Corona Virus in Bali

This time last year, even 3 months ago, if someone had told you they had Corona Virus in Bali, you’d assume they were talking about a beer-induced hangover. Now it means something very different. And while we might all be sick of hearing about it, at the same time we’re also glued to hourly updates on the infection count, and reports on the panic-buying of toilet paper that seem to dominate the news.

There’s no doubt, the news about Covid-19 all sounds very alarming. And with reports that it was all launched by the live animal markets in China, it’s a catastrophe that could have been avoided. You know our stance at The Travellist on the live animal trade, and the barbaric butchery and horrific conditions that animals are subjected too. We hope that this is an opportunity to learn from mistakes, including the widespread devastation caused by these revolting practises. Our hope is that this industry is shut down permanently and that anyone caught operating a wild animal farm, slaughterhouse or market, is arrested. I don’t care about arguments about culture, or history, or even the loss of income if this industry shuts down…it has created a pandemic that has caused economies to collapse, people to lose their lives, and the global financial impact will be felt for many, many years to come.

So what should you do when in Bali and Corona Virus is causing lockdowns, social distancing or self- isolation? Here are some ideas that our team came up with, feel free to share and add your own!

  • 1) Wash your hands, wear a mask, don’t cough, sneeze or snort towards anyone, and don’t spit in the street. All pretty obvious but worth repeating.
  • 2) Catch up on all those half-finished TV series you’ve been watching.
  • 3) Go for a walk in the rice fields or along the beach. Wear a mask if you prefer, don’t shake hands, just wave and get in the sunshine – good for your health and your soul.
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  • 4) Feed the stray dogs and cats. The charities and banjar-run welfare groups will be pushed to the limit with reduced funding and manpower support, so any extra rice or biscuits you have can go to stray animals to keep them as healthy as possible until normal animal welfare activities can start again.
  • 5) Write a book. Read a book. Dust your bookshelves.
  • 6) Learn Bahasa Indonesian. Helpful phrases to start with:
    “What’s your temperature today?” – “Panas kamu berapa hari ini?”
    This is informal and loosely translates to how hot are you today? Lots of fun to be had with the answer.
    “Do you have any face masks?” – “Kamu punya masker ga?”
    Informal and not to be confused with “Kamu punya masker wajah ga?” which asks about face masks of the skincare variety…although if you’re in lockdown, a facial might be nice!
  • 7) Support local businesses whenever you can, and remember to be safe about it. Promote them online for when the apocalypse is over and we can all go out and enjoy each other’s company again. Buy vouchers for your favourite restaurants which provide them with an income now, and you can look forward to using them later on. Support musicians by buying their albums online, or ordering your favourite band’s t-shirt, to be worn as you dance about the house of course. Please post videos of this. Or visit open-air warungs and restaurants. Wash your hands, bring hand sanitiser, wear a mask.
  • 8) Create art on your face masks. Get the Bedazzler out and start putting crystals on your cough catchers.
  • 9) Share recipes for your version of ‘quarantinis’, the martinis you have at home in self-isolation. We went with the famous espresso martinis from the Beach House Sanur but added vanilla ice-cream. They upped the ante by adding milo to the rim of the glass.
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  • 10) Make your own hand sanitiser. There was a recipe going around using vodka. I got out the cup of vodka, but forgot the recipe and added soda water, ice and a dash of lime. Same same.
  • 11) Make an obstacle course for your dogs or cats at home. Please see our example of the office cat playground we made earlier today.
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  • 12) Watch movies about zombies. I’m not saying that’s where we are heading but…you can’t be too careful right??!!
  • 13) Call your family, friends, neighbours. Check on older people who might need extra help with grocery shopping. BUT be safe about it, if in doubt, wash your hands, wear a mask and don’t get too close.
  • 14) Learn how to use a bum gun. I’m sure there is a real name for it but it’s the hose attached to most loos in Indonesia. Let’s put a stop to the great toilet paper crisis, save trees and the environment one poop at a time!
  • 15) Send people jokes and giggles. We know it’s serious but a laugh never hurt and keeps us positive, great for the immune system.
  • 16) Even if you are sure it’s just a cold, stay home. Even if you feel fine but have a runny nose, stay home. People are scared, don’t add to the fear by sharing normal cold and flu germs around.
  • 17) Watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
  • 18) Pretend it’s just a really long Nyepi.
  • 19) Ignore the online trolls, fake news and stop sharing videos of people behaving badly in supermarkets. Think of the embarrassment you cause their children by sharing a video of mum in her best going-out trackie belting another mum in her going-out trackie over a four-pack of loo paper.
  • 20) Everyone is suffering in some way, be kind. Know that this too shall pass.
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My First Holiday in Labuan Bajo

Labuan Bajo has become my bucket list from August 2018 but I made a vacation to this island in October 2019. Labuan Bajo is one of the beautiful small ports on the island of Flores and is the entrance to the Komodo National Park (TNK). Not only come to see one of the wonders of the world, namely Komodo, but also you can explore the amazing place. Travelling to Labuan Bajo was quite a challenge for me because I tried to plan the trip by myself. Well, here is the story of my vacation for 4 days in Labuan Bajo.

