it alight with their kites, their clothing, their laughter. And down by the sea some young men make a sculpture, their amazing artfulness producing a shapely black woman, every inch of her winking back at the sun, round buttocks raised in lush love-making to an invisible male just beneath the carpet of the endless sand. Three girls pass by, and look back as they pass, and say “Hi!” and giggle, and say “Hi” again.

There is it, just going by. Paradise, after all. Catch it if you can.

Richard can be contacted via

Filed under: Practical Paradise

Ecstasy Could Be Used as Treatment

Researchers in Britain have revealed they are exploring whether the nightclubbers’ drug ecstasy could be effective in treating blood cancers.

Scientists at the University of Birmingham in central England said modified forms of the drug boosted its ability to destroy cancerous cells by 100 times.

Six years ago, researchers found that cancers affecting white blood cells appeared to respond to certain “psychotropic” drugs.

These included weight loss pills, Prozac-type antidepressants, and amphetamine derivatives such as MDMA — commonly known as ecstasy.

The Birmingham scientists said their discoveries since then could lead to MDMA derivatives being used in patient trials.

The derivatives could be effective in treating blood cancers such as leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

“This is an exciting next step towards using a modified form of MDMA to help people suffering from blood cancer,” said Professor John Gordon, from the university’s School of Immunology and Infection.

“While we would not wish to give people false hope, the results of this research hold the potential for improvements in treatments in years to come.”

The team found that the dose of MDMA required to treat a tumor would prove fatal, so they set about isolating the drug’s cancer-killing properties.

They are now looking at ways to get MDMA molecules to penetrate cancer cell walls more easily.

Doctor David Grant, scientific director of the Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research charity, which part-funded the study, said: “The prospect of being able to target blood cancer with a drug derived from ecstasy is a genuinely exciting proposition.

“Many types of lymphoma remain hard to treat and non-toxic drugs which are both effective and have few side effects are desperately needed.”

The findings are published in the bi-monthly journal Investigational New Drugs.

Filed under: Health

Still No Decision on North Bali Airport Site


A final decision has not been made on the location for the construction of a second airport in Bali, destined to be built somewhere in the island’s underdeveloped north.

A joint team has been appointed to investigate possible locations, but it has yet to make a decision, Buleleng Regent Bagiada announced this week.

“No, the team has not been able to establish the location,” he said after leading a meeting between the parties involved, including regency officials, researchers and investors.

Bagiada said he was as yet unable to offer any information about the team’s preliminary findings.

A Indian investor is understood to be backing the airport plan, and Tuesday’s meeting was attended by Karl Rajendran, Nurhan Jalal and Hari Abdul Japar as representatives of the investor. Buleleng regency secretary Ketut Puspaka and other local politicians and civil servants were also present.

Filed under: Headlines

Aug. 26-Sep. 1. 2011

By Dr Robert Goldman

Longevity News and Review provides readers with the latest  information in breakthroughs pertaining to the extension of the healthy human lifespan. These news summaries are compiled by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M;, a non-profit medical society composed of 24,000 physician and scientist members from 110 nations, united in a mission to advance biomedical technologies to detect, prevent and treat aging related disease and to promote research into methods to retard and optimise the human aging process. Dr Robert Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., D.O., FAASP, A4M Chairman, and Dr Ronald Klatz, M.D., D.O., A4M President, physician co-founders of the anti-aging medical movement, distil these headlines and provide their commentary.

Optimism Minimises Stroke Risk
In that previous studies have reported that higher optimism associates with a variety of positive health outcomes, researchers from the University of Michigan investigated the potential for a correlation between optimism and incidence of stroke. Eric S. Kim and colleagues analysed data collected on over 6,000 older Americans enrolled in the US Health and Retirement Study. The team found that for each unit increase in a standardised optimism assessment, the relative risk of stroke decreased significantly.  As well, optimism appeared to blunt the impact of negative psychological factors – such as anxiety, depression, negative affect, and neuroticism – as a risk factor for stroke. Reporting that: “The effect of optimism remained significant even after fully adjusting for a comprehensive set of sociodemographic, behavioural, biological, and psychological stroke risk factors,” the researchers conclude that: “Optimism may play an important role in protecting against stroke among older adults.”

