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It was all started in 2013. We were having breakfast at Bali Starling, with the owner Mike, who also cook the breakfast for us. We had a chat about his life in Dutch at broadcasting company, and how he decided to move to Bali, start Bali Starling, and kind of worked his way in Bali 5 years before. The chat, and subsequent trip left an impression on me and Grace. We did plan to move to Bali sometime in the future, but the chat with Mike sealed our will and put a definite time on the future. It means soon, and we need to start working out way out.

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Mike the owner of Bali Starling Homestay, was preparing our breakfast

We had a rough idea on what we want to do. I would like to open a Bed & Breakfast, just like what Mike did. And also a coffee shop, which has been my lifelong dream. We don’t know what else we want to do, but hey, lets figure that out later. What we need to do is to find and invest in a piece of land in Bali before it become too expensive to afford.

Initially we wanted a waterfront property. But we realize that it is too expensive, so we can settle to a piece of land that is 2-3 km from the beach. However, during our search in 2014, we also realized that those land also unreasonably expensive. We are not talking about Kuta-Seminyak-Legian here, but further to the north, around Canggu. After that, we kind of let it open and explored different part of Bali.

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First land that we checked in 2014 at North Kuta. It overlooks rice fields

The search got serious in 2015, after I moved to another job. I made several solo trip to Bali in the first half of 2015. It wasn’t a trip where you spend few days at the beach, drinking all the booze. Well, the booze did stay, but the beach was replaced by driving a motorcycle with a backpack from one real estate to another, as much as possible over a weekend. It kind of feel like, and actually was business trips, something that I dreaded of.

On my first trip, I went as far as Buleleng to the north, before settling back to Ubud. Then in the morning, I scoured Ubud. Lodtunduh and Nyuh Kuning for land for sale, before heading back to the Airport. Two months later, i was back on the airplane for another 36 hours trip to Bali. This time the search is more focused on Canggu and checking back few lot at Ubud that I haven’t checked yet. On this trip the search got more serious, as I was into negotiation in a beautiful plot of land in Canggu. Too bad, the negotiation didn’t go through. To this date, I don’t really regret it, so I think it doesn’t really meant to be.

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North Bali, with beautiful mountain view. It is affordable, promising, but more to commercial area instead of travel industry.

After concluding the negotiation in my second trip, I started negotiation on another piece of land in Ubud. We reached an agreement, but few minutes before I paid the down payment, the owner cancelled the transaction. i was elated, ecstatic, and disappointed.

My third trip for real estate hunting was together with Grace and Ethan as family holiday. We don’t really do property hunting, except for one in Canggu, and I took Grace to see some piece of land in Ubud that I was negotiating. We really like the one in Canggu, and it was reasonably priced. I was about to negotiate, when a day before the negotiation, the agent called and informed me that someone else has paid the down payment. Another disappointment.

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A piece of land at Canggu Dewata, overlooking valley and rice paddy. Maybe some view has a value in it.

However, it wasn’t for long. Soon after we returned from out holiday I got a phone call from the owner in Ubud that I was negotiating with. She was ready to resume the transaction. Soon enough we agreed to meet up, negotiating on payment terms and other details, and I transferred the down payment.

The hunting has moved to another stage. We got the prey, and now making sure that it didn’t escape.

I was a man on mission. I contacted my bank to secure the funding and looked for public notary to check the land deed. With funding secured, and deed checked, I booked my final trip to Bali for the transaction. I thought it will be easy trip with few drinks to celebrate the transaction, but nature disagree with me.

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Plot of land at Lodtunduh, 15 minutes from Ubud Central, and also at the center of private villa. The land that we call ours.

Mount Raung erupt the day I was supposed to fly out. The eruption left me stranded at Jakarta Airport for 12 hours, and wreak havoc to the airlines schedule that I was held inside the bus in the tarmac for 30 minutes before we finally boarded the plane. By the time I landed, it was well over mid night in Bali. Let me tell you that riding a motorcycle from Bali Airport to Ubud after midnight is not really fun, although exciting in a way. And make sure you drink a lot of alcohol to keep you warm.

So, the next day, it was done. I signed the paper, the owner signed the paper. I paid the money to the seller, and we celebrate, the seller for having extra cash in hand, and I for crossing one of my bucket list item and one step closer to settle in Bali.