How to get to Labuan Bajo?

There are three options to go to Labuan Bajo like by plane, boat and bus but the plane is the best option. Staying in Bali? Lucky you because the easiest way to get to Flores Island is to fly in from Bali. There are daily flights linking Labuan Bajo to Bali’s Denpasar Airport. The flight from Bali to Flores Island is incredibly scenic so make sure you book a window seat!

Flights will take a total journey time of one hour. On average there are eight flights per day from Monday to Sunday with multiple airlines. I was flying under clear blue skies so there wasn’t much in turbulence. I love the moment when the plane is landed because the landscape of Labuan Bajo is so amazing. The airport in Labuan Bajo is new and it was never crowded so the queues were not crazy. I was out of the airport and you can choose the way into town. First, you can book transportation from your hotel if they provide it or second, you can use the airport taxi and charge you Rp 50,000 for one car.

Where to stay in Labuan Bajo?

1. Escape Bajo

The first day in Bajo I chose to stay at this guest house. The whole hotel was also spotless and pleasant. It has nice interior combining concrete and wood, giving minimalist yet modern feeling. For me, this is the best budget hotel I’ve ever been to. The price only 175,000 in rupiah, it was very worthy. Location was up on the hill and five minute walk to the center of town. The one good deal from this hotel is they have free shuttle to/from the airport.

Escape Bajo has seven rooms, consisting of six private rooms with double / twin beds, and one dormitory room with a capacity of 3 bunk beds. As for the dormitory room, inside is equipped with a locker and safety box, as well as two bathrooms and two toilets outside the room. Safety box is also provided in a private room. I stayed in dormitory room and more than I expected. This room is amazing — beds that are much bigger than average (somewhere between a twin and queen), privacy curtains, fluffy blankets, towels, good air conditioning. There is free bottled water and a small but decent included breakfast.

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2. Le Pirate Boatel – Floating Hotel

The first time I arrived at hotel and so in love with the vibe. They have been magically renovated traditional wooden boat into an epic hotel. This boatel located 10 minutes from Labuan Bajo’s harbour and they provide pick up and drop off for free but on a fixed timetable so organise these before you arrive. If you require one outside of the timetable, they provide as well but not for free.

Le pirate boatel has two floors, the first floor there is ten back to back water front private cabins with their own deck, hammock and swim ladder to the ocean. The cabins are clean, and face the sea. The rooms are small so you won’t have much space for 2 people, they have got a comfy double bed, under-bed storage, plugs and a fan. There are no private bathrooms here, located in the back of the boat. They made separated for male and female bathroom shared amongst the boat’s occupants.

Upstairs is the restaurant, bar and a deck with bean bags and beach chairs. The rate you pay includes daily breakfast but if are looking for dinner and lunch as well need additional charge. The bar is open until late. It’s a great spot to relaxing, breathe the fresh air and meet other travelers.

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3. Seaesta Komodo Hostel & Hotel

My last day in Labuan Bajo I stayed at Seaesta, located in the middle of Labuan Bajo. They have dormitory room that offer you the luxury of privacy whilst staying on budget. Every dormitory room contains 8 generously-sized, comfortable beds each with privacy curtains, bedside shelf, individual light and locker. They also provide water refill. Shared toilets and hot water showers are featured, located outside the room.

If you stay in here, you have to hit up to their restaurant & rooftop bar with a lagoon-style pool. This is the nicest part to enjoy your meal, whilst overlooking a stunning ocean view. Their restaurant menu was inspired by the Mediterranean and the Middle East meet Indonesia, you will find a range of dishes, from small plates to hearty meals and sharing platters. At rooftop bar, they have many choice for drink like cocktails, smoothies, coffee and beer. All available to satisfy whatever kind of mood you are in..The other made this hotel special is they have gym area, yoga class & game place. All this facility are free for guest.

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What to do in Labuan Bajo?

