Friday, November 20, 2015

Bali Travel Tips from People Who Lived There


I've visited Bali several times throughout my life (I'm Indonesian), and Priscilla and I spent a year living in Bali and exploring every section of the island. We love sharing our experiences with our friends and so I've posted our quick tips and recommendations here for easier access.

Be warned: Bali is not paradise in the typical postcard sense and it's not what you see on Instagram. It's a messy congested over-touristed island. That being said it's my favorite spot in the world. The real beauty is when you get away from all the hectic densely packed areas and slow down.

"Selamat Jalan!"

Begin my notes

Gotta work:

If you need to get work done check out this list of cafes with decent wifi:
http://www.nomadicnotes.com/travel-blog/bali-cafes/

Cost of living with price guide written by a friend:
http://balimanual.com/2014-cost-of-living-in-bali-with-price-guide/

Get yourself a driver to scout the major areas and get your bearings: 

Made Pong Suardana. He doesn’t check his email, so it is best to get in touch with him via WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. The last time I booked him it was 80,000 IDR, about $8 a day for 8 hours of his driving time. This was many years ago so market rates have updated, which is good and fair!

It’s not customary for drivers to eat lunch with you but I always had him join me for meals and we became friends that way. He taught me a lot about local life there and how things work. He also helped me find my long term rental room. It’s not necessary but I also tipped him enough for a nice local lunch at the end of the day.

I think renting a car (Toyota Avanza or Toyota Kijang) with a driver and fuel was about 400K IDR or $40 per day -again, market rates will have been updated.  Some drivers like Made will stay overnight with you if you choose to spend the night somewhere with your rental car.

He doesn’t check his email so I recommend texting/WhatsApp'ing him.

His phone number or WhatsApp: +6281338670832
His email: pongbali@yahoo.com

Respect him and treat him well.

Getting around and taxis:

Stick to Air Asia and Garuda Indonesia (pricier). Everyone else crashes often and banned to fly in other countries.

Whatever you do, do not land at an airport at night in Indonesia. Pick a morning or afternoon arrival. There are few taxi options at night and they will all scam you.

Stick to Blue Bird group taxis, and make sure they stick to the meter.  They are the most reliable in Jakarta (I spent my childhood there), but they tend to try to scam in Bali.

If you want to drive your own scooter Made will help you get one. Be sure to get your International Drivers Permit ($15CAD) before you leave. The cops will shake you down at every chance they get! If you’re thinking of riding without a helmet -don’t!

Scooter is definitely the best way to get around.

Notable place to stay:

You can stay anywhere that suits your fancy and budget. There are so many ultra-high-end resorts to check out just for fun too. There is one place that I’ve never stayed at but looks so unique and I’m so drawn to, called Bambu Indah in Ubud. The whole place is made of bamboo.

Excursions:

Our favourite thing to do was to get out of the major tourist areas and ride to the smaller towns on our scooter. Try to find the eastern coastal road. It’s really small and undeveloped, it’ll feel like travelling back in time. Head towards a small fishing town called Amed, where you can spend the night after the long ride or try diving the nearby area. I think the ride was about 3.5 hours if I recall correctly.

On the way there you should take a break at Kebun Impian restaurant. The eastern coastal road you want to get to is displayed on their map image here.


Diving in Tulamben in the east is nice, close to Amed. Diving in the northwest in Menjangan is quite nice as well.

You can only see so many Hindu temples, after a few they will all look the same. That being said our absolute favourite is Gunung Kawi Tampak Siring, very Indiana Jones, in a rice valley and carved into the walls. The kecak dance in Uluwatu temple at dusk is an experience. The rest of the temples are up to you.

Food and drinks:

Local food:

Our favorite “warung” or local style restaurant is called Warung Kolega, on Jalan (street) Petitenget. They serve Javanese food, the best time to come is 10:30am-12pm when the food is still piping hot and selection is plenty.

The Balinese are experts at whole suckling roast pig, Babi Guling. Ibu Oka’s in Ubud is among the best and easiest to access. Made will know how to take you there.

Naughty Nuri’s ribs in Ubud or Batu Belig (near Seminyak), my favourite ribs in the world!

Also, try Ayam Kalassan, fried chicken with unique batter, also order the fried tofu, eaten with rice and raw cucumbers. Ask Made to take you.


Western food:

The finer dining experiences are in Seminyak. Our favourite was Ultimo an Italian joint. The best seats are at the wrap-around bar in the front of the restaurant where you can people watch and chat with the staff. I loved the chicken and mushroom ravioli, best-priced daiquiris on the island, and Ultimo pizza.

Petitenget is also a nice area to explore cafes, restaurants, and hotels. Check out Potato Head beach club for drinks and poolside lounging, and the W hotel for the same.

In between Seminyak and Petitenget is a lounge/car called Hu’u Bar, Priscilla’s favourite bar in the world, and Ku De Ta which is an international hotspot. Ku De Ta is gorgeous and you’ll meet some interesting people there along with pretentious dbags :)

All these bars I mentioned are very chill, not backpacker joints, unless there is a special event going on.

Wanna get crazy??

Go down Legian street at night, on what I dubbed club row. You don’t have to go in but you should drive or walk through it to experience.

