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Posts Tagged ‘indonesia

I first read about Nikoi Island in a blog. My first question was: Where is Nikoi?

It is in the South China Sea and 2.5 hours away from Singapore over a three-leg journey (ferry-car-ferry).

I really needed a vacation with my family after an exceptionally taxing semester. Vacations can sometimes be more tiring than restful, but I can count Nikoi as truly relaxing.

Their website is not only well-designed, it is also very informative. It provides information on what to do before you go and what to expect once you are there.

The reassuring experience started with the booking and confirming processes. The people behind the technology were very prompt. I recall sending a query one evening on a weekend and receiving a detailed reply after about an hour.

They are also very quick on Twitter. When I returned, I shared this general tweet and they responded even though it was not necessary.

These prompt and personal communications bracketed what must be the most positive and relaxing trip I have had in a while.

Upon arriving on Bintan, staff identified us, sat us in a lounge, and processed our passports and immigration forms. After a quick pass through security, we were whisked into waiting MPVs.

After a windy, undulating hour-long drive, we arrived at another jetty for a 15-minute boat ride to Nikoi. Once there, I started to feel my cares melt away.

I loved being able to wake up to the sound of sunbirds tweeting and waves crashing gently on the beach. The frangipani trees provided a sweet, mild perfume.

What might surprise visitors initially is the lack of walls and doors on the lower level of each villa. There are rudimentary locks for rooms and a personal safe on the upper level, but otherwise there is an open kampung feel to the place.

A central kitchen prepares meals for couples with no kids in one dining area and families in a separate dining area. Both dining huts have sandy floors and it was lovely to dig my feet into the cool, fine grains.

You also have “no choice” on what to eat there, but this is a good thing. They find out when you check in if you have dietary restrictions, but you eat what they serve. The staff indicate every day what the meals are on blackboards and they tell you at the end of one meal what the next meal is.

And what an excellent spread they offer each day. My wife went nuts with photographing every dish to create Facebook/WhatsApp photo envy. Kids get served first (main and dessert) followed by adults (starter, main, dessert).

I should mention that menus were not limited to blackboards. Servers offer iPad-based menus if you wish to drink something like alcohol or espresso.

You will put on weight if you do not enjoy some island activities. Kids get entertained at the Kids Club. My son and I went snorkelling, and my family went on walks and skimmed the coast in kayaks. But I still made deeper footprints and sat lower in the water with each meal!

Nikoi seems to be a model of ecologically responsible development and maintenance. With minor exceptions, the food is bought locally from certified eco-sustainable sources. The infrastructure is mostly driftwood and recycled wood, non-drinking water comes from a well, and lighting takes the form of LEDs and tiki torches.

The lighting options make the place dim at night and this prevents the disorientation of turtles who haul themselves on the island to lay eggs (roughly Apr-Sep). Staff protect the eggs with wire fences to prevent the resident monitor lizards from gorging on them.

On a less cloudy night, the moon provides enough light for you to wander the paths and beach. You might notice lots of coral fragments underfoot. I am told this was due to illegal fishing with explosives and fishing boats dropping anchor in the past.

I like the lack of light anyway. It helped me spot a few fireflies.

Nikoi is not cheap, but the cliche that you get what you pay for holds true. The thing is you are not likely to think about the bill. I was looking at the smiles on the faces of my family and the Nikoi staff and wondering when I would be back there again.

Would I do anything differently the next time round? Yes.

I will avoid the crowds in the Bintan ferry by opting for the Emerald Class. This gets you priority embarking and disembarking as well as reserved seats.

I am not sure if I will get a prepaid SIM card with XL again. Reception was OK on the island but service was not reliable. My phone would display 3G and enough bars, but it would claim insufficient quota one hour and not complain the next.

By the way, prepaid SIMs can be purchased at the kampung immediately beyond the gantry that divides the resorts special zone from the rest of the island. I also spotted an Indosat stall about halfway into the car journey.

I would also bring my own nano SIM cutter as the store holder only has micro SIM cutters.

