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Bali In My Dreams by Richard Mann

Bali In My Dreams

All following reviews by:
William Dalton,
Bali Advertiser

With a keen eye for the unusual, the neglected, the underreported, and the owner of an idiosyncratic but genialstyle, Richard Mann has a knack for publishing books on refreshingly singular subjects on or about Indonesia. Under his 45-year-old specialty imprint Gateway Books, he has published more than 90 books on the country to which he has given half of his professional life.
This indefatigable septuagenarian’s literary oeuvre ranges from flattering biographies of political figures like Tien Suharto, business publications on regional investment, guidebooks to the southeastern islands, the first guide to 12 of Bali’s most resplendent palaces, books on Bali’s museums and UNESCO World Heritage sites, a scholarly book on the long history of British involvement in Indonesia and an original history on Bali’s first settlers millennia ago. I had the privilege of introducing this one-man powerhouse at a literary soirée in Ubud a few years back. With a mischievous gleam in the eye and a flair for public speaking, the crowd rippled with laughter as he wielded his gifts for wit and humor.
In another example  of his unique choice of an intrinsically fascinating and seldom written about topic, Bali in My Dreams is a cultural history of foreign   artists, photographers, writers and scholars who are largely responsible for  introducing Bali to the world during the first half of the 20th century when it the island was characterized as “the last paradise.“
It is fortunate that the author didn’t stay within the confines of his subtitle “Forgotten Artists Who Introduced Bali To The World” because we do not want to read only about artists. Also included are a dozen literary celebrities who are better known for their chronicles of a pristine world before it was swept away by the cataclysm of WW II. The book opens with a discussion of the very beginnings of tourism in the early 19th C.: the making of early films about Bali, the opening of the first art shops and the arrival of the first European artists.
Miquel Covarrubias and his wife Rose wrote and illustrated Island of Bali which remains to this day perhaps the most thorough and definitive ethnographies of Bali ever written. K’Tut Tantri, the controversial author of Revolt in Paradise, wrote one of the most famous war stories of the modern era. Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson were the foremost anthropologists of their day.
Walter Spies, contrary to what the subtitle implies, is far from forgotten. The best-known artist in the book, this talented German painter, ethnographer, choreographer, filmmaker and natural historian has attained near mythical, demi-god status in novels, art books and cultural histories of the island. He was the arch doyen of expats on Bali in the 1930s that almost singlehandedly discovered and promoted the arts of Bali to the world. His ethereal, universally recognized “Landscape and her Children” (1939) depicting the Balinese countryside graces the book’s frontispiece.
Vicki Baum’s claim to fame is her enduring classic Tale of Bali that tells the story of the Badung royal family’s annihilation in a puputan against Dutch invaders in 1906. Colin McPhee wrote Our House in Bali, an earthy and humorous book about pre-war life on the island penned by a talented musicologist who blended Eastern and Western musical styles. Louise Coke’s Our Hotel In Bali is about the beach cottages she and her husband opened on Kuta that helped launch the beach area into the age of tourism.
Several people were deservedly included by virtue of their skillful photography that recorded an agrarian feudal society that was about to vanish. German doctor Gregor Krause spent his spare time photographing Bangli in the early 19th century. Early hotelier Robert Coke, Bali’s first Western surfer, recorded images of Kuta Beach in the late 1930s. Though his exploits in the mid 19th C. were extraordinary, Made Lange was not an artist but a Danish trader and mediator between the Balinese princes and foreigners.
The brilliant W. O. J. Niewenkamp was afraid Western influences would destroy Balinese art. This Dutch artist set out to record as much of the culture and historical sites as he could. Belgian A. J. Le Mayeur loved painting Balinese maidens and became a   famous host of the rich and famous that flocked to his beachside bungalow in Sanur during the interwar years. The prolific Australian artist Donald Friend campaigned for all new accommodation to be built based on local design traditions. Painter and bon vivant Theo Meier is credited with promoting Balinese interior and landscape design to the outside world. Artist Rudolf Bonnet virtually created Bali’s souvenir industry. Arie Smit started a new painting style known as the Young Artists School. Han Snel, who painted geometric images with subdued colors and fine lines, loved to entertain at his house in Ubud, reputedly the town’s first real bar.
Willem Hofker’s idealized paintings contributed much to the image of Bali as an exotic paradise, the Dutch using some of his work on posters and KPM shipping ads to promote tourism. Painter and sculptor Emilio Ambron – as well as thousands of other early visitors – were attracted to Bali by the work of Gregor Krause whose photographs were published in 1912. Musicologist John Coast, author of Dancing Out of Bali, introduced Bali’s spellbinding performing arts to the West when he led a music and dance troupe to Europe and the United States in the 1950s.
The select bibliography is a valuable reference and summary historiographical reading list of all the significant books published on the cultural, literary and artistic history of Bali. A list of websites gives access to 11 articles on individual artists and writers featured in the book. In the back matter are short descriptions of three art history museums in Ubud where fine examples of paintings made by foreigners can be viewed.
Sprinkled liberally throughout are black & white photos, thumbnail portraits and selected paintings: Le Mayeur on horseback on Sanur beach; John Coast with the leader of the Peliatan’s royal gamelan; Rudolph Bonnet posing with President Sukarno; Arie Smit alongside Suteja Neka, the founder of the Neka Art Museum; K’Tut Tantri and reporters; Mead and Bateson at work on their typewriters. One achingly nostalgic photo reveals enormous cumulus clouds billowing over a totally empty arc of Kuta beach with not a building or construction crane in sight, just one lone fishermen casting a net.

