Bali: Gracefulness And Colour

Balinese dancers at the hotel entrance entertained us as we waited for our bus. I wasn’t sure whether it was specifically for our benefit or the usual Saturday night entertainment for hotel guests and visitors.

A burst of gracefulness and colour took me by surprise as two Balinese girls swayed onto the entrance of the Hotel Melia Bali, Nusa Dua. It was so refreshing.

This is my fourth post on the regional conference on ethical tourism that took me to Bali, the tourism mecca of Indonesia.

After the meeting we were bus-sed back to our hotel to get ready for the evening’s programme. Then back to the Hotel Melia Bali for the evening’s programme at the neighbouring Museum Pasifika also in Nusa Dua.

The elaborate headdresses or tiaras are beautiful as are the hand movements.

Whilst waiting for our bus at the entrance and hotel foyer, Balinese dancers gracefully swayed to Balinese gamelan music.

I was not able to get a good picture close up of this gamelan orchestra albeit a smaller one unlike the one at the cultural evening, ‘Desa Kala Patra’ on Friday evening.

The haunting sounds of the gamelan orchestra accompanied the graceful movements of the two Balinese dancers.

I wondered about the potential for these sorts of cultural performances at our hotels in Port Moresby in the evenings so guests can enjoy glimpses of our rich cultural heritage and diversity as well as the growing interest in more contemporary artistic endeavours in PNG especially among the younger generation.

Now that would be something. I think we may turn to more contemporary performances at hotels simply because of the logistics and fees perhaps. Anyway, it would a great way to showcase some of PNG’s rich talent.

The headdress or perhaps an elaborate golden tiara on the dancers head and the fan in her right hand must be the theme of the dance.

This was a cultural interlude and what a beautiful way to start our Saturday evening programme. Again I forgot to ask what kind of a dance this was.

There are many types of Balinese dance. What we saw was one type of dance. The costumes and headdresses or tiaras are quite ornate. With the colorful costumes  red seems quite prominent and am not sure if the colour red has some cultural or religious significance to the Balinese.

The expressive eye movements adds to the mystique of Balinese dance.

I enjoyed the performance although they were still dancing when we left for the Museum Pasifika.

I wondered whether we were going to witness another cultural performance or Balinese dance whilst in Bali as we were herded into two long lines in preparation for the short walk to the Museum Pasifika.

Bali: A Truly Memorable Cultural Evening

One of the stunning opening acts accoompanied by Balinese gamelan music. Hauntingly, beautiful to behold.

This is my third post on my brief visit to Bali for the Asia-Pacific regional meeting on Global Ethics in tourism.

This temple made an awesome and beautiful backdrop to the stunningly colorful performances that followed.

We managed to  make it to the cultural evening. Upon arrival at the festival we were whisked through to our seats before the event begun. Apparantly, this was no ordinary cultural evening. It was a culmination of several cultural events which you can read about in this article in the Jakarta Post.

This was the Opening of the 33rd Bali Art Festival with the theme ‘Desa, Kala, Patra’. We were so fortunate to be invited to this grand opening.

This was one of the posters I saw on the way in…

This was the explanation of the ‘Desa, Kala, Patra given by Mr Putu Wijaya, the Balinese playright of international renown at the inception of the Bali Art Festival a few years back:

“For the Balinese ‘Desa’ (space) is essential to indicate origins, links and directions. By tracing their space the Balinese discover their linkage to their homes, origins, ‘braya-pisaga-semeton’ (society, neighbors and family) and even with their guests. The space is also linked to ‘kala’ (time). Night and day, morning and afternoon, today and tomorrow can change, take form and make those links to time perfect. Finally ‘Patra’ (identity) also means situation and condition, instigating that space and time can be harmonized with what is taking place.”

“‘Desa-kala-patra’ is a value and at the same time, a universal approach. That it grows in the soul of the Balinese people, does not make it the sole property and right of the Balinese. Bali is only one of its choices, because this island is a meeting place for different races and ideologies from all over the world. ‘Desa-kala-patra’ comes to life not because it is discussed, taught, and made a doctrine, but because it is practiced. ‘Desa-kala-patra’ is like a formless soul that freely resides within the bodies of the Balinese without them being aware.”

