Thursday, September 20, 2012

Indonesia Books

The Airmen and the Headhunters - by Judith M Heimann.  Excellent true account of two Allied aircrews who are shot down over central Borneo during WWII.  Based on extensive interviews and research, author describes their long months in the jungle and Bornean towns, hiding from the Japanese and helping touch off a  native resistance movement.

Amidst the Archipelago of the Spice Islands Sails the Woden Borne - by Allan Spencer.  A fictional tale of adventure and romance amongst foreign adventurers/entrepreneurs on the seas of modern Indonesia.  Goes on way too long and is way too mushy.
Bali: Sekala and Niskala- by Fred B Eiseman 2009.  All about Balinese religious beliefs, ceremonies, and ritual.  The author goes into a lot of detail.

Captain Cook’s Journal During the First Voyage Round the World - by James Cook.  Cook’s journal recounts, among many other things, Cook’s passage through the Torres Straight, weather difficulties, sickness, and refitting in Java, and departure for the Indian Ocean.  Fascinating.

Diansinkan the Exiled - by Martin Kerr.  Fictional novel about a Dutch expatriat who is arrested, then forced out of Sentani, West Papua by the Indonesian occupation.  He subsequently becomes involved with the rebel movement.

Eat, Pray, Love - by Elizabeth Gilbert.  This is the super-popular travel narrative.  Everybody else seems to love it, but I thought it was mostly awful.  The actual travel narration - maybe 1/3 of the book- is OK, but the other 2/3s is the author endlessness ly whining about her petty personal issues- and she comes off as a real nutter as far as I’m concerned!

The Expedition to Borneo of HMS Dido for Suppression of Piracy - by Cpt Henry Keppel.  Free kindle book by an English captain who spends several years charting the coast of Borneo, chasing pirates, and having interesting encounters with locals- from headhunters to rulers of local kingdoms.  Well written, down-to-earth with some humor, a good read.

The Fifth Season - by Kerry B Collison 2009.  The fictional stories of 3 women caught up in the post-Suharto violence in Indonesia.

A History of Modern Indonesia - by Adrian Vickers 2005.  Social and political history of Indonesia from colonial times to the Bali bombing.

The History of Sumatra Containing An Account of the Government, Laws, …  - by William Marsden

The Island of Bali is Littered with Prayers - by Jeremy Grimshaw 2009.  A music professor studies traditional music in Bali and brings back a gamelan set to teach Western students on.

The Indonesia Reader - by Tineke Hellwig et al.  Excellent collection of dozens historical essays, documents, and interviews that works its way through Indonesian history, from ancient times to the present.

In the Time of Madness - by Richard Lloyd Parry 2007.  Foreign correspondent Parry relates his coverage of the social troubles in Indonesia at the end of Suharto’s reign, and his resulting emotional turmoil.  He travels to Papua, meets headhunters in Borneo, and treks into the hills of East Timor to meet with the rebel front.

The Indian Ocean Tsunami - by Pradyumna P Karan et al 2010.  Analysis of the response and recovery efforts of government and NGOs after the 2004 tsunami.

The Invisible Palace - by Jose Manuel Tesoro 2004.  True account of events surrounding a famous Java murder of journalist Fuad Mohammad Syafruddin in 1996.

Javanese Lives - by Walter L Williams 1991.  Interviews tell the life stories of dozens of (now elderly) regular Javanese men and women from all walks of life.  Excellent book; it really gives one perspective into life in Indo.

The Killing Sea - by Richard Lewis 2008.  A very readable fictional story of two teenagers- an American and an Indonesian- who struggle to survive and find their families after the 2004 tsunami.

The Long Oppression - by G.L. Simons.  History of government repression in Indonesia.  A grim reality check that covers the more unpleasant aspects of Indonesian history from colonial times to Habibie’s tenure. 

Love and Death in Bali - by Vicki Baum.  A classic tale of the violent colonial takeover of Bali and the changes in the lives of ordinary Balinese.  Very readable; one of the best Indonesia books in my opinion.

The Malay Archipelago - by Alfred Russel Wallace 1854.  Wallace bumbles his way around almost all the major islands of Indonesia, enraptured with the wildlife.  This is a wonderful book to read as you travel along in Indo.  Free online.

