Sunday, 30 March 2014

The best (full body) $5 massage in Legian, Bali?

Anggita Spa (Jalan Lebak Bene, off Jalan Melasti) is a little gem. Very daggy, but cool inside and a massage table that fitted my head and was long enough for my legs. I had a young bloke ("Ian") and my wife had "Retha". Ian started off by walking across my back, necks and legs - think tenderising meat. Jokes aside, he was an excellent masseur. A perfect blend of strong and relaxing. For an hour - finishing off with a killer neck and back massage. A bargain at 50 000 rupiah (about $5 Australian). A superb massage.

The salon above is now a tattoo parlour. As if there isn't enough. As Australians continue to gain weight, I suppose there's larger "canvases"to work with.

New favourite for 2016:

Green Beauty Salon. One block down Jalan Lebak Bene, Gg. Senen No 3, off Jalan Melasti. Even better. Same price. Ignore brochure price. One hour. My wife assures me the older Balinese masseur was the best.

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Saturday, 29 March 2014

Bali Bogan Checklist ... Spot the Aussie

  • Stay in Tuban/Kuta (Legian if you are upwardly mobile)
  • Wear Bintang tank tops, Rhonda/Ketut tees have gone out of fashion, I was hanging out for some Schappelle Corby t-shirt banter, but no takers.
  • Wear peaked cap (with knockoff Designer sunglasses on top- indoors as well)
  • Over weight
  • Hair braids (including beards)
  • Walk around streets sucking on a large Bintang after breakfast (or in lieu of)
  • With kids (called Cooper, Maddison or Jayden - out of school holiday period) and grandparents (as baby sitters)
  • Last but not least, this is the clincher, tattoos - everywhere - arms, legs, backs, chests. All ages 18 years to old-enough-to-know better. I've seen old farts in their 70's get inked here. The nursing homes are going to be full of wrinkled bodies with dragons.
I suppose it is much cheaper in Bali to get tatts. Back in Australia it could cost thousands. With the cost of budget airfares (e.g. $400-$500 return) you come out a head (a dickhead).

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The rubbish problem in Paradise - South Lombok, Kuta Bay

Locals dropping rubbish (plastic bottles, wrappers, plastic bags) is a worldwide problem. I know I speaking as a cashed up Westerner, lucky enough to visit these beautiful places, but they won't stay beautiful. Snorkelling in this bay, plastic bags and wrappers outnumber the pretty fish.
The idea of taking your litter home with you in places of scenic beauty isn't the done thing.

This is a popular spot for the locals. The Novotel Lombok is in the background (its grounds are litter free, but the other side of the fence - a dumping ground).
This is a closeup of the last photo.

Monday, 24 March 2014

"Da Vinci's Demons" Season 2 Episode 1

I've missed this rollicking silliness. The over the top flash forward in South America (complete with Las Vegas showgirl costumes and gory ritual sacrifice), with Leo and Risario as unlikely comrades, will ensure a loyal fan base. More backstabbing, fruity language, a rudimentary blood transfusion and lots of mumbo jumbo flashbacks for Leo. This is a rattling good yarn.                                    
Once the scene changed to onboard ship, the tone was more like "Sinbad"/Saturday Matinee adventure.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

I drank Bali tap water and survived...

I refilled a 600 ml mineral bottle with tap water (to test the seal - it's a long story that involves transporting duty free vodka on a domestic flight). Anyway we took the wrong bottle to the pool and drank about half before we realised. Tasted okay, looked clear.
It's been 24 hours and no after effects. I wouldn't make a habit out of it, though. We have travelled in Asia, Africa, South America for 30 years and have always boiled tap water for coffee/tea or making ice cubes (when desperate). Good quality hotels use purified water for their ice. Bottled water is cheap, anyway. 

Saturday, 22 March 2014

What A$10 can buy you in Bali... Kuta Currency

A$10 in Kuta gets you....

a dinner for 2 (see below)  or

4 large Bintang beers  or

a full body massage for one hour for you and a friend  or

a metered taxi (e.g. from Hard Rock Hotel) to the airport (including generous tip)

  • Beer - Bintang, Bali Hai, Anchor is roughly the same price whether you buy it at Matahari Supermarket, convenience stores or at cheap restaurants/warung
  • 2 large Bintang = 1 body massage for 1 hour in Kuta = 50 000 rupiah
  • 4 main meals at Gong Corner, a popular cafe off Poppies Lane 1 (e.g. Cap Cay, Nasi Goreng, Gado Gado, Satay + 1 large beer + 1 banana juice + 15% tip = 100 000 rupiah
  • 100 000 rupiah = 2 body massages for 1 hour
  • Australian currency conversion (March 2014) roughly drop 4 zeroes to get rupiah                  e.g. 10 000 IDR = $1

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Kuta, Bali Swimming and Body surfing... with the beach to yourself

It's near the end of March (before the Australian Easter holidays and Nyepi Day - March 31), so it's fairly quiet in Kuta. This morning around 7:00 a.m. I had the beach to myself (apart from four frisky dogs).

