Samantha Brown – Southeast Asian-based journalist and editor

Outdoors Bali

01.11.2010 (2:09 pm) – Filed under: Bali,Travel ::

BALI, Indonesia, November 1, 2010 (Stratosphere) — Chasing an adrenaline rush? A physical workout to get your blood pumping? Or how about a meditative stroll to relish the fresh outdoor air? Bali has something to satisfy across the spectrum. Learn from scratch any one of an array of sports and activities on the island, or jump right in and go for it!

Bali is famed for its surfing and with excellent reason: the island is fringed by fabulous breaks (and beaches) suited for learners right through to experienced wave riders searching for that elusive perfect tube. Newbies shouldn’t feel intimidated: plenty of schools will take them through their paces.

There are numerous advantages to learning how to catch waves on the Island of the Gods, says Frank Faust from Prosurf. more »

Bali in August

01.08.2010 (12:00 am) – Filed under: Bali,Indonesia,Travel ::

Beachside sign at Pemuteran, Bali, Indonesia

BALI, August 2010 (HELLO BALI) — Enigmatic no matter what the season, Bali cranks up a gear in August, one of the Hindu island’s busiest times. The challenge is not to find something to do, nor a fabulous place to hang your kaftan; it’s successfully whittling down the enormous list of possibilities to a few manageable items.

Got your swimmers? Sunscreen? Sunnies? Sarong? Then you’re pretty much set so hold on as we whisk you around the island, highlighting some of the choice places either to beat a retreat to or show off your glamorous threads.

Kick off in the bustling Kuta/Seminyak area, where thumping bars, gourmet restaurants and designer shops vie for the attention of the crowds. Don’t miss a meal at Cocoon, the new minimalist offering on Double Six – think day beds, pool with butler service, and sprawling sunset surf views. We’d also put organic-focussed Chandi on our must-eat list, as well as sumptuous Sarong, marvellous Metis and a swing by old Spanish favourite La Sal. Breakfast or coffee favs include Zucchini and The Tuckshop, both on Jalan Laksmana.

more »

Kidding around

01.06.2010 (12:00 am) – Filed under: Travel ::

Make the most of Bali’s family-friendly offerings with these insider tips from local kids

With its amazing geography and fascinating culture, Bali poses a unique challenge for visiting families. Rather than finding activities everyone wants to do, the difficulty is whittling down the list to just a few select items to squeeze into a tropical holiday.

We asked three children who live on the island for their recommendations. A little local knowledge, after all, is always the key to an exceptional travel experience.

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Bali love affair

01.06.2010 (12:00 am) – Filed under: Travel ::

The love affair Australia shares with Indonesia’s Bali stretches back decades to when the island first started registering on surfer, and then tourist, radars. Palm-lined Kuta Beach, now the bustling epicentre of tourism on the island, was a tranquil spot with simple huts for sleeping, warungs for eating, and not much else besides.

Like any romance, the Australia-Bali affair has been a rollercoaster ride, but now the relationship is in full, beautiful bloom. As of 2009, more Australians are travelling to the island than any other nationality, while Indonesia is now Australia’s number two travel destination, with most arrivals landing directly on the Island of the Gods.

more »

Top 10 romantic things to do Valentine’s Day on Bali

01.02.2010 (12:00 am) – Filed under: Travel ::

Sunset cocktails and candlelit dinners might all be very well for Valentine’s Day — off the island of Bali. But here, on the island, dear Don Juans and Mae Wests, you’ve really got to show a little more imagination: Cocktails and candlelight are de rigueur every day of the year here, after all.

Woo your lover with your mind by thinking up something a little out of the ordinary to do. If something below isn’t actually on the day itself, give a little hand-made voucher pledging to redeem it when the time is right; and then, of course, offer cocktails and a candlelit dinner.