After the President’s speech the concert began.

H.E. Mr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of the Republic of Indonesia giving the keynote address.

I am so glad we took the trouble to at least look culturallly appropriate, especially with the VIPs there and the President. This was a bonus and although I was not sitting too close to the stage I managed to take a few shots with my Nikon D90 which went with me wherever I went. I didn’t want to miss any great opportunities for taking nice shots.

The formal attire that evening. I was fascinated with the colors and styles down to the elaborate hair. Balinese fashion on display.

What fascinated me was the attire. The men in long-sleeved batik shirts and the women in exquisite fabrics that adorned their beautiful figures – these were figure-hugging and very elegant. They had beautiful hair adornments and the men wore Balinese ‘turbans’ on their heads.

Some of the VIPs that evening with the organizers of the event. Note the batik attire.

My limited Bahasa Indonesia captured some of the official speech by the President and others but not entirely – guess am out of practice. Nonetheless, the presence of the President at this festival was very important to everyone and especially the organizers. His presence no doubt gave the opening event  a very high profile and to the planned cultural and artistic events for that festival period.

One of the Balinese epics…awesome.

I was sitting too far away from the centre of action but managed to capture some of the beauty of the concert as it unfolded.

…the epic unfolded…

The setting was so apt. We found ourselves facing a temple which was appropriately decorated. A fitting backdrop to the performances that followed. 

Group after group took to the stage and entertained the audience. I was in 7th heaven! This is the life, I thought to myself.

Colour, sound and action!

We were given more small boxes which contained fruit and traditional sweets as well as bottles of water so we did not go hungry during the concert which took several hours.

I really felt looked after.

This was my only shot of the Balinese gamelan orchestra. I had to use the zoom and from where I sat not a bad shot although I’d have liked to take it from another angle.

The performances began with the unmistakable haunting sounds of the Balinese gamelan orchestra. These are instruments that resemble zylophones and there were the gongs.

Another performance graced the stage. Just love their costumes…so beautiful and delicate.

I was fascinated with the dancing and the epic story that was related through dance. The colourful costumes, the dances and the atmosphere was sobering.

I couldn’t help wondering how we could showcase some of our stage plays written by PNG playrights such as Kasaipwalova, Tawali, Kaniku, et al and how we should stage these in the villages and communities througout PNG.

The grand finale when the cast assembled on stage. What an evening, what an eye-opener. Part of the Bali experience. Without a doubt!

One thing for sure during this visit, we were very well taken care of.  Balinese hospitality knows no bounds. What a gracious people. What a privilege indeed.

On our way back to our hotel, the Grand Bali Nusa Dua, I reflected on the cultural extravanganza just witnessed and I realised that the opening of the festival showcased the profound spirituality of the Balinese.

Bali: At The Melia

The north side of the Melia Hotel Bali. The grounds were so quiet and beautiful.

This is the second post on my visit to Bali last June – a year ago. My, how time flies.

On Friday evening (on the day we arrived in Bali), we were told that we have been invited as participants to the regional meeting to attend a cultural festival which will be opened by The President of the Republic of Indonesia.

This was news to us as we were not told earlier when we checked into our hotel – the Grand Bali Nusa Dua. We also had not received copies of our programme in Bali for that weekend apart from attending the inaugural Global Ethics on Tourism meeting at a neighbouring hotel.

We only found out when we sauntered into the Melia Hotel Bali about 4.00pm or thereabouts. This hotel was the location of our regional meeting the next day, Saturday. The announcement that we were going to a cultural festival that evening was really a surprise and a half!

Entrance to the Melia Bali – the gong seems to be a common feature in most Balinese and Indonesian establishments. They use it to announce the arrival of an important visitor.

Thank goodness we are from Papua New Guinea which has a blessed word-of-mouth culture and are not so hung up on a written programme so we had no problems as we switched on to our coconut wireless and asked around to find out what we were supposed to be doing. One thing we realised we had to do was wear something decent and dignified as we were going to be in the presence of so many VIPs and in a manner speaking we too were VIPs that evening at the cultural festival.

