A lifetime achievement award also went to Milo for services to batik, the Baris Cina troupe of Renon for trance-wear and Janet De Neefe, for services to bulletproof white corsettes.

LOGO 070921_flatt

I am working on a new book — Busana Bali: ‘fashion through the ages on the island of the gods!’ It will be a must-have for all sixteen expat Bali-fashionistas and the Balinese will love it.

I have been documenting fashion trends in Bali since this column’s inception in 1979. The column even has a hall of fame which includes Tati Waworuntu, Gung Bagus Puri Kaleran, artist Nyoman Gunarsa (for services to Bull Aries outfits), Cokorda Pemecutan XI (founder of both Uber-macho and Harley Davidson chic), the late Pedanda Istri Raka, Lolot of Kuta (gentleman bodgie fashion), the pecalang of Pura Petilan Kesiman (Pengrebongan), and Tuttie Kompiang.

The palace’s ladies line up for a Kodak moment during a recent palace ceremony.

A lifetime achievement award also went to Milo for services to batik, to the Baris Cina troupe of Renon for trance-wear, and to Janet De Neefe, for services to bulletproof white corsettes. One chapter will be devoted to puri (palace) style: as the laskarbule, I am the ultimate shameless palace groupie (much to the horror of champagne socialists on the west coast), and this section will be particularly rich.

In this month’s column are photographs of the men and women of Puri Kaleran Pusaka, Peliatan, who, over the decades, have been standout fashionistas for radical Bali chic.


Last month I was asked to lecture on ‘Cultural Reference in Tourism Architecture’ at a conference in Jakarta held by the Indonesian Department of Tourism.

I spoke passionately about the evils of urban tourism (the new trendoid catch-phrase) versus pretty defunct cultural tourism. I said that Bali needed fewer billboards and more environmental protectionism — the proposed filling-in of Benoa Bay is a disgrace.

Head of Puri Kaleran Pusaka, Peliatan palace Anak Agung Bagus Mandera S.E. – Bali’s answer to Beau Brummel

I told them that the Balinese are fed up with the gangster tactics of many developers, and are particularly heated up on the Hindu Street about the ‘Sharia Hotel’ just approved for construction.

I explained how my take on the ‘Sharia’ hotel was more moderate. Malaysia has a huge amount of Middle-Eastern tourists — why not Bali? They walk around petting and coo-ing, thrilled to be free of the strictures of their homeland.

I said just call the hotel halal, but, to give equal opportunity to haram, also create a nudist beach somewhere. This solution would be in keeping with the Balinese principle of dualism — equal rites for good and evil — known as rwa binneda.


The conference was in a hotel of unspeakable ugliness, with no lift to our floor, and thick columns in the hall. Very noisy Indians were having a boom-box wedding next door. Indonesian Tourism officials spoke a lot of about ‘comfort zones’ and ‘top down bottom up’ and ‘architectural landscapes’ — it was all rather hard to understand.

Elora Hardy’s green school in Bali was on the cover of the program.

I turned up for my lecture in a Harjonegoro (Solo) batik. The Dirjen of Tourism, a Flores Island native, asked me why I, an Australian, had a Balinese name.

Ida Bagus Agung and his mother Anak Agung Oka Kartini

‘Why are you called Frans?’ I counter-punched.

They all loved me, and put up with my antics, and wanted to know what David Bowie was really like! (I did his garden in 1990).

Ibu Siti dances the Pendet with her son A.A. Rama

On the side of the conference, I spent a lot of time on floor seven in the Olympic pool with Chinese Jakartans in the most bizarre un-revealing sportswear. We bobbed together, admiring Monas (Monumen Nasional) in the near distance, shrouded in filthy yellow air.
Urban Tourism.

Gung Bagus’ son A.A. Iswara and cousins

25 November 2015: Amazing colla- boration between the Kodo dance troupe of Sado Island in Japan and the Jegog Suar Agung troupe of Jembrana (Bali) at Bali’s Dance Academy (ISI) in Denpasar
Collaborations between the Japanese and Balinese dance world go back a long way; two of the dance principals from Puri Kaleran Pusaka in Peliatan even have Japanese wives.

IMG_1340The celebrated Kodo dance troupe from Sado Island off the east coast of Japan has performed in Bali on a few occasions since 1979 — most memorably a haunting night performance at the Pura Dalem in the Monkey Forest in Ubud.

Tonight, at ISI, Bali’s prestigious Dance Academy (reached by a one-lane entrance road!), the famed Jegog Suar Agung (with giant bamboo xylophones) of Jembrana is performing in a special collaboration with Kodo. It’s a packed house — mostly Japanese, who probably came to Bali just to see this show. It starts with the usual deep harmonics rumbling from the all-swaying all macho Jegog musicians.

Soon some surreal Kodo dancers come out, in batik loincloths — their graceful movements like Gollum from The Lord of the Rings. They are soon joined by some Jembrana drummers. Next to the Japanese Nureyevs, the Balinese look a tad under-nourished. Then came a wonderful finale, capped with a row of dancing Balinese goddesses in lurex ball gowns.

The mostly Japanese audience goes berserk and I beat a hasty retreat, planning to avoid gridlock on the single-lane entrance road.

A.A Rama and his mother Ibu siti (second from right) and other family members

30 November 2015: Spectacular night at a small temple in Denpasar
Tonight, THE GANDRUNG SAKRAL show at the Pura Majapahit in Monang Maning blew my tits off. In the temple’s forecourt a small area had been cordoned off — and festooned with woven palm-leaf paku pipit hangers-down and other decorations — and a polychromatically-painted angklung gamelan was playing frantically along the southern edge.

Inside the temple were the butch bapang (barong dancers) in tiger-skin waistbands sweating pure testosterone, and with bells on their toes. In a corner bale five pretty gandrung (flirty girl dancers), including two young boys, were slapping on the stage make-up.

The red brick architecture and colourful statuary were classic 16th century Majapahit style. Two sacred gelung crowns sat on cushions at the feet of the mighty rangda in their shrine.

Gung Bagus and his nephew Ida Bagus Agung

At 2030 hours the barong moved out through the exquisite gate that connects the courts, and then, taking turns, the gandrung wove around the stage like sacred sirens.

One by one, and sometimes in frenzied groups, people joined in the joged-style dance, always with great prowess and classical style, and all ending in a nosedive or laid-back trance, after which they were carried back through the gate into the temple.

Occasionally people came charging out again and challenged the entrancing gandrung.

Gosh it was great theatre. I sat in front of the gamelan, gobsmacked all night.