When we wanted to go out all night my favorite route is to start at the gay clubs on Jalan Dyana Pura (super fun), then hit some sort of bar on Legian (when Black Dog was still open) on the way to club row, hit 4 bars along club row, then on the way home pass by one of bars on Jalan Laksamana or Hu'u Bar. This is a serious itinerary.

Don't ask for drugs or weed or even talk about it. You'll land in jail.


Priscilla’s blog entries of her time in Bali: http://itspchan.com/category/bali/


Begin Priscilla's notes

Accommodations:

I recommend staying in Kuta. There are definitely $10/night places but they are pretty dirty. They also most likely don't have A/C (so important!) or hot water. I would recommend staying in a $30-$40/night place - it will be cleaner, a little safer and have A/C.
If you want to be pretty central (easy to get to walking wise to the beach, shops, restaurants, clubs) I'd stay somewhere on Legian or Paddys. Lots of backpacker hotels there but be warned, it is tourist central and full of obnoxious Aussies (really similar to living in the frat village). If you want to go a little more high end, consider staying in Seminyak - lots of mid to high range hotels there, more stylish. If you don't mind staying a little further away from the crazy mess of Kuta, there's a really nice hotel called Batu Belig on Jl. Batu Belig. I just had friends stay there and it was clean, had AC/hot water and a nice pool. It's only about a 5 min cab ride from everything (beach/clubs/restaurants on Legian) and cab rides are dirt cheap. It's also near a bunch of rice paddys so it's pretty picturesque! They paid $40/night. Don't forget, always inspect the room first and negotiate the price. Let me know if you need more hotel/specific recommendations.

Beaches:

The best beaches are further south in the Bukit Peninsula. I would say the nicest beach, hands down, is Geger Beach. It's about 30mins south from Kuta. You'll need to hire a taxi driver to get there. Super quiet, white sand, sparkling blue water - it's beautiful!! *I had heard from my friends there that Geger has gone downhill in quality since I've last been there so it most likely isn't as nice anymore. Padang Padang/Uluwatu beaches are really good for surfing. In fact, pretty much the only thing you can do at Uluwatu beach is surf! I'm not sure what your surfing ability is but I mostly stayed at Kuta Beach because I'm a beginner - Uluwatu is for professionals since they usually get monster waves! The beaches in Kuta and Seminyak (Double 6, Kuta, Echo) are kinda dirty (garbage on the sand, gross looking water) so I tend to stay away from swimming there.


Ubud:

Ubud is a lot of fun but be warned, most of the town is a tourist trap. That being said, you have** to eat at Ibu Oka (open only during the day) and order their babi guling special (roasted suckling pig - sounds gross but it is delicious and cheap!). Also, visit Monkey Forest - a forest literally full of friendly little monkeys. Just don't have anything in your pockets because they'll try and steal it! There's also a palace across from Ibu Oka that's nice to visit and a little market a little ways away that you can bargain for souvenirs etc. Ubud is about 1 hour away from Kuta. Hire a driver because taxis will rip you off.

Diving:

I actually got my Padi diving certificate while I was here - super cheap, only $200 compared to $600+ in Vancouver! One of the best diving spots in all of Bali is in a town called Tulamben (about 2.5 hours away from Kuta, on the eastern side of the island). A US cargo ship sank there in 1934 (?) and has attracted all kinds of amazing wildlife! It's about $30/dive and they set you up with full gear. I'd recommend booking your dive through Wreck Diver's Resort. If you can manage, try and stay there for a night as well! Really nice rooms for about $40/night. If you do stay there, everyday around 4pm, the surrounding villages get together for a pretty intense game of volleyball - really entertaining to watch. Also, the drive up to Tulamben is BEAUTIFUL! You take the eastern coastal road and it goes through some of the most beautiful scenery I've had the privilege of seeing! Luscious green rice paddies, temples (visit the Bat Cave Temple!), little villages, volcanoes. It was on this drive that I fell in love with Bali! Other good dive spots are Menjangan Island (northeastern coast) and Nusa Lembongan

Temples/tourist attractions:

Must visit:
- Gunungkawi - This is my favorite! Super cool, looks like it would belong in an Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider movie
- Bedugul (in the north) and their floating temple
- Tegallalang rice paddies
- Tanah Lot - pretty popular tourist destination. Try and get there for sunset!
- Uluwatu Temple - watch the Kecak Fire Dance in their outdoor theatre!
- Goa Gajah Temple - very picturesque, a huge fallen statue of an elephant
- Bat Cave Temple
Other than that, once you've seen one temple, you've seen most temples! Don't bother going to a museum, it's not worth it.

Clubbing:

I'm not sure how much clubbing you'll do but definitely hit up club row (on Legian St.). You can club hop through most of the clubs for free - just be sure to bring your driver's license to show that you're a tourist because it's free for tourists (locals have to pay). I suggest starting at one end and making your way to the other. Start at MBargo, then make your way to Vi Ai Pi, SkyGarden, Apache, Engine Room, Bounty and Paddy's. I love SkyGarden (6 floors, all different sounds) so I usually just head there. There's a bar district in Seminyak/Oberoi area on Jl. Laksmana. A few good bars there are Divine Wonderland and Word of Mouth. Every week, there are also huge parties at a few high-end restaurants (mostly house DJs, check beatmag.com for listings while you're there). The parties usually happen at Huu Bar (SO BEAUTIFUL), Living Room, Potatohead (GORGEOUS), and Ku De Ta. If you're feeling really adventurous, visit the gay bars on Jl. Dyana Pura. There's about 5 in a row.. Facebar, Bali Joe and I can't remember the rest of them. SUPER fun. Lots of drag queen shows, fantastic music! Bali Joe is the best one. The club at W Hotel is really fun too - I can't remember the name but Danny Fry is the resident DJ and one of our friends.
Beer (Bintang) is anywhere from $2.5 (25,000rp) to $4 (40,000). High balls are usually $6 and up. Hard liquor is really expensive (Vancouver prices) because they tax it 300% coming into the country.