Labuan Bajo is the main travel hub of Flores, It is the gateway to Komodo Island. It is being one of Indonesia’s top destinations. Its home to an alluring archipelago with lush, volcanic landscapes and a fascinating history. It’s the perfect destination for thrill seekers looking to get off the beaten path. The island boasts some of the top dive sites in Indonesia and challenging hikes past active volcanoes. Here is my guideline to travel in Flores Island, Indonesia!

1. Visiting and Island Hopping

My time in Labuan Bajo was spent island hopping. You need to find a boat to do island hopping. At the first, I thought I am going choose tour agent but then after I got some information about how local people hard to compete with tour agent in tourism industry and I decided to choose a local boat for exploring Labuan Bajo island hopping, indeed to support them. Here are some of the most popular islands you can easily visit from Labuan Bajo.

First day

– Sebayur island
– Kelor island
– Menjerite
– Kalong island

Second day

– Padar island
– Pink beach
– Komodo island
– Taka makasar
– Manta point
– Kanawa island

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2. Snorkeling and diving

The main activity while on vacation in Labuan Bajo is water activities such as snorkeling and diving. My vacation this time only got to do snorkeling. I really want to do diving but my vacation time in Labuan Bajo is so short and maybe I will do it if I come back here again. The island around Labuan Bajo is one of the dive highlight in Indonesia. My personal experience, I visited Bajo on October 2019 and I had good snorkeling everyday and I was surrounded by plenty of mantas at manta point. It was amazing and made me want to come back there as soon as possible.

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3. Dinner at Kampung ujung

It is a short walk from my hotel to the Kampung Ujung, if you want something fresh with the cheap price, this is the place. The place is average, don’t expect a proper restaurant, you’ll find basic side street food stalls here but don’t worry it is tasty. A lot of fish, shrimp or squid, and you can choose to grilled or fried your meal. But be aware the price for local (indonesian) and foreigner is different. You must ask first the price. Even not much but still having differences.

4. Chill in the café

I walk around Labuan Bajo town and noticed were a lot of small cool cafes – gelato place, and also coffee shop, both right near my hotel. This is a list of the place that I visited:

– Escape Bajo
– Bajo Taco
– Atlantis on the rock at Plataran Hotel
– Le pirate café

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Well, it’s time to going back to Bali! I got off the plane with sun on my skin, salt in my hair, and a smile on face. What a super happy way to spend a few days. I wish I had more time explore the island around Labuan Bajo and do diving. I learnt so many things about Labuan Bajo culture and experienced new things during the journey. I met many nice local people sharing their life experiences. I saw different side of Indonesia in Labuan Bajo.

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Written by The Travellist team for The Voice of Flores.

Diving in Flores

Flores has so much to offer – from historical villages and the ‘Hobbit caves’ of Liang Bua to bustling fishing communities and markets, and ecosystems unchanged since prehistoric times, like the savannahs that are home to the famed Komodo dragons. But for those who like to dive into adventure, goggles first, the diving in Flores is renowned for being some of the best in the world.

Flores is an underwater paradise for divers, with white sand beaches, and waters teeming with protected marine life and vast coral gardens. Divers come from all over the world to swim with turtles, massive schools of fish and reef sharks, dolphins and the spectacular giant manta rays off Komodo. The protected waters, particularly in the north where ocean conditions are milder, are known for their biodiversity, with a wide variety of vibrant corals and seaweeds, crustacea, molluscs and larger marine species, making it a diverse wonderland to explore.

There are dive experiences and licensed dive charters to suit all divers, from novices to more experienced divers, and those looking for ‘live-aboard’ experiences. Locals and dive experts strongly encourage that visiting divers book with a qualified dive tour, as conditions across the wet and dry seasons and ocean currents can shift dramatically. By booking with a dive tour, you give yourself the best chance to dive safely, with dives and equipment that best match your skill level, and professional dive buddies to show you the way. Plus, they know all the best sites to ensure divers can get up close with the stunning variety of marine life in Flores.

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Some of the diving highlights in Flores include:
Kanawa Island, located off Labuan Bajo. Here divers can see turtles, manta rays, sharks and huge schools of fish.

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Komodo National Park, renowned for its incredible protected waters, teeming with marine life. This is one for experienced divers only, as the currents off Komodo need a high level of skill to navigate. Go with an experienced dive charter who can take you to dives accessible only by boat, and help navigate the sometimes treacherous currents.