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In response to daily prompt Kick the Bucket

It took me a while to come out with list of things that I will never want to do. So, after almost 1 month of thinking, this is the thing that I will never, ever, want to do for the rest of my life.

  1. Taking PhD. I told all my friends when I got my Master Degree: “I will never, ever, return to formal school to take my PhD. Remind me, knock my head, and wake me up if I ever tell you guys that I want to go back to school for PhD”. Six years later, I still chant the same line to friends who asked whether I still plan to go back to school.
  2. Climbing the Everest. Yes, it is the highest mountain in the world. Yes, it is the pinnacle of human endurance. But, the thing is that, I don’t feel challenged or intrigued. I never really have much affection towards mountain anyway.

So, that’s all for now. I will come back to this post again should I have another in mind.

Hi, it is me, Benny. Yes, it is me, 15 years younger than you. I hope this email found you in a good condition.

I just came back from Bali to join Bali Marathon on September 2014. I joined the half marathon, so not to burn myself and still have enough energy for holiday. Ethan and Grace did came along.

I started to shape our dream for the future, which I hope you are now living. On this trip, I went to see some land to buy for us to open Bed & Breakfast, and call home in 15 years time frame. I certainly wish that you are there now.

And, I also wish that you have moved to Bali permanently. This is the life that I wish you are living at the moment:

  1. Run Bed and breakfast with 6 rooms for a living. Every morning, you will cook breakfast for all your guests, and having a pleasant conversation about life, or world in general
  2. Provide IT consulting to client around the world, remotely. Yes, remotely, using Skype, Email, or other technology that they develop in 15 years time
  3. Write a book about travel, and getting invited to Ubud Writers and Readers Festival
  4. Run a very successful travel and technology blog

And if you do, I’m happy for you. Please also say my regards to Grace and Ethan

It was long detour. After the 36km mark, the course lead us heading to Singapore Flyer. The water station that we pass has run out of paper cup, so we took turn to drink from plastic jug. The pain in my feet has creped up to my right knee. Due to my weak Achilles Tendon, my knee has to take up the load of the running since the last 8km, and now it starts to complain. Not want to risk serious injury and worst, not able to finish, I resorted to walk even more.

Passing km 39 mark, I feel water trickling from above. It has started to rain, early in the morning, making the weather colder. The rain made the road more slippery, slowing me down even more. It is hard to walk on a dry road with weak knee, let alone running. Fortunately, the rain didn’t last long. Going into km 40, the rain has completely gone.

The sky has turned from dark to blue by the time I passed 41 km mark. I glanced at my watch. I have been running for over 6 hour, which is my initial goal. If I can pick my pace a bit, I can still make it to the finish line of my first marathon under 7 hours, and hopefully still beating the sunrise. For the next 1 km, I got another second wind, something that long distance runner wish they can have and maintain. The pain in my knee disappear, or rather subdued by excitement.

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Medals and Finisher T-Shirt. No longer Marathon Virgin

Then come the finish line, the mark that will end the 7 hour ordeal. In a few minutes I can call myself a marathon

er. I can go home and tick one item from my bucket list. At the same time, I concentrating to put one foot in front of the other, and smile as I pass the finish gate. Later I found out from the finish photo that it was a rather ugly smile on a tired face.

I glanced at my clock, 6:59:59. Somehow I made it under 7 hour. I put on the T-shirt that they give to everyone, then leave to hotel for a good shower and sleep. Written on the back of my T-Shirt: 42.195k Finisher.

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After well over 3 hours, I crossed into my personal no man’s land. It the distance beyond 25k mark, my longest run prior to the marathon. Three months ago, I run my first 25k in the morning, and almost collapse in the evening due to low blood sugar while walking at a shopping mall. Can I survive another 17k, and not collapsing during or after the run few hours later?

I took another shoot of Gu Gel at the next water station, and gulp 2 glass of water. By this time, what was suppose to be a running race has become a walk race. Many people have resorted to walking. In fact, by alternating between walking and running, I passed few runners.

Closing to 32k mark, the pain is more and more unbearable. During my training, I train to land with my forefeet, but now it is become impossible. The Achilles Tendon on the back of my leg has become weak. What brings me up to this point is remarkable cheers from race marshals. In the middle of silence between the sea on the left and forest to the right, the words of encouragement has helped us to push forward. One of them even say: “I suppose that it is a running race. Why are you all walking?” I’m sure had this happen earlier in the race, that man will be thrown to the ocean.

