Looking back at Bali, Indonesia

This is a long overdue post. Six months late to be exact.

Last August 1-7, 2012, I went to Bali, Indonesia to participate in the 3rd University Scholars Leadership Symposium organized by Humanitarian Affairs London. This is the first time I’ve been out of the country since I was six years old (when I went to study in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for a year).

I was excited but at the same time nervous, as this was my first time to represent Ateneo in the international arena. It’s a good thing my Ateneo co-delegates gave me the confidence to be Magis.

Transiting

We flew Singapore Airlines to and from Bali. Like all air carriers based in Singapore, we had to take connecting flights to and from Bali in Changi Airport.

I have to admit that I was so envious of Changi the moment I first stepped on it. How can a country so small have an airport so big and beautiful? Why can’t NAIA be this wonderful? Perhaps, this is a story for another blog.

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Unfortunately, we did not have enough transit time so we weren’t able to go out and see Singapore. Luckily for us, we met two airport tourism officers who gave us a free tour around Changi. We were able to see the Butterfly Gardens, fish ponds, airport museum and pools. We also rode the Skytrains around the three terminals.

After four hours (on the way), we were finally set on our final destinations – the Land of Temples, Bali.

3rd University Scholars Leadership Symposium

After passing through the arrival and immigration areas, we were welcomed in Ngurah Rai Airport by the staff of Humanitarian Affairs. Arriving at our hotel, our day one was finally over.

The delegates and the conference activities were housed at Aston Denpasar Hotel. During the first official day of the conference, we were welcomed into the opening ceremony. It was a proud moment for me to enter that hall in my barong tagalog and see the other delegates in their own national costumes. I experienced cultural diversity first hand.

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The conference included talks on humanitarianism and social development. The roster of speakers included Arthur Gillette (Former UNESCO Director, Paris), Geraldine Cox (Sunrise Children Home, Cambodia), Raoul Wijffels (Founder of One Dollar for Music) and Ibu Robin Lim (Founder of Healthy Mother Earth Foundation and CNN Hero of the Year 2011).

Group sharing sessions and activities were also held. Albeit I found the discussions a bit too Western-centric, they were excellent avenues for me to network and build relationships with other delegates from different countries. During these sessions, I met some of the most inspiring Asian youth of today.

The highlight of my conference experience was when I led my group composed of different nationalities to sing the APL Song in Filipino. Never have I felt so proud of my own national identity.

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Bali at Night

The conference was jam-packed the whole five days. Hence, my friends and I were only able to go out and see the cities of Kuta and Denpasar at night. Yes, I was in Bali yet I wasn’t even able to bask in its beaches.

Bali has a busy nightlife. Because of its geographic proximity, it is one of the favorite destinations of many Australians. Bars and restaurants were everywhere. There are also some shopping malls for souvenirs and branded clothes.

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One of the best things about Bali is that everything is relatively cheap. Back in August 2012, PHP 1.00 was equivalent to IDR 220.00. Hence, with only $200 USD pocket money, I was quite literally, a millionaire. Shopping in the malls, however, can be quite expensive. If you want affordable souvenirs with good quality, it’s better to shop in Oleh-Oleh souvenir shops.

Being a fan of culture, I, along with my friends Josh and Xavier, bought batik in Batik Keris. Batik is a traditional Balinese cloth which they wear during formal occasions. My batik cost around IDR 150,000 (or PHP 680.00). Of course, we couldn’t resist buying the udong or the traditional Balinese male headgear.

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Cycling in Ubud

One of the activities, the Learning Journey, involved a field trip of sorts around Bali with some of the urban poor kids in the area. Being the adventurer that I am, I signed up for cycling in Ubud, one of the most historical places in Bali.

Before biking, we visited a coffee plantation. They served coffee and mocha shots. This was also my first time to taste Kopi Luwak – the famous coffee made from Civet cats’ defecation. It cost around IDR 30,000 (or PHP 140.00). I shared my cup of Kopi Luwak with my Malaysian friend, Ain Ariffin.

Our host was the Baik-Bike Tours. We biked 5 kilometers down the hills of Ubud. It was a beautiful experience. Since I’m a fan of temples, I enjoyed the biking experience given that the houses in Ubud had their own temples. The infrastructures were also very traditional and Hindu (Bali being 90% Hindu). Ubud also had its own small version of rice terraces.

My most memorable experience on the route was being shouted at by our tour guide. Being the deviant adventurer that I am, I climbed one of the infrastructures not knowing that it was actually a Hindu shrine. I got reprimanded by our tour guide for it.

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We had lunch in the abode of our tour guide. They served Balinese cuisine. Believe it or not, this was the first time I tasted satay.

I went back to the hotel with the tranquil atmosphere of Ubud and loads of experiences.

Falling In Love

According to the movie Eat, Pray, Love, “everyone should have a love affair in Bali.” Well, I agree. As a matter of fact, I am still in that affair – an affair with traveling and with my ASEAN identity.

Bali gave me a taste of the beauty of cultural diversity and now, I just wanna experience some more. In Bali, I made international friends who I know I’ll keep forever. Through social media, keeping in touch across borders is made easy.

I miss Bali. Someday, perhaps, when I’m done with my 25-country goal, I’ll go back to Bali to bask in the beaches I missed during my first trip there.

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Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam!

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