I'm talking about the strip of Kuta Beach from Hard Rock Hotel to the BeachWalk Mall/Sheraton Hotel.
If you swim in the middle of the day, the tide is in and the waves break too close to the shore - in other words, crap for body surfing.
The beach is quite clean, apart from the occasional plastic bag/sweet wrapper brushing past your legs. The beach graders and cleaners work on the sand early each morning.
If it rains, which it will in March (it's the end of the Wet Season), the beach is nigh on deserted in the middle of the day. No hassling, no sunburn, no glare off the water, no surf schools getting in your way. Very relaxing.
After 16:00 hr is a good time (as the tide is out).
Legian Beach (1km further north) is cleaner. Surf seems to be better in the afternoon, too. Doesn't break as close to the shore.

Tip: To avoid 'swimmer's ear' (earache), wear earplugs. Good old Blu Tack works just as well. If you do get swimmer's ear, you can buy strong eardrops/antibiotics at a local pharmacy (Apotik 15, near Kuta Square). I had acute earache, throbbing, couldn't chew without pain. After 24 hours of treatment, all good.  Price 55 000 rupiah (50 000 rupiah on Jalan Legian, near Jalan Melasti)  A bargain.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

"Bates Motel" Season 2, Episode 10, Episode 3, A&E, spoilers Episode 4, Episode 5

I swore I wasn't going to watch this soapy stuff anymore... but the Faye Dunaway-style "Chinatown" revelation was a ripper (he's your uncle/father, Norman).
No "South Pacific" for Norma. Shame, I would have loved to hear Norma sing, "I'm gonna wash that man right out of my hair" (in the style of Janet Leigh, of course).
Norman got hit on by a gay dude and Norma got hit on by a wealthy divorcee. Oxy-girl (Olivia Cooke, surprisingly from Manchester, England, great US accent, girl) got hit on also, before chucking her cookies.
Dylan (part-time gravedigger) got royally screwed in Caleb's Costa Rica scam (I'm assuming).
I like Norman new feisty girlfriend, though. Norman might be a psycho, but he's a straight psycho (with a Mother Complex).
Episode 4 was deadly dull, then redeemed itself in the final minutes with Norman finally 'becoming' his mother in front of  incestuous Uncle Caleb, brandishing a knife a la Tony Perkins. Will this  how get its mojo back?
Episode 5 - the season stalls again - White Pine Bay is becoming more like a teenage Banshee. The drug subplot is a yawn. This show is supposed to be creepy, isn't it? Too much teen bonking, not enough weird stuff.
Episode 10 - best bit was the final look at demented Norman. This second season has been a dud. Too much padding, not enough gothic/creepy business. Season 3, big ask....

Snorkelling on the cheap in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia

In the past I have thought Nusa Dua was overrated, soulless and bursting with same-same 5 star resorts. And some people like that stuff. A big surprise however was the not bad solo snorkelling opportunities from your resort.
I stayed at the Sofitel (near Nusa Dua Beach Hotel). Here are my tips:
  • Snorkel and mask, of course. I use sunblock and wear a t-shirt.
  • Bring reef shoes for wading out past the breakers (when low tide) or flippers (high tide)
  • Aim to snorkel at high tide (usually middle of the day - check tide times online) to avoid trampling out for 100-200 metres at low tide. Sea urchins can spoil your holiday.
  • Getting back to shallow water is easy, just catch a wave (body surf).
  • Observe where glass bottom boats are anchored (for the best coral and fish). Usually only one or two craft, never crowded.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

"Banshee" Season 2 finale, "Bullets and Tears", Episode 10, Cinemax

By the first 10 minutes, all the boxes have been ticked. Nasty murder (check). Sex scene (check). Drag act/fight scene (check).
This show resembles a graphic novel, helped by the way it is shot. Note the use of colour, lighting and the Tarantinoesque shootout in the church.
The cutting between past and present was effective. Job frocked up as Marie Antoinette was welcome comic relief. RuPaul, eat your heart out.
Interesting to spot the Twin Towers in the Soho scene. Bit of a gore fest ("I am the ThunderMan!") in the last 10 minutes. Don't mess with little Rebecca.
The add on scene: the return of the Indian warrior (Chayton)  in the New Orleans fight arena was gratuitous and sloppy. Sheriff Hood's Season 3 nemesis is one dimensional, unlike Proctor (next season, he looks like he's going to have his hands full with his naughty niece, if you get my drift).
I think the producers are pushing their luck with Season 3.
3 words - jump/the/shark.

