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.

The Turtle: Another Icon of the Pacific Islands

Miss American Samoa - this print really moved me

I realised how much the turtle means to people of the Pacific Islands when I saw the sarong designs and prints sported by the 2010 Miss South Pacific Pageant contestants in November last year here in Port Moresby. Here are some of the reminders on the Sarong and Talent judging evening at the Lamana Hotel.

Miss American Samoa - an award-worthy print!

There should be two additional award categories: one for the prints on the sarong and the other for sarong design. As you can see from these photos, the attention to detail and style needs to be recognized and rewarded.

Miss Samoa - stunning idea! The shell pattern on a turtle's back.

We can find turtles practically anywhere in the Pacific Islands – from Hawaii to Papua New Guinea. Each of us have a special connection to this marine animal. The turtles live in the sea and lay their eggs along the sandy beaches of our lovely islands. These prints and designs show that connection.

Miss Samoa - turtle clasps made of coconut shell or turtle shell on the sarong

What comes to mind when I watched the contestants in their sarongs and these designs and prints is that the turtle has a very significant place in the cultures, as well as the cuisine of the Pacific Islands.

Miss Tonga - a turtle print on her sarong - impressive print

In Samoa one of the top 10 tourist attractions is swimming with turtles. In Hawaii we find the legend of the sea turtle called ‘Kauila‘. I am sure there are a few legends and myths about of sea turtles that go beyond the Pacific Islands. That means that the sea turtle is a migratory species and can be found also in Asia and the Caribbean.

In some parts of PNG turtle meat and turtle eggs are a delicacy. In Daru, Western Province the popular turtle meat dish is called isi dou. I tried making isi dou wrapped in foil – not the real thing to use but the taste was exquisite! So I was told by my relatives who enjoyed the dish immensely.

I will end this post by sharing a great article on sea turtles which I am sure we can identify with – the protection and preservation of these animals and also a Fact Sheet titled “Sea Turtles of the South Pacific” published by the South Pacific Environmental Programme (SPREP) which gives an overview of the variety of sea turtles, life cyle and other very important information about these marine animals.

May the turtle live on and continue to be an icon of the Pacific Islands.

Sarong and Talent Show – Miss South Pacific Pageant 2010

Love the logo...

It’s now a week since the crowning of Miss South Pacific 2010 but the memories of the events and the many judging sessions leading up to the crowning are still fresh. My memories are of last Friday night’s sarong and talent judging event at Lamana Hotel, one of our premier hotels in Port Moresby. I reckon Miss Cook Islands showed us many ways to wear a sarong but the others were equally stunning in their sarongs too.

Here are the beauties in their sarongs (or laplaps as we call them here) parade. The designs and the work that had gone into making a winning laplap out of these must have been an exciting and creative journey for some island artists and fashionistas in the region. They must have burnt the midnight oil but happily and with pride as they too were competing for the best sarong in the Pacific through this competition I believe.

In no particular order, here they are. The beautiful contestants of the Pacific Region and women with great potential for responsibility and great careers ahead of them. I was so proud and happy to have been at one of the judging events.

Miss Fiji - she had this woven cape on. When on stage she took it off to reveal this lovely sarong. The designs depict significant aspects of Fijian culture and community life.
Miss Niue - the yellow shells around her hips, the necklace and the bracelet were exquisite. Each piece depicts a cultural aspect of Niuen life. Loved the hat and the multi-coloured sarong.
Miss American Samoa - this was my favourite sarong. The turtle designs are exquisite! Absolutely stunning! The turtle has a very special place in American Samoan culture and society.
Miss Papua New Guinea - an interesting way to wear a laplap.
Miss Hawaiian Islands - loved this silk creation. Love the flower arrangements on the sarong and on her hair. Aloha.......
Miss Solomon Islands - this was another I liked with the coconut tree design on the sarong to show the importance of the coconut in Solomon Islands culture and society.
Miss Tonga - this was another sarong that had a turtle design on it. It also showed the significant place the turtle has in Tongan culture and society.
Miss Aotearoa, New Zealand - this was an interesting design. I loved the 'moko' or tattoo on her chin. That really stood out for me.
Miss Samoa - are the colour was stunning and the turtle buckles were so pretty - dark brown against the orange background. Again the turtle design which is on the back signifies the importance of the turtle ni Samoan culture and society. Simply sensational!
Miss Tokelau - the white coral patterns on the blue sarong was like looking into the sea. I thought this was also sensational!
Miss Cook Islands - loved the colours and the patterns on the sarong. In terms of the versatility of the sarong - she took out the prize as far as I was concerned that night!

