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…

Boxing Day 2011

Have never seen a butterfly this colour before. The sight of it brought me out of the house with my camera.

Boxing Day is the day after Christmas Day.  I guess we just took this on as part of the colonial legacy in Papua New Guinea. There are no post-Christmas sales like everywhere else in the Western world. For most, in PNG, it is an extended holiday and especially so if Christmas was celebrated on Sunday or Monday.

A single bright pink bloom

It was a lovely sunny day in Port Moresby but I opted to stay home and just chill out despite the power black out which made any breeze-less day inside my house unbearable.

I looked out the front yard and was so happy at the sight of the lovely zinnias. The front yard was a flush with a myriad of colours, mostly lilac, hot pink and orange. It was a good time to experiment with different settings on my Nikon D90 and I must say I was pleased with the results. I am happy to share them on this post.

A beautiful lilac coloured zinnias. Looks like a windmill.

These flowers attracted the butterfly and a small bee-like insect. There could have been other insects too buzzing around with the odd mosquito which I did not notice as I was too busy trying to take shots of a couple of the zinnias which did not look too wind-swept.

Bee-like insect on the bloom. Took a couple of shots before I caught it on this one to take this close-up shot.

As I walked around my small front yard I could see that although Port Moresby has  33 degree temperatures all year through still anything can grow with very little watering but regularly.

A bright orange zinnias. Beautiful.

Another shot of the butterfly (below). I had to chase it around the garden to be able to take this shot. The tint of blue on its head and part of the wingspan is unbelievable which is not obvious on the first shot I took (the first photo on this post).

Another shot at the butterfly feeding on pollen.

The long power black out on Boxing Day drove me out of the house and onto the front yard and the searing heat however I was compensated with the sight of these beautiful flowers. A power blackout on Boxing Day was unacceptable because we couldn’t heat up food or have the fans on. I hope it doesn’t happen again next Boxing Day. I can only hope.

Lovely blooms but a little battered about with recent heavy rains in the area
The butterfly was almost a different colour every time I tried to take a shot. Here it looks kind of golden.

Next time there is a power black out and I’m home during the day, I ‘ll remember to take my camera and explore other flower gardens in the neighbourhood. Sounds like a pretty good one to include as a New Year’s resolution.

Happy Holidays to everyone.

“Oh Kwato Is A Green Place…”

Looking up from the Kwato wharf - on the left is the big badila (nut) tree and the raintrees. But what was most disturbing was the fast rising sea level on this foreshore.

As our dinghy pulled up along side the wharf at Kwato, I was struck with the beauty of this island where my siblings and lots of relatives grew up and lived. I went to school here. The big badila tree reminded me of waking up early in the mornings to collect the nuts that the flying foxes have dropped on the ground the evening before.

We used to sing “Oh Kwato is a green place, a home for the flowers…”

The walk across the cricket ground and up towards the main road brought back lots of memories. But hey, the big gisoa (mango) trees were gone. The place did not look right. I searched for a small landmark which my Grandfather left and what a great relief that brought tears to my eyes. It was still there.

The iconic Kwato Church. One of the two stone churches in PNG. Both are over 100 years old. How majestic the dubu looked.
 
This is the first time I am able to take a shot like this. My Nikon D90 did not fail me – more like the panoramic lens. This is a Papuan dubu design. We walked around it and then looked beyond – now one could take in a 360 degree view from this vantage point. The dubu is situated on a small plateau on Kwato. Isiiii kapole hinage…the day was sunny and bright and was the right time to visit Kwato. Met up with some relatives and wish I had time for more meetings but we were on a schedule so next time.
 
We walked up to Tupi and met up with Uncle S who incidently saw us earlier on during our climb up towards dubu. He was with a couple of the guys repairing parts of Aituha ( short distance from the back of the Church). His house has a priceless view of the Papuan mainland and surrounding islands.
 
He had a great collection of hibiscus and other beautiful flowers. Uncle S let us take as many shots as we wanted of the flowers and here’s one of them of the magnificient pink and white hibiscus at the front of the house.
 
Magnificient pink and white hibiscus - '"...a home for the flowers..." alright. Amatoi lailai Uncle S for receiving us so graciously and letting us take photos of your beautiful flowers.

We bid Uncle S goodbye and headed down the old Sipi Road towards the B & C building and the wharf. It was a wonderful two (2) hour tour of Kwato Island. Thank you much Jenny (Driftwood Resort) for letting me be the tour guide for this trip to Kwato.

Doini Island beckoned as we quickly had some cold drinks and headed towards the wharf.

I reflect on this week and what has happened or has not happened depending on one’s perspective. I think PNG went through a process that showed how mature Papua New Guineans have become in looking at political developments and how these events impact on our daily lives. Whilst the seriousness of the impasse and the legal judgements and constitutional dos and donts were debated in Facebook and other media and our freedom hung precariously in the balance, I was amazed at how well we handled ourselves as a nation. Not even Australia can say anything nasty about Papua New Guineans anymore. The smear campaigns their papers run and their politician’s perceptions of PNG as a failed state are blown right out of the water. Politically we are more mature than anyone I know. 

PNG leaders must sort themselves out and resolve their differences because we the silent majoity are taking our democracy very seriously and are putting them on notice with every hour that goes by.

I can’t help thinking that Peter O’Neill now is like the Grand Chief Sir Michael in the early 70s. History is replaying itself again it seems, as the young takes over the reins to take this country to another level. Its proud and risilient citizenry watches silently in hope and positive expectation as another era in our democracy is born before our very eyes.

PNG is a beautiful and amazing country. Let’s keep it that way.

