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Culture

Bali is renowned for its unique temples that echo those in Cambodia but are generally on a smaller scale.  The small ones are very numerous.  One of the largest is set in extensive gardens and is adjacent to a royal palace in the Badung Regency.

 

Pura Taman Ayun Temple - 15 km North of Denpasar

 

This one was not terribly exciting on the day we visited, the main action being preparing little baskets for offerings, but at Tirta Empul Temple the following day there was a lot more colour and movement.

Tirta Empul Temple (Tirta Empul means Holy Spring in Balinese) is near the town of Tampaksiring. Here Balinese go to for ritual purification. The temple pond is fed by a spring, which delivers holy or amritha water. The occasional enthusiastic westerner gets in and gets purified too, even if they are not Hindu and have no idea what is going on.  It's like a Hindu lining up to receive the Eucharist in a Christian Church.  Some people assume it's OK for a westerner to join in with anything. 

In 1973 Brenda fell foul of the local dress rules one of the temples, despite having earlier returned to the cabin to put on a shirt after her bikini had been judged to be excessively revealing by someone on the boat. This seemed odd when venturing into a climate in which as little as possible seemed to be the most comfortable and sensible mode of dress.  As it turned out the shirt was superfluous and so was the bikini top.  The Balinese culture is accepting of bare breasts.  It's bare thighs that offend, presumably due to their sexual connotations.  Thighs should remain covered in public and particularly in a temple.  This was the first time that either of us had experienced a dramatically different culture or our unwitting propensity to offend. 

But nowadays skimpy beachwear and bare legs are everywhere in the tourist areas, so I suppose the locals have to look the other way.  I certainly found some of the tattoos remarkable.

 

Tirta Empul Temple (Puru Tirtha Empul) dedicated to Vishnu - pretty wet in or out.
The Villa on the hill overlooking the temple with the cool bridge was built for President Sukarno's visit in 1954
It's currently used as accommodation for important guests of the Government.

 

As I have said, in 1973 Bali looked like a paradise.  But I have since discovered that there is a royal family, descended from the Majapahit Empire that, despite having no constitutional role in the Indonesian version of democracy, still holds sway.  In 1965 the Hindu caste system was violently reinforced, as described below, so the caste system has continued to keep everyone in their place to this very day.

According to Wikipedia the four castes of Bali are:
  • Shudras – peasants making up more than 90% of Bali's population.
  • Wesias (Vaishyas) – the caste of merchants and administrative officials.
  • Ksatrias (Kshatriyas) – the warrior caste, it also includes some nobility and kings.
  • Brahmins – holy men and priests.

 

 

 


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Travel

Hong Kong and Shenzhen China

 

 

 

 

 

Following our Japan trip in May 2017 we all returned to Hong Kong, after which Craig and Sonia headed home and Wendy and I headed to Shenzhen in China. 

I have mentioned both these locations as a result of previous travels.  They form what is effectively a single conurbation divided by the Hong Kong/Mainland border and this line also divides the population economically and in terms of population density.

These days there is a great deal of two way traffic between the two.  It's very easy if one has the appropriate passes; and just a little less so for foreign tourists like us.  Australians don't need a visa to Hong Kong but do need one to go into China unless flying through and stopping at certain locations for less than 72 hours.  Getting a visa requires a visit to the Chinese consulate at home or sitting around in a reception room on the Hong Kong side of the border, for about an hour in a ticket-queue, waiting for a (less expensive) temporary visa to be issued.

With documents in hand it's no more difficult than walking from one metro platform to the next, a five minute walk, interrupted in this case by queues at the immigration desks.  Both metros are world class and very similar, with the metro on the Chinese side a little more modern. It's also considerably less expensive. From here you can also take a very fast train to Guangzhou (see our recent visit there on this website) and from there to other major cities in China. 

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Fiction, Recollections & News

The Craft

 

 A Cloud prequel

 

 

 

Chapter 1 - Caught short

 

 

 

 

Christmas 2069 approaches and in the midst of the greatest retail spending frenzy for decades Bianca has been trying on clothes..  They're at Bergeroff Goodman, an up-market store. Bianca has been brought here by Margery who frequents such expensive places.  Unlike many other retail establishments in the world at this time of year, the store is not over-packed with shoppers.

Elsewhere many customers will expend their entire available credit and have even accumulated credit from earlier in the year to allow for this annual celebratory splurge.  Much of it will be expended on personal services, personal wellbeing, exercise, entertainment and of course religious practice and many will exchange gifts of credit towards these services with friends and loved ones.  But this store is very up-market and discrete.

This Monday lunchtime Margery is encouraging Bianca to buy a top quality black wool and mohair suit with a knee length skirt, similar to the one Margery is wearing.  Bianca had been resisting and equivocating when the call of nature gratuitously cut short their struggle.  The older woman had assumed Bianca's resistance was for financial reasons, insisting that a good suit is not an extravagance but an investment in Bianca's future. 

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Opinions and Philosophy

Gone but not forgotten

Gone but not forgotten

 

 

Gough Whitlam has died at the age of 98.

I had an early encounter with him electioneering in western Sydney when he was newly in opposition, soon after he had usurped Cocky (Arthur) Calwell as leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party and was still hated by elements of his own party.

I liked Cocky too.  He'd addressed us at University once, revealing that he hid his considerable intellectual light under a barrel.  He was an able man but in the Labor Party of the day to seem too smart or well spoken (like that bastard Menzies) was believed to be a handicap, hence his 'rough diamond' persona.

Gough was a new breed: smooth, well presented and intellectually arrogant.  He had quite a fight on his hands to gain and retain leadership.  And he used his eventual victory over the Party's 'faceless men' to persuade the Country that he was altogether a new broom. 

It was time for a change not just for the Labor Party but for Australia.

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