Monday, 28 March 2011

A little story about Singapore

Originally Posted with images on Deus Bali Blog...

Two days ago if you had of asked me about today (Saturday) your would have found out I was pretty bummed about it. Circumstances arose mid week resulting on the need to make a milk run to Singapore. Heading up first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Saturday, supposedly a day spent doing stuff with family and friends. Not sitting in planes for five hours and wandering around the land of the skyscraper for another 9.

Then yesterday it changed while checking FB, I had some down time... and I found out that TR Bikes in Block 7 Jalan Batu Singapore, in case you were wondering their address, were having their "March oh March" a Fixed Geared bicycle event. Now that was bound to be something to do. With a starting time of 2pm I could see that it would slip in perfectly after that business I had to do and before that plane I had to catch. While leaving me time to see if I could find a certain Beyblade for my son.

Friday night late I was busy FBing Bumbumbum Ariffin, lets just call him Bum from now on so I don't get RSI, he's the guy that seemed to be at the centre of event things, doing it on behalf of the three owners of TR Bikes; Henry, I remember him as the bald dude. Lynten, hhmm I met him for about 3 minutes as I was leaving last time in town, so lets call him the long haired dude and Chris, the one on crutches... Crutch dude sounded a little derogatory. Oops I said it. Bugger!

Bum happened to be in Bali about two weeks ago but fate dealt us a hand that didn't allow our paths to cross. When I told him I was coming he seemed genuinely surprised, although pleased, that I was making the journey. Perhaps he just though I was crazy, has to be one of the two.

Three o clock Saturday rolled around and life found me in the back of a cab in the nether region of ECP with one of the more elusive and oft talked about Beyblades on my boys wish list in my possession, I took this as a good omen. Which was something I needed right then as TR Bikes was proving hard to find for the uninitiated, which perfectly described me and my faithful sidekick, "taxi man". Omen number two came when I spotted a young hipster on a fixie whipping through traffic speed checking moments before he might possibly become one with a car fender several vehicles up. With words dripping in cliche I told Taxi Man to "follow that bike!" and not for the first time today a big smile crossed my dial and as I reclined back into the generously upholster diesel Merc which was Taxi Mans ride.

Located under one of the old government housing blocks this unassuming shop, it’s a double actually, is sandwiched between a Chinese herbal medicine shop and a 7eleven. The later proved invaluable when beer o clock rolled round. The former probably has its uses but that will have to wait until another visit.

Right here I have to stop the narrative (?) and spend a sec and describe this kampung. Picture an area that is delineated by three 80 meter long 5 story high housing blocks. They form the sides of a triangular with access to the inside only at the points and you have it. The shops sit under the buildings and a paved road ran around the inside with a little park and tiered pond amphitheater type arrangement in the middle. It was all very pretty. But that's not what I saw when I arrived. I saw the crew already hard at it.

The high jump event was well under way when I dropped my bags, greeted a couple of guys, grabbed my camera and started clicking away. Now I am no Red so I have to take a different approach to this photography business, I was going to work the percentages. In my pea brain I figured that if I shot 400 photos, at least 6 would (I hoped!) make it past the sensor and be suitable for your viewing. With hunteresque skill I nuzzled my way to the front of the throng of 100 hipsters from around Singapore, Malaysia and, as I was happy to find out later, some crew from Bandung. The bar was set about 40cm and the round I missed had brought the number of competitors to two. Problem was neither of them made it any higher. Bum had the perfect tie breaker. Chance in the form of a quick round of paper, scissors, rock. Lovely bit of improvisation I thought.

Winners named noted and we were onto the longest skid. Up until this point I had thought our kids were pretty damn good at this. Had to reevaluate that idea when this event was taken out by a skinny kid on an old converted ten speed who left rubber on the tiles for a good 80 meters! 20 meters more than second place. Mighty job!

The crowd were getting restless and the owners had set up another round of Sapporo beers at the table that permanently resides in front of there shop by the time Bum had the first group of guys on the line ready to ride the sprint. Now there are two things here. Remember my description of of the place? A triangle right, well they have corners that are more than 90 degrees and that other salient fact is a fixie can not lay over that low as the peddle will hit the ground while in the bend. I set myself up at the start only to miss a three bike pile up round one, on bend one, in lap two. That wasn't going to happen again and I moved to sit myself on the Kerb on the second straight looking back to that first corner. Riders not making the bend can't brake, they don't have any brakes, so they either end up crashing sideways, straight into one of the big green hedges or as one guy did it, in the shops. The crowd ate it up. Three rounds later and a final of the heat winners we found out who was the fastest on the day.