The sarong parade was an excellent show! Each contestant had to describe what the patterns or designs on their sarongs said about their culture and society. I gained useful insights into the cultures of these countries. A very enlightening and exciting segment indeed.

What an awesome way to spend a Friday evening.

The versatility of the humble laplap cannot be underestimated.  Some interesting ideas on how we can be creative with our laplaps has been inspired by the Sarong and Talent Show for the contestants.

The next post will feature the talent segment so watch this space.

Miss Cook Islands Is Miss South Pacific 2010

In a pose in her sarong or laplap in PNG Tok Pisin

Well done, Miss Cook Islands!

I was most privileged to be at the sarong and talent judging evening of the Miss South Pacific contestants on Friday, 26th November, 2010 at the Lamana Hotel in Port Moresby.

After the competition that evening I somehow felt that she was going to take the crown. She seemed to have ticked all the boxes plus she kind of stood out among the other beauties. She had the winning attitude that carried her throughout that evening. So a well-deserved reward, to be crowned the 2010 Miss South Pacific on the Saturday evening – 27th November at the Sir John Guise Stadium in Port Moresby.

She brought to life the feeling of being at the beach...

Miss Cook Islands really stood out for me. Infact quite a few others who were in the audience agreed that she had the winning aura if you like.

A beach maiden for sure...in Raro or...

It was such a lovely evening and the audience was I think ‘standing room only’ after about 8.00pm. I was right infront of the lower stage and was really glad I got to the venue about 6.20pm as the programme was scheduled to start at 7.00pm. Well, it was clearly PNG time and the programme got rolling about 8.00pm-ish! Anyway, when the eleven beauties arrived, it was well worth the wait!

There were numerous problems with the microphones and there were long intervals between the announcements by the two PNG co-hosts! There were also long intervals between one contestant leaving and the other entering the stage but that was understandable – having to change from one totally different outfit to another in a short space of time.

Port Moresby calling Aitutaki?

I enjoyed the sarong displays. The artistic talent on display was amazing especially the patterns and designs on the sarongs and of course the many ways of using a sarong as we can see on Miss Cook Islands. I liked all of them including the one for Miss Cook Islands. I particularly liked the shell ‘hook’ at the back of her sarong. Amazing what one can do with one piece of fabric – don’t know how many metres long it was.

The shell 'hook' at the back on this one piece sarong is, well, brilliantly creative.

In fact to be honest, I had a couple of favourites (sarongs) which I’ll include in my next post on the Miss SP quest – but only of the Friday night judging.

The talent segment was also amazing in terms of the range of talents and the costumes displayed by each of the contestants. Here’s one of my best shots of Miss Cook Islands in the talent segment.

A picture of grace and poise...her message was clear...women are no longer on the back burner so deal with it!

She was also quick with the spray can…our own Pacific Picasso…that too was a clever idea. Most people I spoke to on Saturday morning commented positively on her skill at drawing with a spray can…

Here she is drawing with a spray can...

Then of course at the end of the drawing and the short speech she does something totally different. I called it ‘doing the Pacific pulse’.

Doing the 'Pacific pulse'...

Here are a few more photos of Miss Cook Islands on the sarong and talent judging evening which I thought were outstanding out of the many shots I took of her.