Restaurants:

I'm going to give you a list of high end to local places, not sure how adventurous you are with food
- Ku De Ta - prices are similar to Vancouver restaurants (around $50/person for food/drinks) but this place is incredible!
- Potatohead (or pothead as lots of ppl call it) - this is a must-visit. Great location, great architecture, great drinks. Price-wise similar to Ku De Ta. Also has a pool which you can use for free if you buy a drink or food.
- Huu Bar - my personal favorite. Intimate, beautiful, has a pool, prices similar to the ones above
- Cafe Menega in Jimbaran. Fresh seafood bbq'd over banana leaves and you eat right on the beach
- Ibu Oka in Ubud (see above)
- Rumors or Ultimo - Rumors is the closest to Cactus Club you're going to find in Bali. Both have yummy food/drinks (Ultimo is Italian) and much cheaper than home. About $3-12/entrée. Rumors has strawberry daiquiris for $3 that are delicious
- Warung Nikmat - this is right in Kuta, just off Jl. Bakung Sari. Really popular local restaurant and super cheap - a full plate is about $0.70. The whole restaurant is nasi campur which basically means you pick what dishes you want out of everything that is displayed (kinda like a buffet).
- Warung Kolega - another delicious, nasi campur place. Redic cheap. I usually ate lunch here about 4-5 x a week. SO GOOD and cheap!
- Warung Enak - another good, cheap nasi campur place. Owned by a German guy, his Balienese wife and adorable son named Mario. Indoors, really clean compared to other nasi campur places. Not a lot of selection but food is tasty. Slightly more expensive than other nasi campur places. On Jl. Kerobakan
Ayam Kalasan across from Istana Galleria - flaky, deep fried chicken. Delicious!!!! Get their deep-fried tofu too with kecap mani sambal (spicy sweet soy sauce). Cheap - 2 to eat with drinks is about $7-$8
- Sobat on Batu Belig: good steak for $4
- Sate Penyut - I don't know the street but it's near Istana Galleria in a parking lot. Most taxis will know where this is, there is only 1 in Kuta. Super local but delicious. They say its turtle sate but really its pork. About $1-2 for12 sticks and rice
If you get an opportunity, go to the Rock Bar @ Ayana Resort/ swim at the pool @ W hotel. Both are amazing properties!


Food to try/terminology (pronounced like it sounds, the tones are similar to Japanese):

- nasi campur: buffet
- babi guling: roasted suckling pig
- soto babat: kinda like pho but no noodles, comes with a bowl of rice
- soto ayam: Balinese chicken soup. has an egg, glass noodles, chicken and veggies. really delicious. you can ask for a bowl of rice or eat it as is
- nasi goreng: fried rice
- mie goreng: fried noodles
- ayam: chicken
- sapi: beef
- babi: pork
- ikan: fish
- sayuran: veggies
- terima kasih: thank you (also can shorten it to say ma kasih)
I'd try and avoid some of the major/hotel restaurants - the food isn't very good. Also, the McDonalds sucks. BUT they deliver so if you're craving it at 3am... Just call them and press 1 when you hear the greeting (which is in Indonesian). 1 is for the English speaking patrons.
Something to consider is hiring a driver when you want to do the touristy stuff. I did that with this guy who was incredible. Genuinely nice, very informative and trustworthy (important!). He can bring you to all the places I mentioned and more. He's affordable as well. The equivalent of $8 for hiring him for 8 hours. I usually buy him lunch and tip him which brings it to about $11 for the whole day. You're going to have to rent a car as well which he can do for you. It's $18/day for the car plus gas which is usually about $5 for a fill-up. His name is Made and I cannot more highly recommend him.
Made's email is pongbali@yahoo.com
I suggest reaching out to him earlier than later. He usually gets completely booked up. Just tell him that I recommended him to you. He can also get you set up with safe motorbikes if you want to rent while you're there.



Updates:
2018 - embedded Google Map

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Go Deeper

Go deeper, even just a little bit below the surface. The effort required is very minimal and the rewards are disproportionate. This can apply to anything in life.

Food:
  • For example, if you like cheese, go to a cheese tasting. Your cheese game will evolve dramatically. Sheep's cheese made by Basque farmers changed my life (Ossau-Iraty). (free to $20~)
  • Try Maldon brand salt for your table salt. You’ll never look at salt the same way and you’ll delight in cooking your own omelettes every morning. ($9~)

Work:
  • Spend 1 hour a week improving your skills for work, and get paid thousands more each year. Or if you’re self-employed you’ll stand out from the bottom of the barrel -compounding for the rest of your career. (1 hour/week, free, or at least the cost of a good book $25~) 
  • At work, ask for a review every 6 - 12 months. Show them 3 things. 1) the direct impact you were personally responsible for, 2) how much money you made for the company and how good you made your boss look, and 3) what you plan to accomplish for them in the next 6 months. If you can attribute a dollar amount on the impact you made, ask for a raise worth at least 10-20% of that figure. If you ask they'll at least give you something and you're better off than when you started. This benefits everyone, especially your company. IF your company will not give you a review, go work for another company that will. (free, 2 hours of prep)

Life/misc:
  • When you ask busy people for their advice, follow through and give them an update. They love hearing they made a difference. They’ll call you to refer opportunities and invite you into their professional network. Life-changing -seriously. (free, and the rewards are stratospheric)
  • When travelling: no matter how bad you sound, order the local food in the local language -the locals will go out of their way to make sure you have an amazing experience and you’ll quickly become an expert. I’ve been adopted by so many random Vietnamese grammas, grandpas, and aunties here, it’s unbelievable. 