Bali’s First People: The Untold Story

Bali's First People
Bali’s First People is the history of the waves of people who preceded today’s Balinese to the island. The book attempts to answer such fundamental and largely neglected questions as who settled Bali first, where did they come from, where did they settle, how did they live and what remnants are left of their presence?
Almost all other English language books concentrate on the story of Bali that begins from the moment this book ends. In other words, what developments took place after East Java’s Majapahit armies conquered local rulers in the 14th C. , giving rise to Bali’s distinctive Hindu-Buddhist civilization that visitors see around them today.
The author soundly dispels the notion that little is known about the early history of the island. Actually, Bali has more than 30 privately owned and government run historical and art museums, many containing artifacts, paintings, reconstructions and dioramas of past civilizations with Indonesian and English explanations.
The book is divided into nine chapters covering in chronological order all the main migration periods. Immediately, the writer disabuses a very common misconception: the mountain Bali Aga were the first people to settle Bali in the 8th century. The term Bali Aga is overused and too often applied to confusing and unverified historical finds. This group was millennia away from being Bali’s first arrivals.
Starting in 2000 B.C., in one of the biggest migrations in history, Austronesians from Yunnan along the south China coast and other areas of mainland S.E. Asia began spreading throughout the archipelago, bringing with them a relatively advanced Stone Age culture. Called the Bali Mula, these people eventually were to evolve into the distinct Indonesian ethnic groups of today – the Dayaks of Borneo, the Bugis and Torajans of Sulawesi, the Minangs of West Sumatra – and many more.
When the new Hindu religion started to penetrate Bali in the 4th and 5th centuries, it made an uncannily snug fit with the animism and with traditions already established by the Austronesians – sacred village squares behind protective walls, the Indian caste system and the concept of supernatural power held by local rulers. Later immigrants in outriggers explored Bali’s north coast, an inhospitable rocky region with few safe harbors. In the beginning, it was Bali’s north that was populated while the south was relatively empty. Because of the lack of water, these early settlers turned inland towards the mountains and built their distinctive villages on the shores of the Bali’s great lakes.
The book’s pictorial color cartography is creative and charming: one indicates the main locations where cave dwellers, Bali Aga and Majapahit people settled. Another shows the area of land that was to become Bali crunched between the landmasses of Java and Nusatenggara. An ingenious upside-down map graphically illustrates the direct migration route from Java to Bali’s the north coast – the main gateway to the island in present-day regency of Buleleng. Two important maps are difficult to read – the antiquities of Gianyar map appears smudged and the book’s gutter runs through the Selected Bali Ancient Village map.
The lack of an index seriously compromises the book’s usefulness as a guidebook and as a work of reference. Readers aren’t able to cross-reference information that they may find interesting. If you wanted to learn everything about Julah – one of the original arrival points of the Balu Mula – you’d have to highlight each mention of the small fishing village on a Xerox copy of the book. The Contents likewise doesn’t give a clue about what sites are covered or where they are located.
With a discursive, almost stream of consciousness writing style, the book alternately reads as a history, a travelogue and a guidebook interspersed with the author’s personal traveling experiences and energetic social, cultural and political opinions. Information on the same topic is scattered with effervescent nuggets and shrewd observations intermittently bursting upon the page. To support a point, Richard Mann doesn’t hesitate to interject anecdotes about his Eurasian children or the building of Chinese junks in Hong Kong’s Aberdeen harbor.
Sightseeing tips are interwoven into the text: the best place for an overview of life in Bali from earliest times (the Niti Mandala Monument in Renon), a roundup of all the archaeological museums of Bali; warnings about intimidating guides on the way to Trunyan; where to see brightly painted ocean-going outriggers (the fishing port of Pengambengan); Bali’s largest banyan tree in Emped; old shrines in the family temples of Munduk; Buddhist prayer stupa in Kalikbukbuk; the songket weaving centers of Sideman and Blahbatuh.
Scores of photos show remote ancient sites and villages that the average visitor and scholar would never know existed. During the author’s wanderings and research, he makes some amazing discoveries – stone cooling tanks in the blacksmith clan temple at Lake Tamblingan; the bronze figure of a Khmer king in Blahbatu: a Polynesian-style step pyramid at Pura Segara in Sanur: ancestor’s stone seats in Gelgel.
In the book’s mid-section is a remarkable series of architectural images comparing building styles and illustrating the evolution of dwellings from bamboo and plank board to modern cement and brick construction in the old villages of Bayung Gede, Pengotan, Penglipuran, Tenganan, Bugbug and Ban in north-central Bali. About 15% of the illustrations are so dark that a lot of telling detail is lost.
Richard Mann, with over 90 books about Indonesia to his credit, is a keen amateur historian and tireless life-long student of archaeology. A traveler in the best tradition of such great eccentric British explorers as Richard Burton and Alfred Russell Wallace, this old Bali hand went to considerable lengths to present a comprehensive survey of early migrations to Bali. With his stalwart driver Ida Bagus Arsana, the indefatigable good-humored Englishman crisscrossed the mountains of Bali, paddled between outer islands, unraveled mysterious inscriptions on bronze plates and hunted down original Bali Aga villages in East Java.
You’ve got to give the guy credit for taking on this ambitious project that opens up whole new area of interest for visitors (particularly those with an historical bent) by pointing out unknown, exciting and little visited places by car, cycling or trekking. Bali’s Fist People is the first book that comprehensively explores a wide-ranging subject that has been given far too little attention.
Bali’s First People: The Untold Story by Richard Mann, Gateway Books 2014, ISBN 978-602-8630-20-7, paperback, 236 pages. Available for Rp250,000 at Ganesha and Periplus bookstores. A pdf copy may be purchased by emailing