Dr Klatz observes: Reporting that each increment in score in a standardized optimism assessment decreases the stroke risk in older men and women significantly, these researchers identify a key modifiable behavioral factor that is within our conscious control.

Physical Activity Promotes Cognitive Health
Previous research has suggested that physical activity is associated with reduced rates of cognitive impairment in older adults. Marie-Noel Vercambre, Ph.D., from the Foundation of Public Health, Mutuelle Generale de l’Education Nationale in France, and colleagues examined data from the Women’s Antioxidant Cardiovascular Study, which included women who had either prevalent vascular disease or three or more coronary risk factors. The researchers determined patients’ physical activity levels at baseline (1995 to 1996) and every two years thereafter. Between 1998 and 2000, they conducted telephone interviews with 2,809 women; the calls included tests of cognition, memory and category fluency, and followed up the tests three more times over the succeeding 5.4 years. The researchers analysed data to correlate cognitive score changes with total physical activity and energy expenditure from walking. As participants’ energy expenditure increased, the rate of cognitive decline decreased. The amount of exercise equivalent to a brisk, 30-minute walk every day was associated with lower risk of cognitive impairment. The team reported that: “Regular physical activity, including walking, was associated with better preservation of cognitive function in older women with vascular disease or risk factors.”

Remarks Dr Goldman: Engaging in regular physical activity is associated with less decline in cognitive function in older adults. This finding serves as an important reaffirmation of the wide-ranging benefits of fitness.

Omega-3s May Reduce Diabetes Risk
Affecting over 220 million people globally, diabetes and its related conditions are currently responsible for 3.4 million deaths annually. Luc Djousse, from Harvard Medical School, and colleagues studied data collected on 3,000 older men and women enrolled in the Cardiovascular Health Study, and found that both marine and plant sourced omega-3s were associated with a lower risk of diabetes. Specifically, the association was observed for blood levels of alpha-linolenic acid (the vegetable oil omega-3 fatty acid), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The team concludes that: “Individuals with the highest concentrations of both [omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-linolenic acid] had lower risk of diabetes.”

Comments Dr Klatz: In finding that increased blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids associate with reduced risk of type-2 diabetes, this team expands the eve-growing body of evidence supporting an interventive role for omega-3s in disease.

Anti-aging medicine is the fastest-growing medical specialty throughout the world and is founded on the application of advanced scientific and medical technologies for the early detection, prevention, treatment, and reversal of age-related dysfunction, disorders, and diseases. It is a healthcare model promoting innovative science and research to prolong the healthy lifespan in humans. As such, anti-aging medicine is based on solid scientific principles of responsible medical care that are consistent with those applied in other preventive health specialties. The goal of anti-aging medicine is not to merely prolong the total years of an individual’s life, but to ensure that those years are enjoyed in a productive and vital fashion.
Visit the A4M’s World Health Network website, at, to learn more about the A4M and its educational endeavors and to sign-up for your free subscription to Longevity Magazine™ e-Journal.

Filed under: Longevity News & Review

Great Places for Photography in Bali

by Barrie | August 24th, 2011  

Bali naturally lends itself to photographers. Stunning panoramas at every turn, mountains and seascapes, the happiness of the Balinese people, colourful festivals and even the heady tourist areas all are perfect subjects for the budding or professional photographer. It makes no difference if you use a cheap compact camera or tote around a $5,000 DSLR with all the gear, the photographic opportunities on your visit to Bali are endless.

Over the decades of travel both on the island of Bali and other islands in the archipelago of Indonesia I have found some breathtaking subjects for photography and indeed, captured the images. People often ask me how many images would I take on a normal road trip and when I tell them around 400, they are astounded. It has always been my principal that taking photos of anything and everything [within reason] will, at the end of the day, surprise you.

Sure, you can look at the viewscreen on your digital camera but it will never give you an accurate idea of what the image is like. This you won’t know until you download the images to a computer. I have looked at images on the viewscreen and thought that the image was a load of crap. Some are, but others have surprised me. Even blurred shots can evoke a sense of place.

