Kamis, 11 Juli 2013

Travel Diaries: Cairns

The coastal parks of Cairns, Queensland, as viewed from the Hilton Hotel.

To celebrate skin cancer awareness month I took myself to Cairns for a check-up.
Many fair-skinned Indonesian expats are outdoors types — 5,000 blond surfies around the country for example — and need to be aware of the need for regular check-ups. South Asia is short on skin cancer specialists and I have found that local dermatologists  and G.P. just don’t recognize warning signs.
Perth or Cairns are the easiest destinations I recommend that you look for a specialist from the Australian College of Skin Cancer Specialists rather than a Botox-jabber. Readers of non-Celtic descent can now read on as really this is a travel story.

The Anzac Memorial on The Esplanade, Cairns.

The most direct flight to Cairns is through Darwin from Bali, on Jet Star. After two painless hops one is in the truly gorgeous tropical tourism hub of Cairns, gateway to the North Barrier Reef. Cairns has an amazing botanical and a compact colonial-look town centre where all of the world-class medical facilities are located.
A short five minute drive in any direction and one experiences some of the best scenery tropical Australia has to offer. Get on a boat, and within 30 minutes one can be marvelling at the under water treats of the Great Barrier Reef.
At the night, the string of the coastal parks which connect the hotel zone to the township are brimming with buskers playing soulful tunes.

A rare Beefcake Heliconia flower at the Cairns Botanical Garden.

(Top & below) The Cairns Botanical Garden.
I stayed at the riverside Hilton, the town’s premier Japanese tourist hub with a group of Sydney mates. They are all in town for an exhibition at the Cairns Regional gallery of Sydney artist Peter Kingston’s Bali and Java drawings from his March trip here.
On day two I visited the surgery of my specialist which was housed in a handsome colonial era stilted house off the type called a Queenslander. Both receptionists go to Bali’s Nusa Lembongan every year and have boyfriend-deckhands on the ‘Rocky’ ferry. I was impressed. Even the chemist nearby showed an abnormal interest in my fungal infections — suggestion all sorts of tropical treats to suppress the outbreaks that have accompanied this year’s eternal wet season. Even the check out chicks at Woolworths next door showed extra compassion for  senior red-head sporting band-aids. Outside in the pedestrian mall Vanuatu Islanders were doing a shimmy-sham in grass skirts to celebrate “150 years of indentured labour”, which was odd.

Dancers from Banks Island, Vanuatu at the Cairns Islanders Festival.

Banks Islanders wearing half of the botanical gardens.

Islander in repose at festival.
Native Australians from outlying cattle stations and sugar cane plantations looked on aghast (Native Australians do shimmy, mind you after a fashion, but not to the sounds of “Oh When the Saints”). In fact, the tribal dances of the Australian aborigines are not dissimilar to those of the people of Alor, East of Flores but I digress. Outside Woolworths is a tourist paradise: natives in colourful tribal costume tell sad tales of oppression while tourists soak in the wafting essence from a dozen donut stall.

Wendy Whiteley at the ‘Travel Notes’ show.

Lissa Coote (left) and Gail Shaw
That night le tout Cairns turns out for “Travel Notes”, the combined Peter Kingston-Euan MacLeod show, curated by Gavin Wilson.
Amongst the images of Rome and Hinchinbrook are drawings of Peliatan Legongs and pilgrims to the grave of Sultan Agung, Imogiri, Central Java (see May Travel Diary) which are the stars of the show.

Peter Kingston at Travel Notes.
On the flight home from Darwin the smart and fighting fit Jetstar hostesses  were replaced with a pair of handsome Singaporean-Malay ‘nancy boys’ who kept on referring to the captain as the “Gorgeous Peter Aplin” and fidgeting excessively in their seats  (I was seated in the first row). After a lot of girlish static from their direction while the plane was taxi-ing out, I commented, in my best Jakarta Bahasa Gaul (gay-friendly slang), that passengers feel less safe if the cabin staff are squealing a lot. They got the message and shut up, even though most Singaporean Malays only understand plain vanilla Malay.

Legendary Sydney shoppers Amanda Wright and Wendy Whiteley found ample pleasures on Cairns’ High Street.
My question to my readers is: was I being homo-phobic, this side of the rainbow revolution? Or borderline racist even? (I’ve never complained when Qantas stewards blow the whistles during the safety demo on the Gay 380, and then settle back and talk loudly about their skiing holidays).
My fellow passengers in row one — big beefy ‘Bogans’ to the man/women — looked daggers at me during my diatribe: Redheads speaking foreign in public is just not tolerated in Australia. 
I guess I feel that your average Qantas nancy boy would transform into G.I. Joe if the going got tough: The Jetstar boys could not even press a button on the cabin’s digital display menu without shrieking!!

(Top) Politically Red-neck Van-art.
9 July 2012: To Bali’s fabulous 6-week annual Art Festival at Denpasar Arts Centre
Say what you want about Bali’s governor ‘selling off’ the Benoa Bay for a Disney World, he sure puts on a great Art Festival for the people. Everything’s free and it’s all beautifully organized and starts on time. The Balinese are nothing if not competitive and the gale man ‘battles’ here are epic.
Today I am invited to a more serene spectacle: 35 Sanur musicians playing classical Semar Pegulingan at the Ayodya  Theatre, led by musical conservationists (Kiwi) Vaugh Hatch and his gorgeous Balinese wife Evie from Mekar Buana. Balinese musicologist Professor Made Bandem and his wife are front and centre when I arrive as well as a large local loonie in yellow raincoat who occupies the front rows for every show and falls asleep!
Anyone in Bali during late June/early July every year should visit this fabulous festival.

Kiwi Islander Vaugh Hatch, founder of the remarkable Mekar Bhuana gamelan troupe, performing at this years Bali Arts Festival.

Wayan Sueca with Mekar Bhuana founders Evie
and Vaughan Hatch.
See my video MEKAR BHUANA at Arts Center, Denpasar: http://youtu.be/7bqHB8ilLUQ
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This month’s HOT TIP: For those in search of secluded, coastal gateway with excellent homemade Pumpernickel, forensic housekeeping and a fully-stocked bar and spa visit Holiway Gardens Resort and Spa (German owned and managed), 5 kilometers east of Tejakula on Bali’s North East Coast.