The thing is though most people will never do these small things. They'll stay in their comfort zone, eat the same boring food, complain about how little they make, and stay at their hotel restaurant getting stomach aches from the shitty buffet bar. Not you though.

Yo (cheers) from Saigon!
Rollan

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Life is Better on Two Wheels

This is a video I made when I was still living in Bali. My friend Hieu who is a seriously fast rider came for a visit, so I decided to take him on a long ride to look for the Eastern coastal roads.

We started off in Kerobokan area where I lived in South Bali, and headed North East. We never found it but we found the start of it and a couple of gems. In particular Kebun Impian resto and hotel, in Seraya Barat (West Seraya). Located just before Amed on the Eastern tip of Bali.

When my brother and Pasha visited, Priscilla and I took them on the actual Eastern coastal roads.



Here is the contraption I used to shoot the video. An Ultrapod strapped to the left handlebar, by its own velcro straps. Canon Ixus 100. It made gripping the bar a little difficult so I wouldn't recommend it if you aren't a good rider or going into dangerous areas.

X

Update: the things we had to do before GoPro was invented

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Jiu-Jitsu Defense According to a White Belt

At this point, I’ve been training on and off for 2.5 years. For what it’s worth this is what I do for bjj defence. I’ve been focussed on this stuff and it’s been working pretty well for me. Everything I describe below has worked for me for gi, nogi, and mma. 

1.       Keep your hands up close to your chest with your elbows tucked in. It doesn’t matter if you are on your feet or on your back. Protect your head and face from strikes. If someone knocks you out they can have their way with you and none of the advice below will do you any good. 

 2.       Grip fight like a mofo. You have to intercept their hands and not let them establish their grips. If someone grabs your lapel, strip it right away. If someone grabs your wrist or sleeve, hand fight. If you let someone control one of your arms and latch onto your torso, you’ve already begun to lose the exchange. I learned this from taking 2 or 3 judo classes. 

3.       Don’t settle for bottom. If someone is halfway to taking you down, use your energy to defend the takedown and stay on top. Use whatever takedown defence you know. If you end up on the bottom it’s going to take even more energy to defend and get back on top. I got this from Niko Han. It really changed my grappling mentality and performance. 

4.       Never ever lie flat on your back. As soon as someone takes you down or passes your guard, get on your side and face them. On your side as in 90 degrees to the ground. Block the incoming cross-face using your closest hand while keeping your elbow tight to your body. Fight to block it. It’ll make your life much easier. I’ve read many articles to find the best posture for this, still experimenting. 

5.       If you are wearing a gi, your opponent mounts you and grabs a cross collar grip for a choke, turn your body towards the elbow of the attacking arm. I got this from Saulo Ribeiro’s book and it works amazingly well! When you turn your body towards that arm it takes away the angle of the choke. You have to do this as soon as you see them go for the grip. If you are late they will get their second hand in and you are done. 

6.       Whenever you feel a hand or forearm touch your neck, abort everything you’re doing and grab their attacking hand with a two-on-one grip. You have to respect the choke. It doesn’t matter what position you are in or if you are in the middle of your own set-up, abort everything and defend your neck. Even if you end up in an inferior position, you are still conscious and in the fight. Anytime I grab a two-on-one grip, I can use it to set up an escape. Another gift from Niko Han

[Update] My instructor Ritchie Yip showed me that if I grab the two-on-one in any position, i.e. bottom cross side, bottom mount, I can disrupt the offence of my opponent. They will eventually get frustrated and give me space in order to grip break. I mostly grab the two-on-one when I'm in four-point or someone has my back. Now I'll experiment with it from everywhere. Great tip.   

7.       Keep your elbows and forearms tight to your body. If your elbows are flared out your opponent will arm drag you for takedowns, use it for upper body control, or arm lock you. Some people call it T-Rex arms or prayer position. For the last few months, I’ve been doing the prayer position but clasping my hands together with a gable grip. This gabled prayer forearm posture has been money for me. 
If someone manages to grab one of my elbows or forearms, I can use the strength of both my arms to reel it back in. If someone manages to set up an armbar, the gable grip gives me an extra moment to react with the appropriate escape. I also pre-emptively hide my elbows by pinning the closest one to them, down to the ground. From this forearm posture, I can keep my hands clasped together while I dig for elbow knee escapes, bridge and push off my opponent, roll to four-point, escape from knee-on-belly, etc. 

Basically I’ve been moving my body like I don’t have any arms, it’s been working well for me and hasn’t hindered my game at all. I automatically return to this forearm posture even when someone attempts an armbar or triangle from their closed guard. 