Here are just a few of the photographic opportunities on Bali:

Top 5 Diving Spots in Bali

by Barrie | August 15th, 2011  

Bali is a scuba divers paradise and being one of the most beautiful islands in the world, it’s only natural that it attracts divers from around the globe. As an island for diving, Bali is never disappointing in what it has to offer the lover of the depth. It [Bali] has a rich and stunning marine biogeographic zone and underwater ecosystems with a colourful and diverse marine life.

What sets Bali apart from a lot of dive sites around the world is the variety of sites available. With a panoramic backdrop of volcanoes or rices paddies and stunning beaches, diving in Bali is a sheer oceanic pleasure for those wishing to imbibe in off-shore diving. Another special aspect of diving in Bali is the deep drop-offs and steep banks with picturesque coral ridges. Whether your preference is offshore diving or from a boat Bali has it all.

The Bali dive season runs all year round. Overall, the best diving conditions exist from April to December, with sunfish, sharks and other pelagic fish visiting from June to September. Here are top 5 spots to check out:

Tulamben: A small fishing village on the north-east coast of Bali, it is among the most popular dive sites on Bali since the wreck of the USS Liberty, a US Army Transport ship torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in 1942 lies just off shore. During high-season, up to 100 divers descend to the wreck each day. The wreck lies in shallow water and is considered appropriate for divers of all certification levels. The ship rests in 30 meters of water, is roughly 25 meters from shore and can be reached with a short swim from the beach. The highest point of the wreck tops out about 5 meters from the surface. The best conditions for diving here are during October and November.

Padangbai & Candi Dasa: Padangbai is a small town in eastern Bali near Candidasa. It serves as a ferry port for travel to Lombok and the Gili Islands. Besides the beach near the ferry terminal there is a beach just to the north known locally as the Blue Lagoon and the especially nice Secret Beach just to the south of town. Many people go to Padangbai to scuba dive and the popular spots are Tepekong’s Canyon and Mimpang’s Shark Point. Night diving at the Blue Lagoon is also excellent.

Nusa Lembongan: Twelve kilometres of the Badung Strait separates Nusa Lembongan from Bali. The island is surrounded by coral reefs with white sand beaches and low limestone cliffs. Nusa Lembongan is separated from Nusa Cenignan by a shallow estuarine channel which is difficult to navigate at low tide. The waters here are cold but water clarity is surprisingly clear. Stunning coral reefs and an rich variety of marine life is to be found.

Amed: A perfect place for those wishing to get right away from it all. Amed is a very slow paced village where technology hasn’t caught up. There are a number of dive sites in the area that offer some nice drop offs with good coral and diver fish. Most of the diving is done out of local boats, however shore diving is available from Jemeluk Bay.

Menjangan Island: A small island, located 5 miles to the north-west of Bali. The island is considered to be an important part of the local tourism industry, due to the fact that its marine fauna incorporates one of the best-preserved coral reefs in the area. All scuba-diving shops arrange daily trips to the island. Visibility in these warm waters can be as much as 50 metres and has excellent wall diving. Take note that the island exists in a National Marine Park.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Battered, Bruised but Blessed

By Richard Boughton

Last Saturday at about 2 in the afternoon, I had the not-so-rare privilege of becoming a Bali highway and byway statistic. I reckon it’s about time, after having lived on the island for more than a year and a half now without collecting any distinguishing ordeals or injuries.

While others I know have managed to gather various honours of long-time residence – the rabid-dog bite, the petty theft, the wily scam – I myself had so far remained nothing more than an anonymous bystander, warming the bench, so to speak, for those more heroic players on the actual field of experience.

But no more.

For at 2pm on that fateful Saturday I joined the ranks of the more fortunate when I found myself suddenly airborne, catapulted over the handlebars of my motorbike by the force of impact caused when another bike rammed full speed into mine from behind.