PS Remember that nice British/Jewish chap (played by Mr Rabbit, Ben Cross) in "Chariots of Fire" (1981)?

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

"Bates Motel" Season 2, Episode 2, A&E, Will I keep watching? Maybe This Time...

"Bates Motel" is at its best when goes for quirky/unhinged.
 Like... Norma asking her gyno questions about blackouts; the "Mr Sandman" duet; Norman (British actor Freddie Highmore) going nutso on mom outside the community theatre; Norma wowing the crowd with a tune from "Cabaret" ("Maybe This Time"). For a minute I thought I was watching "Smash". Don't get me wrong, Vera's got a good voice (she is also one of the producers for the show).
Norman auditioning for "South Pacific" (an inspired choice). There was a shower scene in that show. Was Janet Leigh thinking/humming "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair"?
But there isn't enough of this nutty Twin Peaks meets Peyton Place stuff.
The drugs subplot is deadly dull. Bradley was also a bore. Oxy-girl (Olivia Cooke) is wasted.
We can only hope Norma's long lost brother will inject more quirky/unhinged elements into a fairly pedestrian second season (so far).

Saturday, 8 March 2014

The problem with TV second seasons

Okay, the first season was great, there was a teaser to get you to watch the second season.... then you tune in.....
It could go either way.
First there's disappointment. Exhibit 1. (as Rod Serling used to say) "Bates Motel"
It was a flimsy idea to start with, but the charisma of Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore must have convinced producers. It seems this show is treading water. Where is it going? We know what happens to Norman, but the journey is no fun anymore.
Exhibit 2 "The News Room"

Then there's surprise:
"Hannibal" Struggling with the ratings, many thought it wouldn't return. The quality and style of this show has always been consistent. This new season is compelling and, if anything, richer than last year. This is a prequel that works, unlike Season 2 of "Bates Motel".
Season 2 of "Orphan Black" is better than the first season, fleshed out characters and more complicated setups.

Jury's out:
"Da Vinci's Demons"
(Even though both have been given a third season.)
BBC3's "In The Flesh" (3 extra episodes in this series, was it a good idea?)

"Hannibal", NBC, 13 interesting things about Season 2

  1. A suspenseful opening scene, it seems cornfields are mandatory in thrillers.
  2. "I love your work" intones Hannibal from the top of the silo. We all laughed.
  3. An elegant departure from Dr Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson). Or is it?
  4. Now I know how to cook Osso buco.
  5. The photography and design in this show is top shelf. If you see the eye/death/mural in the Tate Modern I wouldn't be surprised. 
  6. The beehive man, the flight into the hive scene. Stunning/macabre.
  7. I'd forgotten how great Amanda Plummer is at doing deranged characters on screen. See "Pulp Fiction".
  8. The body cross-sections under glass (a real "Oh my God! moment) in Episode 5.
  9. Michael Pitt ("Seven Psychopaths" and Jimmy Carmody from "Boardwalk Empire") as Mason Verger giving the creepiest performance of the season, a psycho-Willy Wonka. Making the little boy cry in the stable in order to take a tear sample, then tossing him a chocolate. An inspired turn. He seems to be channelling Christopher Walken/Robert Downey Jr, with a touch of Jerry Lewis's Nutty Professor. Love the Dr Strangelove hair. Mason Verger is definitely standout psycho of both seasons. The face-feeding scene was almost too hard to watch in Episode 12.
  10. Freddie Lounds' resurrection, didn't see that one coming.
  11. The huge Shiva statue rearing up at Will and Hannibal in Episode 11.
  12. The return of Gillian Anderson. She now specialises in playing the ice-queen character (see BBC's creepy and compelling "The Fall").
  13. Spectacular (and gory) season finale. Don't turn off when the credits roll!

Friday, 7 March 2014

Lawrence Block novels - good 'airport' reads

If you want to kill time at an airport (rather than "Angry Birds") or in the air, Lawrence Block's Keller books are good fun. The contract killer who is also a hard core philatelist tickled my funny bone. Dot, his dry-as-a-chip booking agent is a great character. The books include a travelogue of US places as well as fascinating historical details - courtesy of our (anti)hero's stamp obsession.
He may be the Enid Blyton of NYC crime novels but a good read is a good read. Check your brain in at the library desk and enjoy...