8.       When some takes my back, I assume my forearm posture and defend any incoming chokes, then I get into what Saulo Ribeiro calls the Scoop. I slide my body down towards my feet and spread my legs out for base. If I’m too far down my opponent cannot choke me and my arm posture prevents any armbar attempts. From there I can work on my escape. 

Here’s a video of the Scoop:

9.       If I end up in four point, I don’t wait around for them to attack, I quickly get back on my feet at which point I can back away or drive in for a take down. In pure grappling matches, a lot of people stall and rest by turtling. If you turtle in a real fight your opponent can end the fight by throwing knees to the back of your head. Interestingly enough, most grapplers I’ve encountered don’t know how to react to this. Yet another gift from Niko Han

That’s all I know about defence for now. This doesn’t cover escapes, which is something I’m been working on as well. 

I'm really enjoying Saulo Ribeiro's book, Jiu-Jitsu University. I've been testing his defensive postures in training and they are working well for my game. I also like his approach and priorities to building a solid grappling game: defence > escape > positions/passing > submissions.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Men Wanted: Hazardous Journey

Men wanted for hazardous journey.  Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant journey, safe return doubtful.  Honour and recognition in case of success.
Advertisement placed by Ernest Shackleton in a London newspaper, August 1914.  It is said 5,000 people responded to it.

I saved this from a book about famous explorers I owned a few years ago. I can't recall the name of it though. Considering the era, I'm sure only criminals and low-lifes responded to the ad. Nonetheless, something about it calls to me :) For honour. For adventure. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

What Should I Do With My Kid?

Freedom Surf Contest

The people I've met in the last two years were really interesting. Instead of going the school-and-college route, they all refused to grow up and did whatever-the-heck they wanted. DJs, photographers, decorators, designers, artists, musicians, boat captains, jiu-jitsu fighters and coaches, surfers, boxers, bloggers, chefs, divers, writers, tattoo artists, and more. Everything in their life revolved around the things they love. 

They made me wonder about how my life would've turned out if I had focussed more on my passions when I was younger, instead of following the school-college-conventional-work route. Maybe I should've continued cooking up a storm when I was a teenager and also found a way to race cars on a track. Maybe I should've kept playing the saxophone. In the last few years maybe I should have made videos about my travel adventures, and spent more time on photography. As they say, money follows passion, not the other way around.

I don't want to trade the life I've lived, but all this reflection made me think about how I'd like to raise my kids if I have them. I don't think I'll push them towards college like my parents did to me. I'd ask them to follow whatever it is they feel like doing at the moment. Whatever it is, resolve to be amazing at it and pursue it at all costs. Wanna be an artist painter? Sure go nuts! Wanna become a pro surfer? Sure, if you don't mind working at McDonalds in the meantime. Wanna be a fashion designer? Totally, I'll help you find help! Wanna be a race car driver? Rad, I wanna manage your team! Screw what my mom says right? :P

Isn't that what we all want in the end? For happiness, passion, needs, work, calling, desire -to all align. What would you say to your kid? For your current choice of work, how did you resolve to do something you love versus doing something you know how to do?


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Simple To Do List: Do epic shit


And so it sat on my desktop for a year, and so it was done. Staring at it every day in my office was enough to egg me to pursue all of my adventures last year. I'm not sure where or how this simple graphic was started but I'm glad I found it back then. The last time I did I: quit the rat race, quit my job, bought a plane ticket, lived on a beach, and found my girl. Each day I was happier and more excited than I ever thought possible.

I think it's time for me to stare at it every day again. This time with different goals though: starting a company, spend more time with loved ones, travel endlessly, surf more, and train BJJ to my heart's content.

Cheers to you, and the relentless pursuit of your dreams.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Hypocrisy of Minimalist Travel

all that I am taking with me to china and thailand for 18 days.

Note to self: Stop going out to buy new shit in the name of minimalist travel and weight savings. You don’t need to go out and buy a $300 backpack some blogger reviewed, just use the old bag you already have. It’s just a bag to carry your clothes and laptop.

You don’t need to buy a MacBook Air just because your two years old 13” Dell is 1-2 pounds heavier. If it suits your purpose just run it to the ground and buy a new one when the time comes. It’s gonna get banged up anyway.

You don’t need to buy ExOfficio undies, or SmartWool socks, or Icebreaker t-shirts. Your usual clothes will do just fine and are way more stylish than the ill-designed “travel clothes” you covet. They will take longer to hang dry but you’ll be fine.

No matter how fancy your new travel clothes are they will eventually break down from daily washing in the sink. When it’s time to throw away your clothes would you rather throw away your old shirt or your $80 Icebreakers? Only to be replaced by a $2 shirt you bought in an Asian market.

You definitely don’t need to buy new electronics to share (brag about) “the moment” with your friends on Facebook, because you’ll be too busy having fun meeting New Real Friends.

Trust me on this, I’ve been there. 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

My First BJJ Competition –Video

In November 2010 I joined my first BJJ competition.  It was the 2010 Indonesian Submission Championships in Jakarta.  It was a good looking event with roughly 100 fighters; some of which originated from other countries (Greece, Singapore, Brazil, USA, Poland, France).  Competitors were separated by weight classes; there were no belt or age divisions.

