Sunday, August 22, 2004

Ubud Writers and Readers Festival 2004

This is IT!

Bali asserts herself as an anchor point in the literary world! If you've never been to a literary festival, this would be a great one to cut your chompers on.

Bali is a unique island in the fascinating archepelago of Indonesia, separating Australia from continental southeast Asia. Even the Dutch knew this place was special when they colonised islands in that region. They didn't allow factories and trains to sully the picturesque landscape of rice paddies, volcanos, mountain lakes, and sandy beaches. There was a lot of effort to keep the place preserved as a kind of living museum, but even if you're heart's in the right place, you can't keep a culture under glass. Indonesia gained its independence after WWII, developed tourism (especially to Bali), and the Balinese entered the world economy as a crafts and cultural center.

Ubud is Bali's seat of culture. Wander around by day and pick up carved masks and wooden sculpture, notice the elaborate offerings placed at fine little temples right in front of shops and homes, have a gourmet meal served in a coconut wood platter... for a song! That young foreign couple at the table next to yours is probably from Berkeley, New York, or Paris. Take a late afternoon stroll alongside a rice paddy where ducks are assembling to totter and quack home. After sunset, pay your admission for a front row seat at a music or dance performance, possibly the kecak dance/chant made famous by Margaret Mead in the 1920's and 30's.

Like Santa Fe, Paris, Marrakesh, Guanajuato, or Venice, Ubud is a world class cultural mecca that draws people from all around the world. Wander any of these cities and you will see the architecture, ambience, and flavor of a unique culture. All of these cities have their cultural milieu, their patrons, their reclusive expatriate population (& a flamboyant one as well), their art galleries and marketplaces, their stages and street corner attractions.

Come to Ubud Oct 11 through 17. Hear readings from international writers and dynamic scholars like Amitav Ghosh and Garrett Kam. Attend a rare English narrative shadow puppet performance by a master dalang puppetmaster priest. Rub elbows at a party with Balinese royalty and old China "hands." Join a café round table gathering that mixes Indonesian student poets with published stylists, graceful dancers, and world class photographers. It will be week-long cultural campur (an Indonesian dish of mixed delicacies) you will not want to miss.

Speaking of food, we are fortunate that festival organizer Janet deNeefe is also a renowned chef, restaurateur, cookbook writer, and hotelier. Her sense of style infuses every aspect of the festival, combining the incomparable Balinese sense of presentation to her bon vivant love of cuisine. This may be a first: a festival combining great food and great lit. From the humble cup of Bali coffee (your curative mud bath in a demitasse) at a morning panel discussion on political communications in emerging democracies, to the huge spread at a writers' party, food is a celebrity in Ubud.

Come to Bali and enjoy the festival! Web address above. Are you coming from the States? Check out for some great discount package deals.

Readers and writers, there's no excuse for your absence!

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