"Bluestone 42" Series 2, 2014... Goodbye BBC3

Good to see the standard of "Bluestone 42" has been maintained in the second series. Richly drawn characters from a diversity of UK backgrounds, the clever single camera work and just the right balance between comedy and drama - in this show about 70-30 (I hate the term 'dramedy').

So many inventive shows have been nurtured by BBC3 over the years ("Gavin and Stacey", "Torchwood", "Little Britain" and most recently the brilliant "Uncle"). It is a shame BBC3 will now be only online.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

"Bates Motel" Season 2, Episode 1, A&E, Was it worth the wait?

No, not after this season opener. If it wasn't for the screen charisma of Farmiga and Highmore, I don't think I'd be bothered.
Only four highlights:

  1. Norman in the basement stuffing a beaver (It's a cheap laugh, but it was a pretty dull episode).
  2. Mum and teenage son driving traumas in the Mercedes (Okay mom, YOU drive). 
  3. My wife still likes the fact that the sheriff bears a resemblance to Anthony Perkins.
  4. Norma's rant in the Council Chambers (reminiscent of Harper Valley PTA business).

Slim pickings.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

"Hannibal" Season 2, Episode 1, NBC A great opener

For me the standout in his show is its visual style. This season opener is just as beautifully shot. The stunning image of the antlered demon (Hannibal?) rising out of the stream or the closing image of the entwined corpses (think Saul Bass meets mad old Ken Russell's "The Devils" meets Dante's Inferno/William Blake).
What a brave idea (the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink fight between Jack and Hannibal) jumping forward to the climax of Season 2 (I'm assuming, as the rest of the episode flashed back to 12 weeks earlier).

  • Last year it was French gastronomic titles, this season it's Japanese.
  • Great to see Gillian Anderson is back, calmly paring back Hannibal's layers. It was fun to see Cynthia Nixon playing the icy investigator (describing her job as 'putting down' the battle wounded). Bet she'd be a riot at the FBI Christmas party.
  • Will our hero, Will, being locked up slow down the pace in this season. Solving cases behind bars is tricky. Liked the sorting of photos according to colour palette.
  • Prissy Dr Frederick is still annoying (but I suppose he serves his purposes).
  • 'Psycho of the week' has been tweaked so it carries over to the new episode.

Still thinking of that stunning final creepy tableau. Quite groundbreaking for network television. Hope Bryan Fuller can keep this standard up.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Films I am ashamed of liking - guilty pleasures

Howard Hughes (reportedly) watched "Ice Station Zebra" over 100 times. I have never seen it... but here are my guilty pleasures, meaning I have watched them at least twice and wouldn't mind if they popped up on TV in the near future.
In no special order:
"Airport" (1970)
"Bring It On" (2000)
"The Wrecking Crew" (1968)
"The Maltese Bippy" (1969)
"10 Things I Hate About You" (1999)
"You Only Live Twice" (1967)
"Where Eagles Dare" (1968)
"16 Candles" (1984)
"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" (1966)
"Gypsy" (1962)
"What a Way to Go!" (1964)
"Goldmember" (2002) the first five minutes are priceless (Cruise, Britney, Spielberg, Spacey and Quincy Jones!)
"Carry On Screaming" (1968)
"Clueless" (1995)
"The Holiday" (2006) great cast plus Eli Wallach as Hollywood yoda

any Universal Frankenstein/Dracula/Wolfman/Mummy movie before 1940

(this is a work in progress)

The A-Z of terrible movie titles

Africa - Texas Style (1967)
The Banger Sisters (2002)
Can I Do It ... Til I Need Glasses? (1977)
Dracula's Dog (1978)
Ernest, Scared Stupid (1991)
The Fickle Finger of Fate (1967)
Ghosts Can't Do It (1999)
Humongous (1981)
I Sailed to Tahiti with an All Girl Crew (1968)
Jesus' Son (1998, could he afford an extra s?)
Krakatoa East of Java (1969, buy a map, it's west)
Leonard Part 6 (1987)
Man from O.R.G.Y. (1970, by the 70's they should have known better)
Nobody's Perfekt (1980, too kute)
Oh Dad, poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feeling So Bad (1967, it's the title song, too, you have to hand it to the 60's, don't you?)
Phat Girlz (2006)
Quick, Let's Get Married (released in 1971, made in 1964)
Rockula (1990)
Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! (1948)
They Came From Beyond Space (1967)
Underwater! (1955)
Vasectomy: A Delicate Matter (1986)
Want a Ride, Little Girl? (1974)
X, Y and Zee (1972)
The Yum-Yum Girls (1976)
Zotz! (1962)