The Making of Ubud

One hundred years ago Ubud was just a sleepy palace, a market and some temples totally surrounded by rice fields dotted with single story farmhouses. It wasn’t much different at the start of the 1970s when this small country village began the transformation that would turn it into a major tourism destination.
It’s obvious that the author has a soft spot for Ubud, having written the illustrated guide Ubud & Beyond and The Palaces of Bali which lavishes praise on Ubud as a center for arts and crafts, the venue for a world-famous literary festival, a mecca for eco and cultural tours and for the study and practice of yoga and holistic living. With much of his life spent in Asia, Richard Mann has penned a total of 87 books about Indonesia over a period of 26 years.
His latest The Making of Ubud is one of the few books that concern itself with Ubud’s cultural history. The only other available published work dedicated exclusively to the history, art and culture of Ubud is Ubud is a Mood (Bali Purnati 2004), which is curiously absent from the “Select Bibliography” in the back.
The author pays particular attention to the development of the tourist industry, which was assiduously promoted by Dutch colonizers with the arrival of KPM steamships in northern Bali’s port of Buleleng in the 1920s. In the course of his research he has uncovered a number of obscure and intriguing facts:
# After the Dutch invasion, many of Bali’s palaces withdrew their sponsorship of the arts. Artists then began to draw and carve subjects in non-traditional ways that had more appeal to tourists such as myths, folklore and secular scenes from everyday life.
# The rise of Sanur between and after the world wars helped Ubud because as Sanur grew tourists were ferried to Ubud for day trips, often stopping at the craft villages of Celuk, Batuan and Mas on the way.
# One of the main incentives for Tjokorda Gede Raka Sukawati to accept paying guests at his Ubud palace was to generate additional income. After the global economic collapse in 1929, incomes fell and the Dutch instituted money-based taxation. Bali’s traditional barter system was not enough to pay the increased land taxes.
# The film Legong, the Dance of the Virgins (1935) was the last feature film shot using the two-color Technicolor process and one of the last silent films from the silent era.
# Random oddities like Dutch Army defector Hans Snel opening Ubud’s first bar in 1950, the first pushbike didn’t appear on Ubud’s dusty lanes until 1969 and the first motorcycle not until 1975. In those days there was no public transportation, lighting was by kerosene lamps and there weren’t even radios.
# The district of Tegallalang, which owes its existence entirely to tourism, is the world’s largest handicraft center. Starting in Ubud’s northeast corner (north of Peliatan), this single street of workshops stretches unbroken for more than 15 kilometers.
Ubud being Bali’s art center, the overwhelming emphasis in the book is on culture and art, mostly painting. Short shrift is given to political history. The whole Communist-era episode of bloody intercommunal clashes in the mid-1960s is dismissed with one sentence.
But we read in great detail of the multifaceted Dutch artist W.O.J. Nieuwenkamp who was captivated by the beauty of Bali and became active as a painter, draftsman, sculptor, etcher and lithographer and whose renderings were to play a key role in the popularization of Bali. Nieuwenkamp encouraged and worked with the German doctor Gregor Krause who took 4000 black & white photographs of Bali, published in a book in 1920. Complete chapters are devoted to the life and background of artists Walter Spies, Arie Smit and Rudolph Bonnet.
Passionate art collectors Agung Rai and Suteja Neka, whose museums house thousands of consummate art works, are also given ample treatment, as is the founding and establishment of Puri Lukisan, obscure films made about Bali, descriptions of the “Sanur Style,” “Pengosekan Style,” and the “Batuan Style” of painting as well as what kinds of paintings tourists buy now and an explanation of why Japanese shoppers are the biggest supporters of abstract Balinese art.
Also included are sympathetic portraits of Ketut Suardana and his wife Janet de Neefe, founders of the 11-year-old Ubud Writer’s & Reader’s Festival; Kadek Gunarta and his American wife Meghan Pappenheim, restaurateurs and founders of the Bali Spirit Festival; Balinese royal family member Tjokorda Raka Kerthyasa, head of Ubud’s Traditional Community (Bendesa); tourism pioneer Murni who created Ubud’s first stand-alone tourist restaurant; the extraordinary story of how adventure sport entrepreneur Nigel Mason rescued a dozen Asian elephants from the Sumatra jungles – all major players in Ubud’s vibrant economy and culture today.
To show how tourism has become so intertwined into the lifeblood of the community, the author gives the example of one man, Ketut Marma, whose family members have dedicated themselves since the early 1970s to take full advantage of the tourist influx. Though basically farmers, the family eventually became full-blown and successful entrepreneurs by building homestays, art galleries, shops selling clothes, souvenirs and food.
Tourists tips include where to find art galleries showing the transition from traditional to modern drawing and painting (ARMA), the location of old Dutch iron wooden bridges (one is next to Murni’s Warung), which classic novels can be bought at local bookstores (A Tale from Bali, A House in Bali, etc.) and where to find old photos of travelers from the 1970s (on the wall of Tjanderi’s restaurant).
The book’s rarely published black & white photos, from the 1920s to the 1970s, are selected to supplement the text. It’s too bad that they’re printed on poor-quality newsprint and are of marginal legibility. Still, the images give an idea of the breathtaking innocence of Bali in those very early days of discovery.
The explosion of growth in today’s Ubud and the town’s critically inadequate infrastructure has given the author pause. In an email interview, Richard Mann told me that Ubud is on a knife-edge. Yet he holds out hope. “If Ubud can it re-invent itself, tidy itself up and stop the rice field destruction, the town has a bright future.”
The Making of Ubud: Bali’s Art, Culture and Heritage Village by Richard Mann, Gateway Books International 2013, ISBN 978-602-8630-13-9, paperback, 164 pages, bibliography. Available for Rp150,000 at Periplus, Ganesha, and at the Neka, ARMA and Puri Lukisan museums.