1) Set sail while the sun rises

Hire a colourful local sailing boat from one of the bowl-helmet clad boatmen along sleepy Sanur beach to enjoy the pastel-coloured sky as the sun peeks behind distant, white-cliffed Nusa Penida. Pack a thermos of coffee and a few croissants to munch on as you and your beloved enjoy the views. The insect-like traditional boats will use sail if there’s enough wind, otherwise you’ll chug along using the engine. Another fine spot to watch the big sky’s baby pinks and blues melt away is from Amed. With Lombok in the distance, watch your boatman trawl for fish as you tell your lover you’ve already snared the catch of the day. Wherever you head, organise the boat the day before, so you can be sure your boatman will be there right before dawn. Negotiate the full price and length of time you’ll be out beforehand, too. For Sanur, expect to pay around 200,000 rupiah per hour, though of course it all depends on your negotiating skills. Amed should be slightly cheaper.

2) Get physical while the sun sets

Impress your beau with your knowledge of Bali’s best beaches and head to Balangan on the Bukit for a sunset walk, heart-to-heart and a back-to-basics beer at one of the half-dozen or so bamboo warungs. This excellent surfing beach has long been on surfers’ maps but it still feels like an adventure to get here. These days it’s quickly changing. You’ll be able to head back one day, say after your first child is born, and reminisce about back-in-the-day. Alternatively, ride into the sunset along Batu Belig beach on a couple of horses booked ahead of time from Umalas Equestrian Resort. The pounding of hooves into the volcanic sand, the vivid sky, the thundering surf… you get the idea. A 2-hour beach tour will set you back $72 per person.

(http://www.balionhorse.com)

3) Have a “whirl”wind romance

Bali is amazing at ground level, but even more so viewed from above. To really knock the socks off that someone special, charter a helicopter to whisk you both away into the big blue. Get a completely different perspective on those dramatic volcanoes, enamelled lakes and paddies, beaches, ancient temples in impossible locations and towering white cliffs. Air Bali has charter flights starting at US$990 for a 30-minute flight down to Uluwatu, for a maximum of four people. At that price, you may want to make it a double date, but either way you’ll be conjuring a priceless memory to last a lifetime. You may want to progress to one of the quieter suggestions on this list if you’re thinking of popping that lifetime question though, as it’ll be a little too noisy on board for whispering sweet nothings. And of course, make sure ahead of time that you check on whether the object of your desire is afraid of heights.

http://www.airbali.com/

4) Learn about the birds and the bees

Lace up your hiking boots (or not – the boss does these walks in bare feet) and head to the breathtaking hills of Ubud with Victor Mason and his eagle-eyed sidekick Wayan Sumadi. Binoculars and lover in hand, wander with the pair on an enlightening walking tour through the paddy, wetlands, plantation and remaining old-growth forest jungle, pointing out birds, butterflies, dragonflies, interesting plants and all sorts of intriguing natural oddities. Revive along the way by sipping a young green coconut via a hand-fashioned straw. British-born Victor and Balinese Su have been running the offbeat walks since 1993 and their banter and exhaustive knowledge of the area will impress, well, whoever it is you’re trying to impress.

(http://www.balibirdwalk.com)

5) Listen to the sounds of silence

Yes, you’re in love: Gaze adoringly into each other’s eyes, not even murmuring words of endearment but simply, silently floating on air… well, maybe you’re floating in water. Buddy up with your beau and take the plunge diving for a date with a little drama. You’ll need to have appropriate certifications to go on a scuba dive to any of the truly interesting dive sites, so either take an entry level course if you haven’t got your card or try an introductory dive, which allows you to glimpse the underwater world under the watchful eyes of instructors. If that all seems like too much effort, consider snorkelling — when that big scary fish glides past you’ll have the perfect excuse to hold hands. Scuba Duba Doo offers snorkelling safaris, introductory dives as well as the PADI open water course.

(http://www.divecenterbali.com)

6) Scream and shout and then make out

Bali Treetop Adventure Park at Bedugal is set amid towering – you guessed it – trees. Corporate groups use the Park for team building exercises but individuals can also strap on the safety gear and get high – as high as 20 metres. You’ll flit from tree to tree using suspended bridges, spider nets, flying foxes, swings and other tortuous looking devices. It looks a lot easier than it actually is, so you’ll probably have a few arguments working out how to get to the end of the course – think Amazing Race, without the cameras – but then you’ll have the rest of the evening to make it up to each other. Walk-in cost is US$20 per person. Too daunting? Sedate strawberry picking at one of the Bedugal farms might instead bring out your best inner Jane Austen character.