A bit of tamure action...
Another 'Pacific pulse' move
When a contestant was introduced there was an 'introduction billboard' for want of a better word.

I will post some more photos of the competition on that night. I wasn’t able to go to the crowning night as I had a prior commitment for that evening. Anyway, I reckon been able to be at one of the judging evenings was indeed a great opportunity to witness great artistic and cultural moments shared by the bevy of beautiful Pacific Island women.

A friend of mine posted this link on Facebook which am posting here too so others can share the news article with details of the quest and the crowning of Miss Cook Islands as Miss South Pacific 2010. I hope you enjoy the article – Cook Islands snatch Miss South Pacific crown. Tenkyu tru Chris L in London, UK.

As I am wrapping up this post, I couldn’t help humming this Cook Islands song by Pepe and the Rarotongans and is one of my all time Pacific Island favourites. It is an oldie but a goodie nonetheless. It goes something like this, “Kua ingangaro oea koe, my dear land Rarotonga…” (hope that is correct) – it’s been a long time since I last heard it.

My Birthday Treat

I wore this all day...a present from the lady who did my hair. Thank you A.

 

This is how my special day, Wednesday, 17 March, 2010,  began and ended. 

7.30 am out of bed, charged camera batteries, checked my email and my blog visitors, had breakfast, showered, got dressed, brushed teeth, made up face, stopped at Londis for cakes to celebrate birthday with hair stylists, then to hair salon. Got my hair done in record time and was happy I did my hair midweek. Well, did I come out feeling a million bucks? yes I did! Before I forget, and believe it or not, the girl who was having her hair done too and sat next to me was also celebrating her birthday. In a city of 12 million this is uncanny. She was going to get a tattoo for a birthday treat. Now how about that! Different strokes for different folks. 

After the salon, it was home, dry cleaners to drop off some laundry then yippeeee…off to Westfield Shopping Centre. 

At the local pub, Jamesons (next to the dry cleaners), and true to their Irish roots, the green balloons were out. The feeling of celebration was overpowering –  a real good feeling. 

The green was out...yeeeeaaaah!

 

Zigzagged through the mid morning traffic! 

Buy British, don't forget, ok...

 

Considered the biggest shopping centre in Europe, it was a joy to get to the shopping centre and check it out. It is not as large as the Mall of America…but who cares…this is Britain and the scale is just right. It’s a landmark. 

Thinking clothes, jewellery, shoes, handbags, food etc etc

 

I really did not know what to expect. A colleague who visited here a few months ago told me it was humungous. I could not feel that from this sign outside but that changed when we entered the parking lot…oh my! 

Gi-normous, modern and user-friendly

 

Took the lifts to the ground floor…my first thought was that we had entered a hotel lobby and were heading towards the reception. Wrong! we had just entered Europe’s largest shopping mall. It was massive. I was really happy that I had ‘decided to spend my day here checking out this huge place. 

Simply amazing

 

A food island, handy when one is thirsty and hungry

 

For lunch I was spoilt for choice. I couldn’t make up my mind – I started with hamburger, than fish and chips and finally settled for Vietnamese pho ga…chicken noodle soup. It looked great but tasty? Hmmm, I’m not going to go for it next time. 

It was busy and I was hungry...had pho ga

 

Hot soup...hit the spot

 

 

The wooden/bamboo soup spoon - really cute

 

The dip for fried spring rolls

 

Some more photos of the shopping centre…the place is growing. Grow on, grow on, grow on…. 

 

 

 

A floral gazebo

 

A clothing island...punctuates an otherwise wide sterile shopping corridor

 

Icecream anyone?

 

At 6.00pm we exited the shopping centre homeward bound. On the way I reflected on the day. I could have gone to the countryside or some other city outside London but I needed a couple of things and a day for leisurely shopping was my vision of a happy satisfying birthday. No crowds and no rush to return to the office. It was a great decision. 

