Bali Advertiser, April 2009

The Best of Stranger in Paradise 1996-2008
by Made Wijaya

Text by Bill Dalton



Michael White first visited Bali in 1973 with the intention of taking only a short sabbatical from his architectural studies at the University of Sydney. Then destiny intervened. Smitten by the island's extravagantly rich pageantry and culture, he soon moved in with a Brahman family in the laid back fishing village of Sanur. Shortly thereafter, he assumed the Balinese name for first-born son, Made Wijaya.
Then in 1980 Made had the stupefying good luck of being invited to revamp the gardens for the Bali Hyatt Hotel in Sanur and the Bali Oberoi in Seminyak. In what was to become his day job for the next two decades, these initial assignments ultimately led to a long and illustrious career as a landscape architect with more than 800 gardens all over the world to his credit.
Yet, in spite of earning a surfeit of recognition as a world-class designer, Made prefers to think of himself more as a writer. As a recognized authority on tropical gardens and South East Asian architecture and design - his own garden Villa Bebek in Sanur was chosen in 2008 as the finale in BBC’s “Around the World in 80 Gardens” - Made has written five books on these subjects - his literary milieu.

The quality of his writing and his genius for self-promotion has made his encore career as successful as his first, carrying with it perhaps even more social impact. Indeed, it can be said that the famous landscapist has gained an even wider reputation for his perennial column “Stranger in Paradise: The Diary of an Expatriatethan he has artfully moving rocks and dirt around.

Inaugurated in the Sunday Bali Post in 1979, it was these articles documenting life and times on Bali that first established him as a cultural journalist to be reckoned with. For more than 13 years his signature column has been appearing monthly in first the Bali Echo, then Hello Bali, and currently in BALI NOW! as well as tri-monthly in the Jakarta Post. Each issue now commands a devoted following throughout the country.

Made’s most recent literary endeavor, The Best of Stranger in Paradise 1996-2008, launched at Warung Enak in Pengosekan in January 2009, is a collection of the crème de la crème of his opinionated, irreverent and often startlingly original columns such as “Wham Bham Thankyou, Nyoman,” "Carry on Kuta," and "Ocean Views are Overrated,” covering a pivotal 12-year period in the social and political evolution of modern Bali.
During this span of time the author witnessed the tumultuous reformasi era, the rise of the Hindu vigilantes, the Bali bombings, the growth of gay Seminyak, the flamboyant 2004 elections, a burgeoning real estate industry, the birth of Super Bule personalities such as Peter Watts (Project Manager of the Four Seasons) and the advent of Bule Agaculture experts Diana Darling and Jean Couteau.
This voluble and versatile penman can hold forth with equal facility on the follies and hypocrisy of the media, the degradation of Bali’s environment and spiritual sanctuaries, the crass commercialization of the island’s ceremonies and dances, the niceties of Balinese court customs, minimalist architecture, arcane Indian philosophy, etymological derivations of Indonesian language usage, contemporary fashion and apparel, the proliferation of Bali’s boy bands, as well as more mundane subjects as security measures, airplane etiquette and terrorist executions.

 

This update of Made’s previously published The Complete Stranger in Paradise 1979-1981 is essentially a selection of the author’s columns released to the public in the intervening years. Such compilations are significant  benchmarks in a literary career because they show that the writer’s work has reached such a volume that there continues to be a high demand for it.
Made Wijaya’s writing at its finest is charged with a heady mix of wit, erudition and eloquent acerbity. He is unabashedly romantic, hedonistic, sensual. His sense for detail – colors, sounds, movement, fragrances – is vivid, often bordering on hallucinogenic.
The language is resonant with self-confidence and authority, revealing a man comfortable in his own skin, even as he openly admits to adopting a Balinese feudal approach to business management. Few journalistic voices in Indonesia are so laden with righteous outrage and a captivating intimacy at the same time. These diary entries are an insider’s view of Bali’s cultural sinews and maddeningly complex social hierarchal structures.

Besides giving pleasure as a lively read, the book is as well a bibliophile’s collector’s item which must have cost a king’s ransom to produce. Its 373 glossy color pages are crammed with hundreds of eye-popping images, quirky illustrations with dialog balloons, comical and bizarre montages, vintage photos of Balinese royalty, lavish funeral and cremation rituals, candid shots of fashion models and lifestyle icons, captioned line art, as well as a generous number of images of himself as befits this iconic contemporary figure and internationally recognized authority on all matters Balinese.


The Best of Stranger in Paradise 1996-2008
, Made Wijaya, edited by Rachel Greaves, Wijaya Words 2008, ISBN 978-979-95003-1-1, softcover, 373 pages, art direction by Agus Setiawan, illustrations by Dewa Juane and Komang Wiramajaya., glossary, index.

Available for Rp440,000 at Periplus Bookshops in the Bali Galleria, the Matahari in Kuta, Made’s Warung in Seminyak, Ngurah Rai Airport,  Gramedia Bookstores, at Ary’s and Ganesha Bookshop in Ubud, at the new Ganesha@Biku in Kerobokan, or order via wwords@indosat.net.id."

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PT. Wijaya Tribwana International
Jln. Pengembak No.9B Mertasari, Sanur 80228, Bali - Indonesia. Ph: (62-361) 287668, Fax: (62-361) 286731
Email: ptwijaya@indo.net.id

Copyright 2010 PT. Wijaya Tribwana Internationa