(http://www.balitreetop.com)

7) Picnic in the park

Pack a picnic hamper of wine, cheese, breads, dips and pastries (a one-stop shop such as the Bali Catering Company or Bali Deli will do the trick) and dine al fresco, sans sand. That’s right, forget about the beach and head instead to verdant Bedugal Botanical Gardens for a spacious spread of lawn as well as an array of exotic plants. A world away from paddy and surf, this cool spot is popular with picnicking locals but is so sprawling you’re bound to find a quiet corner to yourselves. If you do insist on a beachside picnic, hire an open-air VW with a driver, don scarves and sunnies and zip over to tucked away Whitesand Beach (Pasir Putih). Volks World offers full day trips for 450,000 rupiah, including driver.

8) Get wiped out

Of course, your lover already metaphorically wiped you out when you met, but how about experiencing the real deal together? Surfing after all is at heart all about the romance: the romance of the ocean, the romance of the crashing waves, the romance of being all alone when you catch that perfect tube… Rip Curl School of Surf offers a range of learn-to-surf classes, including private lessons you could arrange for two (one 75-minute class costs US$100 for one person). An alternative wipe-out might be white-water rafting on the Ayung River in Ubud. You’ll need to join with others for your adventure but amid the scenery – slicing through volcanic foothills draped with rainforest – and the adrenalin rush, you’ll only have eyes for you-know-who. Sobek organises two-hour class 2 expeditions costing US$79 per person.

(http://www.schoolofsurf.com, 0361 735 858) (http://www.balisobek.com)

9) Beat a retreat

Ingredients: One small bag, one lover and one cleansing, spiritual hideaway. Directions: Mix for several days, with dashes of yoga, swimming and massage. Recipe for: A truly reconnected couple ready to face the world united again. Magical Desa Seni, an array of individual houses shipped from around the Indonesian archipelago nestled in the rice fields of Canggu, offers regular yoga classes as well as an array of spiritual classes and retreats listed on their website. Their food is mostly organic, mostly vegetarian, and much of it comes directly from their garden. Spend time unwinding, retuning your bodies and getting in touch with each other again. A lower budget option but in the same vein is mountainside Prana Dewi, which offers regular yoga and meditation retreats along with organic food.

(http://www.desaseni.com) (www.balipranaresort.com)

10) Let the love flow free

Forget boring old ordinary sensual massages at spas overlooking the sea… Take an intelligent approach to massage and use it to unblock any energy bottlenecks in your body, helping not just your romantic life but your holistic self. Ketut Arsana, a Balinese Mahatma therapist, is the founder of Ubud’s renowned Bodyworks, where physical, mental and spiritual healing is the order of the day. Book well ahead of time for consecutive half-hour massages including chakra healing with the master himself for 550,000 rupiah. Chakras are energy centres in the spine, with each of the seven chakras representing major areas of life as well as physical reactions in parts of the body. Chakra healing will clear any blocked energy, allowing the chakras, and therefore the person, to function as completely as possible. Read between the lines, people!

(http://www.ubudbodyworkscentre.com)

Victor Mason Bird Walk

01.12.2009 (12:00 am) – Filed under: Travel ::

Victor Mason, clad in an open floral shirt, hands me a list of the names of 53 birds that I might spot on our ramble through Ubud’s patchwork of paddies this morning.

“Yes, you can tick them off, if you like! Twitchers, we call them, the ones who like to tick.” Victor speaks in the sort of British accent you usually only see on TV.

Five other birdwatching enthusiasts are heading out with us, along with Victor’s eagle-eyed sidekick Sumadi. The loquacious pair have been running these walks since 1993.

“Shall we?” Victor asks. Someone mentions Victor’s lack of shoes. I had been worried that my flipflops might not be sufficiently hardy for today’s hike, but Victor, a resident of Bali for some 40 years, is still not wearing any at all.

“Oh! I never wear shoes. Except when one must – hospitals, for instance, or airports, that sort of thing. Is that alright?”

Binoculars swinging round our necks, we stroll down Ubud’s main street over that old rusting Campuhan bridge, stopping every few metres to exclaim over a bird, butterfly, or indeed plant. I’m reminded of how I learned during snorkelling that you don’t really need to move very far at all to see a lot. Be perceptive and you’ll see a lot – especially when you’re with Victor or Sumadi, who can’t help but regale you with fascinating facts, stories and colourful opinion.