Guide to Bali’s First Unesco World Heritage Sites

In May 2012, Bali’s crucially vital wet rice lands – the genesis of Balinese civilization – were at last recognized by the Paris-based United Nations Education and Science Organization (UNESCO) as a World Heritage Cultural Landscape. The criteria for being thus classified, according to UNESCO’s website, is that the site must exemplify “the identification, protection and preservation of culture or nature considered to be of outstanding value to humanity, especially if it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change,” fits Bali perfectly.
Major tourism development has taken place mostly around the coasts, but now frenetic new building projects are moving inexorably into the island’s expansive agricultural zones. As it exemplifies such effective water usage over centuries, Bali’s famed environmentally friendly subak system has been the driving force behind the island’s cascading rice terraces, the most striking feature of island’s agrarian landscape.
Although Bali’s subak organizations – which date from the 9th century – play an especially important role in slowing the widespread diversion of agricultural lands, the system desperately needs outside international support in its efforts to preserve farmland and the agrarian way of life, particularly in Bali’s “rice baskets” of Tabanan and Gianyar.
The UNESCO nominated areas include the vast rice fields of Jatiluwih east of Gunung Batukaru, the serene mountain lakes of Tamblingan, Beratan and Bunyan, the stately Taman Ayun Temple in Mengwi and Pura Ulun Danu Batur Temple on the edge of Lake Batur, extending eastward to the holy springs of Tirta Empul Temple, the source of the majestic Pakerisan River in Gianyar and as far as Gunung Kawi where the island’s first Bali Hindu kings are memorialized in huge rock-cut monuments.
The recently published Complete Guide to Bali’s First UNESCO World Heritage Site, the first comprehensive book in English on the subject, explores each site together with an explanation of its significance, its history and the village or district where it is located. In the preface, after Bali’s governor and the Chairman of the Bali’s UNESCO delegation give their blessings, one section chronicles the 16-year-long struggle to achieve World Heritage status that began in 1996 in Paris and ended in 2012 in Petersburg, Russia.
Over the past 20 years the island has lost more than 1,500 ha of precious rice fields to make way for the development of tourist resorts, restaurants, domestic housing complexes, road construction and other commercial enterprises. The UNESCO classification is arguably Bali’s last real chance to save large portions of its wet rice paddies and central lakes by protecting, conserving and making their management and use a model. The hope is that perhaps their conservation will even encourage farmers outside the heritage sites to keep on farming.
One of the requirements for being formally nominated is that the host country is responsible for maintaining each site and to preserve their sacred atmosphere intact by not building tourist facilities, amenities and souvenir stalls or obscure views too close to the sites. All the natural areas included are already seriously threatened by climate change, poorly managed tourism, excessive use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, increasing water scarcity and farmers selling off their rice fields.
Curiously, UNESCO saw fit to only include a mere four sites on the whole island to add to their exclusive list when the entire island should rightfully be designated a World Heritage site (except of course for the southern tourist ghettoes). Only three of the sites are large enough to be trekked through. There’s a real imminent danger that development will be as connecting the dots so that instead of a predominantly green island with a few splashes of brick and concrete Bali will become a whole island of brick and concrete with a splashes of green, with the bricks and concrete parts linked by traffic-choked ribbons of asphalt.
There are rather one or two too many repetitive interviews with sponsors of the book and their zealous support of the oft-quoted but weakly adhered to Tri Hita Karana tenet which glorifies the harmonious relationship between humans and nature on Bali. The frequency in which this noble and well-intentioned philosophy is invoked inceases in exact proportion to the rate in which of the island’s natural assets deteriorate and disappear.
As in Richard Mann’s other guides to north and east Bali, there are valuable travel tips about little known yoga retreats and details about water temples, sanctuaries and museums you never knew exisited (did you know there’s a volcanology museum on Bali?) as well as cottages and guesthouses that are appropriate to the theme of the book. One example is Agung Prana’s Puri Taman Sari (www. in Umbian Village in Marga, Tabanan where visitors stay in village-style houses nestled beneath trees behind a subak irrigation channel.
In this brilliantly conceived cultural agro-tourism or “village tourism” project, Pak Prana’s plan is to encourage villagers to build one or more international standard rooms in their own backyards close to their traditional village homes. His or another professional management team then manages and promotes the rooms which are built exactly like a small village house. By empowering villagers in this way, the income farmers directly receive is much more than what they’d realize from rice farming alone and allows them to continue farming and enjoy higher incomes and living standards, while at the same time help to preserve Bali’s long term attraction and viability as a tourist destination. Preserving nature in Bali means also preserving tourism in Bali.
In the end, the greatest contribution that this informative and attractively illustrated book makes is that it encourages residents, visitors and government authorities to maintain the green areas of Bali at all costs and to become a part of the island’s heritage and not contribute to its destruction.
Guide to Bali’s First Unesco World Heritage Sites by Richard Mann, Gateway Books 2013, ISBN 978-602-8630-15-3, paperback, 120 pages. Available for Rp150,000 at Ganesha and Periplus bookstores.