Oil Patch: Living in Oil Company Compounds from Desert to Jungle - by Gary Gentry.  A fun, short, irreverent book that gives good insight into life as an expat oil worker in Libya in the 80’s.  Also includes some short stories on Indonesia.

Playing the Poor Man - by Thor Kerr 2010.  Fictional tale of a foreign freelance journalist and an NGO volunteer who encounter corruption, poverty, social unrest, and danger in post-Suharto Jakarta.

The Spice Garden - by Michael Vatikiotis 2003.  The villagers of a small fictional Maluku island turn against each other in post-Suharto religious violence.

A Taste for Green Tangerines - by Barbara Bisco.  Awkwardly/abruptly written in a couple spots, but not a bad story if you stick with it.  A London-bred anthropologist goes to work with the Dayaks at a ‘green resort’ project in Borneo.  Deadly snakebites, corruption, ethnic clashes, wildfires, romance, and personal growth ensue…

Throwin Way Leg - by Tim Flannery.  A humorous account of a modern-day scientist’s search for new mammals and new experiences in PNG.

Through Central Borneo; an Account of Two Years Travel in the Land of the Headhunters between 1913 and 1917 - by Carl Lumholtz.  I found this to be the most readable and engaging of the old Borneo river-and-jungle traveler’s tales that are available free online.

The Timor Man - by Kerry B Collison 1999.  Fictional tale of army officers, coup plotters, and spies during East Timor’s last half-century or so of history.  From an author with very in-depth knowledge of Indonesian politics.

Wanderings Among South Sea Savages  -by H Wilfrid Walker.  The author’s 1910 journey through Fiji, the Philippines Sulu Islands, and Borneo.  Available free online.

Where the Strange Trails Go Down - by E Alexander Powell.  Author’s 1879 travels through Indonesia and Southeast Asia.

With Pythons and HeadHunters in Borneo- by Brian Row McNamee.  A young travel writer’s 1983 quest into the jungles of Borneo.  A bit whiny.

Wyvern - by A A Attanasio.  Epic novel follows the fortunes of a half-Dayak, half-Dutch boy who is raised as a jungle shaman and goes on to worldwide piratical adventures and high society.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

South Pacific Books - Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomons, PNG


Lonely Planet’s South Pacific Guide

A History of the Pacific Islands - by Steven Robert Fischer 2002.  Good, highly readable account of Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia that spans pre-history right up to modern times.

The South Pacific - by Ron Crocombe 2008.  Goes into a lot of detail and is up to date. Topics include history, culture, health, education, corruption, economics, security, international relations, and more. However, the book is organized by topic rather than country or timeline, and the sections go by ambiguous titles such as ‘parameters’ ‘patterns’ and ‘perceptions’.  I’ve gleaned a lot of interesting tidbits by scanning the index for entries on our next destination.

The Fatal Impact - by Alan Moorehead.  Talks about the havoc wreaked by European explorers, but it really wasn’t worth buying.  It’s written in the 60’s and is dated.  It’s pretty much a basic history of Tahiti, Australia, and the Antarctic, and doesn’t offer any exciting new facts, figures, or ideas.

Fiji  -
The best book sources I found were the arrivals area at the Nadi airport and the University of the South Pacific bookstore in Suva.  My favorites were Daryl Tarte’s Fiji, Getting Stoned with Savages and Fiji - A Natural History

Stalker on the Beach - by Daryl Tarte - a nice little fiction piece based in an imaginary Fiji-like country.  A local business woman fights against an international tycoon’s attempts at exploitation.

Fiji - by Daryl Tarte - really good historical fiction read set against a backdrop of Fiji events from ‘discovery’ up through the eve of independence.

Deuba - can’t remember the full name of this piece, but it was a good, short study of traditional village life written by a future anthropologist who lived in the south Viti Levu village of Deuba, training local recruits during WWII.  Details on clothing, menus, spirituality, and more.

They Came for Sandalwood - can’t remember who this was by, but it was not the detailed study I meant to buy, which was by Marjorie Crocombe.  The book I did buy was a short tone which described the discovery of Rarotonga in a clumsy way.  I got it at USP.  Not recommended if you’re older than a fifth-grader.

Getting Stoned with Savages - by J Marten Troost - fun book about an expat who goes to work in modern-day Vanuatu and Fiji and describes the life and people there in an often comical way. 