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Padar Island is also part of the Komodo National Park, and its famous pink beach offers a more protected site to dive and snorkel the popular snorkel trails.
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Bidadari Island is a huge drawcard for divers who want to explore the offshore reef, as it is a sheltered aquatic playground for many ocean dwellers.
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17 Islands Marine Park is a fantastic location to book a tour. Tour guides can take divers and snorkelers island hopping, in search of the perfect dive spot in the many reefs and calm lagoons.
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There are just so many incredible dive sites to choose from in Flores, the possibilities are virtually endless. Divers get access to uncrowded beaches, protected waters and dives that are beyond your wildest dreams. It’s an untapped, underwater paradise, just waiting for you to discover it!

Written by The Travellist team for The Voice of Flores.

Weaving in Flores

Flores is famous for its textiles and traditional weaves. The iconic Ikat weave is recognised all over the world, and speaks to a rich tradition of textiles, weaving and storytelling, passed down from generation to generation. While some of the traditional methods are under threat from new technologies, there are still many dedicated Flores weavers who take pride in preserving their craft. And as word spreads about the incredible skill of the weavers, tourism is playing a vital role in safeguarding the future of Flores and its weaving way of life.

The weaving process starts by first preparing the yarn. Balls of rough cotton are ‘beaten’ to remove any seeds, and then wound into tight balls, ready for dyeing and weaving. The yarn is then dyed using the same methods that have been passed down for generations, using natural plant-based dyes, sourced from the native flora of Flores, like the Indigo plant – creating blue dye – and the roots of the Kebuka tree which makes a brown dye. Typically the yarn is dyed shades of blues and browns, but also dyes are blended to create greens, reds and yellows.

The Ikat technique is a process that involves stretching the cotton yarn onto bamboo frames, and then tying off the yarn in strategic places with bamboo raffia or plastic ties. The sections that are tied off are left undyed, and this forms the design of the weave. When the weavers are creating designs with multiple colours, the process of wrapping and dyeing the yarn must be repeated many times, taking weeks, months or even years. The longer it takes, and the more processes it has required, the more valuable the weave.

Popular patterns include geckos which are seen as a symbol of luck, and other shapes and flowers that can represent fertility, wealth, good health or general prosperity. The patterns and designs are handed down through families, and the whole process is often accompanied by dancing and ceremonies to solidify the luck and good fortune of the weave.

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It was once thought that the value of the weave was only as a dowry offering from the bride. However, the value of weaving as an important community contribution and way of generating income is increasingly being recognised. Groups of weaving women now bring in tourists to the area, who are greeted warmly by the weaving group with song and dance performances, dressed in traditional clothes, and invited to watch demonstrations and even try their own hand at weaving. As more and more tourists are drawn to take part in the traditional weaving, the weaving women are earning a good income through sales of the weaves, generating wealth for their families and other businesses in their community.

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There are many groups throughout Flores who are supporting the work of the weavers, and encouraging tourists to witness the skill and time honoured traditions of the textile trade. The weavers are able to create an income for their families, poverty is reduced in their village, and the weaving groups themselves become a vital support network for the women of the village. The women weavers, many of whom are members of the same family, can bring along their babies to the group as there are always many practiced hands to help out, and it’s a time to talk and share stories, strengthening the fabric of the community.

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The importance of weaving to the way of life in Flores can’t be underestimated. Weaving circles encourage intergenerational storytelling and support, creates an income for the village, and breathes new life into traditional industries and ancient customs.

Written by The Travellist team for The Voice of Flores

Komodo Dragons of Flores

Keepers of the Lesser Sunda Islands for over a million years, the Komodo dragons of Indonesia are found only in Flores and the Komodo National Park. The largest lizards on Earth, their fearsome reputation as venomous killing machines brings visitors from all over the world to spectacular Flores.

A visit to Flores is often described as stepping back in time, with visitors awed by the peaceful hut villages, seemingly unchanged by outside influence. Travellers are welcomed by villagers, who still live according to regional traditions and time honoured custom, a way of life that respects the gentle ebb and flow of the tides and seasons. While in Flores, a day trip to Rinca and the Komodo National Park to see the dragons are on the must-do list, and there are many reputable tour groups who take tourists to see the wilds of Flores, and step back in time to an age when carnivorous predators ruled.

Rinca and Komodo National Park, home to the Komodos, are distinct from the lush rainforest found throughout most of Bali, and other nearby parts of Indonesia. Volcanic islands, they have vast, wide open savannah as well as dense forest, full of exotic bird life, surrounded by crystal clear waters that are perfect for snorkeling. The islands and national park are unspoiled wilderness, where time stands still, and the Komodo is king.