Lombok: Where To Go-What To See

Indonesia's Hottest Tourist Destination
Lombok has always been burdened with comparisons to its more illustrious sister island of Bali to the west, but a time is fast approaching that this lush, non-commercialized island fringed by untouched white sand beaches will no longer have to sell itself. Lombok is now on the tourist map. With its new international airport, fast boats between Bali and Lombok running with ever increasing frequency, new departure points opening up every year and yachts and cruise ships from around the world berthing at new marinas and the western port of Lembar, two golf courses and modern residential communities bringing more and more visitors to the island, Lombok’s likability and marketability is on the rise.
Like Bali, Lombok is in the same time zone and has volcanic mountains in the northern half of the island. Lombok’s landmass, some 4,595 square km in area, is dominated by Mt. Rinjani rising 3,726 meters above the ocean. While Bali is predominantly Hindu, Lombok is predominantly Muslim. Slightly smaller and drier than Bali, Lombok has similar climate and soil, favorable for growing coffee, tobacco, market vegetables, rice and millions of coconut trees. Like Bali, there are fertile alluvial plains with picturesque, finely crafted rice terraces. Lombok has an intact Balinese culture in the western part of the island, with serene temples and palaces.
Richard Mann’s 2nd edition of Lombok: Where To Go-What To See focuses on the island’s relatively recent emergence as a global tourist destination. The word is finally getting out that the island, less crowded and slower paced than Bali, is worth visiting in its own right. In this guide there is more coverage of the traditional villages and the way of life of their inhabitants of the northwest, Tete Batu and East Lombok and the scenic coastal roads with less focus on the nightclub scene, tourist hubs and beach life than in Gateway Book’s other Lombok guides such as “Island Hopping East of Bali.” The book’s subtitle “A Taste of Sumbawa” is literal with only four pages given over to that big island east of Lombok.
After a few welcoming messages written by Lombok’s governor and head of the tourism office, the guide begins with practicalities of “Getting There by Air & Sea” and a two-page map of Bali and Lombok to get your bearings. This two-island map would’ve been easier to read if it were in a larger scale. The guide could’ve also benefited from a more detailed larger scale Lombok-only map as well as individual area/regional maps: the Sekotong Peninsula and Gede Island in the south and city maps of Sengiggi, Mataram and Ampenan. One of the Mount Rinjani hiking maps is quite legible and useful, but the other you need a magnifying glass to read.
The introductory chapter “The story of Lombok” takes in a broad overview of the history and attractions of the entire island – the urban centers of the southwest, the Gili Islands (with 18 diverse dive sites), the upmarket Sengiggi tourist strip – what assets each has and what market each appeals to. The book presents a commercial overview of the island, now in the throes of heavy development, which accounts for as much as 30% of the overloaded trucks on Bali’s main west-to-east highway.
The author has obviously done the research himself and taken many of the excellent photos, which give a lot of visual information that supplements and at times are even more informative and revealing than the text (for example, the Sukarara weaving center and the impressive road up to Mt. Rinjani’s enormous crater). The full page images of field workers, market scenes, seascapes and mountainous areas give a good picture the scope of what the island has to offer.
The chapter on trekking Mt. Rinjai via Sebatu and Sembalun Lawang, accompanied by two different scale maps, is a mini-guide to tackling this mammoth volcano, famed for its great beauty and eerie isolation, the fourth highest mountain in Indonesia. Includes info on park fees, guides and porters, hazards, sources of spring water, radio and telephone contacts, environmental code, etc. An impressive photo of the caldera shows you the type of topography you’ll be encountering if you ever want to make this steep arduous climb yourself.
One aspect of the book that sets it totally apart from any other Lombok guide is the attention it pays to residential villa communities with an eye towards the growing market of expat pensioners and those seeking second holiday homes. So thorough is the coverage of these properties that it would have been appropriate to subtitle the book “Guide to Residential Properties on Lombok.” Those sections are enhanced promotional brochures for Kuta Heights above Kuta beach in the south; The Hill on the slopes of Lombok’s southern hills which offers units with 270 degree views; Amanah Vertical Villas near Sengiggi with 1-2 bedroom units with ocean views available with 99 year lease for Westerners (5-year money back guarantee). The Marina Del Ray Indonesian Yacht Center’s safe harbor and services would be of great interest to sailors.
Travel tips can be gleaned throughout: a warning to tourists to avoid Sengiggi, Mataram’s playground, on the weekend’s when locals flood into the seaside resort; Bungin island inhabited only by Bugis fishermen, completely built from coral and sand, the most densely populated island in the world; Lombok actually has 26 gili (islets) and not just the three “Gili Islands” cluster that the whole world seems to know about.
The guide would be particularly useful for visitors seeking detailed information (from the owner’s point of view) on Lombok’s high-end hotels. One instance is the extended four-page-long advertorial posing as a chapter on Gili Air’s Sunrise Hotel. Besides singing the deserved praise for his property, the owner also touches on waste management and electrical supply problems facing the tiny island.
Published in 2013, Lombok: Where To Go-What To See – with its competent photography, cultural and sightseeing information, avuncular voice and slim size – is one of the newest publications on Lombok and its numerous offshore islands, which the author deservedly calls the ‘Caribbean’ of Indonesia.
Lombok: Where To Go-What To See by Richard Mann, Gateway Books International 2013, ISBN 978-602-8630-23, paperback, 203 pages. Available at Periplus, Gramedia, Ganesha and other bookshops in Bali and Lombok.