It’s not an experience one can enjoy or savour at the time, for it happens too fast. It’s rather like when your feet fly out from under you on a wet surface (a particularly popular feature of the common Balinese terrace). The next thing you know you’re on your back, probably groaning, wondering how you got there. It is only afterwards that the experience can be appreciated, filled out and fleshed in, reconstructed in detail.

How did I do that, you wonder? I had not realised that I was so agile. How is it that a man who has enough trouble just standing to his feet from his bedside in the morning manages in this miraculous moment of accidental vehicular interaction to actually fly through the air, defy the law of gravity, do a backflip in the sky and alight again upon the unkind pavement (no net, folks!), skidding to a halt on his elbows, back and rear-end while his bike – that mode of conveyance to which he had a split-second earlier been master – screeches to a halt in a shower of sparks like a derailed locomotive, just short of amputating ankle and knee?

“What did you do?” the young girl who had rammed me said, launching into the familiar attempt to cloud the waters (for she has no money, you see; and no insurance, no helmet, probably no driver’s license, either).

Perhaps 53 Indonesians emerge from nowhere to minister to the now-weeping girl, while bule tourists turn and walk the other way, or slip into something more comfortable, like a nearby shop.

It has become a bit of a Bali sport, hasn’t it? Windsurfing. Jet-skiing. Handlebar-vaulting.

But I do not intend in any of the above to make sport of the serious problems that exist on the streets and thoroughfares of Bali. One has either to laugh, cry or do both.

“Roads of Death” was the headline of the editorial in last week’s Bali Times, which reported a mind-boggling total of 758 deaths during the months of March, April and May 2011 – eight fatal accidents a day.

It is a matter of overcrowding, we are told, a matter of increasing tourism and therefore increasing vehicular congestion, stagnant to nonexistent plans to ameliorate the situation, a toxic mix of ignorance and carelessness on the part of many motorists where the rules of safe driving, or indeed the value of human life are concerned, along with the crowning shame of disinterest and inaction that typifies the non-responsive attitude of the local police force, whose officers seem clearly more interested in lining their pockets with the proceeds of easy roadside bribes than in bothering those who daily circumvent not only the law but the most basic precepts of common sense.

In my case, I escaped with a few scrapes and bruises. I picked myself up, retrieved my battered yet functional bike, and was on about my business of the day. Not all have been so lucky.

Richard can be contacted via

Filed under: Practical Paradise

Jul. 29-Aug 4, 2011

By Dr Robert Goldman

Longevity News and Review provides readers with the latest information in breakthroughs pertaining to the extension of the healthy human lifespan. These news summaries are compiled by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M;, a non-profit medical society composed of 24,000 physician and scientist members from 110 nations, united in a mission to advance biomedical technologies to detect, prevent and treat aging related disease and to promote research into methods to retard and optimise the human aging process. Dr Robert Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., D.O., FAASP, A4M Chairman, and Dr Ronald Klatz, M.D., D.O., A4M President, physician co-founders of the anti-aging medical movement, distil these headlines and provide their commentary.

Gardening Cultivates Good Health
Community gardens are neighbourhood spaces that are accessible to people across the lifespan – regardless of age, race, socioeconomic status or educational background. Jill Litt, from the University of Colorado School of Public Health, found that community gardeners cultivate relationships with their neighbours, are more involved in civic activities, stay longer in their neighbourhoods, eat better and view their health more positively. In fact, 20 minutes of gardening a day translated to statistically higher ratings of health. Moreover, people who garden found their neighbourhoods to be safer, cleaner and more beautiful, regardless of educational and income status. These differences were rooted in the cultural, social and ecological connections created within the garden setting. The co-benefits of gardens stem from their ability to support healthy eating and active living. More than 50 percent of gardeners meet national guidelines for fruit and vegetable intake compared to 25 percrent of non-gardeners. Gardeners report they get 12 hours a week of moderate to vigorous physical activity, which is about 30 percent more exercise than non-gardeners get. Observing that: “The physical and social qualities of garden participation awaken the senses and stimulate a range of responses that influence interpersonal processes (learning, affirming, expressive experiences) and social relationships that are supportive of positive health-related behaviours and overall health,” the researchers submit that: “Community gardens have therapeutic qualities that contribute to a more holistic sense of health and wellbeing.”