Homeward bound...it was a lovely day

 

This is my 100th blog! It has been my great joy and pleasure. Thank you all for visiting this site. Your visits encourage and motivate me to write. I enjoy writing about my magic moments and hope that you will continue to drop by so I can share my stories with you. 

 

Covent Garden Wokabaut

Felt the excitement of discovery...something new in the air.

Everyone has a special place in the city where they live. I have a couple but one I like most is Convent Garden. The Saturday before Valentine’s Day I went along to Covent Garden . I took some photos of Trafalgar Square on my way up to Covent Garden. It is almost a straight shot from Trafalgar Square past the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery, along the Strand  then a left turn off this main drag and voila! You’re at Covent Garden.

I love the Covent Garden Markets and in fact that is the reason why I went there in the first place. It is a nice little place to spend a day – lots to see, places to eat and just enjoying the atmosphere. There is quite a bit to see and if you like handmade artifacts, jewellery and clothes this is the place to go to. Stalls and designer stores stand side by side so one is spoilt for choice. I love to go there to find presents and a couple of times took PNG relatives there.

There is usually alot going on and is a great place to browse and buy or just window-shop which is what I did. Covent Garden is surrounded by restaurants, take-away joints and of course shops along the Strand.

Covent Garden Market was built in the 17th Century and has a really interesting history which can be found at http://www.coventgardenlife.com.

My Saturday at Covent Garden was again a great day to remember. Some photographic souvenirs of my Covent Garden wokabaut.

Gold Finger...

Pre-Valentine's Day fever...

Is The World Ready For BilumWear?

Cathy Kata - 'Mother' & Genius of BilumWear
Cathy Kata - started the show with the bilum chant. It was one magical occasion!

In a cramped space but with enough room to stage a world class art exhibition, Cathy Kata introduced BilumWear to the UK – in London – one of the famous fashion capitals of the world. On the evening of  24 September, 2009 amongst Papua New Guinean residents of the UK and avid PNG followers BilumWear made its entrance albeit less grand than the catwalks in London’s Fashion Week and other famous fashion shows in Paris and New York.

No-one would have known that BilumWear was introduced in a small quarter of London on that night except those of us who were there to enjoy the show. Almost lost in the other exciting things that make up the life in a big cosmopolitan city.  I bet you one day BilumWear – the unique fashion fabric from Papua New Guinea – will be mainstreamed as a fabric worthy of fashionistas – famous or otherwise around the world. Everyone’s always looking for something new to work with and BilumWear is definitely in the  ‘something new’ catagory.

I was most awestruck with Cathy and with BilumWear – and who wouldn’t!

The bilum starts like knitwear - small...

BilumWear is absolutely Papua New Guinean! PNG fashion is experiencing a BilumWear bonanza! It is a fast growing brand name in Papua New Guinea fashion. Why? Because for the first time, the humble fibre which up until recently has been the material used to make totes of various sizes and colours, can now be worn as dresses, blouses and so on.

Bilums are found in practically every part of the world. BilumWear is Papua New Guinea’s resounding response to Thai and Chinese silk, English linen and brocade, satin, damask and so on – and fast finding its way into wardrobes in PNG and overseas. I recently had the pleasure of seeing photos of PNG women wearing BilumWear in PNG and Australia and as faraway as the USA via Facebook albums, PNG and PNG-related blogs as well as on Google. Wow…so what is this fabric we are talking about? Check out a number of blogsites given at the end of this post for more information on BilumWear.

Cathy's BilumWear displayed by two PNG ladies at the Show.The ‘Hailans to Ailans’ international exhibition of contemporary art catalogue featured an interview with Cathy Kata by Dan Lepsoe.  He asked Cathy what the bilum meant to her and she said, “There’s a song in my language that captures this…” and she told the story of how it was the spirits that led a young girl to discover a special fibre and made bilum from it. The making of the bilum in turn became the beginning of life’s journey for the young girl – she grew up, got married, had children  and the bilum an integral part of her life – “…So the song really describes the importance of bilum to a woman’s life” said Cathy.