East Bali & North Bali

Have you ever wondered why the main focus of tourism in Bali is largely in the south and the art center of Ubud when all the major historical, cultural and natural sites are for the most part in the east and north of the island?
Taken together, the two guides East Bali and North Bali cover Bali’s most historic and unspoiled areas – the districts of Buleleng and Karangasem – which share a common border and virtually wrap around the whole island from east to west. The two guidebooks are actually companion volumes that perfectly complement each other.
These richly illustrated guides are among Richard Mann’s My Bali series that also include Ubud & Beyond, Kuta+, Seminyak and Lombok & Beyond. This implausibly prolific septuagenarian author has written a total of 87 books about Indonesia during his 26-year publishing career.
Opening chapters include detailed maps, descriptions of the physical geography and historical significance of the two districts, while the remaining pages cover destinations and unusual businesses (with full contact details and detailed summaries of facilities) not usually found in other guidebooks. The travel information is serviceable, supplemented by hundreds of original and stock photo collages, including one vintage sepia tone showing Raja of Amlapura’s Puri Gede in the last century with his 20 wives!
The author gives a lot of attention to dive sites (Amed and Tulamben in the East Bali; Menjangan and Secret Bay in North Bali) with maps of the better known and lesser-known sites that regularly attract divers. Both guides also give capsule descriptions of each dive site – a guide within a guide – including its location, dive season, level of experience needed, visibility, maximum depth, currents, drop offs, undersea life, tips for photographers and safety advice.
Valuable travelers advice and cultural asides are sprinkled throughout the text, such as the Gelgel Palace’s remains, the secret beaches of Seraya and Lebih along the coast on the way up to Amed, trekking opportunities in the Munduk area, where to find pinisi schooners in faraway harbors and the life and work of novelist Agung Pandji Tisna who opened the first hotel on Lovina Beach in the 1950s.
One of the most readable and enjoyable aspects of the guides is the short biographies of “refugee” expats whose personal histories are full of adventure and remarkable business genesis stories. The majority, who for some mysterious reason come from northern Europe – Dutch, German, British, Danish and Swedish – have collectively amassed hundreds of years experience living and working in Bali. Almost invariably, these diverse and idiosyncratic characters have escaped from the stress-filled environments of their home countries or from hectic south Bali to find peace and tranquility in some of the most remote hinterlands of the island.
These old salts have built second homes, then set about seeking a livelihood by creating innovative businesses: hotels, restaurants, dive operations, adventure sports outfits, eco resorts, yoga retreats, art galleries, villa development projects, meditation and healing centers, village tourism projects, radical approaches to artificial reef construction and bird and wildlife sanctuaries offering rainforest and mountain trekking. Owners of professional dive outfits, such as Geko Dive and Pro Dive Bali, provide extensive diving surveys, reflecting the many years spent in the marine recreation business.
Here are only a few of these books’ intriguing personalities whose innovative businesses garland the whole northern and eastern coasts of Bali:
*How did ex-world traveler Charles “Chuck” Esposito happen upon East Bali’s Jasi Beach, surf its waves, build a bamboo hut and eventually establish a business selling palm syrup, natural soap and dark chocolate?
*What passion first drove Photographer Michael Lorenti to first sell coconuts from his bungalow for extra income, then with Balinese friends eventually found Sensatia Botanicals to market a 100% organic line of products as a profit-sharing cooperative?
*How did Marjan van Ravenzwaaji, a former advertising executive, get it into her head to start an organic farm that serves gourmet food in the mountains of Bedugul?
*Why did Carl G. Meyer who set up the first and only animal circus in Bali featuring bears, otters, birds, reptiles and where guests can ride and touch dolphins?
*What made ex-theatrical make-up artist Theo Zantman – the “Van Gogh of the Tropics” – find a recluse in North Bali where he paints tropical landscapes romanticizing the quintessential Bali?
*What drew Karen Kingston, with two international bestselling books to her credit, to remote Amed where she established the Dancing Dragon Hotel according to strict Feng Shui principles?
*What motivated environmentalist Chris Brown’s “reef gardeners” to maintain local reef health by collecting crown-of-thorn starfish, parasitic snails and reef refuse to grow the world’s largest Biorock installation?
*Randall Dodge’s creation of a remarkable underwater Balinese Garden replete with temple, statues and split gateway?
*What can be more intriguing than a dive outfit called Sea Rovers run by a Captain Paul M. Turley on the edge of Bali Barat National Park?
*What inspired the luxury boutique Zen Resort Bali, Bali’s first integrated holistic health and nature resort where a staff practices a school of Ayurvedic medicine from Kerela, India?
These destination guides are in essence directories of strange and curious expat enterprises located in the far corners of Bali. Experts in their given fields, reading of how these idiosyncratic entrepreneurs first discovered Bali, how they sent down roots, and what inspired them gives readers insights into a thriving sector of the Balinese economy in regions long neglected by visitors.
East Bali by Richard Mann, Gateway Books International (, ISBN 978-602-8630-03-0, paperback, 168 pages. Dimensions 15 cm X 20.5 cm.
North Bali by Richard Mann, Gateway Books International (, ISBN 978-602-8630-04-7, paperback, 168 pages. Dimensions 15 cm X 20.5 cm. Both available for Rp150,000 at Ganesha bookstores.