Fiji - A Natural History - by Paddy Ryan.  Beautifully illustrated descriptions of Fiji’s common marine and land plants and animals.

Vanuatu -
Hard to find good books on Vanuatu; Happy Isles, Tales of the South Pacific, and the Shark God were probably the best reads. 
I didn’t find any good book stores here ( ex: the most comprehensive was the Vanuatu Cultural Center bookshelf, which had two history/culture books: To Kill a Bird with Two Stones in English and Les Melanesians in French) and the only book available on kindle was South Seas Hitchhiker .  Most of my books came via ABE books via Aus, NZ, and Britain at some expense.  (I ordered them 6 weeks in advance and went to the post office to check for them every day during the 10 days we spend in Vila.  On our last day, just when I had given up hope, there was a new mail clerk at the counter and she miraculously produced the entire stack of 7 books.  An owner of a Vila bookstore described similar experiences receiving books by mail here).
Here’s my list of Vanuatu reads:

To Kill a Bird with Two Stones - by Jeremy MacClancy.  The only full history of Vanuatu.  A small book, 1980’s, not that well written, races through some events, ends at the end of the condominium.

Beyond Pandemonium by Father Walter Lini and New Hebrides: the Road to Independence - both books written in the 80’s by local politicians, both delve a lot into party politics and were a bit boring for me.  Interesting to read something by a local leader though.

The Shark God - by Charles Montgomery 2006.  A journalist traces his missionary ancestor’s path through Vanuatu and the Solomons in 2002.  Focus on current events and magical and spiritual beliefs of the natives.  I really liked his account of the Melanesian Brotherhood’s involvement in the Solomons Civil War.  Great read.

Coconuts and Coral - by  Gwendoline Page 1993.  Written by a british colonial housewife, gives a good picture of the colonial family experience but contains very little on local culture or life outside of Vila.

South Seas Hitchhiker - by Robert Hein.  Hein, a gregarious, perpetually broke 35 year old backpacker, wanders through Fiji, Vanuatu, NZ, Australia, and beyond, crewing on sailboats and taking odd jobs on shore.  Nice book.

Happy Isles of Oceania, Paddling the South Pacific - by Paul Theroux 1992.  Good old grumpy Brit Theroux produces yet another wonderful travel narrative filled with fascinating encounters with locals.

The Natural History of Santo - by the Santo 2006 Global Biodiversity Survey.  This multidisciplinary French-university-based study descended on Santo in 2006.  It was one of the largest scientific expeditions anywhere, ever.  This big glossy 57- pg book is full of beautiful photographs and articles by participating scientists that range from very accessible to somewhat technical.  I found this one at the Beachfront Resort in Luganville for $60 US.

Cataclysm- by David Luders.  Third book in a three-part series based on ancient Vanuatu legends.  This book covers the Krakatoa-like destruction of a large volcanic island that used to be north of Efate.

Tales of the South Pacific - by James Michener 1947.  A great Michener WWII fiction with fine stories and memorable characters.  Basis of the musical ‘South Pacific”.

Solomons -

 Best bookstore in the Pacific so far in the Hyundai Mall in Honiara.  They also bought back some of my old books for a decent price.  Fat Boys, near Gizo is rumored to have a reading library, and Uepi Resort in north Marovo had a good natural reference library and a large fiction section for trade.  We got a lot of $1 books from Honiara and gave away a book in just about every Solomons village, which was very appreciated.

Song of the Solomons - by E Hunt Augustus 2009.  Second in a three-part series of WWII historical fiction based in the Solomons.  A great, fun, funny book, one of my favorites.  Keeping an eye out for the other two in the series.

White Headhunter - by Nigel Randall.  Story of 19th century Jack Renton, who was shipwrecked amongst the headhunter tribes of eastern Malaita and was adopted into local culture.  Anthropologist Randall has some good insights on the tribal world.

Solomon Time - by Will Randall.  Untraveled English schoolteacher travels to an isolated island in the Solomons to help the locals set up a chicken farm.

The Thin Red Line - by James Jones.  A classic world war novel.

Devil-Devil -  by Graham Kent.  A fun fiction read about a detective and a nun combating crime and sorcery in the Solomons.