Victor mentions that the bird we’re really after today is the magnificent Javan kingfisher – and once we’ve seen that, he jokes, we may as well head home.

At last, we are off the main road. Rounding a bend, paddy stretches before us. Sumadi gives a little cry.

“What do you have, Sumadi?” calls Victor.

It is, of course, a Javan kingfisher (um, that would be number 20 on my list), its blue feathers shimmering in the mid-morning light, sitting preternaturally still on a bamboo pole in the far distance. We need our binoculars to see it. None of us have any idea how Sumadi might have managed to spot it.

“Ah one suspects she’s been out with her glue pot again!” Victor mutters. “Fantastic!”

It is, even to my untrained eye, a gorgeous bird, but there’s plenty more to come.

In fairly quick succession we see a white-bellied swiflet (number 17), a scaly breasted munia (45), and an olive-backed sunbird (41).

“Co-op-er-a-tion, please!” Sumadi rallies us back into a tight group if we’ve spread too thin and she’s spotted something worthy – it could be a nest, or some eggs.

“Look, if she can’t see it, there’s no point any of us trying to have a look,” Victor confides at one point.

The paddy paths we are following, for the most part, are little thoroughfares for villagers, tourists and even cyclists.

“I say chaps! Lovely hats you’re wearing!” Victor calls out to the half-dozen Indonesian cyclists who scoot past on their own little adventure.

What’s amazing to me is that in such a completely agricultural and reasonably bustling area so many beautiful birds, butterflies and wild plants can still be seen. You just need to know what you’re looking for – or you just need to look.

We stroll down what Victor calls “Butterfly Pass” and indeed, it’s alive with flitting yellows, oranges, browns and blues. Sumadi adroitly captures the insects, noting that she is not crushing their abdomens so they will be quite alright once she lets them fly off.

Plenty of dragonflies also dart around, but Sumadi says she’s still in the process of learning about them.

“I don’t know their species yet. Nature’s got a lot to teach and one year is nothing. Every day, I learn just a little bit,” she says.

We pass wild yellow orchids growing on the edge of one paddy – Sumadi says she’s tried to grow them at home, but with no luck. Victor points out a paddy that is old-style Bali rice, a green slightly paler than the vibrant ones we’ve otherwise seen. Then we reach an open vista stretching down into a deep gully and back up again on the other side.

“There’s Bali, in a nutshell!” Victor explains that right where we stand is wetlands, where rice is cultivated, a little further below is plantation – coconuts, bananas – and further down still, maybe 30 metres below us, stretches old growth forest, harbouring amazing birds, monkeys and other wildlife.

We stop for a drink of young coconut before traipsing down into the “jungle” – Victor says he’s being slightly facetious when he calls it that — but it is a different sort of flora. A vertiginous drop is shielded only by enough foliage to make you think you could keep walking straight over it.

Four hours after our initial departure we are ejected back onto Ubud’s main road, metres away from where we started. As Victor might say: “It was marvellous!”

See http://www.balibirdwalk.com/ for further information about Victor and Sumadi’s walks.

Where to go next: Canggu, Bali

01.06.2009 (12:00 am) – Filed under: Travel ::

Conventional wisdom suggests you follow the backpackers to find the best emerging destinations, but in Indonesia’s Bali you do better by following the expats: And the expats are building their dream homes in Canggu, an arc of land nestled between what used to be a well-kept surfer secret, and yawning stretches of enameled rice paddy.

Bali’s next wave of serious development is poised to hit this west coast area, where volcanic sands are just a short drive from the sophisticated restaurants and ever-sprouting local designer shops of Seminyak.

But for now, Canggu offers old school Bali. Pack a picnic, jump on a pushbike and work up a sweat as you roll through glorious patchwork scenery dotted with villages and temples shrouded in wafting incense.

Pro surfers lament its growing reputation but still gravitate to the three excellent breaks on Echo Beach, while their spectators feast on Sunday afternoon fresh seafood barbecues washed down with local Bintang beers at the Beach House, or munch on cheese toasties in foreigner-friendly warungs.