Palaces of Bali: Open To The Public

Palaces of Bali is the first book dedicated solely to the royal palaces of Bali. In the very heart of Bali beats its stately palaces or puri (from the Sanskrit ‘towered city’). A puri can either be a former palace or else a live functioning palace still operated by the rajah’s descendants. Before independence in 1945 there were eight kingdoms of Bali with the penglingsir (head of the royal family) actually presiding in the family compound.
After independence, these rajahs lost their powers and much of their vast lands to the new democratic republic. Despite the decline in the political power and fortunes of many palaces, the royal families were able to survive by going into politics or business. The relative status and titles among the rajah differ to a remarkable degree, but the high-caste heads of royal families still reign but do not rule. A list of all the participating royal families can be found in the book’s Acknowledgement section.
Like the rajah of India and former aristocrats of Europe, a few rajahs have opened their palaces so that visitors are able to get a brief peep behind the palace walls. Bali’s palaces share many physical similarities, types of buildings and decorations, court etiquette, ritual obligations and customs and dress of residents. Also common among all of Bali’s magnificent royal precincts is that they are wellsprings where virtually all of Bali’s high culture and architectural achievements are concentrated.
Unlike Europe, Balinese palaces are not single huge buildings, but rather a series of squared-off, sanctified courtyards of open and closed pavilions and structures, each with a special function. Laid out on a long continuous plane, the interior consists of a peaceful maze of gates, alleyways, rice sheds, sculptures, gardens, family chapels and old-style residences, the whole complex enclosed by high walls.
After a series of Forewords by Bali’s governor, the British ambassador to Indonesia, historians and cultural organizations, the book gets underway with an opening chapter discussing why palaces lie at the very root of Balinese civilization, why palaces are such interesting places to visit, discussions on the Majapahit Kingdom’s all-pervading influence on Bali’s culture, the Dutch colonial period and the precious heirlooms of the Neka Museum.
The chapters that follow cover not all of Bali’s palaces but only those which are open to tourists: Buleleng of north Bali, now without the walls that were devastated by Dutch invaders; Puri Agung in Karangasem, at one time the richest and most powerful kingdom in Bali and its associated water palaces at Tirtagangga and Taman Ujung; Klungkung where Bali’s last king died in a fight-to-the-death (puputan) against Dutch colonial troops; Pelitatan, world famous for its performing arts; Ubud Palace, in the forefront since the 1930s in the development of cultural tourism; Mengwi, the guardian of the Taman Ayun water temple, Bali’s first UNESCO World Heritage site; Puri Banyuning in Bongkasa, a center for village tourism; Pemecutan, Denpasar’s original royal palace.
Besides the 12 main palaces – a surprising number for such a small island – sub-palaces are also included in the guide: Blahbatuh, a center for metallurgy and the casting of gamelan instruments; Belayu, which still functions as a traditional family palace. A curious omission is the Puri Anom of Tabanan, one of Bali’s most prosperous kingdoms during Tabanan Regency’s classical period from the 17th to 20th centuries.
As an integral part of the island’s political and cultural life, touring Bali’s sprawling palaces is the latest trend in community-based tourism. Travel agents are now able to arrange visits by appointment to many puri. In fact, Puri Ubud in Ubud, Puri Anyar in Kerambitan, Puri Agung in Amlapura and Puri Pemecutan in Denpasar have been welcoming tourists for decades.
Participating palaces use visitors’ fees to pay for the upkeep of their premises, carry out renovations, provide employment and help support religious, cultural and community responsibilities. Visitors learn about old Balinese court culture and royal traditions, join in on the daily life and activities in the palace, visit the nearby traditional market, observe customs, rituals and ceremonies not staged specifically for tourists, witness performing arts and craft demonstrations in which they are the only Westerners and may even be lucky enough to attend a royal wedding, dinner or cremation. In some palaces, visitors may stay overnight in the interior of the palace in rooms with Western-style amenities.
Though puri in Indonesian means “palace,” not all entities using the word puri are palaces. For example, non- commercial institutions such as Museum Puri Lukisan in Ubud as well as businesses use Puri in their names. Real palaces are most often located at a town’s main crossroads opposite the central market and adjacent to a large wantilan pavilion used for community meetings. The appearance of buildings within Bali’s different palaces can be quite eclectic, reflecting personal preferences as well as foreign influences including Chinese, European and even Middle Eastern architecture and decoration.
Generous space in the book has been given over to photographs of palace environs – gateways, gilded pavilions, gardens, lavish royal ceremonies and entertainments, monumental ruins, art and history museums, holy springs and ancient bronze, kris and stone artifacts. There are a dozen photos of present day rajah with their wives and/or families who still reside in their respective palaces. One map shows the locations of major temples and archaeological sites on both Java and Bali; another map indicates the locations of the 12 palaces in the book that have opened their doors to visitors.
Hopefully Palaces of Bali will attract more tourists to see what life is like behind Bali’s palace walls, create revenue vital for palace upkeep and give encouragement to Bali’s princes to offer even more facilities and programs in order to preserve one of Bali’s rarely seen attractions as well as safeguard and perpetuate these important bastions of the island’s religious, cultural and political history.
Palaces of Bali by Richard Mann, Gateway Books 2012, ISBN 978-602-8630-09-2, 271 pages, dimensions 20 cm X 25 cm. Available for Rp450,000 at Periplus ( and Ganesha bookstores (