It was an interesting experience for me as I don’t usually take part in sports competitions.  Something about it turns me into a nervous overcompensating-trash-talking idiot :)  Surprisingly I was able to calm my nerves and relax.  When I got nervous I ran around the venue or did some light rolling to get the energy out; which were great ways of staying warmed up.  Another thing that helped my nerves was that I didn’t put any pressure on myself to win.  I was mainly there for the experience.

It pains me to watch it but here is the footage of my match (warning: boring :P).  I think the match was 8.5 minutes long.  I lost in overtime when my opponent mounted me and I couldn’t escape within three seconds.  It pains me not because I lost but because of the obvious mistakes I can see in hindsight.

Things I’m actively working on to correct:

  • Finishing the arm-in guillotine.  My technique was horrible, I was flat on my back and I was sending all my energy into his armpit instead of his trachea –WRONG! 
  • Staying on top no matter what.  I shouldn’t have jumped guard on that retarded guillotine attempt.  I should have just sprawled him to the ground and tried another submission that I was more familiar with.  In all positions I should be more aggressive about staying on top.  Fighting from the bottom sucks, eff dat yo.
  • Defending from bottom side control.  Work in progress for months now and still improving.  I want to be nearly impossible to submit in this position.
  • Escaping side control.  I have a weeeak bridge and shrimp.  I’m focussing on correcting this every roll.  I’m doing isolation drills with full resistance to get the escape strategies and techniques down.  I’d prefer to get back on top instead of getting full guard.  I’m going to focus on this for the next three to six months!
Competing was a fun experience that I’d like to repeat.  For now, it’s back to the mat to drill drill drill.  Thanks to my teammates & coach, gf & my dad for their support :)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Man in the Arena


Cool excerpt I saw in a documentary movie about Renzo Gracie.  The speech was made by Theodore Roosevelt and sounded really cool when Renzo was reading it.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Full speech is here

Friday, October 15, 2010

Keeping My Neck and Hopefully Taking Other People's

My game is coming along... super slowly :)  I started watching MMA/martial arts competitions in 2003 without missing a single event of K1, Pride, and UFC until last year.  I kept on thinking "man it would be cool to learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu someday".  Someday never came until I decided to cut the bullshit and walked into Gracie Barra Vancouver... in 2009... 6 years later.

I'm super glad I did.  It's given me a better understanding of the sport I love, I've made a ton of friends, and I'm in way better shape. There's something very therapeutic or meditative about live sparring.  If I had a bad day at work or had a bad argument, when someone is 100% committed to twisting my neck off or ripping my arm, nothing else comes into mind except for my opponent.  My mind clears and nothing else exists but the present moment... That level of clarity is very rare for me.  I love it.

In 2010 I took 3 months off to travel in the Philippines and Bali.  In May I started training again once I settled into Bali, my new home.  My new academy is called Synergy Jiu Jitsu, run by black belt Niko Han.  The first month of class was a wake-up call.  In GVB most of our training was based on sport BJJ competition rules with no strikes or slams.  In Niko's classes, he incorporates striking and MMA strategy.  I spent 5 weeks straight with heavier people sitting on my chest punching me in the face and gut, and I had to learn to defend and escape to a better position.  It was hard to motivate myself to come to class sometimes but I'm better because of it.  Soon after those classes 3 of our fighters had professional MMA fights where those exact skills saved their asses numerous times.  If you're ever in Bali you should check out a class with Niko.  Great training environment and he's the best instructor I've had.  Most people I've talked to say he's hands down the best instructor in this region.

Anywhoways... I love the fact that I'm learning some real shit.  No BS system with internal powers, invisible force fields and fireballs, or jumping 9ft to kick wooden boards.  I think self-defence is avoiding getting into fights in the first place: situational awareness, running away, not starting shit, letting go of your ego, adjusting your lifestyle, recognizing trouble before it pops off, etc etc. -that's real self-defence.  Martial arts is leaning to fight/scrap/brawl so you can win or run away.

All I think about these days is BJJ, business startups, photography, and travel.  In that order. Below is my BJJ training log.  I got the idea from reading Slideyfoot's BJJ blog. I kept it pretty simple and just logged my hours.  I'm not logging anytime I've spent in Judo and Muay Thai classes (those are few).  Next week I'll start learning some basic stand up skills.  As much as I love BJJ I don't buy into Rorion Gracie's sales pitch of 95% of all fights end up on the ground.  Plus it'll be fun :)

Cheers! Hajime!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Photos - El Nido, Palawan

Photos of the 2 weeks I spent in El Nido, Palawan, Philippines. Didn't post that many photos. How many beach scenes do you need to capture? Too lazy to repost to posterous separately. Click here: facebook.com

Posted via web from rollan was here

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Never Go Out with New Gear

My travel video dreams are crushed… well, sort of for the time being.  I was planning on shooting a bunch of short videos while travelling. I thought “how hard could it be?  How come no one out there is doing cool shit with their amateur travel videos?”

Well, it turns out the limiting factor isn’t just creativity, but file types and money.  I bought a Sony HD camcorder which recorded in AVCHD file format.  When I played it on my iMac my Mac was sluuuuuggish.  While the file type is friendly for the average family home video maker, who likes to burn straight to DVD and Blue Ray, it’s very resource intensive on your computer.  It plays slightly better on my PC laptop, but it’s still resource heavy to edit.  Considering I’m going to be travelling for months at a time I’d also need terabytes of storage for editing files, raw files, and my final output.  I can’t afford to buy and carry all that storage with me, even if I was to ship back external hard drives every few weeks.  Nor can I afford to buy a pimped out Macbook Pro to edit on the field… not that it would actually help.  They’re just not powerful enough and I’d spend far too much time rendering.

