Bali to Myanmar, and Below the Ocean Blue




Nine years ago I was up in Bali, standing in the scorching sun outside the Denpasar police headquarters.

I’d been enjoying myself at the Ubud Writers Festival, wafting among poets reciting among fragrant tropical flowers in exotic gardens. But then I’d received a call from a Sydney magazine editor, asking me if I’d consider hot-footing it to the Bali capital  to cover a story.

Sure, why not? A 14 year old boy from Newcastle was being held in the police lock-up there. He’d been arrested buying 3.6 grams of marijuana in Kuta. Was this teenager going to be the next Schapelle Corby, locked up for many years?

While standing outside the cop station, trying to figure out how to meet the boy’s mother, who was doing her best to avoid the media pack,  I got chatting with the woman beside me, journalist  Deborah Cassrels. An unusual place to make a new friend, on the bitumen in the sweltering heat outside a Bali cop station, but there you go.


Deborah Cassrels
I learned she’d moved to Bali from Sydney a couple of years earlier, after her marriage broke up. She’d thrown herself into exploring the island, and beyond, writing many impressive features. Over the next few years, Deborah would cover some fascinating stories, meeting terrorists, bomb victims, faith healers, the Bali Nine prisoners, and many colourful characters.
Deborah has just written a book, Gods And Demons, reflecting on some of the big stories she’s covered, and telling the equally enthralling  “story behind the story” along the way.  It’s a great read. In this edition of The Starfish we interview Deborah – newly back in Sydney – about the book, and her thoughts on what’s happening in Bali today.
Of course, none of us yet know when we’ll be allowed to travel overseas again. But thanks to  journalist Leigh Reinhold, we certainly get a taste of the joy of visiting exotic Myanmar, in part two of her travel report.
 While on her adventures in west Myanmar, Leigh charmed chef Mynt Tun into creating a dish just for The Starfish –  Prawn Curry In A Hurry! It’s in this issue.
We also have a recipe for Lemon Cake With Raspberry Butter Cream from Charlotte Ree’s new cookbook Just Desserts (Pan Macmillan).
And finally, we have a book review from Margot.  I gave her Valerie Taylor’s memoir An Adventurous Life for Christmas and she found it so interesting, she agreed to write about it for us. After reading her review, I too want to read the book.