Like a well oiled crank we moved to the sunken amphitheater for the track stand comp. At least thirty riders started out. 3 minutes later at least two thirds of them were still in contention, Bum raised the stakes. One arm. This did wonders to cull the pack by 50% almost immediately but there were some real stayers, pun intended, in Sing. No hands came the cry! Another ten dropped off but 6 persisted. By now, these guys had been balancing on two thin tires for about 7 or 8 minutes. The degree of difficulty got a rocket when Bum told them to take their shirts off. Amongst the hilarity this request generated in the crowd who watched now blind, no hand track standers crashing to the ground it did have the desired result and left us with one bare chested winner. There was much rejoice.

Moving into the final event of the day, the No Foot Down, kind of like our Sumo but with a pond in the middle, the atmosphere in this strange cultural courtyard in what would have been one of the more dodgy areas of Singapore in it's day was effervescent. Laughter poured freely forth and not just from the fixed afficiandos but from the upper balconies where some of the older occupants had come out of their houses to see what these kids were up to and got swept up the wash. Others had taken places on the park benches and amongst us in the amphitheater. It must have taken a good fifteen minutes but finally a winner was delivered down and I saw my chance to duck into the 7Eleven for some light refreshments. Not that I need to justify my actions I do want to say for the record that it was close to 5 pm.

It must have taken at least thirty minutes to give out the winners prizes. There was frames, wheel and crank sets for the first, second and thirds in each event. And a mammoth raffle with 18 prizes. It really showed me the generosity of the owners of TR Bikes. It's all well and good to sell the crew bikes, it's business but they were cultivating a lifestyle and putting something back. Good joss guys! Looking at my phone I saw I had nearly over stayed my welcome. After a couple of goodbyes and congratulating Bum on a well run, not to mention, very fun, awesome afternoon I moseyed out of this cultural cul de sac to go looking for a car to whisk me back to the airport and home. I'm on the plane now. The smile hasn't left me. Thanks for the great arvo.


Saturday, 28 August 2010

Just when you thought it was a goon night...

Tonight we had a lovely evening at Metis. Fantastic food, great deserts, fantastic cocktails and expensive wine, well hey this is Bali, not their fault. As I said a great night.

We had just said goodnight to our friends and were making our way back to the motorbike when I noticed my helmet wasn't there.

I made some noise to rustle up some Sampat, thats local for security guys, and we all had a search of the area. Not a biggie, a helmet like the one I lost costs around fifty bucks. I wasn't going to make too big of a deal about it. That is until this guy, not in security outfit but with radio makes his way over to me, he glares at mr and speaks, well it was more like a snarl. Words spill out in which he tells me it's my fault. I should have locked the helmet away, I should have made sure it wasn't able to be stolen. In seconds it went from hero night to zero night. This guy really pissed me off! Have you been to Metis? This is a compound where you are screened at entering, this is one of Bali's best restaurants, right now there are 8 security standing around me. This guy was aggressive, his people skills sucked, he was right up there in my face. I was livid.

I demanded to see the manager. We stormed back to the restaurant I was shown to some guy still in uniform. I started to explain what had happened. A bule, a foreigner, approached rapidly, I was loud. I was upset. Not good for a restaurant to have someone like that in the entrance. What to do with a scene in the entrance of the restaurant? Take it outside. They were in damage control, the polite Frenchman asked the specifics while urging me to move towards the door. I met him halfway by lowering my tone. My beef wasn't about the loss of the helmet, it was about being treated as guilty by their, what seemed to me "head" of security. Funnily enough the Frenchman lowered his gaze, looked about and then he conceded that he had no control over them, that they needed to use externals to look after their security and there was no recompense, but what stuck me as odd, they were not allowed to comment on performance! Now what is that all about? I wanted an apology from this arrogant dude and the manager, well he couldn't deliver it to me. Money for replacement, from the restaurants point of view that was no problem. I should have said that the helmet was worth more. But that's not me.

I was unable to get my ounce of flesh. I took what little was on offer, I took the money, finally, after multiple refusals as I knew I had hit a stump. They gave me, what I now can sit and work out to be 5% of our bill. Not even worthy of a voucher is it?

Both the manager and I could not bring this prick to pay so we both sought the low road. Sometimes in Bali there is no justice. My only Hope is that karma will prevail and strike.

In respect to this I tell you friends just do not leave your helmet on your bike at Metis for the moment.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Rules and regs...

I have a friend and his daughter coming to stay and I have to go away. Now like all good homes I have a couple of idiosyncracies that people should know about so I wrote him a list. I thought it worthy of a blog post...