More of Cathy's BilumWear creations
BilumWear outfits - simply amazing!

I was proud because the exhibition was uniquely Papua New Guinean. Now Cathy was part of this historic ‘Hailans to Ailans’ international exhibition which opened in London on 16 September, 2009.

Cathy's BilumWear creations
Another colourful outfit - simply beautiful!

From Lepsoe’s interview, I gathered that Cathy’s journey into bilum weaving and into BilumWear was inspired in 2000 by an article of a PNG fashion designer “…who had created a garment with a piece of bilum attached to the pocket.” I am still wondering who wrote that article that woke up the artisitc and entreprenuerial giant in Cathy. I have a few guesses but will keep them to myself lest I am wrong. Will  ask Cathy next time I see her.

Cathy's BilumWear modelled by members of the PNG community in the UK.

Cathy learned bilum weaving or looping from the tender age of 5.  Since reading the article on combining bilum material with another fabric she was inspired to create her first bilum product. She made a bilum frock for her daughter’s graduation. This was the step in the right direction – she was doing something she had knowledge of, something she loved and something that opened up new possibilities for her entreprenuerial endeavours. She created her special Cathy Kata BilumWear from that day onwards. The rest, as they say, is history.

Cathy has participated in a number of exhibitions in PNG and abroad such as this one in London and in 2003 was artist-in-residence at the de Young museum in San Francisco, USA.

When I received Dr Mel’s invitation (co-curator of the international exhibition) to the  the ‘Hailans to Ailans’ show in London, I was really happy and delighted that I would be meeting the creator of bilum dresses made entirely in PNG. I remember reading about her but couldn’t remember when and where. What a wonderful opportunity this would be to meet her and one that I would not miss.

Cathy's BilumWear  - long skirt
Beautiful PNG motifs on BilumWear makes it a unique fabric

BilumWear arrived in London. Long skirt with PNG motifs.Amid the splash of bright colours which filled the small space on the second floor of the Rebecca Hossack Gallery. What a night that was. When Cathy started chanting her bilum song and the PNG wantok models took to the makeshift catwalk following a superbly choreographed performance to introduce to the world BilumWear, a great audible sigh of admiration and awe could be heard in the quiet room.

As the models danced and swayed I was suddenly overcome with pride as well as the realisation that Papua New Guinea is slowly making its mark in the world through its art and cultural exhibitions. I was so grateful for the invitation to this exhibition. We need more shows or exhibitions like this. The artists need support in advertising, marketing, and promotion of their works throughout the world. But the kind of support they need must be sustained to be able to make the sort of impact that European art and antiques have made on collectors around the world.

I thank Cathy for being part of the team of PNG iconic artists and bringing BilumWear to London. What a great occasion to introduce BilumWear to Europe than during the week celebrating PNG’s 34th Independence Day in London.

Dr P. Rosi with a Cathy Kata BilumWear jacket over a dress - stunning!
Dr Pamela Rosi in one of Cathy Kata's BilumWear creations - stunning!

Check out these sites for more information and lovely photos of BilumWear:

http://www.euraliapaine.blogspot.com, http://www.mitchie.net/pnginfo/bilumshttp://masalai.wordpress.com, http://www.rockyroephotographics.com/gallery and http://www.pngbd.com


I reckon that BilumWear will one day find its own place on the catwalks of Europe and America, Asia and the Pacific and Africa.  Designers are always looking for new fabrics to work with and BilumWear is not going to remain in the shadows for too long. It only takes a small step and perhaps it was meant that BilumWear made its debut appearance here in London – a fashion capital.

When BilumWear finds its way into wardrobes to suit various dress and pocketbook sizes, Papua New Guinea would have given the world something so unique and most unexpected. That’s right! Something unexpected from the ‘land of the unexpected’.

So hello world, are you ready for BilumWear? Me thinks you are…