The powerful Komodos, sometimes known as ‘ora’ by the local villagers, meaning ‘land crocodile’, are known for their lethal claws and razor-sharp, serrated teeth. Using their forked tongue to ‘taste’ the air, they can detect dead animals from up to 8km away. So strong is their sense of smell, that in nearby Komodo village, graves must be fortified with heavy rocks to keep the Komodos from digging up bodies. They can live for up to 30 years, growing to three metres long, weighing around 100kg, and reaching speeds of up to 20 kms/hr, faster than most of us can run.

After hunting prey like pigs, deer and other dragons, the deadly Komodos attack, tearing the flesh of their prey with their teeth and claws, and loading the wounds with their anti-coagulant venom. The venom prevents blood from clotting, causing massive blood loss but not immediate death. The Komodo may then let their prey ‘escape’, before calmly tracking them for miles and finally tearing them apart, eating even hooves, hair and bone. Able to eat up to 80% of their own body weight in a single feeding, and armed with their own deadly arsenal and venom, the Komodos are incredibly well adapted predators, and awesome to see patrolling their natural habitat.

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From May to August, the Komodos battle for territory and mates, and go head-to-head, claw-to-claw, in incredible displays of power and primal aggression, kicking up dust and destroying anything unfortunate enough to get in their way.

These impressive apex predators have at times been threatened by human encroachment on their habitat and poaching. While still vulnerable, the villages around Komodo and conservation groups are taking positive steps towards ensuring the healthy future of the magnificent, fearsome Komodo dragons. Education is vital to keep the dragons thriving for millions of years to come, and tour groups to the region take their role as conservationists seriously. The future of the Komodos is in their hands, as well as that of the region and future tourism to Flores.

Recycling in Sanur

For a long time, rubbish collection and sustainable waste management were non-existent in Bali. Coupled with huge tourist numbers, and ‘disposable’ water bottles, plastic bags, food containers, straws and other single use plastics, Bali had a big rubbish problem. Thankfully, organisations such as Tps3R Sekar Tanjung Sanur Village (Tempat Pengolan Sampah 3R- Reduce, Reuse – Recycle) are changing all this, and building a better, cleaner Bali.

The team at Tps3R Sekar Tanjung Sanur Village, in conjunction with organisations dedicated to positive environmental change such as Eco Bali, are setting up complete waste management centres. Facilities such as the Sanur Kauh waste management centre, are a working model of best practice waste management. The centre is so successful, that they hope to be able to roll this model out nationwide.

The success of the centre lies in its ability to make waste management profitable and attractive. The centre offers training, jobs, job security, uniforms for staff and brand new equipment and facilities including a conveyor sorting belt, plastics compactor and rubbish collection trucks. Plastics can be collected, sorted and cleaned, before being sold back to fuel conversion projects, organic waste can be composted and sold to hotels to be used in gardens, and food waste is given to farmers as a food source for livestock. The program emphasises that rubbish collecting is valuable work, creates jobs and wealth, and that centre workers and customers are heroes, saving the planet, while making money.

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In June alone, the Sanur Kauh centre processed 402kg of petroleum-based plastics, and 3.2 tonnes of all types of rubbish. This rubbish would otherwise have been littering streets and oceans, or burnt off, creating toxic smoke. They currently have 354 customers who use the facility, with an average of 700kg of compost returned to customers each month – that’s 700kg of saleable compost and potential income. Adopting this model across Indonesia will save millions of tonnes of waste from landfill and oceans, and generate jobs and income.

Currently, the Kepala Desa funds education programs about sustainable waste practices in schools and villages. They meet with banjars and local government authorities, as well as private enterprise interested in making positive changes in Indonesia. Driven by formal backing from the Desa Adat and Desa Dinas, the initiative is promoting best practice waste management in villages that previously had none. Villages and households receive education and encouragement to get involved in the program, with detailed instruction on how to separate and organise rubbish and recyclables, and the income they can earn doing so. It creates jobs, income, and is helping to clean up and rehabilitate the spectacular wilderness that is Indonesia.

Tps3R Sekar Tanjung Sanur Village are leading the way in sustainability, transitioning their own fleet of vehicles onto plastic based and recycled fuels.

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They accept donations from the public or corporate investment, with all investment going back into programs to further the cause, educate and raise awareness. To learn more or donate to this very worthy initiative, contact Tps3R Sekar Tanjung Sanur Village on +62 878 6228 6867 to become a customer or find out more about their revolutionary waste management centres.