My home - The quirks and works.
Where to begin? Safety I suppose is a very good place. Power is the dodgiest thing here so lets forge into that. It’s 240 volts, though this isn’t always the case and can fluctuate a lot. If you have sensitive items, don’t use them without a power conditioner. They are expensive so no spares, I only have them for my appliances. Laptop power supplies are not super sensitive. In fact they are a great power conditioner and regardless of the input voltage should only deliver 12 volts to the computer. Having said that, I issue no guarantee or warranty. You stay and play on your own cogency.
My landlord, guru, smiley fella and otherwise all round tight bottom, reference to spending not sexuality, in his infinite wisdom and frugality, decided he only needed to run two wires throughout the house, not three thereby immediately saving 30% on his wiring bill. At this point I should probably qualify this as just my speculation but after 3 years, you could say I have a feel for it. So metal objects, like the cases to computers, my aluminium laptop, the aluminium keyboard, hard drives and even the case of my iPhone, when plugged into the mains tend to deliver a small buzz, which although not entirely unpleasant, are a little disheartening. Best to avoid these by not grounding yourself. Mats and chairs are good!
Should there be a black out, we haven’t had one in a while, you will find tea candles under the sink, left hand side and there is a rechargeable torch on charge in the lounge room. I tend to just go out if the power drops out early evening. Don’t forget if the power is off here it is probably out across the whole suburb. So you cant go local. If the neighbours are still lit up then it might be just a breaker. Check them in the kitchen. If that is all good go out the kitchen door, left and left again towards the laundry area, just after the water heater is the Mains. There is a breaker in there for the entire supply. I find Echo beach is good,!
I leave a couple of lights on downstairs at night, usually just the one set, switch is the right one of the set of three beside the lounge door. I also leave the lights on to the Garage and the outside wall. The switch for this is located outside the kitchen on the right when you head to the garage.
Lastly on the power, there isn’t enough of it! The island doesn’t have enough and neither do I. My poorly allocation of only 4400 watts isn’t enough to even run the George Foreman Grill & BBQ so don’t think you can run 3 aircons, lights, TV’s and have a hot shower at the same time, because you cant! Two aircons only at any given time or otherwise the kitchen will pop.
My computers are off. You have to understand that these are how I make my living and I have to protect that, so when I am not here they are off and password protected. Sorry about that!
The Internet is on and the wireless, anomac is the name of the network, is easy enough to get onto. Famous last words. I do not offer tech support while out of Indonesia, and while in the country you will be billed at RP250,000 per ten minute block. The password is (do you think I would put that here???) case sensitive. And before you ask, it’s a zero not an O. While it isn’t as fast as Oz it is a very reasonable connection and unlimited downloads. Knock yourself out. Up on Jalan Kerobokan is Global Extreme. About 1.3km from here. They have a very good connection as well as computers that you can hire, if you didn’t bring your own.
The lounge Audio Visual System has a number of offerings. DVD, Wii and on the DVD player in the lounge is a little box hooked up to a red hard drive. It is a media player and storage. The smallest remote operates it. It’s got some old movies, surfing movies, TV series etc.. some real gems here. The big silver remote operates the amp. For DVD set to DVD/VCR, for Media Player and Wii it should be on TV/Sat setting. I am referring to the line of buttons just under the LCD screen on that silver remote. The volume control is the only other thing you need to worry about on this one. Watch out it can go very loud! The black remote runs the TV. The main button on this is the little one above the Green MENU one called SOURCE. This switches from the three different input devices I have hooked up. Do not use this volume control; I have it set to zero. Don’t fiddle! DVD, well it’s a bloody DVD player. If you cannot use this then you are all out of luck.
We have about 1000 DVD’s floating around. Please use them carefully but put them back where you found then so that my kids and I can have the pleasure to lose them another day.
Chucky and Sputnik are my kids. Especially while my boys are not here in Bali. Pat them all you like, they love it and will fight each other for your affection. Do not lay a heavy hand on them!! Just as you do not hit a child you do not hit my dogs. I definitely do not like that. They bark. I just tell them to shut up. Live with it. It’s part of having dogs. So it is part and parcel of staying here. That said I want them to bark and more should someone come over the wall at night. There are plenty of thieves in Bali and lets not become victims. Sputnik is allowed out into the street during the day. Chucky is not, he would end up as kebabs in twenty minutes. Made will take Chucky for a walk each day. You can too. On a leash please. Both the dogs are very affectionate, they do like to jump up on people, even little people, forewarned is forearmed. Be aware of it and it will not be an issue.
Lastly look after Komang and Made and they will look after you. They are our Balinese family. They have been with us for nearly 4 years. They love to have a chat. They both laugh very freely. They will want to know where you have been and where you are going. You’re on holidays; slow down, take the time to tell them. It is not being nosey it is the way that Balinese are. They are trying to know your place in the universe. It is very sweet. Perhaps you ask them where they have been, where they are going and how their spouses and children are. Scratch the surface and be very surprised by what you find.
Have an ace time here. Yeah the chooks are loud as are my dogs, the neighbours are inquisitive and the next door neighbours are building. But all in all it is a great place. A place I feel at ease 24/7. I hope you do too.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

The lengths some go to to advertise a product.