Dr Klatz observes: “Because community gardeners engage in positive relationships with their neighbours, are more involved in civic activities, stay longer in their neighbourhoods, eat better and view their health more positively, the hobby promotes positive gains in emotional wellness and longevity.”

Fibre Fights Fat
Visceral fat, the fat deep in the belly surrounding vital organs, can be dangerous to overall health. Kristen Hairston, from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina, and colleagues urge that the way to reduce visceral fat is simple: eat more soluble fibre from vegetables, fruit and beans, and engage in moderate activity. The team completed a longitudinal study involving 1,114 men and women, in which they examined whether lifestyle factors, such as diet and frequency of exercise, were associated with a five-year change in abdominal fat, with CT scans (to measure fat) administered at the study’s start and at the conclusion. The researchers found that for every 10-gram increase in soluble fibre eaten per day, visceral fat was reduced by 3.7 percent over five years. When factored with the observation that increased moderate activity resulted in a 7.4-percent decrease in the rate of visceral fat accumulation over the same time period, the team reports that: “Soluble fibre intake and increased physical activity were related to decreased [visceral adipose tissue] accumulation over five years.”

Remarks Dr Goldman: Reporting that every 10-gram increase in soluble fiber eaten per day reduces visceral fat by 3.7 percent over five years, these researchers reaffirm a simple and accessible dietary habit that is effective in combating obesity.

Successful Retirement Relies on Planning
Retirement is often viewed as a time to relax, travel, participate in leisurely activities and spend time with family. However, for many older adults, chronic health problems and poor planning often hinder the enjoyment of retirement. Angela Curl, from the University of Missouri, has found that planning for changes in routine and lifestyle, and especially to address health problems that may occur later in life, can promote better retirement for married couples. Examining the effects of retirement on self-rated health and cardiac health among couples, the researchers found that women rated their health worse during the first few years of retirement, but their ratings improved in the long run; whereas husbands continued to rate their health worse the longer they were retired. Husbands reported improved health when their wives retired. Retirement also reduced the risk of cardiac health problems in men, but had no effect on cardiac health in women. To ease the switch from full-time employment into retirement, the team recommends a gradual transition to working less and maintaining some level of engagement in the workforce.

Comments Dr Klatz: Planning for changes in lifestyle and health improves your odds of a healthy and happy retirement, especially given that longevity continues to climb steadily – necessitating proper preparations to enjoy our extra years.

Anti-aging medicine is the fastest-growing medical specialty throughout the world and is founded on the application of advanced scientific and medical technologies for the early detection, prevention, treatment, and reversal of age-related dysfunction, disorders, and diseases. It is a healthcare model promoting innovative science and research to prolong the healthy lifespan in humans. As such, anti-aging medicine is based on solid scientific principles of responsible medical care that are consistent with those applied in other preventive health specialties. The goal of anti-aging medicine is not to merely prolong the total years of an individual’s life, but to ensure that those years are enjoyed in a productive and vital fashion.
Visit the A4M’s World Health Network website, at, to learn more about the A4M and its educational endeavors and to sign-up for your free subscription to Longevity Magazine™ e-Journal.

Filed under: Longevity News & Review

US Targets Indonesia for Disease Eradication


The US is focussing on Indonesia in its international efforts to fight various infectious diseases, an American official said in Bali.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Kerry-Ann Jones had previously announced a half-million-dollar funding package to help Bali’s authorities tackle the ongoing rabies epidemic, and was in Bali to observe how the funding will be used.

“Indonesia has become the focus of our programme in the prevention of infectious disease and other ailments caused by climate change and biodiversity issues,” she said last Friday, explaining that rabies and bird flu ranked highly among the diseases targeted by the program.

Jones said that tackling diseases such as rabies and bird flu required a joint approach from both animal and human health authorities, adding that if the US-funded anti-rabies measures proved successful, the US may target other health issues in the country.

“We can arrange other long-term programmes to suppress and control infectious diseases in Indonesia,” she said.