Here’s a great blog post on the AVCHD issue you should read:

Sadly I decided to return my camcorder and decided to limit the scope of my creative projects.  I’m going to have to work within the limits of the video on my Nikon D90 SLR.  I still have a long way to improve on my still photography anyways.  I did however by a Zoom H2 digital audio recorder.  It will supplement my slideshows, help me record ambient sounds, I can use it as a USB mic for web conferences, etc.  Check it out: http://www.zoom.co.jp/english/products/h2/

A great piece of advice from pro photographers is: never go to the field with new gear.  Always test it first and become familiar so you know what to expect.  I’m glad I tested early.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Indonesi'am -26 minutes english version high quality

Indonesi'am Anagram Documentary / retrospective from Smog Films on Vimeo.

There's a ton of really cool shit out there from independent filmmakers. I like this one. One reason is that it was shot in Jakarta, where I am originally from, AND Bali, my favourite spot.

Camera and editing gear is affordable these days. Self-publishing on the internet and social networks allow everyone to jump in the spotlight. These guys used some semi-pro/pro stuff, but it's attainable for anyone who wants to dabble in film/video. Canon 7D DSLR, various lenses, semi-pro camcorders, etc.

You can even go to Best Buy, buy some gear and edit your own masterpiece with a limited budget:
  • HD Camcorder (one that's decent to work with) - $1,000 
  • Camcorder accessories - $500 
  • Apple Macbook (you don't need MB Pro to edit videos) - $1,100 ish 
  • Final Cut Express - $200

Be cool. Change the world. Go out and make shit.

Credit Cards and Banking for Canadian Travellers

I've been doing a lot of research on this topic for the last week, thought I would share my findings.


1.  When you pay with a credit card overseas there is a hidden fee called the foreign transaction fee or currency exchange fee.  This is charged on top of what ever exchange rate your card issuing bank gives you.  The fee used to be completely hidden but now credit card providers have to be more transparent with it.


The fees vary depending on what card and bank you deal with.  Visa/MC takes 1 %, and your bank may tack on another 2%.  Amex is roughly the same from what I've read.  So.... each time you charge something, you are paying an extra 2-3 % on average.  When you travel for a long time these costs can add up, so don't forget to add it to your calculations/bookkeeping.  


In the US Capital One is the only credit card I know of that has 0% currency exchange fee.  In Canada they charge 2.5%.  All other card providers charge something similar.  My RBC Visa charges 2.5% btw.  


2.  Sometimes when I travel the merchant will take the total I owe them, convert it into USD, and then charge my card.  What happens is the merchant will tack on an extra 1% to the total, then you get hit with the USD exchange rate, then you get hit with the currency exchange fee.  I've read that the merchants aren't actually allowed to this as per their agreement with Visa/MC.  I didn't look into it deeper though, I got tired of doing the research to be honest and tried to cut right to a potential solution.  

So then I tried looking for a Canadian bank who was willing to issue a USD credit card with no annual fees.  The annual fees for that type of card range between $40-60 a year.  -No luck and RBC Visa is not willing to waive the annual fee even though I've had my Platinum Avion card with them for a while.  


3.  Debit card transactions.  I hate travellers cheques.  To me there's something about cheques that's just not very sexy :)  And I'd imagine it's too much hassle these days to go around cashing travellers cheques, most merchants prefer cash.  So for me I usually withdraw money from ATM's, however, that too carries a significant cost depending on your habits.  For my bank, TD Canada Trust, there is a $5 fee each time I withdraw money internationally.  Depending on how much money I need each trip to the ATM can cost a lot.  For example in Indonesia the inflation is soooo bad that cash withdrawals go up to the millions of Rupiahs.  The volume of paper is so thick that the bank machines don't have big enough spouts to pour out your money.  Some machines only spit in denominations of 50,000 and others in 100,000.  So that's a maximum withdrawal of 1,250,000 Rp or 2,500,000 Rp at a time.  I end up having to make multiple withdrawals if I need a large sum of money, at $5 per withdrawal.  Over a few months of travel that will add up. 


BTW if you live sensibly or like a local, 2.5million in Rupiah should last you a few weeks to possibly a month in variable expenses.  But if you like to party like you would in Miami, 2.5mill will evaporate in a few short hours.


If anything changes I'll update this post.  If anyone has any tips please leave a comment.  For now, if you're Canadian, you're SOL.


Cheers!  From frosty Vancouver.

[update: Jan 26th] Turns out my bank has a chequing account which waives the $5 ATM fees for international withdrawals.  The monthly cost of this account is $25, which is worth it considering I'll need to make at least 6 trips to an ATM a month.  A few weeks from my next trip I will transfer my account over and also ask them to increase my daily withdrawal limits.  I plan on renting a house/villa for a few months in Asia.  Some places will ask for a damage deposit and/or a lump sum for the 3-6 month rental agreement.  I'll need quick, easy, safe access to my money in order to make this happen.  Unlike some people I'm not a big fan of carrying thousands of dollars on me... it's way too easy to spend it on partying.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Do epic shit: Addikt 2


I love this video. I've been studying films and shows in the travel and surf genre for months now and this one takes it.

