Reporting From Bali

To go to Bali for work? Yes, please!!!

Looking back, this has got to be one of my highlights working in the media industry. I mean, dude, for three days I was to “Kick back and relax with us, Mirel.”

EATING. CRAFT BEER TASTING. OPEN-AIR JEEP COMMUTES. SIGHTSEEING. BONDING.

Most importantly, I got to write an article about a hotel, its beer and beach festival experience. You can read my article here.

Fuck yeah, it was an exhilarating work trip! One dinner involved beer pairing which I’ve never done nor know anyone who has. Who would eat a salad with a light beer? I did and it wasn’t bad. And that sunset at Kuta Beach while all we were told to do was chill – OMG *manifesting for a media trip like this again soon!

Baby Lives in Shades of Cool – Karimun Jawa

New job, new hair. Time to hit the beach!

This was my first time heading to Karimun Jawa, a small island around 30 minutes via propellor plane from Semarang, Central Java.

SNORKELING. PRISTINE BEACHES. AQUAMARINE WATERS. STRONG WAVES. GRILLED SEAFOOD. SMALL ISLAND LIFE.

Karimun Jawa isn’t one of those lavish destinations for a beach getaway. Nonetheless, it makes a fun travel experience. The hotel I stayed at had a mini black out whilst I showered in an open bathroom, beneath the night sky and twinkling stars. But the pancakes were delish.

My highlight of the trip? Lol – mastering the art of fifth-wheeling. I’m always third-wheeling my bestie but at that moment, I was the only single person, vibing with the tour guide on the small boat island hopping from one snorkeling spot to another while the others were canoodling. I like that actually. It’s always remarkable to hear locals’ stories. The downside was the delayed flight back to the mainland. That room of passengers were aggravated, especially seeing another airline departing before us.

What a wonderful way to embark on a new career path!

Escaping Technology at Baduy

Are there people remaining to live off of technology? Yup, you can find them in Baduy, Banten.

I wouldn’t say the people of Baduy are living in the dark ages. They’re simply preserving their cultural beliefs. Living amidst a vast forest and streams of rivers, technology usage seemingly doesn’t coincide with their daily routines.

Early September, I was promised culture with a mini trek. The reality was a three to four hours trek, in the midst of a humid jungle. Not gonna deny, I was a brat in the first hour of the trek because of the humidity.

“WTF did I get myself into,” I asked myself.

Yet I sucked it up and actually survived! A local Baduy man will accompany you besides a guide. The locals can trek for only half an hour or even less – without shoes! See, these people are one with their surroundings. They get their foods by harvesting crops, they wear linen-esque clothing – basically, they use whatever they can find in nature to fulfill their daily needs.

So you have the Baduy Dalam and Baduy Luar. The latter would still travel beyond their homeland, selling naturally made honey to cities. And when it comes to traveling, they WALK, they do not ride on a public transportation mode nor even a personal car. It goes against their beliefs, they informed us.

When it comes to the Baduy Dalam people, though, they stay within their sanctuary. The river in the village is divided into three sections, namely to do number two, to potty and to bathe. No soaps, detergent, softener, shampoo, etc. are allowed. Then, houses are made of 100% wood. You can hear the sounds of insects and strong wind blowing. Lol along with a friend sleeping beside me, we were shocked to hear God knows what it was, we could only giggle.

Trekking along Baduy Luar, we finally reached the bridge that acts as a border from Baduy Dalam. We were told we had to turn off our phones and start living like the locals. No problem. Arriving in Baduy Dalam was absolutely soothing.

ZERO TECHNOLOGY. STARGAZING. BREEZY WIND. SHOPPING. LOVELY LOCALS.

Witnessing the daily routines of the Baduy Dalam was fascinating. Besides, they’re some of the kindest people I’ve ever met. I mean, they let strangers stay in their homes and share their food. And I can never forget a group of girls peeing altogether, pitched black at the river lol.

Time to head home. Like what we did whilst mountain camping, we died as soon as we saw a warung by the end of the shorter route we decided to tackle. Major respect to the Baduy people still embracing their traditional way of life, and of course having the strength and stamina to roam around despite of the blazing sun and humidity!!

Mirel Went Camping? Who is She?

I did something in 2019 that I’d never thought in a million years or throughout my existence in this world that I’d ever do: hiking a mountain and overnight camping. Wouldn’t call myself a mountain person but I was in absolute awe throughout this trip. Good God, I surprised myself.

