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The Travel Journals: 2018/Q3 Edition

October 25, 2018 Travel Journals
The Travel Journals: 2018/Q3 Edition

Phil Goes to Bali

My friend Maddy and I have traveled together before. We’ve been thinking about our next destination, specifically one with good snorkeling opportunities. She spontaneously purchased a flight to Bali for $500 during a sale and urged me to do the same...

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TRAVEL DATE: August 15-29
My friend Maddy and I have traveled together before. We’ve been thinking about our next destination, specifically one with good snorkeling opportunities. She spontaneously purchased a flight to Bali for $500 during a sale and urged me to do the same...With the low price and warm beaches, I bit the bullet and committed.

Indonesia is primarily Muslim but we went to visit Bali, an island/region that is primarily Hindu. There were a lot of beautiful temples and offerings everywhere. You’d frequently see many offerings wherever you went, such as flowers and incense burning. I learned that offerings were formally offered twice a day.

Ubud, a city in Bali, is considered the cultural center. We hired a driver to take us to the “Sacred Monkey Forest.” This well-known park is both a natural habitat and sanctuary for the Balinese monkeys. You might even encounter one climbing on you like what happened to Maddy! We also witnessed a big food display being put up at the park. At first, we thought it was how the park feeds the monkeys, but later learned that it was part of a bigger traditional celebration called Tumpek Kandang.

Our other big destination was Nusa Lembongan, an island off of Bali. It’s a 30-minute ferry ride from Bali. It’s a lot less crowded but its long beach is a big tourist attraction. We learned to scuba dive there by taking a 4-day course. I am now a proud PADI open water certified diver! Diving was great - very surreal. With a mask on, it looks like you are watching TV. My first couple of tries, I found out I was not good at staying under water. I purchased extra dives, however, and with the extra experience, I finally got the hang of it.  I got to swim with clown fish, moray eels, puffer fish, sea turtles, trigger fish, napoleon fish, pipe fish, and many other sea creatures.

We wanted to go to a third location, the Gili islands, but there was a massive earthquake two weeks prior to our arrival that evacuated the islands and closed them from travel. We personally experienced two earthquakes during our time in Bali! The first one was at night while I was in bed. I could feel the shaking, but assumed I was half-asleep until Maddy mentioned she could feel it too. The water from the pool next to our villa was swishing back and forth. Luckily, the situation didn’t escalate. Just a few days later, we experienced our second earthquake—this time during the day. We felt safe because the locals around us remained calm.

My assumptions that Bali was going to be a very “tourism-heavy” destination were true. Lots of signage and locations catered to tourists in both English and Chinese. I was preparing for hot and humid weather, but was pleasantly surprised by how tolerable it was. Yes, it was warm, but I wasn’t choking or drenched in my own sweat. Interestingly enough, we were visiting during the wet season (the warmest of the year). What I didn’t expect was the horrible traffic from scooters and cars everywhere. Ubud only had two-lane roads and super narrow sidewalks. I was constantly keeping an eye out to feel safe from being hit by something. Another big surprise for me was the flight. The combination of a $500 economy ticket, 20-hour flight schedule, and a poorly reviewed airline, I was fearing the worst. Looking back, I am happy to report that it wasn’t too miserable.

I’m looking forward to the day I return to Bali. Maddy and I would love to go diving in one of the many other spots in the region. Our goal is to see Manta Rays, mola mola, and whale sharks. Visiting the Komodo Islands, home to the Komodo Dragons (giant lizards), is also on my to-do list. We were unable to fit it into our schedule during this trip.  The island does not have any hospitality services, so it’s a “go and come back on the same day” trip.

For people who want to visit Indonesia, be prepared for a long flight (~20 hours).  In respect of the local culture and religion, men will need to be ready to wear pants. Women will need to purchase and bring a sari. We were asked to cover anything above our ankle/shin area in order to enter temples. It’s very worth it, though, as you get to enjoy their architecture, art, and culture up close.

Josh I. Goes to Amsterdam

I had previously traveled to Europe and always knew I’d return. A roommate from college lives in Amsterdam so I decided to make that my next European destination....

