The exquisite Japanese garden section at Château de Courances south of Paris.

London - Paris - Stockholm - Marrakesh

The best thing about flying the Singapore Airlines A380 to London — and there are a lot of good things — is that frequent SQ flyers are allowed to use the Virgin Atlantic arrivals lounge at Heathrow Terminal Three.  Showers, full English breakfast and the latest, tackiest U.K. Hello are all there.
You know you're in England when you look out the plane window on landing at 7.30 a.m. and can't see the terminal building for grey fog. Another indicator is real music piped into the toilets in the customs hall — Amy Winehouse even — and everyone you meet on the tube and in the street, while dragging your wheelie bin, is terribly nice. After Bali it all seems clean and green and one doesn't need to be anxious about snatch thieves.


Tod Longstaff-Gowan's sensational new garden at Kensington Palace

I am in London to give a talk to the U K society of garden designers on exotic gardens because that's what I do apparently but I really haven't done an important one since the Four Seasons Bali at Jimbaran 25 years ago — due to the invasion of the Asian landscape world by Zen masters — so I feel a bit like Kim Novak at the Academy awards. 
Coming from Indonesia, the Hammersmith bus terminus looks terribly exotic to me — all the multi-coloured city people so nicely dressed — as did the new water basin garden at Kensington Palace, with its wild fauvist colour scheme created with rows of old world tulips and the tree peonies in old Bali hand and decorator to the stars Lady Amabel Lindsay's sitting room.


Nigel Barley, author of many historical novels — on Stanford Raffles, Raja Sir James Brooks of Sarawak and Walter Spies
of Bali — shows off the miniature Raffles gamelan in the British Museum, London.

The giant teal blue rooster on its pedestal at Trafalgar Square was incredibly exotic as were the African rooms at the British Museum through which I was lead by Nigel Barley, writer and anthropologist extraordinaire.
My slides of the Bali Hyatt and my Majapahit ruinscapes seemed very tame after a week in London.

•    •    •

From London I took the Eurostar to Paris.
The dining car serves hot Waitrose Mushroom Risotto for Rp. 300,000 which seems a bargain after London restaurant prices. London is filling up with billionaires from Singapore and Dubai; billionaires from Semarang (Indonesia’s largest cluster) don’t go to London, they go to Sydney, so that they are not too far from their masseurs, mystics and drivers.
Speaking of which, in Paris they now have a taxi service, called Uber, which is polite and the drivers know the way. Uber sends you a GPS map with the driver’s location and photo and car type on approach. You can even request one with a deep Algerian accent and thick moustache; Ah, the Latins, so practical.
Paris looks dry and ancient after gorgeous, green London — but oh so beautiful.
The first night I am invited to an exhibition at the Musee de la Chasse by ceramic artist Lin Utzon. Lin is married to old Bali-hand writer Hughes de Montalembert. The show is amazing — stark black and white ceramic art placed artfully in a museum full of hunting-related artefacts.

Lin Utzon’s ceramic work at the Musée de la Chasse, Paris.

The museum is in the bohemian Marais district so after the show a few friends and I go to a tiny Japanese café that sells perfect Hokkaido omelettes.
Le Marais is like Seminyak without the traffic and street crime, and with white people dressed appropriately.
The next day I visit the Musée du Quai Branly with its amazing collections of primitive art, particularly from Eastern Indonesia, Papua and Oceania. It is worth a trip to Paris on its own.

Detail of a carving on a tribal artifact from Leti Island, East Indonesia in the collection at Musée du Quai Branly, Paris.

•    •    •

The following day I drive to Château Courance, one hour east of Paris, to admire the magnificent Le Nôtre gardens now exquisitely maintained by the De Ganay family.
Here I learn, in the family’s smart gift shop and tea rooms, that wicker-work furniture was first introduced to Europe from Indonesia by the Dutch East-India Company, the V.O.C., in the 17th century!

Gardens of Chataeau Courance , outside Paris

•    •    •

From Paris I fly to Stockholm on S.A.S., the venerable Scandinavian airline with venerable old Scandinavian flight attendants.
Stockholm’s Alanda airport is a masterpiece of light, airy modern design as are the trains that whip one into the middle of Europe’s most beautiful city in 20 minutes. I stay, harbour-side, facing the exquisite old town, at the Sheraton, courtesy of a KKNK connection — my Balinese-Swedish godson Aleksi Larsson Sukarta.

On my first day, my charming hosts help me fulfil my life ambition: to see the wondrous Rolf de Mare video collection of Indonesian dance at the nearby Danmuseet. (Swedish is just like English if you’re very drunk).
In 1938, Rolf de Mare  travelled far and wide in Indonesia filming dance — often with art historian Clair Holt and her lover, the great archaeologist-Javanologist Willem Stutterheim. His footage of the old Baris Guak (Crow Baris) at Selulung near Kintamani is worth the trip to Stockholm itself. Amazingly I have just heard that the Baris Guak, long thought extinct, was performed at the Denpasar Arts Festival last year.


Balinese Baris Guak dancer in this 1938 film by Rolf de Mare in the fabulous Dansmuseet, Stockholm.

See my video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ua09F-5L55w

From the museum I visited the home of opera diva Ms. Kjerstin Dellert and her dancer husband Nils-Ake Häggbom. In July 2015 Nils Ake is bringing a Balinese group — dalang Made Sidia of Bone (star of the Bali Agung show at the Safari Park these days!) and some dancers from Sawan, North Bali — for a show with a local circus group at their 18th century Confidencen Theatre in July 2015. Don’t miss it. The 250-seat theatre is a gem, lovingly restored by octogenarian wonder-woman Dellert.

(Top) The 17th Century Church Square at Ridde*………..? Island in Old Town, Stockholm. (Bottom) Confidencen Theatre, Stockholm.
Decorative candelabra in Confidencen Theatre, Stockholm.

•    •    •

From Stockholm I fly on brilliant new budget airline, Norwegian, to Marrakesh (such a route exists!!) to visit my old friend Thierry de Beaucé, former French Ambassador to Indonesia, and his partner Homero Machry. They now live in the Riad Madani, an historical residence which was the former palace of the brother of the legendary Pasha Thami El Glaoui (Lord of the Atlas).  Glaoui is famous for collaborating with the French in the 1950s and signed a notorious treaty. Monsieur de Beaucé has decorated the main salon of the Riad with pictorial reports of the massacres that followed — all covers from France’s Petit Journal.


The columnist gardening in the Riad Madani, Marrakech.

Marrakechis are very like Indonesians — moderate Moslems with a great sense of humour and love of their original culture.
They are hospitable and fun-loving and very artistic.
I spent the days gardening — trimming the Riad’s gorgeous citrus grove garden — and the nights recovering in the arty, grand hamman bath house (non-plus).

See my video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYSLBJORuSg

From Marrakech I drove to Casablanca Airport — 3 hours through the beautiful desert in a smart car ($200, which is the taxi fare from a restaurant to the hotel in Stockholm) — to board an Emirates flight to Kochi (Cochin) in India, via horrible Dubai (plastic paradise for the pretentious). In Kochi I always roll out of the plane into the three-star Abad Airport hotel.


15 elephants line up in front of the Jericho Wall band at the Thrissur Pooram, Kerala.

After a few hours rest I drove to Thrissur, one hour north of the airport to witness the famous Thrissur Pooram. Thrissur is the cultural capital of Kerala. More on that next month.


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