Thu, 18 Sep 2003

Kuta Karnival shows Bali reatin its festive spirit

Marian Carroll, Contributor, Kuta, Bali

Bali's first ever Kuta Karnival that opened last week, featuring a nasi campur of activities, is a grassroots initiative to show the world it has not lost its festive spirit.

The carnival began on Sept. 11, the second anniversary of the terrorist attack on the United States, and will run through until Oct. 12, the first anniversary of the bombings on Jl. Legian that killed 164 foreigners and 38 Indonesians.

"The focus is on these two key dates to create a better understanding between Bali and New York and to hopefully in the long-term create a sister-city program," said one of the festival organizers, Christian Fritz.

"It's the first time we are holding this carnival, but we would like it to become an annual event to make Bali more competitive in the overseas tourism market against its neighbors like Singapore and Malaysia."

Events are centered around Bali's famed "sunset beach" at Kuta, beginning with a peace ceremony last Thursday and ending with a remembrance ceremony on Oct. 12.

But while the organizers are conscious of how important the spiritual aspects of the carnival are, they are just as keen to celebrate the varied reasons why Bali was a favorite with tourists from around the world before last year's attack, and why it will recover from the tragedy.

"We want to show the world that Bali is still an exciting place and is considerably safer now. It is moving forward and looking towards a brighter future," said Fritz.

"We've got a complete nasi campur (a selection of different dishes) of activities planned, there'll probably be everything from drag-queens to traditional Hindu dancers. That's what makes Bali such an exciting island."

A Mardi Gras on the beach featuring DJs, live bands and other entertainment will follow a parade on Oct. 11 beginning on Jl. Melasti and making its way along Jl. Legian to Jl. Pantai.

"Extreme Week" between Oct. 2-10 is also expected to draw the crowds.

Among the week's highlights will be the revival of a surfing competition last held in 1982, before it lost sponsor support.

This year, Bali's entire surfing industry has gotten behind the Om Bali Pro Legends event, which was held between 1980-82 and was the first international sporting event in modern Indonesian history, according to organizer Paul Anderson.

Former competitors Terry Fitzgerald, Terry Richardson, Jim Banks, Mitchell Ray, the Byrne brothers and Kim Bradley have confirmed they will be attempting a comeback a quarter of a century after they obtained their titles, Anderson said.

Balinese surfers who took part in those original three contests will also be dusting off their boards and waxing up for the event.

Continuing the surfing nostalgia theme, the carnival includes an exhibition of the history of the sport in Bali.

The paraphernalia on show includes the first board ever ridden on the island, by American Robert Koke in the 1930s. Koke is widely recognized as the father of Bali's surf industry and credited with developing the island into a thriving tourist resort.

Koke's board is on loan for the exhibition from one of his former hotel employees, who happens to be the father of Made Switra, one of Indonesia's top surfers.

In addition, veteran surf photographer and film maker Dick Hoole will put on a film exhibition during "Extreme Week", and there will be longboard, bodyboard and parent/child contests open to the public.

If the surf's no good, festival-goers can watch speed climbing contests and skateboarding exhibitions held on the beach at a ramp built specially for the occasion.

They can also sink into the soft sand in the beach volleyball and soccer competitions, or take to the football field for international Australian Rules and Rugby Union tournaments held at this time every year.

For those who don't take their sport quite so seriously, there are fun contests including a tug of "peace", pillow and water fights (although not simultaneously!) and sand castle and sculpture making, as well as the world's largest satay.

And of course what would a carnival be without the ever popular "Hash House Harrier" run accompanied by the usual supply of beer for thirsty participants.

An international food festival will be held on the weekends of Sept. 20 - Sept. 21 and Oct. 4 - Oct. 5, when local restaurants will set up stalls offering their favorite dishes to foodies for a small fee.

Among the restaurants expected to take part are Aroma's, Dome, Good Luck Cafe, Kori, Le Bake, Maccaroni, Made's Warung, Papa's Cafe, Poco Loco and TJ's.

After some grazing at the food stalls, take yourself to one of the many fashion shows scattered throughout the month to see the models hitting the catwalk in international surf labels such as Quicksilver, Reef, Billabong, Rip Curl, Mooks and Volcom, as well as lacy items from Uluwatu and original items from local designers.

Or take a stroll through the NGO bazaar on the beachfront in Legian featuring information on the various charities serving the island.

And if all else fails, enter your best friend in the dog show scheduled for Sept. 28.