Filed under: Health

Friday, August 12, 2011

World’s Most Expensive White Wine Destined for Bali


The world’s most expensive bottle of white wine is destined to end up on a restaurant table in Bali.

The 200-year-old vintage from Bordeaux set a new world when it was sold in Britain for £75,000 (US$122,685) to French private collector Christian Vanneque.

Vanneque plans to offer the 1811 Chateau d’Yquem at his new SIP Sunset Grill, which is due to open in Seminyak in September.

The standard-sized, 75 centilitre bottle of wine was sold on Tuesday at London’s Ritz hotel by rare wine specialists The Antique Wine Company.

Managing director Stephen Williams praised the “legendary vintage,” one of the so-called “Comet Vintages” which takes its name from the Flaugergues Comet which passed the earth in 1811.

“Chateau d’Yquem is the world’s greatest white wine,” he said.

Unlike most whites which spoil after a few years, the Chateau d’Yquem, produced near Sauternes, in the famous wine-producing region of Bordeaux in France, has improved with maturity and could age indefinitely, the company said.

Its high levels of residual sugar, combined with the grapes’ natural acidity, act as preservative agents which stop it becoming undrinkable, he explained.

“It has the capacity to last longer than any other white,” said Williams. Although this bottle has yet to be opened it is likely to have a “butterscotch sweetness,” he said.

“We would expect it to have a creamy texture, coating the mouth with richness, and leave a sweet taste in the mouth,” he added.

The wine’s value was also higher because of its status as one of the “Comet Vintages,” said the wine dealers.

“The impressive value of this bottle is tied to both the quality of the wine and this historic event,” they said.

Vanneque, who already has the biggest wine collection in Indonesia, said he planned to put the rare bottle on display the SIP Sunset Grill.

The record for the most expensive white wine was previously held by a 1787 Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes, which came from the same vineyard as the 1811 vintage and costs an average of $60,000 a bottle.

The record for the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold was set in November by a rare six-litre bottle of 1947 French Cheval-Blanc, a red which sold at auction house Christie’s, in Geneva, for $304,375.

Filed under: Headlines

Komodo Island the New Hotspot in the Archipelago

by Barrie | July 25th, 2011  

Having a holiday in Bali can be so much more exciting and interesting if you were to venture to the other islands close, or relatively close, to Bali. Lombok has for quite some time been a popular ‘skip across the water’. The latest hotspot for travellers is now Komodo Island and it is easily accessible from Bali. The island of Komodo located between Sumbawa and Flores, is the home of the Komodo Dragon which is the largest monitor lizard in the world and is he sole survivor of the dinosaurs in Indonesia.

The island is surrounded by some of the most treacherous currents around and that combined with the arid tropical savannah has kept people away. The Komodo Dragons were only discovered in 1912 when some fishermen were forced to stop there. Without a doubt the gateway to the island of the dragons has to be Bali. This national park has so much to offer the tourist and traveller.

Getting There:

Flights from Bali to Labuanbajo in the Flores will give you the easiest access. Both Merpati Airlines and Batavia Air have daily direct flights to Bima in eastern Sumbawa, or Labuanbajo in the west of Flores. Scheduled flights depart daily at 9:30am from Denpasar to Bima, with connecting flights to Labuanbajo on Monday and Saturday.

Once there, it is easy to arrange trips to the island for checking out these magnificent creatures. You can do a day trip to Rinca, the better of the two main islands to see Komodo dragons or, if you are adventurous enough, organise an overnight stay on both the islands of Rinca and Komodo.

Alternatively, Perama can take you all the way from Bali to Labuanbajo with a stop over at Komodo/Rinca for a bit of dragon spotting. One for the adventurer in you!

Photo Courtesy:

Rabies ‘Endemic’ in Villages as Deaths at 131


Rabies remains endemic in Bali, officials said this week, as they revealed confirmed deaths from the outbreak had reached 131 people and most people still do not seek treatment when bitten by dogs.

With rabies still present at a “high level” in two villages, despite sustained eradication efforts, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has said public education about rabies in Bali is inadequate.

Speaking on Monday, the head of Communicable Diseases and Environmental Health at the Bali Health Department, Ketut Subrata, said at least 131 people had died of rabies in Bali since November 2008.

