Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bali, July 21-24

Words to the wise, in any situation.

The Grand Hyatt sure beats the Heat Dome. We are here in Bali, just about 100 yards from the beach, while DC and the rest of the East Coast swelters in a huge heat wave. Its about 80 degrees here, there's a breeze off the sea, and the Grand Hyatt is set up to please. It doesn't feel the slightest bit like "Bali", except through the most jaded of marketers' eyes. But it feels lovely nonetheless.

We arrived on Thursday evening from Chennai, and went straight to the hotel. Clinton's visit here is centered on the ASEAN Regional Forum ("ARF" for those in the know), but also deals with North Korea and other issues.

We headed over to the Bali International Conference Center on Friday and pretty quickly got down to business -- Clinton had a relatively strong statement on Burma, which she said threatened the future cohesion of ASEAN, as well as some stuff about North Korea. That story quickly emerged as the main trunk of the day -- the North and South Korean nuclear negotiators for the first time in two years, and everybody is making positive but guarded noises about whether or not the "Six Party Talks" on the North's nuclear program can resume.

We spent a bit of the day at the conference center but then went back to the hotel. Its a strange place -- absolutely massive. The worst part is that you can never really be sure where your room is: all the buildings look similar, and are all at sort of strange angles to each other connected by covered walkways. We've spent more time wandering around trying to get our bearings than anything else.

The beach is lovely -- see pic. I went swimming yesterday afternoon, and took a walk on it again this morning. The water is pretty shallow but its great for splashing around in...and off in the distance you can see a major surf break, with huge waves crashing. At nightime you can walk along the shore and see the moon reflected off the ocean. The only off note are the Indonesian special forces guys standing in the shadows with machine guns..I'm not sure if this is for Clinton, or just a regular feature of life in Bali.

This morning there were only a few people around - including this guy who apparently hopped off his motorbike and got immediately to fishing without even removing his helmet.

We're back at the conference center now. We get periodic briefings from U.S. officials on what is going on..but never with much detail. The South China Sea story has also been pretty big, and Clinton today called on all the claimants to back up their stakes with legal documentation. The Chinese aren't going to like that, since their claim is based largely on "historical precedent."

Still -- this hasn't been a particularly grueling assignment, I have to admit. I finally had some things cleaned and pressed, so I feel more or less presentable again. We've had some ok food at the hotel (once we located the restaurant), and the story has been good but not flat out urgent.

We're here for one more day and then head off to Hong Kong for one night, then home. It feels like a long time -- but I'm not sad to be missing the Heat Dome with time at the beach!

Here's a final image -- sunrise in Bali