A group of four girls hopped on a train to Purwokerto, Central Java around 8 pm. We then traveled to Dieng on road. As the morning sun greeted us, we made a pitstop to have hot tea amidst the misty air and cold temperature. Dieng is a plateau thus the temperature is more or less 15 degrees Celsius in the morning and could get colder at night. After breakfast, we went sightseeing around Dieng, captivated by natural wonders.

Finally, time to go hiking! Supposedly, the trek we took is friendly for mountain hiking beginners, which would take at least three hours to the campsite. Look, we didn’t get to the peak of Mt. Prau but heading to that designated campsite was already enough.

A sunny day with cool wind blowing, every time I looked down I noticed we were getting higher and higher. Thank God we decided to rent porters to bring most of our stuff, including tents, cooking appliances, chairs, etc. We are not your typical mountain hikers okay, it’s a miracle we actually got our asses up and down Mt. Prau!

“Are we near?” each of us took turns to ask the tour guide amongst our many pitstops to catch a breather, rehydrate, and munch on some snacks we stored in our backpacks.

“We’ll be there in 30 minutes!” enthusiastically responded our tour guide.

Eventually, around five hours later, we finally made it considering a sign we saw. HAAA jokes on us! Another half an hour of a hike had to be endured to get to our campsite.

The temperature started to drop, we changed into winter gear. Our porters already whipped up our late lunch which we devoured in minutes. Then, we went sightseeing as the sunsets. Omg – I’ve never seen such a majestic sunset in my life before! The sky turned soft pink as the clouds (like how I drew as a kid) surrounded the mountain. Now as the sun’s heat was gone, the cold breeze was on full force. We had our gloves and jacket worn, sitting inside the tent, freezing every little inch of our bodies. See, during summer, it tends to be very cold, even up to 0 degrees Celsius! We had our dinner inside and comforted each other with any warmth left lingering in our bodies.

I can never forget how we all had our headlamps on escorting each other to the “bathroom” lol. People say you can clearly see the stars at night time but it was kinda blurry that night.

Came sunrise, along with other campers, we went outside to witness it and embrace the sun’s heat. My favorite way of cooking soto ayam for breakfast was served (absolutely tantalizing), then we sat on the grass amongst other campers overlooking several mountains surrounding Mt. Prau. Gorgeous!!!

Time to finally head down! We opted for a shorter route (for an hour) but trickier they said. I died. The slippery sandy surface was challenging for me. At last, we made it to our basecamp in a residential home in Dieng; took a cold-ass shower, ate and headed to the train station to go home.

What a whirlwind adventure! Would I go for this type of trip again? Sure, as long as there are porters, guides and hiking shoes that actually fit.

Asia’s Next Top Model Wannabe in Bandung

Monsoon season is not my cup of tea. Especially living in the tropics, the rain has no chill and the air gets uncomfortably humid whenever the clouds are just grey and don’t release their watery essence.

Bandung isn’t, particularly my favorite city. There’s a charm to Bandung that continues to capture travelers’ hearts. Perhaps I don’t see this charm entirely? I see the surface but it’s just like, “okay”? Either way, my loose connection to this city didn’t halt a group of girls for a long weekend getaway to trek waterfalls.

Almost three hours by train and approximately over two hours by car from Jakarta, Bandung is dubbed as the city of flower (kota kembang). It’s a favorite travel destination for people living in the capital because of its proximity, natural wonders, and cool tropical weather. So going to Bandung during the monsoon season felt rather cozy. Yet, we weren’t seeking to bundle up and merely relish in hot beverages the whole time.

Traveling with friends who have amazing photography skills call for mini photoshoots. If I were on Asia’s Next Top Model, those photoshoots would’ve been like so (including my confessionals):

Supposed to visit at least five waterfalls, we managed to get to three of what the Sundanese people call curug. Lots and lots of trekking were endured. At 8 am, we arrived at the first curug of the day. The water was icy cold but subtle glimpses of the morning sunlight popping out of the cloudy sky warmed my body as I gleefully played in nature’s very own pool.