The East Coast Park is officially end at somewhere around 33k mark. From here, Singapore Flyer that marks the finish line was visible towering the night sky. Having the finish line in front of me infuse some energy, so I picked up the pace a bit. But alas, this is not for long. The first detour was after 34k mark where we run along the river away from Singapore Flyer. For a moment I stopped and cursed. I snapped a picture of Singapore Flyer, out of boredom and pain, then push forward.

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Singapore Flyer, from 34km Mark of Singapore Sundown Marathon 2013

When they published the route map, I know that the true test will come during the East Coast Park’s section of the run, between km 11 -34. Marathon is half endurance, half mental battle. The first 11 km goes through the city street, light and building that keeps your mind off the run and distance, and help to pass time. Into the east coast park, the light and building was replaced by trees and the sound of nature. It is easy for the mind to fall into the thought of many kilometres to go, or the pain that start to creep up on my feet.

One sign of the mind playing tricks on you is the feeling that water station become more spaced apart. The water station is supposed to stay between 2-2.5 km apart. It feels closer during the city part of the run. Well into the East Coast Park, the water station feels further apart.

The route through East Coast Park is also the kind of out-and-back route, where they turn at 24km mark back and run the same route back to the finish line. Near the 13km mark, the handcyclyst group passed me from the other direction. They did start few minutes ahead us, and did go fast with their handcycle. The lead runners passed me from the other direction when I’m reaching 15-16km mark.

The further out through the East Coast Park, the Marathon become more and more disheartening. More runners pass me fromt he other direction, and no city light or noise from cars to keep my mind busy. The beeping sound from my Polar Heart Rate Monitor is beeping every now and then, signalling me to slow down and keep my heart rate under control. The compression calf guard on my left foot was bruising my skin. I stopped every few kilometers to fix it, but decided to ignore it and run through the pain.

At one point in time, I started looking inside my soul. With nothing to keep my mind busy, I started thinking of life, about when thing get tough and hopeless. There are times in life that, when thing get tough, I was thinking of quitting, of giving up. It might be easier to quit a project, or work, when it seems to become unbearable. But to quit on your family is impossible. It is impossible to quit from fatherhood, from your wife, or from your parents. Sometimes, in such hopeless situation, there are only 1 choice: to preserve. It means to think harder about the problem, do harder to change what you can change, brace yourself with what you can’t change, and importantly, believe that things will be better at the end of the day, that the sun will rise.

With this in mind, I got my first Second Wind that brings me to the 21km mark. I have completed the first half of Sundown Marathon.

I started with a jog, and bid farewell to my friend. He is an experienced marathon, and this is his fourth. We come together to the starting line well early before the race to avoid the queue, and stayed together to take pictures and pass time while waiting for the start. I would like to start very conservative, so I decided not to keep up with him and wish him good luck for the rest of 42k.

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Posing with 6:00 pacers before the race. In the end, I lost them

My time goal to finish the Sundown Marathon is under 6 hour, by keeping up with 6 hour pacers. They are behind me now, so I should rely on my Polar Watch to pace. Since I started conservatively, I use my heart rate as guidance, putting my pace well over 6 hour pacers. When they catch up, I will try to keep up with them. Meanwhile, I enjoy the night scenery of Singapore Downtown. Light shower from the overhead street light as well buildings. When passing an overhead road, the view was even more amazing.

The 6 hours pacers finally catch up with me at 8km mark. I stayed with them for few hundred meters, but it turns out that the pace is too fast to maintain for the rest of 38k. They skipped the next water station, where I stopped to grab some drink. I tried to keep up with them for some time, before finally drop off the group. From a distance, I saw their balloon marker disappear in a right turn, together with my goal of finishing under 6 hours.

I’m again on my own, immersing myself into the night of Singapore, with its light. We even pass Singapore Flyer in the distance. Singapore Flyer is a landmark, so huge that it is easily visible from the distance. It was where we are started, and also the finish line. A sharp left turn around km 11 mark leave Singapore Flyer behind us. We are heading into the East Coast Park and I bid farewell to Singapore Flyer. See you again in a couple of hour.