Sipping cocktails at Sticky Fingers’ rooftop terrace while the sun dips is another option.

Despite the relative isolation there’s no need to forsake creature comforts. Stay at one of several unique hotels in the Canggu surrounds or a plush private villa to savour your own little patch of serenity.

Desa Seni boasts an array of antique wooden houses shipped in from around the Indonesian archipelago and reconstructed village-style. Their fairyland garden includes an organic veggie patch that backs up their eat-local philosophy, and their breezy yoga space plays host to daily classes.

The lavishly decorated Hotel Tugu bills itself as a museum boutique hotel and is literally overflowing with Indonesian antiques and art. Guests can take their meals anywhere on the meandering premises.

The three-year-old Canggu Club has cemented the area’s reputation as a haven for expats and also offers passes for tourists, giving them access to play sports such as tennis and squash or take a yoga class ($30 plus 10% tax per day, $100 plus 10% tax per week, http://www.cangguclub.com). The splash pool is excellent for kids, and the popular Trattoria Italian restaurant chain now has an outlet open to the public here.

GETTING THERE

Canggu is a 30-minute drive from Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport, which is well served by foreign airlines

WHERE TO STAY

Desa Seni (62-361-844-6392; www.desaseni.com; houses from USD150, plus tax and service), Hotel Tugu Bali (62-361-731701; www.tuguhotels.com; suites from USD265, plus tax and service) or Pantai Lima (62-361-844-4555; pantailima.com; villas from USD1,400, plus tax and service)

Lush Ubud

01.03.2009 (9:50 am) – Filed under: Travel ::
Lotus flower in Ubud

Lotus flower in Ubud

UBUD, Indonesia, March 1, 2009 (Scanorama) — The traditional cultural centre of Indonesia’s Bali, lush Ubud is also a modern hub of creativity, home to world-class retreats, restaurants, and designer cool. Samantha Brown indulges in facials, martinis and retail therapy to bring you the best picks of this mountain town.

Classic fare
A step up from an Indonesian streetside warung, Ibu Oka’s serves up Bali’s delectable speciality: babi guling, or suckling pig, at ridiculous prices. The lunchtime rush is absurd, so get in early, grab a seat at one of the communal tables, and savour the many imaginative ways the many parts of a pig can be cooked!

Jalan Suweta +62 361 976 345 
more »

Ubud City Guide

01.03.2009 (12:00 am) – Filed under: Travel ::

The edited version of this story is available online at: http://www.e-magin.se/v5/viewer/files/viewer.aspx?gIssue=2&gTitle=Scanorama&gYear=2009&gUserID=0&gPaperID=24363&gAvailWidth=&gAvailHeight=&gInitPage=0&gHotspot=0

The traditional cultural centre of Indonesia’s Bali, lush Ubud is also a modern hub of creativity, home to world-class retreats, restaurants, and designer cool. Samantha Brown indulges in facials, martinis and retail therapy to bring you the best picks of this mountain town.

Classic fare

A step up from an Indonesian streetside warung, Ibu Oka’s serves up Bali’s delectable speciality: babi guling, or suckling pig, at ridiculous prices. The lunchtime rush is absurd, so get in early, grab a seat at one of the communal tables, and savour the many imaginative ways the many parts of a pig can be cooked!
Jalan Suweta
+62 361 976 345

Caffeine pitstop

The airy Ubud institution of Casa Luna offers melt-in-the-mouth pastries with sharp-jab coffees, served under whirling fans. Meals with both Balinese and Italian accents are also fabulous, and if you simply must have more, sign up for one of their well-regarded cooking classes.
Jalan Raya Ubud
+62 361 977 409
www.casalunabali.com

Dinner for two

Launch with a cocktail in Mozaic’s tres chic lounge before heading to their candlelit garden, where discreet waiters deliver six-course set meals. Choose from Indonesian- or Western-inspired, vegetarian or the chef’s surprise menu, each with the option of matching wines. Pricey but worth every rupiah (and the perfect outing for a little black dress).
Jalan Raya Sanggingan
+62 361 975 768
www.mozaic-bali.com

