When I got an email from the expedition team from JDMIS (Jewellery Design & Management International School - my former school of jewellery training in Singapore) in September, it was too good an opportunity to pass on! At that time there weren't any news of Mt Agung's eruption or anything dangerous. That terrible news came during November & I remembered thinking, "Darn it!" but somehow, I still felt compelled to go and I thought perhaps let’s not jump to any decisions as it was still too early to tell. Let it play out and see what happens next. Of course, the media didn't help much as they started televising stories and news about how terrible the situation was and quite a fair bit of the expedition team started withdrawing from the trip almost causing the whole trip to be cancelled. I remained indifferent to the whole situation and thinking, perhaps this could be on my bucket list: A visit to Bali despite eminent eruption of Mt Agung! Yes, I thought I had a death wish but hey, YOLO… right?
And so, we did! Along with 15 fellow adventurers and a tour guide we journeyed and traveled mainly on the westerly side of the island from southern to the northern areas, sticking closely to the touristy areas. I remember on the first day we had to travel for hours through the mountainous region by coach and they stopped on a lookout area, where we could see Mount Agung in the distance (on the left) clear as day:
The weather was exceptional and clear and beautiful! See how screwed up sometimes media gets?
Then followed by some shopping for tidbits and fruits on random roadside stalls as we proceeded for lunch at a very beautiful and serene resort hotel and then some more sight-seeing until to our pit stop that we rested for the night – a quaint beach resort with incredibly large villas and super comfy beds. What I found hilarious was that they had an outdoor shower (which I pretty much expected), but the latrine was also located outdoors! A total outdoors toilet experience package that you can’t ask more for, at least it was a first for me. I’m a total city-dweller, I don’t quite appreciate nature starring back at me in the face when I pooped surrounded by flying insects with big fat lizards near me waiting to catch their dinner – it was quite surreal but I think I enjoyed it!
(This is the pier that extends out to the open sea where boats can dock when they travel to & fro from the pearl farming areas)
The highlight of the trip was of course the Atlas pearl farm which is located on the top northerly area of Bali. The tour on the farm was exceptionally educational and I learned a lot about Eco-farming for pearls, as well as the excruciating processes that involved a lot of teamwork, coordination, patience and most importantly the love and passion that they have for pearl cultivation. Thus, the hard work and love also naturally translates into the value of their pearls and they were on the slightly pricey side and I was disappointed because I couldn’t afford them. *cry*
(The process of inserting the nucleus into the reproductive organ of the oyster)
(Actual pink, golden and white south sea pearls of Atlas Pearls! 🤤)
All in all, I really had lots of fun on this trip! I made many new friends and was quite inspired and recharged for new designs and all. One thing I couldn’t shake off was that the streets of Bali were quite depressing. I recalled a group of us stepped out to the main streets for a late Saturday night dinner, hoping to get some nice seafood. The street was deserted! The restaurants and bars empty and the air was heavy and sad. No doubt once again, the media blew things up out of proportions and I wish that things will return to normal soon again for the nice people of Bali. As my tour guide said to me, “It happened before during the bombing in 2002, but we slowly recovered. This time, we will recover too.”