Wednesday, May 15, 2013

asean blogger festival 2013: le official post

Solo, also known as Surakarta, was the location for this year's (2013) ASEAN Blogger Festival. Over 200 Indonesian and 21 overseas bloggers attended this four day event, which aims to foster an understanding between ASEAN bloggers and to use blogging as a platform to further strengthen the ASEAN spirit. It was an blogtastic event where bloggers from Indonesia and the rest of ASEAN were able to mingle and get to see how blogging was like across the different ASEAN countries.


and that is the official banner


To be honest, I think that I was very lucky to be chosen as one of the foreign bloggers to be part of this big event. With the sponsored flights and accommodation, it was an opportunity that many bloggers would yearn for and sincerely, I have no idea how my blog was deemed popular or important enough to be included for this event. After all, there are so many bloggers in Malaysia and Singapore who boast much more impressive credentials than mine, and my English ain't even perfect to begin with. It must have been my good looks, I guess. Just kidding.

Anyway, the whole trip itself was an eye opening experience for me. I've never really traveled much before, in fact I have only visited three different countries in my entire life, and this trip has really brought me to the furthest that I've been from my hometown so far and it is through this trip too that I was able to experience flying for the first time. It was a trip of many first experiences, in fact, because I'm really like a frog living under a coconut shell (from the Malay proverb "katak di bawah tempurung) before this and for the whole trip, I pretty much like a small kid who is easily fascinated by all the new sights and sounds around him, like being able to take cloud pictures from the plane, for example.


and i think this particular cloud is trying to send me a message


Through this event, I realized that the blogging world is much bigger than what I am accustomed to. Growing up in Malaysia and later moving to Singapore, what I know about blogging is centered around these two countries and because the blogosphere of these two places are quite similar, I merely assumed that other ASEAN countries would either share a similar blogging environment, one where blogs are commercialized with sponsors and event invites, or have a non-existing blogosphere. Not only is that view ethnocentric, it's also incredibly myopic. Like I mentioned in my previous blog post, living in a privileged country has certainly limited my perspective.

Just to give an example, the blogger who accompanied me from Singapore, Chan, is actually from Myanmar and the first thought that ran in my head when I heard that was, "There are bloggers in Myanmar?". That's an incredibly stereotyped thinking, I know, and I'm not proud it admit. All along, the "Myanmar" that I used know was shaped by the secondary sources like newspapers or school textbooks that I'm exposed to, and usually these reports are biased in a way where mostly only the negative side are reported, which indirectly reinforces your thinking that my country is better. Myanmar, as it turns out, is an amazing country with great culture and people, despite what the media normally portrays it to be.

The truth is, while other countries may seem a little worse than ours on the first glance, no one country is completely better than the other. Indonesia for example, has a much more open blogging community as compared to Singapore. Ever since the last regime change, bloggers can talk more openly about politics without having to be afraid of the authorities clamping down and their government recognizes and supports the blogging community in a much more positive manner. The blog festival itself is supported by three different ministries (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Communication and Information, Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy) from their government, which is quite impressive if you ask me because the government takes much more effort to engage the bloggers.


the representatives from the various government agencies and sponsors for the event. source: usmission2asean photostream


In addition to learning a new thing or two about Southeast Asia, and finding out in the process that my geography textbook that I used in high school cannot be trusted at all (the highest mountain in Southeast Asia is actually in Myanmar, not Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia), I also got the chance to know some new friends too from around ASEAN, all whom are accomplished bloggers in their own rights. There're CEOs, influential speakers, famous publication writers and social media activists among the international bloggers who attended the event, and to be honest, I can't help but feel like I'm standing amongst giants in the field when comparing my track record with theirs. It's something that is innately to us Chinese you know, the act of comparing with each other to see who is better.

Nevertheless, I was very humbled and happy at the same time to be accepted as part of the group during the event. Despite all of their achievements, all of the bloggers were friendly and down to earth and we were able to talk and mingle freely, which is something that I appreciate a lot. In fact, I had a lot of fun chatting with everyone in the group and getting to know more of their culture, and hopefully the friendships that we've formed would continue to last for the rest of our blogging days.


our first lunch together


In a way, this trip also involves me taking a big step out of my comfort zone. Initially, I was a little reluctant to attend the event because I have to travel alone and I have no idea of what to expect, so I was afraid that something bad might happen and that I might end up making a fool out of myself. Besides, I am never good with strangers anyway. But in the end, I decided to take a leap of faith and thankfully, everything turned out to be better than expected. Everything that I've seen, heard and experienced in this event exceeded my initial expectations and if I had gone with my initial reluctance, I would have missed out one of the biggest opportunities in my life. So kids, the next time you have have an opportunity knocking on your door, taking a leap of faith might be a good idea after all.


somehow lunch times seems to be the perfect time to take photos :p


All in all, going to the trip is perhaps one of the best things that I have done so far and it is also one of the best learning experience I have gained so far in my life. In just a short period of 4 days, I've learned that blogging itself is much more than just getting famous and goodies, that we should never be too quick to judge or dismiss other's viewpoint just because we think we come from a better place, that we should never be too afraid to step out from our comfort zone and never to name your blog in a self praising manner. It can get a bit embarrassing when you have to introduce it. But it was a good experience nonetheless.

I just hope that this momentum and fire that I gained from this event would not die down and continue to guide me in my blogging journey for years to come. Or at least months, if the fuel cannot last so long. It's definitely a new start though, and hopefully, things would take a different turn for this blog in general and that this would not only be a one off event. Only the future will tell.

Serious stuff aside, I also had the chance to have many fun experiences across the four days of this event. For example I had the chance to become a fashion model during the second day of the event, parading the famous batik shirt of Solo. I guess that is one of the items I can now cross off my bucket list of things to do before I die. It's just a shame I didn't get to keep that shirt.


with Claire from the Philippines


I also got the chance to present about Singapore too in front of 200+ people together with Chan. And surprisingly I didn't have any nervous breakdown or stage fright in the process. It would seem that my public speaking skills has leveled up a little bit. It's a shame that we didn't get to prepare enough though, and I felt that I did not do Singapore enough justice during the presentation itself. So in order to redeem myself, I've also embedded the latest Singapore tourism video from the Tourism Board below. Just to give a better idea what Singapore is about.


picture from @anggaramahendra





Last but not least, I also had the opportunity to plant my own tree during the trip, which is another thing I can cross off my bucket list and perhaps bring my children to see it next time 20 years later, provided if I can remember where the location of the tree, that is. Besides that, we were also taken on a visit to Sangiran, one of UNESCO's world heritage sites in Indonesia, where the famous Java Man, or known scientifically as Homo Erectus as part of the event.


planting my own tree! photo credits to Amril Taufik

and that my friends, is the famous homo erectus (maybe now you can see where their name came from perhaps?)


Indonesia is indeed a great place to visit. It's just a shame we did not get to visit more historical or local attractions around Solo, because I would have loved to buy more IndoMie and somehow I felt that the entire  thing was not enough. But then again, when it comes to vacations, there is no such thing as having enough of it. We did went shopping though and some niche areas for food and chillout session, though, and I must saving, shopping + eating in Indonesia is cheeeaaaap.

My favorite picture of the trip? This one:


beer: everyone's official language

Of course, I still have quite a number of photos that I didn't get to upload to this blog post, or otherwise it would be a great long post, but the rest of the pictures can be accessed at So thus ends my pseudo-graduation trip at Indonesia. And hopefully next year you'll see a post for ASEAN Blogger Festival 2014! Fingers crossed!


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