Remarkable athletes doing remarkable things. Remarkable film crew making remarkable work. This is one of the most basic tenents of any endeavour that is often overlooked. Do epic shit.

I usually try some new trick for still photos every time I travel. I was going to do some video experiments and cut back on gear a little bit but this video got me so amped up I've been researching gear and techniques for 3 days straight.

The original video can be found and downloaded in HD glory on www.bandit3.com. Go to the cinema section.

The company is f.one. www.f-onekites.com
The production company is Band Originale. www.band-originale.com

Aloksak Bags + Wrinkle Test

Yesterday I got myself some Aloksak zip lock bags for travelling.  The idea is to compact my clothes airtight to save some room in my bag while at the same time keeping them dry.  They worked great, everything was a little bit more compact than usual.  These things are miraculous -supposedly waterproof for down to 60m below water.  I’m going to use the small one as my wallet (they come in a variety pack of 4 sizes, $10).  I’ve been looking for a waterproof wallet to store my cash and car remotes for when I go play on the beach or diving.

I wanted to test whether or not my clothes would wrinkle in these saks, as if I was on an extended leg of transit.  I’ve seen a few old articles about packing on the merit of rolling your clothes when you pack.  So I rolled my clothes put them in the saks and left them for 24 hours.

Did they wrinkle?  Yeah.  What a horrible piece of advice... Shouldn't blame the advice actually, cotton wrinkles easily no matter what.  If you don't want wrinkles you'll have to move to synthetic or wool blends.

Clothes used for the test are in my usual wardrobe list for long trips:
2 cotton t-shirts
1 synthetic t-shirt
3 pairs of cotton underwear
1 swim trunk
2 pairs of socks

Monday, December 14, 2009

KK Malaysia 09

KK Malaysia 09 from Rollan Budi on Vimeo.

Ahh memories. Every time I need a quick pick me up I check out photos and vids from my last trip. This one always does the trick. I'll work on producing better vids next time. This one was mashed up with random clips, I wasn't even thinking of documenting with video.

Music: Phoenix - Lisztomania
Shot with my D90 slr and Allen's G10 pocket cam. No film direction, rogue cameramen, all b roll :)
Cut from 90 clips.
3rd time editing with iMovie. 2 hrs? Fun.
The tacos were delicious.

Packing Light for Travel


This photo was my set up in January 2009: 3 countries, 23 days: 4 undies, 2 socks, 5 shirts, 1 backpack.

I'm getting lighter and lighter each time I travel. The next time I take off will be around April 2010. I plan to travel for a few months while carrying a laptop for work and a bunch of photo gear for my personal pursuits. I've been doing some research and consideration of the clothes I'm going to take. I'll be mostly in hot climates.

I find my cotton t-shirts ruin after about 1 month of travel. Washing in the sink and wringing dry inside a towel destroys them in no time. Next time I'm only going to carry 3. I'll buy new ones as they ruin. Cotton is by far the nicest feeling fabric. Hangs nicely. But slow to dry and prone to wrinkles. Synthetic shirts dry faster but hang terribly on the body. Most travel or sport dry-fit shirts are horribly designed. Some synthetic blends will harbour sweat odours too, which is what they are not supposed to do. Why can't someone design travel gear that's actually stylish? Gstar? Diesel? Energie? Dsquared? Call me.

As far as undies go I'm going to go with 3; all merino wool. 1 one me, 1 on standby, and 1 drying from the last wash. That should cover it. I can't believe I used to bring 10+ pairs.

Next time 2 socks.  All synthetic technical socks. They will dry/wash faster while doing a better job of managing moisture.

Pants: still can't find a versatile pair of pants that are light. Much like t-shirts, travel designed pants are horrible for style/fashion. I'm sticking with a pair of Diesel jeans. I'll keep them dry and clean. If needed I'll launder them at a hotel. Denim will take forever to dry if I hand wash them and I wouldn't want them to get smelly or start growing bacteria while drying.

Shorts: 1 pair of cargos and 1 swim trunk. Style wise, same problem as noted above. I'm sticking with a stylish pair made of heavy grade cotton.  Travelling light doesn't mean you should look like a bum or a "backpacker".  For the record, I'm a flashpacker :)

1 lightweight breathable jacket made by North Face. I've been caught in monsoons before. This will come in handy and will look much nicer than the bicycle sport-specific jacket I usually take. This new jacket looks nice zipped up too, can wear it to dinners and will also replace my heavy cotton hoodie.

Footwear: most crucial pieces. My feet do most of the work during travels so I've learned to never skimp on $$$ taking care of them. I'm going to invest in some ergo anatomically perfect sandals from Sole. Time to trash my Crocs (they served me well, wore them straight for 10 months!). I usually bring a pair of runners and loafers for nights out. I'm undecided about the runners for the next trip because I usually don't end up wearing them much. Next time I'll bring my custom orthotics as well.

That's pretty much it. I'll be using my 50L Asolo pack with a detachable day bag.  The rest of the gear will be electronics and support equipment (cables, adapters, etc.). Electronics usually take up the most space and weight. They are a necessary evil though depending on what you intend to do for work while you are on the road.

March 10, 2011 update: Soles aren't the best or simple looking sandals.  They were hard to find too.  I decided to skip on them and ended up buying a simple looking pair of Crocs again.  I bought them in May 2010 in Jakarta and they're working great.