The Last Wild Island: Tetepare - by Dr John Read.  A good book about two ecologists’ battle to have Tetepare Island in the West Solomons recognized as a protected area.

Solomon - Times and Tales… - by Roger Webber.  An excellent read about a doctor’s time in the Solomons.  He works on several different islands and visits seldom-seen parts of the interior on foot.  Well written.


Most of these were books I found at the Hyundai Mall in Honiara.  Check hotels and little tourist shops for used books.  Kindle has a decent selection of ebooks on PNG.

Notes From a Spinning Planet - by Melody Carlson.  A touching fiction novel about a student who visits PNG learns about AIDS and makes some self-discoveries.

Rascal Rain A Year in Papua New Guinea - by Inez Baranay.  A development worker struggles with the local culture and development culture in PNG’s highlands.

Diansinkan the Exiled - by Martin Kerr.  Fiction tale about a businessman tortured and evicted from Indonesian West Papua, who makes a new home in PNG.

Mister Pip - by Lloyd Jones.  A new classic about a village girl who lives through the terrifying Bougainville war.  Great book.

A Solomon Island Society - Kinship and Leadership Among the Siuai of Bougainville - a 1950’s ethnography of a SW Bougainville society.  Pretty well-written overall, alternates between interesting and dry.

Notebooks from New Guinea - by Vojtech Novotny.  Great book, highly recommended.  Humorus, engaging field notes of a Czech biologist, lots of interesting tidbits about the people and animals of PNG.

The High Valley - by Kenneth Read.  Pretty dated ethnography by an odd anthropologist who is driven to mental exhaustion by the experience.

The Lost Tribe - by Edward Marriot.  Easy read from a journalist who breaks the rules and has a not-too-inspiring encounter with a ’lost tribe’ in the PNG highlands.

Not a White Woman Safe - Sexual Anxiety and Politics in Port Moresby 1920-1934.  By Amirah Inglis.  I think this was her college thesis?  Research on the odd views of locals vs. Australians and sexual and social tensions in the 20’s and 30’s.

Papua New Guinea - by Sean Dorney.  A history of PNG by the TV reporter.  Focus on politics and economics 1975- late 90’s.  Gets good reviews. 

Intimate Communications - by Gilbert Herdt and Robert J Stroller.  A series of transcribed interviews with PNG Sambia villagers.  The Sambia live in the highlands and practice ritualized homosexuality from an early age.  Quite interesting.

New Lives for Old - Cultural Transformation in Manus 1928-1953 - by Margeret Mead 2001.  A long term study of cultural change in Manus, which experienced rapid modernization during WWII.  Mead argues that cultural change can come rapidly.

Seagulls Don’t Fly into the Bush - by Alice Pomponio.  Culture and economics of a people in the Siassi Islands.  A little dry, though the traditional trading activity in the Siassi Islands is fascinating.

The Island of Menstruating Men - Religion in Wogeo, NG - by Ian Hogbin 1996.  A study of traditional culture in Waigeo- magic, mythology, social structure and gender relations.

And We the People - by Tim O’Neill 1972.  Entertaining book about daily life and the people in this missionary’s remote PNG life.

Throwin Way Leg - by Tim Flannery 2000.  A humorous travelogue by a biologist who travels to remotest New Guinea in search of undiscovered mammals and adventure.

Wayward Women - by Holly Wardlow 2006.  A really excellent book about gender relations, violence, family, sex, and prostitution in the PNG highlands.  A must read for anyone interested in the staggeringly high level of violence against women in PNG.

The Ghost Mountain Boys - by James Campbell 2008.  Portrayal of the sufferings of the Allied and Japanese troops on the Kokoda Track during WWII.

The White Mary - by Kira Salak.  An excellent work of fiction by a very adventurous female war journalist who traversed PNG.  In the book, a lone woman fights her way far up the Sepik River and beyond in search of a missing friend.