We scrambled to find suitable attire for the occasion. We looked around and at eachother and wondered whether we should attend or not. We could have laid on the excuse that we did not have the right kind of clothes for the event or we could have decided simply not to go. However, I reckon since we were the only ones from the Pacific Islands region and besides we were Papua New Guineans, such excuses are lame and embarrassing. So we bit the bullet and decided we were certainly on that bus to the festival. We might learn something valuable about Balinese culture – that made up our minds for us!

The grand foyer at the Melia Bali. Loved the high ceilings and open design.

We had to think on our feet – there was no time to return to our hotel so the best thing we could do was purchase batik clothes.  Batik is generally accepted as ‘formal’ wear so that was easy – but where to get batik-wear was the million dollar question. Thank goodness there was a souvenir shop at the Melia so we went in there pronto! After getting in and out of several outfits we settled on a blouse for me and a shirt for my colleague. At last we were set and felt confident that we can now join the other more formally attired fellow participants.

A very valuable lesson for the future – advise all participants of the programme apart from the programme of the meeting proper for which we had traveled over 8 hours (including the overnight stop in Singapore) from our country via Singapore to participate in.

One word to describe this place – grand!

We joined the others were were already assembled at the hotel entrance and waited for our bus to arrive.

A stone sculpture on the grounds of the Melia Bali.

By the way, we found out that we were not the only ones looking for something descent to wear to the festival and that made us feel better. Another delegate to the meeting was also looking for something descent and more Balinese or Indonesian to wear. We didn’t feel too bad then.

As we waited for the bus I spared a few minutes to take these shots.

This beautiful sort of parasol caught my eye. Very ornate set.

This hotel is bigger and grand than the Grand Bali Nusa Dua but I wasn’t disappointed at all – just glad that I could wonder around and take some shots of the Melia Hotel Bali.

I’m always fascinated by hotels especially the architecture and the materials used. The Melia was no exception. I guess hotels anywhere always try to find the edge that induces tourists and those like us attending conferences and so on to feel like the hotel is a ‘home away from home’ and in some instances that is the case. I find that hotels in Asia actually fit into the category of ‘home away from home’ come to think of it.

Another stone sculpture outside the hotel. Stone sculptures seemed to be a common feature at this hotel and my hotel. The black and white checkered fabric seems to be a feature at this hotel too.

Our bus eventually arrived and as we clambered onto the bus, I wondered what the rooms at the Melia were like and what the rate per night was.

En route to the festival we were served an early dinner in woven baskets on the bus.  This was a novelty for me and I marvelled at the simplest things which the Balinese do as they extended the hand of friendship and hospitality wherever we went during our brief stay in Bali.

This was also unexpected but I was pleasantly surprised as lunch was a fair few hours ago on the flight to Bali from Singapore. Oh yes, my colleague and I were upgraded to Business Class in Singapore so you can imagine what lunch was like especially on a Singapore Airlines flight – one word “sumptuous!”

I loved this sign – written with stones, on sand, and decorated with a flower. Lovely and elegant like everything about this hotel.

The journey to the festival went smoothly and once again I felt so privileged to have been there and to have enjoyed the cultural programme besides even though we were not made aware of it when we arrived. I guess it was clearly a case of being at the right place at the right time.

I’ve added the Melia Hotel Bali to my list of possible hotels to check out next time I plan to visit Bali.

Bali: Loved It!

The welcome sign above the gate entrance as we manoeuvred towards the main road beyond – I was in Bali at last!

This is Part I of a couple of articles I wanted to write on my weekend meeting in Bali, Indonesia almost a year ago. I was one of the participants at the regional meeting on tourism ethics.

The tourism slogan greeted us at the entrance as we drove through and into the thick of the Friday afternoon traffic enroute to the Grand Bali Hotel – Nusa Dua.

I attended the regional meeting on Global Ethics in Tourism June last year. The meeting was jointly hosted by the United Nations World Tourism Organization and the Indonesian Government on the alluring and beautiful island of Bali.

Papua New Guinea was the only Pacific Island represented at this regional meeting.

One of the most amazing sculptures I’ve seen in a long time. This is Bali, Indonesia. Rich in history. I wondered what this scupture depicts but did not have the time to ask – it was on our way to the hotel.