400 Years and More of The British In Indonesia

Did you know that Francis Drake was the first British navigator to sail into the Indonesian archipelago? If you were not aware of this, you are among many people who are ignorant of the long history the English have in Indonesia. The accomplishments of Drake and many other lofty historical figures of English descent with close ties to Indonesia such as Captain James Cook, Lawrence van der Post and Alfred Russell Wallace have made their mark on the world.
A new book, 400 Years and More of The British In Indonesia, is the most complete history to date of the British involvement in Indonesia. Drake was only the first of a number of illustrious Englishman to land on Indonesian soil before the Dutch, setting foot in the fabled Spice Islands of the Maluku in 1579 and starting a relationship, which has spanned literally hundreds of years from Queen Elizabeth 1 to Queen Elizabeth II.
Three hundred of those years were taken up with what were essentially diplomatic and trade wars with Holland over control of choice islands, which the Dutch sought to monopolize and with which Britain sought to conduct commerce in a part of the world that the Dutch – not the British – had historically exerted the strongest influence.
From the battle for the pepper trade to Stamford Raffles’ brief reign as ruler of the Dutch East Indies to the present heavy involvement in the country, Britain has taken a surprisingly role in Indonesia’s history and economy. Their most influential period of began in 1811 when the British conquered Java. Their short-lived occupation became known as “The Interregnum.” Because the French had occupied the Netherlands during the Napoleonic Wars, the British considered the French enemies and took possession of Java, appointing Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles as Lieutenant Governor of the East Indies.
Another shift in European politics allowed the Dutch to return Java in 1816 under the terms of a peace treaty. This five-year period remains an obscure sideshow, a little understood and long forgotten period of Indonesia’s colonial history. Even major histories of the period only give a few paragraphs at best.
Much later, there was a great deal of tension between Britain and Indonesia’s founding president, Sukarno, when he launched his Konfrontasi military campaign (1963-1966) against the creation of a Federation of Malaya, Singapore and the British protectorates of Sabah and Sarawak.
But whatever the ups and downs of the relationship, the British kept coming back and today are one of Indonesia’s largest sources of investment, tourists and business partnerships ranging from soap to chinaware and from banking and mining. Indonesia today ranks among Britain’s top 10 priority markets. The value of bilateral trade between the two countries is estimated to reach US$5 billion by 2015. After the Dutch, the United Kingdom is cumulatively the second largest European investor.
The number of British tourists to Indonesia in 2012 was over 125,000. There has been a rapid expansion of education links with an increasing number of Indonesian parents are sending their children to study in Britain. More educational scholarships are offered by Britain to Indonesian students than any other country.
Besides the establishment of the British Council of Indonesia in 1948 and the British Chamber of Commerce in 1974, a British International School was established in Jakarta in 1973. The prime ministers of each country visited each other’s homelands in 2012. A new British Embassy opened in Jakarta in 2013. Mark Canning, the current British Ambassador to Indonesia, contributed the introduction to the book.
Author Richard Mann was born in England, earned a BA in Politics and Economics from the University of York and completed a Masters in Comparative Asian Studies at the University of Hong Kong. In his 46-year-long career as a media professional, Mann has worked in newspapers, magazines and wrote Guide to British Businesses in Indonesia and A Guide to British Investors.
This book is no less than a history, a guide and a celebration of all things British in Indonesia. Black and white line drawings, an unusual but attractive medium in contemporary history books, are found throughout depicting historical figures, events, dioramas, coats of arms, colonial architecture and landscapes.
One is sure to be surprised to learn the extent of British involvement in the archipelago through the centuries. Capturing the full scope of their long bilateral relationship, 400 Years and More of the British in Indonesia makes a vital contribution to promoting understanding between the two countries.
400 Years and More of The British In Indonesia, 2nd Edition, by Richard Mann, Gateway Books 2013, ISBN 978-602-8630-16-0, hardcover, 149 pages. Available for 295,000 at Periplus bookstores, bookshops at all international airports, Kinokunia and selected Gramedia outlets. PDF copies can be purchased by emailing:

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