It has become a tradition to blog about my countdown activities on New Year's Eve and this year is no exception. For two years since Ah Tiong joined us in 2008, we braved the crowd for a good spot to catch the fireworks at midnight (here and here). I decided that 2010 would be different. After all it was a memorable year for me and deserved a special celebration. So on Christmas Day, I promptly whizzed off to the World's Best Island (Asia) for a week of fun - think the sun, the sea, my usual adventures - and to welcome 2011.
Yes, Bali is a fantastic island! Truth be told, my escapade would not be possible without my able helpmate and experienced planner Ine. Six accommodation in nine days including transport and meals, that we pulled it off is testimony to her resourcefulness and ingenuity. I made requests; she planned and executed them. Oh, must I mention she was the driver too?
Fast forward to 31 Dec. The hotel chosen for New Year Eve was the most expensive one among the four transit hotels during the nine days. A "transit hotel" in my definition is one you spend only a night to catch your next destination; in other words convenience over comfort. At 845,000 rupiah ($120) a night, Harris Hotel Tuban did not break my bank only my budget. There is a good reason why we chose Harris Tuban over other cheaper lodgings which I will not reveal now.
I checked-in after dinner. It was dark so I only got to check out the hotel the next morning (I would check-out at noon). To my delight, they gave me a room beside the pool which had some people swimming in it. The pool was so near my doorsteps that I could (almost) dive into it from the door. It was just as well my room was on the ground floor as even so I had to climb up and down the stairs to reach my room from the lobby. I counted around 20 stairs in just one flight from my photo. But to be fair, the hotel is only a three storey building.
The pool and my room indicated by the red arrow. I was delighted to have the pool at my doorsteps.
You cannot escape the stairs (see a fellow walking up?) and the
The stairs in the previous photo are visible in this shot taken outside the cafe.
At $120 a night, the room did not have elaborate decorations nor was there a gold tap in the toilet. It was simple but not cheapskate; you could see much effort went into the interior design. I thought the hotel was unique too in providing her guests rubber sandal.
Simple - unique - friendly, the tagline for Harris Tuban. I thought the small pillow is rather cute.
The toilet with a bit of atmosphere. Nowadays they like to use this kind of bowl-shaped bathroom basin.
Enough of the room. Let me proceed to countdown activities. Before the trip, a decision was made to avoid the huge crowd expected at countdown parties. It was tempting to join in the celebrations and learn how Bali celebrates the New Year. The experience would be different from Marina Bay. Instead of Sinkies, Ah Tiong, Ah Neh and a piece of reclaimed land, I would be facing a more international audience and a stretch of sandy beach. However safety is paramount and the international audience is a juicy target for certain rogue groups. That ruthlessness was demonstrated, blood was shed in Bali, this we need no reminder.
I think there was a celebration at Kuta Beach not far from my hotel. Here it says you can "enjoy the biggest fireworks in Bali" but I never got to find out.
So I decided to just count down in the hotel lounge to play safe. The hotel might have a small New Year Eve package where over drinks and soothing lounge music, all of us welcome 2011 sans the fireworks. As the hotel promised free wireless access, I brought my notebook to Bali and made public my intention in this quiz written before the trip: Should I spam Facebook on the eve of New Year?
For a $120 room, my wish did not come true. It did not even come close. There was no lounge in the hotel, only a small cafe that shared its space with the reception. Harris Tuban is truly a simple and unique hotel.
Ine told me from previous experience at Harris Tuban, there was no lounge and the cafe was small (but there was a swimming pool). I only understood when I saw the cafe for myself. Here you see the bar counter and the reception desk on different sides but sharing the same enclosed space, brilliant!
Back in my room I found out the wireless would not work. I guess it worked for others but not on my notebook. So my dream to spam Facebook did not come true. In fact I did not get to access Facebook for the duration of the trip. Outside the room it was drizzling. This dashed any hope of using the pool during the night; what a waste as the pool was literally at my doorsteps.
I was heartened to find our Channel NewsAsia on their TV, reporting on the many New Year celebrations around the world. What irony, I escaped from Singapore only to find solace in something so Singapore in the end.
I must have lost track of time while lying on the bed, exhausted after a week of running around and trying to catch some rest before the stroke of midnight. My watch was on the dressing table. I left my mobile (and worries) in Singapore. The TV kept on playing and at one point, they even reported on the situation at Marina Bay. Eventually the TV was switched off, I think some time before midnight.
Bali outside was in a celebration mood. Over the days I noticed sporadic burst of fireworks in the evening. There were also ground firecrackers which created sparks and sent the ground sizzling. Sometimes these mini explosions caused my heart to jump and missed a beat. It was unnerving as you could not tell whether it was terrorism again. I remember enduring the scare while trying to enjoy my seafood in a popular area. Ine was also afraid and we tried to avoid them as much as possible. Most importantly all of these were not set off by authorities but the residents. Coming from the FINE city of Singapore, I can never understand their dangerous mindset or how these pyrotechnics work.
Captured this from our car in Bali, I now have reasons to believe he is not a simple hawker peddling "party equipments". These are not your usual party poppers, I think they are pyrotechnics!
Their "celebration" intensified on New Year Eve. Every now and then I would hear cracking or trajectory and explosion outside. The hotel was eerily quiet and peaceful in the absence of celebration activities. She was in her own world and me in my own as I took a nap.
Suddenly, I woke up like a zombie. Exactly why I'm not sure, perhaps it was to admire the fireworks one last time before I hit the hay. Or I was disturbed by the increase in frequency and intensity of the fireworks. Anyway I'm ever conscious of my blogging duty and wanted to snap a Bali firework for keepsake. I did not bother to check the time then. The night was long and frankly I was hoping for time to pass faster. The significance of those shots did not dawn on me until I came back to Singapore and started preparing my blog.
The timing couldn't be more apt. From the camera exif data, I realized I woke up just before the stroke of midnight to take these before and after shots. Since there is no time difference between Bali and Singapore, I must have done that while thousands of spectators thronged Marina Bay to catch the fireworks display. Selamat Tahun Baru!
PS: I did not exaggerate the situation. Back in Singapore I read Jakarta Post and found this letter written by a Bali resident:
For many of the residents in Bali the uncontrolled and indiscriminate use of fireworks was extremely disturbing. The noise started some two weeks before New Year’s and by the time they had their crescendo on New Year’s Eve it was not only pretty fireworks but also bamboo cannon and explosives that sounded across the south of Bali.
Many residents spoke of feeling like they were in a “war zone”. Those of us who lived through the Bali bombing found it traumatic. Balinese and Western children and babies were fretful and fearful. Pets took refuge. I heard cows crying behind my house. I cannot imagine the money spent by people on the fireworks not to mention the injuries. I saw a girl standing in shock after a bottle rocket backfired in her hands while her friends laughed.
The 14 injuries reported by Sanglah hospital (The Jakarta Post, Jan. 3) is an underestimate. The pollution created was also of concern not to mention the fire risk. I heard of two houses that burned down on New Year’s Eve.
Bali had a noisy and wet New Year. Read what this Jakarta Post correspondent had to say:
Heavy rain and thunder on New Year’s Eve failed to stop Denpasar residents from celebrating the festivities by gathering with their families and lighting firecrackers.
The cracking sounds were heard incessantly across the city as children and adults enjoyed the mood.