Written by Clare Srdarov and Suzanne Srdarov, The Travellist, on behalf of The Voice of Sanur

Program Dharma National Awards

The Voice of Sanur has featured the incredible work of Program Dharma before, and their efforts to make Sanur a better place to live, for both animals and humans. And now, we can happily say that their work to vaccinate, sterilise and improve the welfare of the dog and cat population in Sanur, has been recognised and applauded at a national level. Program Dharma and Sanur Kaja Village were awarded second place at the national awards for positive community initiatives, for their animal welfare programs. Built around the motto and ethos, ‘anjing terawat Bali sehat’, which means ‘healthy dog, safe community,’ Program Dharma has changed the landscape of Sanur for the better, with regular vet check days, and the introduction of feeding stations – which became a worldwide social media hit. Head of Sanur Kaja village, Pak I Made Sudana, hopes that Program Dharma initiatives are adopted throughout Bali and Indonesia, to improve the lives of Bali dogs, cats, and people, everywhere.

Pak I Made Sudana says that Sanur Village has been working with Program Dharma for over two years now, and in that time, amazing changes and improvements have been made. They are the most successful rabies eradication program in Bali, and have prioritised animal welfare by holding regular veterinary checkup days, and offering free vaccination and sterilisation to all Sanur dogs and cats. Most recently this took place at the Sanur Village Festival, with a mobile clinic set up for owners to bring their cats and dogs along to, have them vaccinated, sterilised (yes, operated on!), and to get advice about keeping pets healthy and cared for responsibly.

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Program Dharma performs amazing work and word always spreads quickly when the clinic is open for business. It doesn’t take long for a steady stream of cats, dogs and their owners to crowd the clinic, walking in, or being carried by whatever means possible – including tiny one-week-old puppies. To an outsider, it may have seemed confronting to see the makeshift clinic, cats and dogs in cages, waiting for their turn on the operating table. But the animals are under expert care as they recover from sedation on tarpaulins, under blankets and the watchful eye of vet nurses and owners.

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While the clinic may seem basic, it does take money to run the program. Village fundraising and donations from the public and private business enable the program to continue its good work in the community. Which is something that soon becomes apparent is worthwhile, not just to improve animal welfare, but to build a healthy, strong, community. Pak I Made Sudana urges other villages in Bali to adopt the program initiative, as the benefits, especially for tourist-based economies, are profound. Healthy looking cats and dogs, free from rabies and disease, and populations of well cared for animals that don’t have to fight and compete for scarce food, are good for the whole community. It makes the streets safer, encourages tourism, and more importantly, tourist investment in the village. So while animal welfare may be the primary goal, the secondary benefits to the entire community are also impressive.

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Everyone’s a winner with Program Dharma, the animals, the people, and as they recently found out at the national awards night, the program itself. It’s a fantastic next step in the program to be recognised and celebrated at such a high level, and as Pak I Made Sudana says, let’s hope it leads to other Bali villages adopting this amazing animal welfare, and village building, program.

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Written by Clare Srdarov and Suzanne Srdarov for The Voice of Sanur

Get Plastic

‘No Plastic Goes To Waste’ – How a small group of young Indonesians are leading the way in the war against waste.

Single use plastics – straws, plastic bags and bottles, and other ‘disposable’ items have created a global environmental catastrophe. Polluted and poisoned oceans, floating islands of plastic, and marine life choked to death on plastic bags and waste, are frequently in the news. While these distressing images seem hopeless, an inspirational group in Indonesia are busy coming up with potentially planet-saving solutions.

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In 2014, a team of seven young Indonesian nationals and two European team members, each with diverse backgrounds and expertise, came together to tackle the endless tide of plastic waste. They recognised the ineffective recycling programs in Indonesia and a lack of adequate waste disposal altogether in the remote villages of developing nations. The group started researching solutions to the plastic problem, focussing on ways that plastic waste can be reused and converted into something useful – fuel. Their research led them to pyrolytic machines, capable of converting plastic waste into fuel through a process of dry distillation. They poured countless hours and their own money into developing a viable prototype, using the cleanest technology possible, and successfully designed a low-tech, low-emission machine capable of converting 1kg of plastic into 1 litre of fuel.

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The team came up with two models – a 5-10kg capacity machine that takes three hours to distil fuel, or a 20kg machine that takes six hours to complete the process. The machines need gas to start the first time they are switched on, but after that, are completely self-sustaining, producing 70% diesel fuel, 20% premium and 10% kerosene fuel. The technology takes plastic rubbish and returns it to its original component; combustible fuels like gasoline for vehicles and generators, and diesel fuels for fishing and agricultural equipment.