Yu Tsai wanted us to take group photos, this time around. Working with other girls is notoriously challenging, but it wasn’t with them. Good news though, we won the best picture!
On our last expedition of the day, Google maps told us to hike through a 1,3 km trail to get to a certain waterfall, since the path wasn’t made for cars. No traces of human life seemed to pass by this rocky uphill we hiked.
We arrived at the final waterfall of the day. Quiet, wet and oh so lusciously green – it embodied that tropical rainforest waterfall you’d see on Nat Geo. The raw, untouched track leading to this waterfall horrified me but I shrugged it off. The loud sounds of the heavy water flow excited me because we were near. Finally, the sight of this waterfall was before me. I was in awe; capturing my view with my eyes and my phone.
Suddenly, the girls exclaimed, “stop Mirel, STOP!” I was confused. They all started screaming out of panic. “There’s a bug flying to your ass beneath your skirt!!” Good God, I screamed louder, “HELP MEEEE!” Thank God I was aided. Cold and beat, the skirt part of my swimsuit kept blowing like Marilyn Monroe’s iconic photograph, as I just stood still with my toes dipped in the icy cold water.
Turns out, there was another route that involves a car ride instead to get to this last location! Well, jokes on us, only off-road vehicles could go through that other route, passing through a tea factory and its plantation. Like Paris and Nicole on The Simple Life – no signal, no one willing to let us hop on their jeeps, bugs everywhere – we walked for another hour. Hangry and worn out, the view was nonetheless serene and the air was crispy fresh. Blessed be.

Trips like this, where things don’t go out accordingly planned, bring out clarity not just on you as a person, but also the supportive group of friends you have whilst traveling. No matter what, having the right people with you will get you through anything. We pushed ourselves despite getting lost and feeling clueless about what we were doing! Yeah, putting faith in oneself is absolutely fundamental to get through life. Sometimes though, we just need that extra push – and lots of unnecessary screams.

Sailing Along with the Indonesian Navy

We’ve finally made it to 2019! A year significant with a breakthrough moment that escalated to a career change and lots of voyages.

Working for over three years at a TV news station has brought immense valuable lessons, both personally and professionally. Not gonna lie, I was going through a rut with my career. Little did I know, this work trip would’ve been my very last project.

April 2019; I had received a text from one of my supervisors who informed me of an out of town assignment. Surprised, I took up the offer. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity; cruising along the Java Sea, from the city of Surabaya to the capital Jakarta, boarding on a new Indonesian Navy ship.

For three days, I worked on a vlog of the ship’s profile. I wasn’t used to vlogging nor talking to the camera in general. But it was a challenge I was eager to follow through. I was anxious to make it, but my 2019 motto was, Why the Hell Not? Nevertheless, it was a humbling, educational, memorable and fun experience!

Reporters and cameramen from other media companies tagged along too. It was like a field trip lol. I was the only female media crew in the group. Heck, the ship only had one other lady who was in charge of the ship’s kitchen operations. She happened to be my roomie too. You’d think the masculine sensation on board would’ve been overwhelming but it was covered by laughter.

These people have committed to life on the sea, stretching out for days, weeks and even months. No signal on most days means no contact with the outside world. I endured it, yet I wasn’t bothered with it. Instead, it felt serene. Getting to focus on work, listening and exchanging stories, reading – basically practicing mindfulness. It’s wonderful to have a break like this once in a while. But, I absolutely understand their enthusiasm once a single bar of signal was traced.

“There’s signal!” someone shouted.

And it was only accessible at one corner. They all gathered, sitting down on the ship’s floor with their phones in their hands as they smiled and laughed, lost in utter joy.

Day three came and I had arrived at the port in Jakarta. “Back to reality,” I thought.

You can watch the vlog here (sorry, it’s in Indonesian).

I’m proud of this project, despite still cringing at myself every time I watch it over. At least, I have a story to share for personal and professional matters. Here are snippets of my last field job on the road…..or should I say sea.

Question?

I hate how inconsistent I’ve been here. I had a schedule I was determine to follow but my days were running swiftly away from me. That’s no excuse, I know. But I haven’t been in such a personal great place dealing with a massive change that comes with loss and growth.

I needed time to slow down, breathe, regroup and actually figure out what is it that I wanna fucking do in my life. I think I got the answers, but I’m scared to follow through. My heart is saying yes but my mind is saying no. Ever felt conflicted like this before?

Thank you to those who’ve been reading my stories, I highly appreciate it. Mind sharing how you stay consistent here?

Music and Waterfalls in Bali

It’s 2018. Another trip to Bali was booked. What’s the agenda this time? The Weeknd live at Djakarta Warehouse Project (DWP) 10th Anniversary in Bali.

