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At the end of February 2016 Wendy and I took a package deal to visit Bali.  These days almost everyone knows that Bali is a smallish island off the east tip of Java in the Southern Indonesian archipelago, just south of the equator.  Longitudinally it's just to the west of Perth, not a huge distance from Darwin.  The whole Island chain is highly actively volcanic with regular eruptions that quite frequently disrupt air traffic. Bali is well watered, volcanic, fertile and very warm year round, with seasons defined by the amount of rain.

 

Bali Bali2
Bali3 Bali4

Aspects of Bali

 

I had not been to Bali since 1973 and it has changed remarkably.  Back then Bali was low on the tourist agenda and the only tourists we saw there were fellow travellers from the ship we were on - the P&O steamship Orion, on our way from Sydney to Singapore.  There was no wharf for cruise ships, so we moored in jungle lined harbour where there was a small jetty and used the ships boats to come and go. We were the biggest thing to hit the island for some days or perhaps weeks.  A collection of motorbikes with side cars and what are today generically called tuk-tuks met each boat arrival and took us off to see temples and to Ubud and Denpasar where chooks (chickens) ran in the street and colonial buildings decayed. 

The main local tourist oriented enterprise, apart from the motorbike guys, were perfume sellers who each had several litres of each popular scent on a little wagon that they decanted into smaller bottles when a selection was made: 100 ml of Chanel No5 - that will be $5.  At Ubud we bought a primitive carving of a fertility god that was given the name Ubud and went the rounds of friends who thought it might help in their quest to fall pregnant.  Like a borrowed book, eventually Ubud was no longer returned but is out there still, either gathering dust or having his/her belly stroked by another generation.

Suddenly here, the culture was Hindu blended with pre-Hindu animist religion.  There was also a smattering of Muslim Indonesian officials and a few European expats to make things a bit more complicated.  We didn't know much about anything. We took some photos that I can no longer find of tablecloth clad statues.  But my memory of a rainforest interspersed with rice paddies serviced by narrow roads and inhabited by charming small dusky people who seemed to have a great deal of time on their hands for what seemed to be endless religious parades, festivals and observances.   Back in 1973 the total population was less than half that of that today and to naive travellers like us it was an apparent paradise.  Yet appearances are often deceptive, as you will read later.  Less than a decade earlier those same rainforests ran with blood of one of the greatest mass murders of the century and in 1963 the screams of those killed by volcanic pyroclastic flow, similar to that which destroyed Pompeii, echoed down these valleys. 

 

 

 


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Travel

Berlin

 

 

 

I'm a bit daunted writing about Berlin.  

Somehow I'm happy to put down a couple of paragraphs about many other cities and towns I've visited but there are some that seem too complicated for a quick 'off the cuff' summary.  Sydney of course, my present home town, and past home towns like New York and London.  I know just too much about them for a glib first impression.

Although I've never lived there I've visited Berlin on several occasions for periods of up to a couple of weeks.  I also have family there and have been introduced to their circle of friends.

So I decided that I can't really sum Berlin up, any more that I can sum up London or New York, so instead I should pick some aspects of uniqueness to highlight. 

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Fiction, Recollections & News

Les Misérables - The Musical

 

The musical Les Misérables has returned to Sydney.   By now we have both seen several versions.    

But we agreed that this new version is exceptional, with several quite spectacular staging innovations and an excellent cast of singers with perhaps one exception who was nevertheless very good.

Despite an audience that was obviously very familiar with the material (if I'm to judge by the not so sotto voce anticipatory comments from the woman next to us) the production managed to evoke the required tears and laughter in the appropriate places.  The packed theatre was clearly delighted and, opera style, the audience shouted approval at and applauded several of the vocal performances, some were moved to a standing ovation at the end.

 

 

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Opinions and Philosophy

In Defence of Secrecy

 

 

Julian Assange is in the news again. 

I have commented on his theories and his worries before.

I know no more than you do about his worries; except to say that in his shoes I would be worried too.  

But I take issue with his unqualified crusade to reveal the World’s secrets.  I disagree that secrets are always a bad thing.

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