Thursday, 18 November 2010

Your tourism mission… should you choose to accept it…

(To save myself a bit of typing from now on, I’m going to use the international sign IDR for rupiah – InDonesian Rupiah. Thank you for your understanding)

Mountain. Distance. Mists.
First stop – we had to see ‘the volcano’. Little was I to know that two weeks later, volcanoes would become a very big thing in Indonesia. At this time it was just something to see. We drove for 1½ hours. In the last 15 minutes the clouds descended and the mists rolled in reducing visibility to naff all. Perfect.

We parked at a good viewing spot, perhaps 5 miles from the volcano, and dutifully took pictures. I wasn’t over-impressed. See one mountain, you’ve seen them all, and I want my volcanoes to be like they were in my World of Wonder Annual, 1971, spewing molten lava and coated in dense clouds of smoke (rather too prescient, sadly). This was a big hill with a few clouds.
Statue with skirt. That's a
lot of material...

More fascinating to me were the silly details. Why did every statue have a skirt on? Why did most cars and motorbikes have raffia fascinators bedecking their radiators and wing mirrors?

It turns out that Bali is the island of the gods – Pulau Dewata. Everything has a ceremony and every day has something new to celebrate. The predominant religion is Hinduism, and today we were being treated by a day to pray for modes of transport. Our taxi driver was having his wife’s family over later so they could decorate all their cars together, and pray for them.

Someone's been practising their raffia work

I don’t mean to be sacrilegious or to mock others’ beliefs, but I was momentarily reminded of that episode in ‘Father Ted’ where Ted explains to Dougal that God probably doesn’t have a Saint whose job it is to look over Pop-Tarts, that would be silly. That job was probably handed out to an angel or such like, whose role would include all types of breakfast cereal.

We were about to drive off again when we were stopped by a man with a whistle and a stick. We’d parked in his parking area, and he’d specifically whistled to make sure people stopped while we were parking and he was about to whistle to let us pull out. Kind man. He wanted his fee, which was IDR1,000 – about 8p. I wasn’t going to argue.

Our lovely restaurant. Bill not shown

We also stopped for lunch in a restaurant with a view of the clouds that masked the mountain. The food on offer was fly-ridden buffet, that had presumably been sitting there for as long as was needed to draw in the phototourists and the Canon fodder. It was the most expensive meal that I’d had since arriving in Indonesia. A tourist trap, at last. I’d got what I wanted.
Restaurant toilet. Hygiene certificate not shown

We left the restaurant and looked for our driver. It was raining heavily, there were dozens of identical cars, and my companion and I looked at each other. Neither of us knew the registration number of the car or had taken the trouble to find out the taxi driver’s name. Nor what make of car it was. We gazed at the line of cars, receding into the mists, like a Ford Dagenham car park…

Could things get any better? At least I wasn’t in Karawaci. I was happy.


  1. Will the real Chris Brannick please stand up....Truly amazing! I am Chris Brannick and I taught science at the Jakarta International school for 7 years, lived in Papua for 11 years and visited Bali a few dozen times. Presently I reside in New Orleans and am writing a book about my life in New Guinea. By the way I am a grandma with 3 gorgeous American/ Indonesian grandchilren. Your photos really reminded me a fun times in Indo. I too was called Christ! Cheers,
    Chris Brannick, the real one

    1. Sorry to be approximately 2 years late in replying! I'm back (temporarily) in Hong Kong, but live in London. Incidentally, there's another Chris Brannick here, who runs a travel company. I'm a musician.

      Nice to meet you!