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In 2017, they launched ‘Get Plastic’ or ‘GEraken Tarik Plastik’, an Indonesian not-for-profit, whose motto is ‘No plastic goes to waste’. Their mission is to educate people to reuse the most harmful single use plastics, like plastic bags, disposable coffee cups, straws, plastic bottles and other food packaging and convert them to fuel. By using the pyrolytic machines, plastics are saved from landfill, oceans and waterways. Just as importantly, villagers can make an income by selling fuel, or use it to run their vehicles and machinery. Crucially, the Get Plastic fuel conversion technology is cheap to build, replicate and operate anywhere in the world. It’s a game changer!

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In 2018, the Get Plastic team completed a record-breaking 1200km road trip across Indonesia, on a Vespa motorbike fuelled entirely by plastic waste collected along the journey. The trip was an opportunity to raise awareness about the pioneering technology, and lead village workshops on plastic to fuel conversion and proper waste management systems. Their goal is to change the perception of plastics as merely waste, educating people about the valuable potential of recycling.

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If plastic waste can be repackaged as a form of income in places where government-led recycling and environmental conservation measures are lacking, the people in these regions will be incentivised and empowered to invest in recycling. It is through this approach – plastic as income – that the team thinks they can affect the biggest change.

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Get Plastic are excited about the future of waste management. They are urging people to go and ‘Get Plastic’ and not let it ‘go to waste’. The dedicated team do it for love, not money, as they don’t make a cent out of machine sales. It is all borne out of a passion for making positive change and healing the planet. They accept donations from the public or corporate investment, with all investment going back into programs to further the cause, educate and raise awareness. To learn more or donate to this very worthy initiative, contact Get Plastic on www.getplastic.org for more information on the machine.

Contact:

csgetplast[email protected] (Alfa – Bali Coordinator)

www.getplastic.org

getplastic_id (IG)

Yogyakarta

One of the reasons I came to Bali was to explore all of Indonesia, it’s an enormous melting pot of different cultures and religions, islands, traditions, temples, food and people. So recently Yogyakarta, also known as Jogjakarta and Jogja, was my destination for adventure and a completely different view of life in Indonesia. Word of ‘warning’ – this is a longer than normal blog because you can’t do the place justice with anything less. Make a coffee, or pour a bintang, or order a cocktail and get ready to visit Yogyakarta in words.

Yogyakarta was the former capital of Indonesia and this is certainly apparent. There is a highly developed infrastructure of roads, even going out into the country-side. Production and manufacturing is the main industry, rather than tourism I felt, with factories and markets and stalls as far as the eye can see. I didn’t necessarily visit the place for this industry but it was astounding to see so many shops and factories, one after the other, producing similar products – where was it all going?!

Jogja was chosen by me for the history and temples. A predominantly Muslim city, it felt very different to Bali in that there were no family temples at each home or building and no offerings on the street. But there were stunning mosques everywhere and night-time became this loud, beautiful and shocking contrast between flashing neon lights and techno-blaring carts or taxis with the haunting and passionate chanting from the near-by mosques.

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Just a side-note, you don’t necessarily have to but I do think it is nice to dress appropriately here. They are modest people and while I never wear shorty-shorts, I did feel my bare-ish legs stood out. Possibly also because I was a fair bit taller than the majority of women there, and The American took to introducing me as Gigantor! Not all women wear the traditional Muslim attire but they do cover up. It is hot though so consider long skirts or dresses. And like I said, you don’t have to dress like that of course, I just think it could be respectful to their culture, much like wearing sarongs in Hindu temples.

There are so many ways to get around the city, taxis are cheap and often have air conditioning which is handy in the humidity and rain. The little carriage type transport is powered by people peddling or motorbike and while at times it is hair-raising in the traffic, personally I loved it! Close to all the action and at a good pace to look at everything as you go past and easy enough to say ‘stop’ when you see something that requires a photo….or a place for a snack…or a beer (which isn’t necessarily easy to find).

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The first stop was the Kraton which is the sultans palace and still very much in use. Currently residing at the palace is the 10th Sultan, his wife and 5 daughters, which is unusual as previous sultans had more than one wife, and certainly more than 5 children as they would essentially keep producing babies until the highly-desired son was born. Sadly I didn’t catch sight of the Sultan but he is still a very relevant and powerful part of society so I suspect he may have been a tad busy to come meet ‘Gigantor’. Our tour guide however seemed suitably impressed though don’t you think?

