"Satu, dua, tiga! One, two, three!" Our instructor shouted as we rowed against the mighty currents of the Ayung River.
That was my introduction recently to river rafting - on Bali's longest river.
The bumpy two-hour trip down the jade-coloured water, surrounded by serene forest, was nevertheless so much fun that I almost completely forgot my hectic life in Singapore.
So what if my team of four other journalists in a media trip sponsored by Ministry of Tourism, Republic of Indonesia, also got wet from head to toe within the first 10 minutes.
But I wished I had pictures to prove it, taken from my iPhone 6 plus. I had bought a $15 waterproof case for it at the river rafting start point but just as I wanted to snap some photos to share with my friends, I realised that my smartphone had disappeared into the calm green water.
(Bali’s longest river Ayung River rafting)
It was a painful loss and is one of 6 lessons I learnt from this trip.
1. Don't stint on proper accessories for outdoor activities
The strap of my $15 waterproof bag, bought on the spot, easily broke during the rafting trip. I should have bought a better and more robust one beforehand or not take along an expensive electronic device for outdoor water activities.
(After this shot, my smartphone dropped into the water and disappeared)
2. Choose suitable shoes for the occasion: Trekking boots
I lugged along 3 pairs of shoes -- mountain trekking boots, walking casual shoes and beach sandals. My choice for bringing the trekking boots was just right. If I had only normal city boots, I would have injured my toes while I was climbing up and down the slippery sand slope to watch the sunrise from a mountain viewpoint.
(Climbing Mt. Bromo, an active volcano, sits in the vast desert called "Sea of Sand")
3. Light foldable jacket for cold temperatures and in case you get sick
I am thankful my Uniqlo ultra light down parka (about $90) was with me. This effective light jacket, which is foldable to fit into one small bag, served me well when I was on the mountains where the temperature dropped to 10 deg C, and when I fell sick with fever and diarrhoea for a few days.
(The foldable light jacket and scarves helped me a lot)
4. Always bring along medication
I unexpectedly fell sick during the trip, perhaps due to not being used to a trekking in a forest environment. But the guides and other people in my trip were very helpful and helped me buy medicine, and I recovered a few days later. The lesson I learnt here: Always pack medication along in your luggage.
(Food and lifestyle are different from your home country. So remember to bring medicines with you when you are overseas. Hope for the best, but prepare for emergency, too)
5. If you can't speak the local language, don't be shy to ask for help
Although the medicine I brought did not work to stop my stomach problems, local medicines did the trick after a few days. Luckily, Malaysian journalists, who could speak the local lingo, managed to solve the problem of what to buy in a pharmacy.
(Good if you have someone who can communicate with local people in local lingo)
6. Food souvenirs: Remember to check the quantity just in case
Dried fruit chips sold at a fruit farm tasted nice and crispy, and better still, were priced more affordably than in Singapore. I bought lots of silver metallic plastic bags for about $5 for 8 packets, which I assumed would contain plenty of chips, as souvenirs for my colleagues. Back in Singapore, the quantity inside each opaque bag turned out to be minimal, which made me feel embarrassed. When I was overseas, I just happened to forget what I usually do in daily life: check the quantity inside the bag. Fortunately, my friends were gracious and just said how tasty the chips were.
(Dried fruit chips are crispy and tasty in East Java)