Upon arrival at the Ngurah Rai International Airport (sometimes known as the Denpasar International Airport) we were whisked through customs and immigration formalities and onto our bus. Denspasar is also the capital city of Bali.

It was a very hot day but being from Port Moresby we rose to the challenge. In the bus, the aircon kicked in soon after so we were saved from having to change our clothes yet again in less than 6 hours!

About 45 minutes later we arrived at the Hotel. It was another welcomed sight and again the formalities of checking in and getting our luggage delivered went swimmingly. This was paradise – smoothness in getting through these formalities was expected and it was delivered.

In Bali for that weekend’s meeting, the Grand Bali at Nusa Dua was our home. You can read about Nusa Dua here.

I was once again struck by the seeming chaos on the streets where more than one person is riding pillion on a motor bike – hundreds of them darting in and out of the traffic and in between buses and cars as we wove our way towards Nusa Dua beach.

I wondered how often there were accidents. My recollection was that very few but once in a while when an accident happens it is a very big thing and quite saddening as it is preventable!

One of the stone sculptures in the hotel lobby. Impressive. One is reminded that Balinese are Hindus.

My colleague and I were accommodated in the Grand Bali Nusa Dua and grand may be a bit of a misnomer but the rooms were so spacious I could have my whole family sleeping in this one room.

Spacious rooms, clean and comfortable with wooden floors – love wooden floors. This was my home for the weekend.

The rooms were cool with no views to speak of but I was very comfortable. The aircon was working and that was what I needed at the beginning and end of each day.

Another one of the stone sculptures. Impressive and awe-inspiring. I was under no misapprehension that the Balinese are a very spiritual and religious people.

I took quite a lot of photos upon arrival at the hotel and realised that I was in tourist mode. In fact one of the great things about this job is that you can be ‘on duty’ and be a tourist at the sametime. An enviable position to be in no doubt.

I also went for a foot massage which is my favourite thing whenever I am in Southeast Asia. It is a soothing sort of thing to do and it kind of introduces me gently to the rigours of meetings or shopping whichever I happen to be in that country for.

Entrance to the spa where I had my foot massage – reflexology is a great way to unwind and discover somethings about the way your internal organs are connected to pressure points in your feet! An amazing experience each time and this was not my first time to treat myself to such a luxurious start to my weekend in Bali.

I went to the spa before the evening’s programme. I was glad I did because that was the only time I was able to enjoy being pampered. Oooh lala.

Our meeting was scheduled for all of Saturday (which was the next day) and over the weekend so there were not many guests in our hotel. The meeting was held in another much bigger hotel and most of the other participants were accommodated there.

Beautiful stone sculptures in the hotel gardens. Did not have time to ask about this, wish I had. Am sure it tells a love story perhaps.

I was trigger-happy and my Nikon D90 was working overtime.

Believe it or not, this is the swimming pool. The colour reminded me of one of the rivers in West New Britain, Papua New Guinea.

The hotel grounds were so beautiful and tranquil. I was glad we stayed here. But then again there are so many hotels large and small spread across the Nusa Dua beachfront and no doubt other beaches in Kuta and Legian, as well as all over the island of Bali. This was a tourist mecca.

The rooms were on the left on this floor. Lovely wooden balustrade.

Wooden houses, floors and so on hold a special fascination for me but we were here to discuss the global code of ethics in tourism and I wondered whether the use of large amounts of wood in hotel construction was going to be sustainable in the long run. Food for thought.

The view from my balcony. Couldn’t see the sea from here but then again with all the beautiful things to see inside and outside the hotel, I was not at all disappointed.

I took quite a few photos around the hotel because I’ve never been in this hotel before and secondly, because I wanted to capture some of the spirit of the place.

I came across this stone carving on the facade of the garden wall on my way back from the spa. Don’t know what it signifies but it seems like a common design on their wooden masks which are used in their elaborate dances.

The stone sculptures are everywhere but again I did not have the time to ask.

Another stone sculpture. Am not sure if these depict their Hindu gods.