Did you know if not for small mangrove crabs, the fallen-leaf mulch of mangrove forests would be carried away by each tide?  The crabs take these leaves into their burrows, where they eventually provide nutrients to the forest.
Mangrove leaves and hypocotyl  of stilt mangroves (elongated seedlings that grow right on the tree) are edible but not widely used as food.  People mainly use mangroves for wood, but also for charcoal, traditional medicine (boiled bark),  and tannins in the bark and seedlings provide a preservative dye.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Sailing Bali Indonesia - some cruising basics


Notes from SV Marquesa
Entered Indonesia at Jayapura, April 2012.  Route: Jayapura-Biak-Sorong-Raja Ampat-Ambon-Flores-Komodo-Sumbawa-Lombok-Bali.  Currently location Serangan Island, Bali.(pic of a small portion of Serangan harbor below, Mt Agung in background).

Here’s a little info we Wish we’d had before arriving in Indonesia/Bali:


- Kartasa Jaya in Java, who gave us good service, took 2.5 months to process our CAIT application.  Through them, the 3-month CAIT cost US$150, the 3-month CAIT extension cost $150, and a sponsor letter for a Sosbud visa cost $50. 
- Instead of the 1-2 month Visa on Arrival, we got the longer-term Social/Cultural 'Sosbud' visa in advance.  It cost $60 at the Vanimo consulate, one or two-day processing.  It's good for 2 months, then you can renew it monthly for $25/month up to 4 times (for a total stay of 6 months). 
- Clearance was pretty painless and the customs guys were friendly and helpful in Jayapura.  In a few other places we were asked for bribes of $10-$50 dollars, but we always refused successfully.  Sorong customs asked for the bond but gave up after phoning our agent, Kartasa Jaya.  The bond law has been officially revoked, but word hasn't necessarily gotten out to all the local officials.  Customs in Benoa didn't give us any trouble.  
For more info check out Noonsite's Indonesia page


The channel west of Bali is full of obstructions and wicked currents and not easily navigable.  Lombok Channel, west of Bali, has south-flowing currents up to 5knots/+ in the SE monsoon (May-Sept).  Currents flow north during the NW monsoon.
Anchoring in Bali is NOT as easy as it used to be.  We have heard good reviews of Lovina anchorage in north Bali, but we have not yet been there.  As for E/S Bali, here are the choices we are aware of:

1) Port Benoa/Bali Marina - Benoa harbor is a very busy commercial harbor and the boats are pretty packed in places.  Parts of the harbor are very shallow.  Both Benoa and Serangan are as dirty as any other commercial harbors in Indonesia- just something you have to learn to look past, I guess. 
Approach through the s-curved marked channel.  Better to do this in good light, the shallows extend Well south of the marks on the north side of the channel, especially in the outer half of the channel.  After you take a final 90-degree turn into a roughly north-south dredged channel, you will have the Bali marina to port and ~ 20 moorings to starboard.  Bali Marina is small- about 20 slots, most of seem to be filled with resident boats. A berth at the marina will cost you about US $25/day, and a mooring here will cost about US $10/day.  The marina has no moorings; these are run by some random local fellow who will find you if you pick up a mooring.  A few sailboats manage to anchor north of the marina and moorings, but it is very shallow and space is very limited here.  Rumor has it you can also anchor south of the marina and main channel, though we did not see any sailboats doing this.  Benoa Marina charges a US$5/day landing fee to tie up dingies. 
Beware if you're entering Indonesia in Bali; Bali Marina has been known to insist that you use them as an agent when you clear in, for a US$200 fee.  This $200 clearance fee is excessive, since there's no reason you would need an agent, and all relevent offices are located within walking distance south of the marina (unless you needed to go in to town to the main immigration office?  That's an $8 taxi ride).  We know a couple boats that stayed at the marina, but Serangan really seems to have become THE place for cruisers in Bali.

2) Serangan Island - this is where nearly all the cruising boats end up.  There are 30 or 40 moorings here that cater to a mix of cruisers and local boats.  I guess they could conceivably all fill up during the busiest couple weeks of the year, but there would probably still be room for anchoring.
The Serangan passage is about 10m, marked by small unlit buoys, passing through breaking reef, but not anything that made us uncomfortable in good light.  I wouldn't want to enter any unfamiliar harbor at night and Serangan is no exception.It is accessed through a separate 10m wide channel through breaking reef north of Port Benoa.  Multiple masts are visible from the Lombok Channel and the channel into Serangan anchorage is marked by a couple funny little unlit red-and-green floating buoys.  Once inside the buoys, you will see two well-protected anchorages that offer 5 choices:

