An “Instagrammable” tour

I just returned from a trip to Bali, my second this year, and my third in all. To be honest, it felt like an obligation, something I was forced into because my officemates wanted to travel and needed me to meet the minimum number of persons required for a promo price (super low airfare + accommodation + tour) offered by the travel agency.

Although they were planning the trip with much excitement, to me it felt like yet another expense that I could have skipped. Also, Bali again. They could have chosen another destination, but I let them decide since we didn’t have an office R & R this year, and Bali was the choice. And as it turned out, one of them had never left the country before and this was her chance.

In the interest of peace and harmony, I agreed. But what really changed my mind and mindset was a TED Talk by Dr Saundra Dalton-Smith I listened to just days before we left, in which she enumerates the different kinds of rest exhausted people need to be able to recharge and restore their energies.  

Thanks to the talk, my view of that trip changed from one of being an expected hassle to one that would genuinely restore my depleted energies. True enough, the trip provided creative rest, connecting me with art and nature, and allowing me to behold places with childlike wonder and awe. And yes, despite it being my third visit to Bali, there was a lot more to see, especially since the first two visits were mostly work-related. This third one was devoted solely to sightseeing. We watched the traditional Balinese dances, visited temples, viewed Balinese architecture and sculpture, and sampled the cuisine. 

It was also mental/emotional/social rest, since we all (mostly) unplugged from the internet and social media, giving our minds the space to drink in the new environment and appreciate Bali’s history and culture. 

In a way, it was also spiritual rest, letting our minds engage with something bigger than ourselves, in Dr Smith’s words. To me, visiting the temples and getting acquainted with religious practices and deities of a different culture offered a glimpse into an older world, one driven by steadfast faith in unseen and unknowable beings. 

Of course there’s another side to Bali, the part where people swarm the beaches to just party and drink. Yet another side is driven by social media, where everywhere you go is nothing more than a photo opportunity for a story to be posted on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or TikTok. In fact, one of the come-ons used by the travel agency is that this was an “Instagrammable” tour, with the chance to take photos being the main attraction. 

When I told my companions that I didn’t have any photos from my first trip to Bali in 2003, they were in disbelief. No photographs?!!! Question mark and triple exclamation point! I myself wonder why, although the answer could be in the fact that there were no smartphones yet, and my then companion and I didn’t bring a digital camera because we wanted to spend the time savoring the scenes. 

And by the way, when I first visited Bali, the island was just recovering from the 2002 bombing that killed some 200 people, mostly tourists. That fact that people were back barely a year after the bombing was a testament to how much Bali needed tourism to survive, and how quickly it recovered from such devastation. (Ironically, the latest on that story is that Indonesia has granted the convicted bombmaker his parole after serving only half his sentence, much to the dismay of Australia which lost its citizens to the bombing. Indonesian authorities say the bombmaker has been reformed). 

We are seeing yet another Balinese recovery, with the island aggressively attracting local and international tourists after two years of a lockdown that killed the local economy. The island reopened only last June, but already it has hosted the G20 Summit and many more conferences, like the one I attended on my second trip to Bali.  

So here I am with the results of that “Instragrammable” tour, even if I opted to focus on scenery rather than self. ###

(The photos are from the Taman Ayu Temple, a UNESCO Heritage Site in Mengwi, Badung Regency, Bali)

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