A Fascination With Orchids

Spectacular show of natural colour in one place

The 7th International Orchid Show was held on the grounds of the National Parliament in Port Moresby at the beginning of October this year.It was over the weekend on 2-3 October, 2010. Please disregard the date on the photos – I’ve since adjusted the date so I have the correct date on my photos…phew!

Awards of various categories were made at the Show too.

I am as always, amazed at the splash of colour in one place as varieties of orchids could exist or grow so close together. Sometimes one can find a few varieties growing on one tree. This is really amazing. An awesome sight, without a doubt as one tree could have such a variety of colours  – purple, pink, white etc.

The orchid has fascinated me all my life as it is a flowering plant which you cant dig a hold in the ground and plant. It grows on other trees and plants. When I was growing up one of my maternal aunts introduced me to orchids. I tried growing some in the 90s but never succeeded. Maybe because I wasn’t keen enough to find out how to grow them. Perhaps one day – when I retire.

Growing on trees...amazing

Always awestruck by the beauty of these plants. I think the orchid is some sort of a parasitic plant, in this case.

There are some avid collectors and cultivators of these beautiful flowers. There is one such collector here in Port Moresby who has collected and cultivated around 6,000 varieties of spatulata orchids. Now that is something. He is featured in the catalogue of the Orchid Society of Papua New Guinea and also its Vice President. In the catalogue it reads in part, “…a world-class collection of spatulata orchids…”

Here are some of my shots of spatulata orchids and other varieties of this beautiful, perennial flowering plant.

I spent almost 2 hours at this Show just taking it all in. Wouldn’t you just?

Changi Airport’s Flower Gardens

Elephants are one of my favourite animals...

Amongst the duty free shops and neon lighting are some of the cutest gardens – small gardens that grace the empty spaces between boarding gates, shops and eateries. One could take time off designer bags and watches and chocolates to gaze upon these gardens with clusters of orchids and other natives no doubt.

Orchids...

The flower gardens provide a kind of soothing space against the backdrop of to rushing passengers heading hurriedly or leisurely towards the boarding gates and sounds of chatter of hurried passengers, children, airport workers, salespeople and shoppers.

Purple orchids...

On my way to my boarding gate at the beginning of this week, I decided to stop and smell the flowers so to speak. I relaxed as I looked at the different flowers apart from orchids, however I did take a few shots of orchids though.

A cluster of more orchids that grace the airport

What a colourful way of breaking the monotony of shops, shops, shops and eateries with these islands of beautiful local flowers. Quite strategic. Actually the sight of beautiful flowers in a place such as a busy international airport is rather soothing and comforting. Without a doubt.

Another one of those beautiful flowers, not an orchid though

As I was rushing for my boarding gate, I ran past these and decided to return to take a shot of them…am I a flower junkie or what? Don’t think so, just someone who loves the beauty of nature.

Bravo to the Changi Aiport beautification team, xie xie ni.

Testing Out My New Nikkor Lens At Changi Airport, Singapore

Tried to create depth of field and I think I got it but that's just me...

Two months ago I dropped my Nikon D90 lens at the London Heathrow airport. So for two months I kind of suffered photography-wise.

Anyway, a great opportunity arose when I passed through Singapore’s Changi Airport and decided to invest in a new Nikkor lens. I parted with some serious cash but when you’re into something you love – a great hobby – there can be no half measures.

In fact, the one I broke came with the camera body and ahhhhhhhhhh what a pity I lost it through plain carelessness. Never again!

Aperture f/4.8 and ISO 640...

No flash was used in these shots. I must admit I was moved by these results. Well, what can I say except that my new Nikon acquisition is living up to expectations. High expectations.

The lens is an AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor, 24-120mm f/3,5-5.6G IF-ED.

Another one without the flash...and the result of another test shot

I can’t wait to take it out on a real test run. I want to see what I can create with my D90 and this new lens. So watch this space.

All three test shots were taken without flash, under normal airport lighting and taken on the hop, as it were.

Incredible, Edible Petals!

Edible flowers...

I’ve seen bits of flower petals in salads and some dishes in my travels but never packeted and displayed on a shop shelf. Well, this little beauty was in the basement grocery and wine ‘cellar’ of Fortnum and Mason – an iconic London store straddling the Piccadilly and Jermyn Streets.

I found this table on a website on the net which shows which flowers or blooms are edible. I realise that I’ve used or am using some of them. I take hot Camomile tea from time to time – it is an excellent soothing beverage for a tummy ache. I tried it when I was a student in the US and it worked, so I swear by it as a wonderful cure for a tummy ache. Others may think differently.

I also found these beautiful images of edible or eatable flowers on the net. When I was growing up I found that the most beautiful looking seashells, coral, fish and even fruit are inedible or poisonous. This became a sort of negative mantra for me when it came to being adventurous with exotic fruits in later years. So I was amused but pleasantly surprised that packeted flowers are sold in a grocery section of a posh store as edible blooms. Perhaps not so surprised anymore  I guess when I imagine that these beautiful petals or blooms could be in someone’s salad, meat or fish dish. Hmmm…wonder what they’d taste like with my favourite pasta dish or to pretty up a boring rissotto. Perhaps get some ideas from this article.

I remember when visiting friends in Maryland, New South Wales, Australia – the lady of the house of this wonderful and welcoming family made some stuffed pumpkin flowers for dinner. It was a delicious meal. What’s more the flowers came from the pumpkin patch in the family vegetable garden at the back of the house. Yeah, how fresh can you get, right? Incredible, edible petals!

So I have tasted edible flowers…funny how one forgets.

For adventurous souls out there here is an Italian pumpkin flower recipe. Enjoy!