Not so long ago I had cause to visit the Australian Consulate in Bali for personal reasons and had a direct appointment with one of the consular staff. A word of warning: If you plan on visiting then take your passport! I, on the other hand, forgot mine and if it wasn’t for my Australian drivers licence and one of my business cards then I would have no chance of getting into the fortress. I use that word’ fortress’ because that is exactly what it is after they moved establishments following the bombing of the Australian Embassy in Jakarta several years ago. Having never been to the Embassy, I expected armed guards out the front with a military touch but a few satpam stood around with walkie-talkies. They still gave Candika and I the once-over-glance of who-are-you and what-the-fuck-do-you-want.
Your first hurdle is getting past the glass-panelled front office of the place. The officials ask you want you want, who are you here to see, and, identification, namely your passport. You are then asked to switch off mobile phones. Once you have convinced them that you are kosher and have no intention of attempting terrorist activity, you are allowed to enter through the first part of the inner-building. The thick metal doors are hard to push open. Word of warning No. 2: Don’t carry anything that could cause harm to a person or suspicious items in your bag or backpack.
I was asked to empty my pockets and trusty travel bag that carries everything a travel writer carries onto a table where it was scrutinised, the items inside listed on an official piece of paper. I actually stuffed up this stage and was given some weird looks. Here’s the reason why and the contents of my bag:
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1 Swiss Army Knife
4 spare camera batteries
3 USB sticks
1 Letter opener styled like a Kris
1 Digital Camera (the batteries had to be taken out!)
Assorted rubber bands
Mobile phone (this was taken apart)
Small pair of pliers
Small Microlite Towel
There are four officials in the room. Then, you are frisked, and I mean really frisked as though you were a criminal! After that they run a metal scanner over your body in detail. Following this you are asked to put out your hands, palms upwards, and samples are taken for ‘chemical activity’ and the same is done with your clothing. These samples are put through a testing machine and if you are cleared then you proceed through the walk-through scanner and frisked again. All the time you are being watched on the numerous internal CCTV cameras situated around the room. If all goes well then you are allowed to enter the inner-sanctum of the Consulate. Actually, it’s the gardens and in front of you, a path that leads up to the main building. Here, you press the button on the wall, state your business and then the ‘swooshing’ sound of the thick metal doors open but only a fraction. You have to push it further yourself. Once you are inside, the door seals fast behind you. Of course, they are vacuum-sealed doors! Then you approach the receptionist, who is behind glass, and state your business – again!
Word of warning No. 3: Never lose your receipt for the goods taken from you earlier. When you have finished your business you then proceed down the path to the exit which is in fact a small corridor and here you find a glass-fronted office. It is here that you place your receipt in the chute and eventually your goods are returned in the same manner. From the very beginning of getting out of the vehicle in front of the Consulate, going through the whole scanning process, walking up to the main building and returning, your every move is watched on camera. Great security!