He said 95 percent of the victims had failed to seek medical care after being bitten by dogs.

“They thought things were still as they used to be, and so they didn’t realise that you must get vaccinated if you’ve been bitten by a dog. They think it’s no big deal, because in the past being bitten by a dog was nothing to worry about,” Subrata said.

Around 5 percent of rabies fatalities had sought initial medical treatment, but had not completed the full post-bite vaccination courses, according to Subrata.

Subrata said the numbers of people reporting to hospitals for vaccination after dog bites had tailed off in recent months but was still high. An average of around 130 people a day are being bitten by dogs, he said, down from more than 200 a day last year.

Meanwhile, two villages have proved particularly resistant to eradication efforts.

Padangsambian in Denpasar municipality and Gianyar village in Gianyar regency remain “active” in terms of rabies infection, despite repeat efforts at vaccination and culling by the Animal Husbandry Department.

Department head Putu Sumantra said that monthly checks at the two villages consistently revealed new rabies cases.

Sumantra said that officials were uncertain as to why these two communities remained so susceptible to rabies.

“Perhaps rabies is brought back in by dogs from outside, but what we don’t know is whether those dogs are brought in by people or just wander in. What is clear, however is that these very active villages are our priority for control measures,” he said, adding that a total of 22 villages across Bali were regarded as active centres of rabies transmission.

Elsewhere, Ester Hutabarat, communications coordinator for the FAO in Indonesia, said public awareness about rabies in Bali was still unsatisfactory, and that this was hampering efforts to control the disease.

Hutabarat said that more effort seemed to have been spent on urging calm than on publicising practical anti-rabies measures.

“In Bali more has been done to get on top of the panic caused by the deaths of so many people,” she said, pointing out that many people still allowed their pet dogs to roam freely. Hutabarat added that many local-level health workers appeared unsure how to deal with rabies treatment, and that many clinics still often ran out of vaccines for people bitten by dogs.

Filed under: Headlines

Photo of the Day: Pura Batu Bolong, Lombok

by Barrie | July 23rd, 2011  

As most of you know I have visited just about every temple on the island of Bali and during my recent visit to Lombok, I was interested to note the comparison between the temples of Bali and that of Lombok. The one temple I found fascinating was Pura Batu Bolong, located just south of Senggigi Beach in West Lombok.

It is necessary to wear a temple sash before entering the temple and these are available at the entrance and a small donation is welcome. Pura Batu Bolong is a great temple to visit during the Hindu festival times and also on the nights of the full and dark moons when colourful ceremonies are held.

This quaint and peaceful temple is perched on a rocky outcrop facing Bali. It was quite interesting to note that the temple structure in Lombok is somewhat different to those of Bali. The striking feature of this temple is the natural carved hole near the bottom of the temple; thus the name Batu Bolong – Hole in the rock.

It is believed that virgins were once sacrificed to the sea from the highest point of the temple’s outcrop. As you approach the ‘hole in the rock’, the surging sea lunges through and the path does get quite slippy. Once you reach the base of the temple it is a 16 step climb to the highest point. Here, spectacular views are afforded across the Lombok Straits to Bali.

Photo of the Day – Kebun Raya Eka Karya Bali

by Barrie | July 30th, 2011  

One of my favourite paces to spend a morning is located in the small village of Candikuning not far from Danau Bratan. The awesome Bali Botanical Gardens known as Kebun Raya Eka Karya Bali. It is easy to find and is only a short walk from the nearby Bukit Mungsu Markets. You really cannot miss the entrance as you will see a giant corn-on-the-cob statue marking the way.

The gardens have over 800 different species of trees from around the world. Also, there are over 400 species of Orchids to be found and many in full bloom. Walking through this fairytale square kilometre is amazing. If you want you can drive through the park on the well-paved roads but to truly enjoy the beauty of these fabulous gardens, I would suggest parking and strolling around.

The park is also a great place for birdwatchers as many species are found here. Although only a square kilometre in area I estimate you would need three days to explore this Botanist’s utopia.