Get rhythm

Bali is famous for its exquisite dances and Ubud is an excellent spot to be mesmerised by a trance-like performance. Ubud Palace, opposite Ubud’s central market, has performances most days at 7:30pm. Stop by to check the current programme.
Opposite Ubud market

Paint-by-numbers

Balinese artists are enjoying a global surge of popularity, so pick up some knowledge that may pay off handsomely while also immersing yourself in some of the best art inspired by the island, some by foreigners, at the respected Neka Art Museum.
Jalan Raya Campuhan
+62 0361 975 074
www.museumneka.com

Market madness

Brush up your haggling skills and make a beeline for Ubud’s central market. This is the place to snap up everything from dirt-cheap sarongs to elegant silks, with a wide range of other crafty items and surprises in between.
Corner of Jalan Raya Ubud and Jalan Monkey Forest

Magic minimalism

Kou consists of two hole-in-the-wall sister shops specialising in, organic soaps, handmade jams and sea salt. Frangipani and tuberose scented soaps will make house guests swoon and you may want to make mango jam your hostess dinner-party offering for the year ahead.
Cuisine on Jalan Monkey Forest, soap on Jalan Dewi Sita
+62 361 972 319

Snazzy stuff

Grab a local designer hat or have a Tibetan butter lamp shipped home for you from The Shop, an upscale boutique lying on Ubud’s outskirts just outside the Four Seasons. Impeccably styled, with prices to match.
Jalan Raya Sayan No. 52
+62 361 973 506
www.shopatTheShop.com

Smooth and sultry

Ubud shuts down early so bars are few and far between, but Jazz Cafe fits the bill for a few rounds of drinks, sipped listening to some live — you guessed it — Jazz. Performances wrap up at 10:30pm, doors shut at midnight.
Jalan Sukma
+62 361 976 594
http://www.jazzcafebali.com

Mmmm, martinis

Strictly speaking, Naughty Nuri’s is a restaurant a mere step-up from a roadside shack, but the best martinis in town are to be found here. Try not to be too put out when your waitperson orders you to immediately swallow a few gulps so they can top your glass with what’s left in the shaker. Their spare ribs, too, are amazing.
Jalan Raya Campuhan
Across the road from Neka Art Museum
+62 361 977 547

Before bed

The airy, sleek Ary’s Warung is the perfect spot for an Irish coffee or a final glass of chilled white wine. It’s a restaurant as well, so pair your drink with one of their thigh-busting desserts. Or do get in early and enjoy one of their superb and very affordable degustation menus.
Jalan Raya Ubud
+62 361 975 053
www.dekco.com/aryswarung

Cheap as chips

Ubud is dotted with pleasant enough homestays where for just a few dollars a night you can enjoy life in a Balinese family compound. If you savour your privacy but don’t want to spend big, Ubud Bungalow offers spotless rooms in two-storey bungalows sprawling through a manicured garden that stretches to a pool. Fan rooms start at US$37, air-conditioned US$47.
Jalan Monkey Forest
+62 361 971 298
www.ubudbungalow.com

Respectably swish

Lovely Alila’s drawcard is its infinity edge swimming pool, jutting out into a gorge filled with birdsong. Impeccable service and stylish rooms make this hotel a fine example of how spending a little more in Ubud gets you a lot. Online rates start at US$180++.
Desa Melinggih Kelod
Payangan, Gianyar
+62 361 975 963
www.alilahotels.com

Divine digs

Como Shambhala Estate is one of Ubud’s most salubrious getaways, targetting stressed-out executives who retreat to their swish residences to undertake wellness programmes. Choose from rooms with classical Balinese and Javanese touches to minimalist ones, all incredibly private. Their spa has been named one of the world’s best, with jaw-dropping views of the Ayung River gorge.
Begawan Giri, Banjar Begawan, Desa Melinggih Kelod
Payangan, Gianyar
+62 361 978 888
comoshambhala.bz

Terrorist’s last hideout a tourism boon to sleepy Indonesian town

28.12.2005 (12:00 am) – Filed under: Travel ::

BATU, Indonesia – A huge banner points the way to Indonesia’s latest tourist attraction: the shattered remains of the house where Azahari Husin, one of Asia’s most-wanted terrorists, spent his last hours.