a) Mande’s moorings: Mustached- Mande and his goons are known to everyone on Serangan as ‘the mafia’.  They operate out of a beachfront shack just east of the dingy dock.  He will probably motor out to you as soon as you enter the anchorage, offer you one of his moorings, and tell you (untruthfully) that it’s hazardous to go any further in.  His moorings are US $8/day or about US $170/month.  THE PRICE OF ALL MOORINGS INCLUDES A ~US $70/MONTH (Rp 600,000) VILLAGE FEE, which is supposed to go to the people of Serangan.  The reason we recommend avoiding Mande if at all possible is that he has a reputation for stealing this village fee, as well as your dingy engine and anything on the boat that’s left vulnerable.  If you take a Mande mooring when you arrive, you are stuck with it; no one else will dare to rent you a mooring.  Make sure the village fee is included on your receipt and lock up your boat.
b) Made’s moorings: I know, it sounds like Mande, but this is Bali and everyone has the same name!  This is the 2nd local fellow who has moorings.  Rates are roughly the same as Mande’s but you won’t have to worry about mischief.  Made’s shop is to the right of the  dingy dock and the conspicuous 3-story old yacht club with the curved blue roof on the waterfront road- ask around. 
c) The Royal Bali Yacht Club - probably the best choice.  Try Ruth on Ch 17 on arrival.  She is honest, friendly, and  helpful.  The yacht club is hidden away; land at the dingy dock, turn left down the little main road/waterfront road and walk about 1 km- the RBYC will be on your left.  RBYC moorings are a couple dollars more expensive than the others, but they come with a shower. 
d) Anchor - You should be able to anchor for free NE of Serangan in the large area between the moorings and the reef.  Holding here is reputedly poor in a mud/plastic bag bottom.  This area and the outer moorings are windy and thus more rough than the inner moorings.  Swell protection is good everywhere at Serangan. You cannot anchor inside of where the moorings start. 
e) If you happen to be a good personal friend of former Indonesian dictator’s son Tommy Suharto, you can anchor in the absolutely beautiful, protected, peaceful, perfect inner anchorage that lies up the southern channel that you will notice to port just after you pass through the reef.  Tommy’s dad was one of the richest men in the world after he stole billions from the Indonesian people in the 60’s-90’s.  Tommy owns a large portion of Serangan, and unless you’re buddies, his goons will show up to chase you off shortly after you drop anchor here.


Good news: Local produce, services, and goods are cheap and imported ones are often reasonable.  Shop at Lottemart (near Serangan), Carrefour in Kuta, or Hardy’s in Sanur.  Public transport from Serangan or Bali Marina is nonexistent, taxis are about US $10 to Denpasar/Kuta/Sanur, but you can rent a motorbike for about US $3/day/  Traffic in Bali is scary.  In Serangan drinking water is US$1.50 for 20L.  Local tapwater (bleach/boil before drinking) can be delivered to the boat for $8/500L.
- In Serangan diesel can be delivered for about US$0.85/L negotiable.  Jerry canning is technically illegal, but we've had no problem filling our jerry cans at a dingy-accessible petrol station for $0.50/L.  If you need laundry done US$0.15/peice) or water find Ibu Lala's shop near the dingy dock for honest service.  Local labor is around $15/day.  Good sail repair can be done by Nusa Dua Boatworks south of Kuta ($$$) or Julie on Serangan.  Local beer is cheap and good.  Telkomsel- near Ramayana on Diponegoro St in Denpasar - can provide a 3G internet plan for US $15/month + plus dongle. 

Bad news: Imported (ie palatable) wine and alcohol are expensive here.  This is a double-whammy for us because we have spent the last month trying to get work done on the boat here, and we really need a stiff drink now!  Quality boat parts and metalworking/mechanic services are really hard to find here, unless you’re fluent in Indonesian and  looking for something very basic.  Propane- The only places we've found that have Indonesian-to-US/Europe propane adaptors are Bali Marina or the Royal Bali yacht club.  Both charge US$50 for a 20lb bottle fill. 

Unfortunately the harbor water in Benoa and Serangan is very dirty and a giant pile of trash does loom on the horizon between Benoa and Serangan :(
On the bright side, Serangan is a lovely, quiet, friendly little traditional village with tons of temples.  Except for the pollution, can't think of a better place to stay on Bali.