Lembongan Diary: Wednesday 27 September 2023

I thought to myself the other morning on the moped  riding down Jungbatu high street and a group of 30 odd electricity workers walking towards me in their trademark blue helmets, there goes the electricity sometime over the next few days, and so it has.  

Yesterday was spent on the phone dealing with the bank in Australia, five calls, $100 of minutes and problem only maybe solved and the joy of an increasingly annoying American business partner I’m quite happy to be disconnected from the outside world, that is as long as today doesn’t end up being as hot as the last few days.

Yesterday was, apparently, only 31C but at 2pm it felt like 38C. 

I’ve not been on the island long enough to learn how climate change is affecting small islands in Indonesia that don’t have a land mass big enough to engender the odd afternoon shower. I have now been here nigh on 4 months and not a drop of rain has fallen. 

The berries still ripen. I tasted a berry this morning that saw a young woman picking from a tree on my morning walk that I’d never heard of before and have promptly  forgotten the name of it after we had discussed it for 10 minutes in broken English whilst  at the same time munching away on the ones she picked for me. The taste  was quite pleasant, a slightly squishy nashi like pear flavour that would do well as a compote or even in a crumble.

The flowers are still flowering, frangipanis in all their shades of white, yellow, pink and magenta. The Bougeinvilla is always in flower and the late summer grasses are beautiful in their endless shades of fawn.

All this peace and quiet will soon end though. The shouty Australians turned up yesterday on their huge spanking brand new motorcycles planning habitat destruction with the glee only they can have about real estate development. Their plan to turn Lembongan into the central coast suburbs is being realised at high speed and the locals are only too happy to take their cash for land sold for 2,5,10 or 20 year leases as they inevitably inherit a set of villas at the end of the lease which sometimes they manage to sell on but in the main fall into disrepair like a 2nd world war American airbase on the Solomon Isles. The island is dotted with these blights and one hopes that nature eventually takes its course and subsumes these human paradise fantasies engendered by lifestyle magazines, websites and social media. 

All these villas and mini resorts look the same .. a faux Polynesian aesthetic combined with the practicality of the Australian suburban lifestyle and informed by the sort of lifestyle show one might see on channel 7,9,10 that involves hapless couples searching for a new dream together by building or re-decorating cheaply built boxes with no charm and specifically created to negate beauty.

A young Sydney woman who manages the house I’m renting and is married to a local dive operator was telling me only the other evening about the Gold Coast couple who live on Bali and have built the swish Ohana’s Resort on Jungbatu beach. 

The name says it all, part Hawaii, part Ibiza, part Qld it hosts those who want the ultimate tropical island boutique resort fantasy. The invention is all of their minds and has nothing much to do with Indonesia or Lembongan. Two juices, that I’ll happily admit were of good quality,  will set you back $20 whilst one is made to listen to languid house beats of the early 2000’s era. 

Unsurprisingly he was,  and probably still is, a trader, with a decent inheritance, or so the story goes. They have just in the past few weeks opened a Greek restaurant, all blues and whites. I can’t afford to eat there and can get the same grilled fish at a local warung for a fraction of the price. Tom & Daisy as I shall call them like, I’m told, to keep their hands in with a couple of projects a year as they flit back and forth with staff in tow. So I presume we will have a new mini resort, an upscale Italian and Thai restaurant on the island sooner rather that later. This is I gather, what they call progress.

In conversation she also suggested I visit Mola Mola just a hundred yards up the beach from Ohana’s. It is I was told the original Jungbatu beach sunset warung and does a mean mee goreng. I took her up on the suggestion and have to say I am glad I did. 

Yes, there were yet another set of retired Australians talking at the tops of their voices about real estate but I have to grit my teeth an accept that as part of the local colour and luckily behind their cultural desire for dominance sat a quieter more enjoyable experience. 

Peter Tosh’s Night Nurse on the sound system, a splattering of local workers on their phones enjoying a quiet Bintang and peanuts, the Papuan rasta beaming at the descending picture postcard perfect red orb who brought to mind a character out of the Heart of the Congo’s album and two young mediterranean women in deep discussion enjoying cheap cocktails. As home here as they would be in Spain. Only a few weeks ago they were most likely the ones running around serving the Northern Europeans and now it’s their time.