Ok I get it. I understand that these guys would want to drink something after what they do, but what they do is pretty out there. To launch V Isokinetic Colenso BBDO, Auckland created an extreme urban sport called Pomparkour. Pomparkour has elements of Parkour, Free Running, Pompier, and ‘Hakenleitersteigen’, a European event started by fireman who climb building faces with ladders at speed. Those that practice Pomparkour (Loonies) use a ladder specially designed and constructed with a large hook at one end. This allows them to grip rails, windows and ledges as they traverse and scale high buildings through the city. Thank god I have the cheat sheets, because there is nowhere in the ad that you see this. It's mad. Love it. You guys rock!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Don't try this at home kid

This is an amazing video of what is fast becoming a lost art. These guys are true craftsmen.
Inspirational. You guys rock!!

UP THERE from Jon on Vimeo.
I wrote this documentary along with my friends Malcolm and Christine, as part of The Ritual Project sponsored by Stella Artois (more at So proud to help these painters tell their story.

Concept: Mother NY; Production Co: Mekanism; Director/DP/Editor: Malcolm Murray; Music by The Album Leaf; Painters: Colossal Media/Sky High Murals/Bob Middleton; Presented by Stella Artois

Friday, 19 March 2010


"You feel today sir?" I look around accepting the proffered towel. The words bounce around in my heat dazed head. Who said them? Where did they come from? What do they mean?

I blink to try and arrange my thoughts, I hope this action at least buys me some time. The lights are on but nobody is at home just yet, the aircon in the foyer assaults me like a tsunami would if i stood before it along the shore. Without moving a hair on my head it's bashing the last bit of life out of me. The same life force that got me back here.

I have been on remote the past half an hour. My mind had shut down, overheated. My body was left out along the pavement somewhere. Somehow, something took control and through the maze of wrong side driving, bizarre traffic rules and the furnace that is day time in Siem Reap I got back to my hotel, my oasis.

I had been perched on the back of a small motorbike, my knees were up around my ears, thank goodness they can still go that far. This cool damp towel feels good on the back on my neck. What was it the girl had said? It didn't sound right, or did it. I rubbed the cool damp towel along the length of one arm and back down the other.

"Yes" It crocked out. Immediately I hated the way that sounded. Was it a question she asked or a statement? I wasn't sure. I rubbed my neck again with the towel using it to bide more time while life seeped back in through the cracks. I was aware of the staff looking at me there in the hotels entrance. The door men, the concierge, the receptionist, the two musicians across the expanse of the foyer who played music by rote and let their eyes dance around the foyer for amusement and especially the girl with the silver tray full of the cool damp towel. I didn't care, nothing mattered anymore I was back and I was just wallowing in the cool hotel foyer.

"Yes" I repeated, though this time with timbre and direction, "I feel everything today, thanks for asking"  I hand back the towel. I glance around the expanse of the foyer, I look at the girl with the silver tray of hand towels, I smile and move deeper into the hotel.

Cambodia is outside and I, for the moment, am safe in here.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Adding fuel to the fire.

So I am sitting here working away when the phone rings. Jakarta number I can tell by the 021 prefix. Low and behold it is a friendly person from AirAsia. After some pleasantries where, lets call her Anita, establishes my credentials I am informed that someone in KL has used my credit card details to book a ticket on tomorrows flight from KL to China twenty minutes ago. Was it me? Why are I laughing she asked. I gathered my composure and told her a funny thing happened in front of me at home, what else could I say?

I told her that I had not booked any flights today, although I had tried several times yesterday though. If she only knew!

She told me I had to ring the call centre and tell them that I hadn't purchased the ticket. I love the fact that I was talking to a woman in AirAisia and then I had to ring AirAsia. So I did. Then the girl I was speaking to, again that incredibly bad telephone line because they are trying to use Internet telephony in a country that has incredibly bad internet services. Argh! The irony really came home when the call centre girl put me on hold to talk to the Accounts girl, couldn't they have done this without me? I had already told the Accounts girl it wasn't me who booked anything. The call centre girl told me I should cancel my credit card because someone had all my details. I thanked her for that pertinent info and signed off.

Now is it me or is it slightly suspicious that the only time I have used my credit card in the past week was yesterday when I was trying to book a ticket on AirAsia and then today it's used to buy a ticket on their site. I want to know how come this other person was actually able to book, given my wasted hours yesterday. Lucky bugger.

The sad thing here is that my credit card is cancelled and I am now not able to book the tickets to Perth for my mom's birthday unless I get someone else to whack it on their credit card. Not happy!!

Just in finishing I rang my bank in Australia to cancel my card and I was put through to their call centre, in the Philippines, I surmise from the girls accent. Internet telephony, though reasonable quality. She told me that was the only transaction that they had used my card for... go figure.

Here are a couple of images I thought I should share...