The tour took over an hour, closer to two with all the questions, and was certainly worth the entry fee and donation you give. It’s a huge property with enormous courtyards and the biggest dining room I’ve ever seen – which I think is due to the fact that the 7th sultan had 15 wives and 75 children! Fairly sure some of the kids were simply named ‘oi’, ‘hey you’ and ‘when did that happen?’

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The 9th Sultan was an impressive man who didn’t take his position for granted. He was also the vice-president and the minister for business, he travelled extensively, was highly educated as were all his children, he became a boy scout, played baseball, and created a positive influence in society at that time and still today. He is still revered and seemed to be our tour guides favourite. They have a special tradition or rite of passage that when a child is born to the sultan, he or she is placed in a ‘cage’ with several objects including money, a book, and religious items. Whatever he or she touches first, denotes what kind of a sultan they will be. The 9th sultan touched money first and became an impressive businessman. The palace also still has official guards who carry swords – don’t be fooled by the age either, they can move quickly in need!

After the Kraton, you should go just across the road to the Taman Sari Water Palace. These days it’s not so much of a palace as it is a reminder of what life was like. With several pools and large statues everywhere, this was where the sultan and his family came to bathe, swim and relax. It was far more majestic in the past, with stunning gardens and rivers running through the property, however earthquakes, the Java War and British Invasion changed the look significantly.

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Next stop Prambanan. One of the most stunning places I have ever seen any time of day, but ideally get there around sunset as the view and subsequent photos are amazing. It rained ridiculously hard the day we visited but the beauty and impressive craftsmanship was still evident. It’s hard to put into words just how incredible the temples are, each temple having a different meaning and containing different celebrations of gods, so I’ll just let these photos do the story-telling for me. (PS that’s me in the red shorts hiding in temples because of the rain).

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The last temple you MUST visit was my favourite, Borobudur. The images from here have been a constant source of ‘I have to go there’ for me for many years. If you can, go for sunrise which means leaving the hotel at 4am but it is well-worth it. You arrive just after 5am and walk with a guide and torches up to the temple and then climb the steps to the top. Find your spot and sit and wait for the sun to come up, as the mist rises over the valley and creates an eerie backdrop with Mount Merapi in the background, which was smoking and active at the time.

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Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the world and took between 50 and 60 years to build in 9th century. Consider that for a moment…rudimentary tools, no machinery, possibly no shoes, all heavy slabs carried from the river about 2 kilometres away, then cut and carved on site. Our guide told us that 3 generations of families helped to build Borobudur. It is now a Unesco heritage listed site and they have done a lot of work to ensure the temple is preserved and cared for, with a complicated plumbing system now preventing mould and destruction of the slabs, and replacement of some seriously damaged slabs (these are marked with white dots so it’s easy to see what’s old versus what’s new).

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I definitely recommend getting a tour guide as they are able to point out the stories in the carvings as you walk around and for me, this was the best part of the visit. I don’t think you can fully appreciate a temple like this without having an educated guide explaining the various stories and meanings in the carvings…like the story of Buddha’s life which is mapped out all along the temple.

Now I’ve convinced you that Jogja needs to be on the ‘must visit’ list, where do you stay and what’s the food like? There are a lot of options for accommodation, whether you want to be in the heart of the city or closer to the various temples, although everything is quite spread out so you will need to travel at some point to see everything. I would highly recommend the Phoenix Hotel – it’s well priced for the location and brilliant service and it had a very old colonial feeling to it but of course with every mod con you want. The Happy Hour was great and a welcome time to sit and plan where to go next. Sadly with the rain, the pool was empty but it’s a stunning area to relax. For those who like to over indulge at the breakfast buffet (as I LOVE to do), there is a well-equipped gym out behind the pool.

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Do a little research before you head to Jogja, because it’s not like Bali where there is literally a great warung or restaurant every ten metres. They can be found but you need to look into it first for the best spots. The local speciality is Nasi Gudeg, which is a young jack-fruit curry, usually with chicken, some vegetables and crackers. Street food is also everywhere which I personally love but I would suggest being careful where you go if you are at all sensitive to local food or spices. Look for busy places as it usually means the food is good and fresh. Also be mindful that most of these places require you to take your shoes off as you are sitting on the floor and eating off low tables.

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Also you won’t be stuck for shopping options with certain areas and streets dedicated to silver and jewellery, other areas packed full of market stalls, and then there are the traditional markets and skilled textile workers making batik fabric and clothing.

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Right, enough from me. Time for the photos to tell the story. As always I love to chat about my trips and to hear about yours, so please feel free to comment on the blog or send me a message.

All photo credits must go to The American, Josh Holtman.

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