I love going to festivals, despite the aftermath aches on my body the following day or two. Festivals and concerts are fun. I get to watch, dance and sing (or shout) along to my favorite artists performing before me in the midst of humid nights. I’d go to any extent to not miss out.

DWP is annually held in Jakarta since 2008. Starting small at the renowned club Blowfish, DWP spread its famous Garuda-inspired wings to a bigger festival area, bringing the best international and local DJs much loved by EDM enthusiasts. You can see a bunch of national flags flown against the neon lasers and smokes as people from different nationalities and backgrounds gather for one thing: music. So on DWP’S 10th anniversary, they decided to go all out in the newly formed Garuda Wisnu Kencana (GWK) in Bali.

THE WEEKND. MUSIC. GIRLS TRIP. BEACH CLUBS. WATERFALLS. SHOPPING. DANCING. DRAG PERFORMANCES. MARTINIS.

We pre-gamed with the deliciously classic Nasi Campur Bali then headed straight to GWK to catch The Weeknd’s first-ever live performance in Indonesia. He sang some of my favorite songs and sounded impeccable. The phone signal was very weak as hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people were roaming around. It was insane!

Bali has several enchanting waterfalls worth visiting up north. Chasing waterfalls started to become a thing in our travels as well. So this time around, we sought to be little explorers. Hey, taking pictures at waterfalls is challenging per se, alright. *queue Waterfalls by TLC and my favorite swimsuit purchase*

Left to right: Tukad Cepung, Katolampo and Tibumana Waterfalls

Tranquil Derawan

This is by far one of my favorite travel memories of my life!

After jetting on two planes, a 2-hour drive to the ferry terminal in Berau and another hour or two boat ride, we finally stepped our feet on the docks of our hotel in Derawan. Located in East Kalimantan, the Derawan Islands consist of 31 islands, including the famous Derawan, Maratua, Sangalaki and Kakaban. Mind you, we were very close to the equator.

We stayed at this quaint overwater bungalow. It gets pitch dark at night with strong wind and waves throughout the day. We were living on a small island for three days. Obviously, we immediately walked to the beach – absolutely stunning!!

At 7 am, we had our breakfast overlooking the ocean. We got picked up by the tour guide. There were almost 20 of us in that boat. The first stop was Kakaban. It’s famous because you can swim with various types of jellyfishes that won’t sting. Then we headed out to snorkel in open water. My goodness, it was breathtaking!

Nearing lunchtime, the guide took us to an island nearby to have a picnic. Full and re-energized, we headed to Maratua. My fucking goodness, I did something terrifying! I jumped off a 6m tall cliff in a cave! Fuck. I couldn’t do it. Everyone was urging and supporting me to just jump. My whole body was shaking. Until the guide came up and gave him his hand to me, I finally jumped. It was fucking mortifying. I can’t believe I did that. I then soothed my tensions with tea at the Bora Bora of Indonesia.

We slept so well that night despite being sunburnt. Two blondes applied an SPF 5 tanning oil underneath the burning sunlight near the equator. Don’t be like us. We were still stoked to island-hop though. We spent hours just snorkeling in the calm and crystal clear waters, seeing huge sea turtles as well as tons of corals and fishes.

Indomie time (duh!). We noticed bicycle rentals around so we decided to bike around this small island. Definitely do that as you welcome the sunset. It made us forget about our sunburn.

Our last day sadly arrived. Our sunburns were very much excruciating at this point. It’s a surprise we made it through the long journey back home.

I am absolutely grateful this trip happened. I was absolutely happy – even I’m smiling right now. If you love exploring marine life, staying on a small island, and building memories with your loved ones, Derawan is highly recommendable for your next island holiday.

2am Things

I was on a night shift. The man behind the camera was too. We were utterly bored and sleepy but we had a responsibility to be on standby. Out of nowhere, he took out his camera and asked whether I’d be down to model for him.

It was our first photoshoot together. I just followed along according to his vision. He wanted to go for a grunge vibe, I believe. He used a couple of props to take the photos which I had never thought of, like using a cloth to illuminate the subject (moi).

I love how the pictures came out in black and white. It gives off a timeless elusion and mystery. It gives me Lana Del Rey’s Paradise era.

As Lana Del Rey sang, I heard that you like the bad girls honey, is that true?