There was no time to ask and also there was a slight language barrier. I think the Conference organizers hired university or secondary school students to man the number of ‘help desks’ set up to fascilitate our hassle-free stay at the hotels where the participants were staying and most of these kids could not speak English or if they did it was spoken haltingly.

Another stone sculpture – the detail is incredible.

That wasn’t a problem on the whole but I could not ask many questions outside the usual stuff like asking for directions and when the bus will arrive and so on. I found these help desks very comforting – a lot of people engaged to ensure that we did not want of information. My attempts, haltingly at Bahasa Indonesia did help.

At the hotel lobby. Beautiful and intricate carved stand for the vase of beautiful fresh flowers which graced the lobby area.

One of the things I loved about the hotel was that it was open on all sides. Which meant there was a free flow of fresh air.

My colleague ‘man blo maunden’ in the lobby getting settled in and making sure the camera is primed and ready for action. We were also tourists there.

The breeze flowing through large windows and doorways, reminded me so much of the South Pacific Forum Secretariat in Suva.

Fresh orchids in the lobby – a welcoming sight and feeling, for sure.

We left the Grand Nusa Dua on Monday morning when hotel staff were back at the posts and the hustle and bustle of preparations for a number of meetings in various wings of the hotel.

The new week had begun and soon our meeting was a blur in the past and tranquility of the weekend.

Looking down from the hotel lobby.
Another view of the hotel from the south side of the pool.
A stone carving ‘holding’ looked as though it was propping up the ceiling on the front, north facing. The carving of the bowl left me wondering as to what the bowl was for. Didn’t get the chance to find out. Perhaps one day when I return as a fully-fledged tourist, I might remember to ask.

The weekend meeting in Bali was a wonderful way of ending the week – part of it was spent in Port Moresby.

During our short stay in Bali and as part of the social and cultural programme of the meeting we were treated to a number of cultural performances. It was one of those memorable times I’ve spent in any one place where it was short enough to take in as much as I could take in of the place thanks to my faithful Nikon D90 and the other was long enough to enjoy what the place had to offer. 

Terima kasih banyak…

The Haoapa – Gould Art Exhibition – Port Moresby, March 2012

Artwork from Ratoos (Gary) Haoapa – on of PNG’s handful of iconic artists with international acclaim.

I was invited to the opening of Australia Week which began on 5th March, 2012 at the Australian High Commission here in Port Moresby. 

Minister for Education, Hon. Theo Zurenuoc just cut the ribbon signalling the opening of Australia Week’s joint Haoapa – Gould art exbihition.

To kick start the Week the Minister for Education, Hon. Theo Zurenuoc did the honours by cutting the ribbon after a short speech which followed the opening remarks of the Australian High Commissioner, H.E. Mr Ian Kemish. 

Some of John Gould’s art work.

On display at the opening were two beautiful and stunning artworks from two artists – one Papua New Guinean, Ratoos Gary Haoapa and the other an Australian, John Gould.

Some more artwork from two very talented visual artists.

PNG Attitude also posted a short article on the art exhibition which you can read here.

More of the artwork on display.

Icouldn’t help thinking that these kind of occasions which support exhibitions – joint or otherwise – go along way in showcasing local and international talent and helps to energise and motivate our local artists to think about solo and joint exhibitions and garner awareness and support for their work.

I wished at least one of the exhibited pieces was hanging in my house – wishful thinking.

I was so happy I went along and thanks to the Australian High Commission for the kind invitation to attend the opening of 2012 Australia Week.

Once again I am blown away by the artistic expressions of visual artists and the wonderful and creative ways in which they view life and our modernising world.

Girls in Green: Irish Dance

Agility, energy, litheliness and youth. What a joy to watch these young girls perform.

I’ve only ever seeing this type of dance on TV. For some reason when I was in UK I didn’t get a chance to see any Irish dancing. I perhaps was not adventurous enough but that’s for another trip I suppose.

Calls for agility of limbs! Ouch, my aching bones...

I was so happy to run into these group of young Irish dancers on Queen Street Mall, Brisbane, Australia on 17th March which also happens to be my birthday.

I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered the dancing girls in green, purely by accident.

