Simple Pleasures & Moving House Forget Benoa…. here’s to the F1 Renon Circuit


After nearly 24 years in Sanur my wife and I moved to Renon and into another world. Like most long term residents we got stuck in a comfortable rut. During the first two years we relentlessly explored the island, circumnavigating and criss-crossing it, exploring small lanes into forests and up mountains, often as not leading to spectacular dead ends. Things settled down a bit after that, as they do, but we often trekked off for days and nights in Bali’s Far East and West. We especially delighted in East Bali and never gave a thought to driving up to Ubud or the bone-jarring ride down the ‘white road’ to Seminyak and beyond.

I wouldn’t say driving was   actually a pleasure in Bali back then. When we arrived the   new by-pass was still being completed and the coast road out East was still a dream. Stuck behind a belching behemoth for hours on the old road East to Padangbai was no fun. A good solution was to drive late at night. That way we once made it from Sidemen to Pemuteran in a few hours.

Back then you could get to the airport from Sanur in 20 minutes. It’s funny to think that within a few short years, on a bad day, it could take two hours, but now… its back to 20 minutes again.

Around the turn of the century as the villafication of Bali gathered pace things changed. Mainly it was the traffic. By the end of the decade you really had to think if you wanted to make the trip up to Ubud or across to Seminyak. Most times, if you didn’t have to, you wouldn’t.

With the advent of Grab and Go Jek we don’t bother with a car. Just call one when needed. I was happy as Larry tooling around Sanur on my push bike. We became classic expat Sanurians and just didn’t get around much any more. No matter how transculturally sophisticated we may think we are, most of us dwelling in the expatriate enclaves of Ubud, Sanur and Seminyak, will take for granted if not be unaware of the support bubble we’ve created around us and take it for granted.

Take food for example. Like the majority of people everywhere, Asians have an unreconstructed love of sugar. Not so many expats, especially here in Bali, where we’re a pretty health conscious bunch and well aware that sugar is not our friend. We like our bread wholewheat, fresh and natural. We abhor those strange square white pasty blocks with a brown rind masquerading as sliced white bread and those sickeningly sweet aerated confections posing as patisserie. We need our soy milk and we want it none too sweet, and are quite discombobbed when we can’t find it. We like our quiche fresh and crumbly, not some greasy deflated hulk. I’ve gone off jam a bit recently and don’t even get me started on cheese, which is far too expensive and isn’t even real cheese….. and so on, on and on.

Fortunately for us, esconced as we are in our expat enclaves, we either don’t see or become inured to the expat premium we pay on most goods and services. That, or we flatter ourselves we have negotiated some special deal through our charm and acumen. Laundry is a great example. In Sanur we paid the norm, which was 3 times as much for a very indifferent service, un-ironed and poorly packed, compared to what we now pay from our new roost in Renon. Plenty of big houses round here, but the Javanese and Balinese matrons of Renon know a thing or two about value for money.

So here we are, my wife and I plus cat, after a six-month sojourn in a chilly France very glad to be back in Bali. We holed up for a couple of months in a newly built and well-managed homestay in Sanur before moving into our new place. The new house is situated in one of those lanes off Jalan Raya Puputan not far from the park and monument.

The area always looked interesting to me on the occasions I drove through it, what with the park and monument, its government buildings, banks and commercial head offices, grandiose mansions with those horrid chrome ballustrades but most of all it was the broad, tree-lined boulevards.

I’m not sure why the Governor is so keen on the Benoa project and its Formula 1 race track when there’s a wonderfully scenic 6 kilometre race circuit already in place, starting at the pistol-packing soldier’s statue by the Plaza Renon roundabout going up Jalan Puputan, round the top end and back down the multi-lane rectangular one-way system and rejoining Jl. Puputan via Jl. Prof. Moh. Yamin.

In fact the race already seems to be taking place on a daily basis; bit like a 24-hour Le Mans interruptus round here it is. Pedestrian or push-bike friendly, it is not. There are no traffic lights, few pedestrian crossings so faded as to be virtually invisible. No one pays them any attention to anyway. To cross you have to launch yourself out into a 4-lane highway at an appropriate moment and rely on the mercy and skill of the oncoming drivers not to hit you. And, having reached the divide, do it all again. Small wonder I’ve taken to referring to the main road as Jalan Suicide. At one vantage point, I now call the Frescobaldi Corner, after the Freshindo supermarket there, road markings are so confused they actually appear to direct two fast-moving oncoming traffic streams directly into each other.

As for pedestrians, such noble thoroughfares would, you might think, have deserved broad pavements where citizens and visitors alike might promenade. Not a bit of it. What pavement there is, is broken and intermittent. Only in the immediate environs of the park and Puputan monument itself can pedestrians safely partake of all this civic grandeur. It’s a shame really, an opportunity lost, giving such a noble area over entirely to the combustion engine.

None of which stops me. I’m on my bike pedalling around the back roads discovering my new borough. I funk it, dismount and use a pedestrian crossing when I get to Jl. Suicide, though. There are plenty of good coffee shops sprinkled round the area; Renon Plaza, thank heaven has a Papaya , there’s a large Popular Market on Hayam Wuruk and the store on Frescobaldi’s Corner pretty much cater to our needs. Plenty of other stores going down Jl. Hayam Wurukremain to be explored.

I still pedal in to Sanur to visit old haunts and buy the kind of expat items I can’t get in Renon, like the hard cheeses and pagnotta at Massimo‘s, Pita bread and tahini at the Pantry and suchlike. It takes me abot 30 minutes to bike in and I’ve become acquainted with the back roads between Renon and Sanur in a way I never was before. It’s interesting to see what passes for a green belt separating the two townships. Sometime as little as 250 metres I’d say, but still there – which I suppose is something. In the midst of which, one morning I was blessed with a fast-vanishing pastoral idyll, a magnificent full-on view of Mount Agung across the ricefields hardby a beautiful old temple atop an evil-smelling stream flowing gently past.

These days we must grab simple pleasures where we can. Moving too, once done is salutary and brings compensating pleasures.

Alternative Voice


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