"From the first day until today, it’s been non-stop. And it’s been 42 days," 35-year-old Danny says as he does a brisk trade hawking three-dollar T-shirts with slogans like ‘The End of Dr. Azahari’.

Several hundred people a day, mostly Indonesians, he says, have been travelling to this sleepy resort town nestled among East Java’s towering volcanoes and usually popular for weekend getaways thanks to its cool climate.

Malaysian Azahari, a former lecturer, was cornered here by police after a years-long manhunt. As they descended on the house on the evening of November 9, an accomplice blew himself up, but police killed the master bombmaker in a volley of gunfire.

Azahari was a key member of Islamic extremist group Jemaah Islamiyah and stood accused of involvment in a litany of attacks in Indonesia, including the horrific Bali bombing three years ago, which left 202 people dead.

Danny’s colleague, student Samuel Raj, makes cash snapping polaroids of tourists who do not have their own cameras. He whips out a plastic lid marked with black tape and pierced with what appear to be bullet holes.

It belonged, he tells AFP, to one of the "suicide belts" stashed in the house in this well-heeled neighbourhood.

"It was found like this. Fourteen belts were found ready to be blown up and three were already blown," the 21-year-old explains. In pencil, 5/10 — presumably the date of manufacture — is written on white tape.

Widya, a 20-year-old Indonesian student, is here with her family from Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo, for an overnight trip taking in the debris-filled site still crisscrossed with yellow police-line tape.

A caged teddy bear dangles from the intact front fence and a pair of underpants found inside hang unceremoniously nearby. A splatter of brown across one of the few remaining walls is "flesh and blood", the vendors say.

Widya’s family have snapped up the VCD of November 9 footage for 20,000 rupiah (about two dollars) and a package of photographs for 10,000 rupiah.

"I think it’s really exciting because I’ve never been to a place where something like this happened," Widya gushes.

Asked whether the family would have been lured here otherwise by Batu’s weather and lush green apple orchards, Widya’s mother considers for a moment: "No, I think it’s just Azahari."

A more circumspect retired policeman, Max Najowan, has made the trip from Sulawesi’s Manado, more than 1,500 kilometres away (930 miles) away.

"I just came to see this place. When it happened I saw it on television," he says. "This was big news for all."

He browses the T-shirt selection and reads the slogan of one: "The journey of a terrorist leader has come to an end. Dr Azahari (The Demolition Man) who was wanted by police. 9 November 2005, in Batu. He got what he deserved."

At the sprawling Kusum Agrowisata apple orchard nearby, supervisor Paulus Hari Susilo says Azahari’s demise here has also proved a boon for his business.

He reckons that for the first three weeks in December, about 200 Malaysians have toured his orchard after coming here to see Azahari’s house.

"Usually Malaysians are only here in small numbers… It’s good business for our company. They just visit my gardens and then Azahari’s house.

"It’s been a blessing in disguise," he says of the fact that Azahari was living among them. The Malaysians spend about 200,000 rupiah each on his array of apple products and "say it’s good Azahari was cut down here".

Tourism officials are clearly pleased at Batu’s newfound place on the map.

"Azahari being here was not good, but now that he is dead, everyone is coming to see the location. Batu has become popular," Batu tourism official Suwignyo grins.

But amid widespread fears over more extremist attacks in Indonesia — Azahari’s accomplice Noordin Mohammad Top is still on the run — they are reluctant to directly promote what happened.

"We promote the beauty of Batu, not the ‘accident’," says Kadiso, a marketing official from the East Java Government Tourism Service. "It’s an additional event."

He hastens to insist that security in the region — the launching point for the tourism jewel of Bali and also home to several of the Bali bombers — is tight and bristles at foreign government warnings against travel to Indonesia.

"We have good security here. That’s why Azahari could be arrested here in East Java," he says. "Our security is very, very good."

Plan are afoot to turn the house into a monument intended to highlight police success in the fight against terrorism, Batu’s mayor Imam Kabul reportedly said last month.

Back at the site, Raj points out bullet holes in the drainpipe of the house opposite and shows where a policeman ran after he was shot in the leg by a bullet from the hideout.

The neighbourhood doesn’t mind the bustle and outsiders poking their noses around, he claims: "People can sell a lot of things."