I wasn’t sure whether they were dancing to raise funds for a cause or something.

There was a sort of bucket where the girls were dancing  but I didn’t have time to read what it said.

It seems that more and more  young people these days are taking their art – either visual or performing to the streets. This augurs well for the perpertuation of the arts in any culture. 

I am sure that we have groups here in PNG such as Paluai Suksuk and the Bougainville Bamboo Band and accompanying dancers who perform at various functions around the city. 

I wish I were 10 years old again!

The dancing is energetic and footwork seems to be the epitome of good Irish dancing or probably more correctly, Irish Dance. I wondered how much practice they need to perfect their steps and at what age they started dancing.

One of the features of this group of dancers that struck me was their age. Young people keeping their traditions.

Looks easy but I bet it took ages to perfect this step. Well that's from someone with two left feet!

Some cultural dancing groups in PNG have begun to ensure that their young people get to showcase their cultural dances such as the recent Palaui Suksuk Dancers from Manus at the National Cultural Commission-sponsored corporate dinner at the Dynasty Restaurant at Vision City.

This is one of those ocassions I relish when in another country. You don’t know what you will find but but if you get out and about you may come across something like this. Mostly it would be something artistic or creative and this was one of those ocassions. I enjoyed the dancing and considered myself rather fortunate to have witnessed it.

They make it look so easy.

A very pleasant interlude to a whirlwind shopping spree at Queen Street Mall, (Brisbane, Australia).

The Party After – Beyond Pacific Art Gallery Opening

Mumu-ed pumpkin. It was delicious, tasty and went down very well with lovely red red and white Aussie wines and of course the sparkling ones too...

After the formal opening of the Beyond Pacific Art Gallery we were treated to entertainment and a mumu feast.

A mumu is a method of cooking food underground not necessarily in an oven but in a hole in the ground on hot stones. This method of cooking is found throughout the Pacific. 

In PNG, mumu (Tok Pisin) food is usually found at big feasts and singsings. It is convenient to cater for large groups of people this way without having to use hundreds of saucepans!

The two aluminium garbage bins, brand new, used to cook the mumu in. The rain did not discourage JKL and family from producing great mumu dishes for the celebration of the Gallery opening. Reminded me of cooking mumu food in my gas oven in London 3 years ago. As Papua New Guineans, if we wanted mumu food we'll make mumu food wherever we are.

The mumu was cooked in a make-shift ovens comprising of two aluminium garbage bins. Talk about PNG or Pacific Island ingenuity! Joycelin said they searched high and low for something to cook the mumu in because of the rain as they were not sure if the grounds were going to be dry enough for the cooking process which usually takes several hours . 

These bins provided the waterproof oven for the mumu. This was truly innovative, the food absolutely delicious. I believe that wherever we are in this world we would be able to obtain ‘PNG or Pacific Island food’ that is sweet potato, pumpkin and bak choi plus other delicious additions.

A wonderful solo performance of three bird dances from Kiribati. I'm always fascinated by the dances of the Pacific Islands which tend to mimic animal and bird movements even flora and nature.

 In any PNG or Pacific Island gathering there is always food (lots of food), dancing and singing. We were treated to Kiribati dancing which I think is gaining popularity around the world like other Pacific Island dances, albeit slowly. Usually these Kiribati bird dances are performed by a group but our young friend gave us a beautiful and graceful solo performance. Some of the most fascinating dances are those that imitate birds and other animals. 

SP beer to go with our yummy mumu...

 This meal was wonderfully,  accompanied by PNG’s famous beer – SP (from PNG’s only South Pacific Brewery in Port Moresby) and some good Aussie wines.

Oh yes a little dancing but most just sitting, standing around, drinking, eating….

Although it was raining that evening we chatted, sang, joked and just had a wonderful time. I reckon it was one of the best birthdays I’ve celebrated anywhere. 

We had to leave at a reasonable time to be able to wake up the next day and head out to the airport at 7.00am to catch the PX flight back to Port Moresby.

Party afterwards...in the cool of the evening. Just right!

A great time was had by all. And yes, all good things come to an end but in a nice way and we look forward to visiting the Gallery again sometime soon.

All’s well that ends well.