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TRAVEL DATE: August 23-September 8
I had previously traveled to Europe and always knew I’d return. A roommate from college lives in Amsterdam so I decided to make that my next European destination. My old roommate let me borrow his bicycle...so I didn’t have to spend money on a rental. Traveling by bike is easy and effortless in Amsterdam because the city is flat. Plus, you have the ability to lock it up as you move from location to location—no need for parking.

I stayed at a rock n’ roll themed hotel called “Backstage.” I initially thought it would be gimmicky but it turned out to be a cool experience. Lots of bands choose to stay there and sign their name on the wall.  I personally got to meet several traveling musicians. One of the best things that happened to me was meeting Sharon Kovacs, a famous Dutch popstar. Their group invited me to travel with them to Eindhoven for a party. It was an unexpected addition I’ll never forget.

The Canals of Amsterdam are world-famous so I expected to spend time enjoying them. However, I completely changed my mind when I arrived because the water and canals are in very poor condition. I continued to explore the city in search of an open mic. Unfortunately, I kept running into “we don’t do that anymore”, but the lack of open music venues didn’t stop me from playing music. I traveled around with my guitar and would play in various parks. I was surprised when people would sit down and actively listen while I played. It was very different from Seattle culture, where people tend to avoid strangers.

Train travel is very common in Europe, making the experience much nicer compared to railways in the US. They invest in newer trains, offer a greater variety of destinations, and have all-around better infrastructure. Within the city, I still managed to cross off a couple of typical tourist attractions, such as the Anne Frank house, museums, and visiting the bulldog coffee shop. One stereotype that proved correct was the liberty and quantity of marijuana smoking. It’s considered a normal social convention. Most coffee shops and social spots in Amsterdam have pot-smoking areas.

The last thing I’ll share about my trip is a fascinating night hanging out with a couple of strangers at a local coffee shop. We initially chatted about everyday stuff like culture and music, but little did I know I was in the opening scene of “Reservoir Dogs.” As the night progressed, they started insinuating their shadowy activities. At the end of the day, it was an eye-opening, captivating conversation with real life criminals and I’m glad I got to hear their stories.

While I did enjoy most of my time there, I don’t see Amsterdam offering me anything that calls me back. I found the city too commercial and “touristy” for my taste. To each their own, though, as I am sure there is a lot that Amsterdam offers to others.

Koll Goes to Vancouver, BC

Two months ago, I attended the largest esports event in the world. It’s an annual DOTA 2 (Defense of the Ancients 2) tournament called “The International”, hosted by the game’s developer (Valve Corporation)...

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TRAVEL DATE: August 20-26
Two months ago, I attended the largest esports event in the world. It’s an annual DOTA 2 (Defense of the Ancients 2) tournament called “The International”, hosted by the game’s developer (Valve Corporation)...This event first occurred in 2011 in Cologne, Germany, and had been held here in Seattle for the past SIX years (2012–2017). I’ve attended the last three tournaments, making this one my fourth. I was among over 100,000 gaming enthusiasts who attended from all corners of the world: Russia, China, Europe, Philippines, South America, Australia, and more—there’s a reason why it’s called The International!

The tournament consisted of 16 teams competing for a prize pool of $25 million. The winning team took home $11 million. Personally, I was rooting for the “Evil Geniuses” or EG: a professional gaming organization based out of the United States. The matches are played throughout the entire day (sometimes as long as 9am – 12:00am), and the atmosphere in the area is incredible. It feels like you are at a Sounders game—there’s shouting, chanting, live video, replays, commentary, etc. The winning team ended up being “OG” (based in Europe). They were underdogs in every single match they played, but walked away as champions.

This was the best International I’ve attended, due to the quality of the matches. The tournament is usually held in Seattle because Valve, the company that develops DOTA 2, is based in Bellevue. However, there was uncertainty if Key Arena would be available this year due to renovation. Valve decided to move the tournament to Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC. Although I enjoyed the venue, I still prefer the experience at Key Arena because there’s a beer garden and outdoor live viewing area for non-attendees. No matter what, it was The International and I had a blast.

The International 2019 will be held at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai, China next year. I’m looking forward to attending, and would love to take anyone else who’s interested! The popularity of esports is rapidly increasing among a passionate and global fan base. I highly encourage anyone who is even remotely curious to check it out.