Yes, I need Internet access even on a relaxing holiday. Staying connected helps me relax. And share my photos immediately!

[Image credit: @ttpra]

The good thing about having 3G Internet access at the airport is staying productive during the long wait. It was also a chance to reflect on what I will do differently for my next talk at GAFE Summit Singapore.

I Storified selected tweets of the experience here. This archive is meant to capture just one sliver of a variety of experiences.

I opted to not hold back on trying to deliver a “not-talk” at GAFE, Jakarta. I did not succeed because I over-reached and I got too “talky”.

I had hoped that more folks would be in Twitter mode but there were three barriers to this. One was language. I estimated that more than half of the session was in Bahasa Indonesia. I thought the sessions would be in English. I was so lost that at one point I tweeted:

I also thought that only people like IT Directors would be in attendance. But IT-savvy is not the same as ICT or Twitter savvy. That was the second language barrier.

My mistake was expecting the university IT folks to tweet questions and comments. I opted to try this after asking the organizers if this was worth doing. Suffice to say that their and my perception did not meet reality.

The audience that showed up included university students, Google ambassadors, and folks who were not associated with education. This created another language barrier: Folks who were not familiar with edu-speak.

As a result the expectations were different. There were tweets asking for technical demonstrations of Google Apps like the one below. I thought of veering from my plan but that would have been a disservice to the intended audience.

I have also learnt that going with the flow is not always wise.

I was informed that I could not use my own computer, then that I could, and right before stepping on stage that I could not. I went with the circumstances and that was a mistake.

I wanted to show ‘live’ examples but it would have been awkward to click on links I had prepared with the set up I was provided. In hindsight, I should have done it anyway because the examples would have reinforced my words or illustrated more clearly what words could not. I will avoid links and create in-line screencaptures for the next presentation instead.

As the venue was owned by an embassy, the restrictions were tight and that put me off. Here is @jasongraham99‘s tongue-in-cheek comment:

Sounds unreal right? Not when you could not even bring a bottle of water into the auditorium!

What could or could not be brought in or connected to the projection system were scrutinized. The irony was that wireless Internet was easy to hop on to until too many were on board. Then I fell back on my 3G connection.

There were certainly some folks who appreciated what I had to say and tried to do. Even the unintended stuff like using a Google Site to hold a presentation, video, and Twitter feed won at least one fan over.

But mine was not a technical show. I know that I can do better than that. I will do better than that!

Tomorrow I present at Google Apps For Education (GAFE), Indonesia at 2.15pm (3.15pm Singapore time). I am sharing my presentation at this Google Site.

The Site houses a Google Presentation and a Twitter hashtag feed (#gafeindo). I might need to change the hashtag should the organizers insist on an alternative.

I am a bit worried now as I have learnt that I will not be allowed to bring all the tools I need into the auditorium (it is owned by an embassy). But as long as everyone has their smartphones (these are allowed in), Internet access, and the willingness to tweet, we will be OK.

The presentation is open enough for all to see and comment. The Twitter feed serves as a ‘live’ backchannel. The Google Site is also open to comments. All three extend the conversation beyond the presentation.

The Twitter feed is also a way for those who have not had enough of me to follow along!

I will probably be recycling much of the presentation for the GAFE Singapore Summit in September. So those who really want to help me NOT give a talk and help create the experience of a listen-chat-participate are welcome to attend in-person or online.

I am preparing for a presentation at Google Apps For Education, Jakarta, Indonesia on 9 Aug. I will share the presentation later.

The event is on Singapore’s National Day and I need to fly out the night before, attend the event the next day, and fly back that same day. I will be back so late that I will not even see the fireworks display from a plane window. I will also need to take a day of leave to give myself my own holiday to spend with my family.

I want to do this as it gives me the opportunity to try something a bit different with my presentations (see tweet above), to spread the word on open learning and alternative assessments, and to network with educators in the region.

This is the nature of modern work and it requires a different mindset. That mindset needs to be translated into practice. This is easy to say and difficult to do, but I am going to try to have some fun in the process!

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