top of page
  • Writer's pictureJoanna

Ubud for Two Buds | Bali | Indonesia

After three nights in the tranquil countryside of Sidemen came to an end, we were off to Ubud.


We'd already kinda passed through Ubud, during my desperate search for local data... but now we were heading back for the remainder of the time Gordon was in Bali, three more days and three more nights.


Ubud was still central Bali, but much busier... and more well-known for tourists, traditional crafts and dance... and shopping. As I think everyone knows, I love to shop... so I was delirious at the thought of it all. My very favourite pastime is wandering through craft shops & boutiques and making horrendous purchasing decisions on things I clearly cannot afford... nor can I fit in my pack. Gordon wasn't much of a shopper though, so I had to curb my enthusiasm somewhat to appease.


I did manage to sneak in a little retail therapy though... and came out with a few treasures.


Our new digs were fabulous. It was called the Menzel Ubud.


"Experience the atmosphere where you are greeted with smiles, be inspired by tranquility and peaceful of the village where art, nature and culture blend and make your stay at Menzel Ubud both unique and memorable. Menzel Ubud borrows its architecture and the inspiration for its layout from the surrounding traditional village, rice fields and rainforest, flawlessly abiding Hindu concepts."


Their words, not mine.


Ignore the grammatical errors and poor sentence structure and it's pretty much spot on. Menzel Ubud was magical. It had a very chic feel to it and it was decorated in an energetic boutique style, with splashes of colour mixing Indonesian culture with the spirit of the surrounding nature. The lobby, the restaurant and the pool deck were all embellished with plants, palm trees, flowers, fairy lights, wicker decor, and brightly coloured vases. They even had their very own rice field.


I loved every single inch of it... except for our room.


Compared to what we had just come from, it was a bit of a letdown. Financially, we didn't quite qualify for the grandeur of the private bungalows, so we had no choice other than to take what we were given. Our room was more on the motel budget side of life... small, with two twin beds. The adjoining bathroom was humongous though... and even came equipped with a half window-style door, eliminating the prospect of any privacy while you did (or tried to do) your personal business.


I forgave the low-end accommodation because I was so enamoured with the hotel restaurant. Hands down, one of the best I've ever been to. Not only was every item on their menu unique and delicious but it was presented in the most delectable and Instagrammable style. A1. Top notch.


We rented mopeds through the hotel for our final two days and they didn't even ask to see our licenses, let alone our international licences. What???? They didn't ask for a deposit... nor did they ask to hold onto our passports for collateral.


It was all very strange… until I remembered they had my credit card on file.


Still, though.

Bizarre.


The bikes were not nearly as nice as the brand-new ones we’d rented previously, but they did the trick and managed to get us to where we wanted to go.  It’s funny how little time it takes to get used to something. At first, I was complaining that it wasn’t as good… and feeling quite entitled to the one I had previously become accustomed to… But within an hour or two, it was like I’d been driving that crappy contraption my entire life.


I figured that sometime during these six days, we should probably venture to the ocean... so our first stop was Batu Bolong Temple. This Hindu temple was right on the shore of Segara Batu Bolong beach and sat on top of a rock, overlooking the ocean. It was a very picturesque setting and we figured we would try to get closer by walking over through the shallow waves, and I guess we did reach it... in so many words. We paid a bit of money, got blessed with some rice kernels on our faces... and then proceeded around a corner and up about four steps before we were prevented from going any further.


Foiled... and back to shore with the rest of the onlookers and photographers. Only, silly us, we had rice on our faces.


From there, we made our way south to the coastal town of Seminyak... known for its luxurious beach resorts. It was fairly touristy, so we didn't stick around too long. After a brief walk along the beach, we headed out.


Our original plan was to head even more south, down past the airport... and spend the day exploring the beautiful beaches along the way. Our plan would have been perfect... had there been no traffic. I always curse traffic, but recently I read a quote somewhere that said, "You aren't IN traffic, you ARE traffic." That brought it all together for me... though if I can avoid it at all, I will. The congestion was beyond frustrating, so we decided to escape the chaos as quickly as we could and get back into the simplicity of the countryside.

Riding around on mopeds is quite fun... as long as everyone else stays off the road.

While we were in Bali, everyone was preparing for Nyepi, the "Day of Silence."  This is a public holiday in Indonesia, a day when almost everything stops for 24 hours, including the International airport. Essentially, it is a day of silence, fasting and meditation for the Balinese.


For some reason, I figured I should incorporate a little more culture into the trip, so I purchased tickets to a traditional Balinese dance show. At first, we thought it was a fire dance... but there was no fire. I think we had that mixed up.


Anyway... it seemed like a fairly good idea at the time.


The only real issue was getting there. I've recently discovered that Google Maps isn't the most reliable source when it comes to trying to pinpoint a location in Indonesia. It was downright disastrous trying to find the place where the dance was being held. The address showing on Google Maps, the ticket address and the actual temple were all three completely different locations… and then add in all the points and directions from locals.


Highly frustrating.


So the dance...


The first few minutes were quite enthralling... and bright... and colourful... but then it got boring. It was NOT as tedious as the Vietnamese water puppets though, to give it some credit. Those damn puppets still haunt me. The trouble with these traditional dances is that usually they are meant to tell a historical or mythological fable... and it's usually a story I've never heard of... and a dance I am utterly unable to interpret. Perhaps they had given a bit of a heads-up in the way of literature or oration before the show began, but as we'd been driving up and down the main drag like donkeys, we'd missed the important bits.


Neither of us had any idea what was going on. Women danced. Men danced. Fools danced. There was a monkey with a head that looked like a character from Planet of the Apes, decked out in an unusual spotted cow outfit, jumping around and there were quite a few appearances from a big, furry Mr. Snuffleupagus-looking dragon.


I think it’s called the Barong, but I get confused easily.


On one hand, they call it the Barong dance, which tells the story of Barong, who is a force of good... and Rangha, who is a force of evil.

Who was Rangha? I missed Rangha????

Was that the monkey with the cow suit? Was the cow-monkey the evil?


On the other hand, if you look up the word 'Barong,' it says it's a panther-like creature in the mythology of Bali. There was nothing 'panther-like' about that massive mammoth.


I don't know. The more I tried to figure it all out, the more I seemed to detach from the entire frolic.


Been there. Done that.

Never again.



The following day, we headed north towards the Jatiluwih Rice Fields, the biggest rice terraces in Bali.


Beautiful. Breathtaking. Blissful.


There were several different scenic treks you could do throughout the 600 hectares of rice fields, ranging from easy to difficult and short to long. They even had stalls set up along the way selling assorted snacks and drinks... and hats! Gordon was going to rent a hat… but I convinced him to just fork out the money and purchase one. Renting could only serve to confuse us trying to return it... Trying to figure out where exactly he'd rented it from could potentially turn into a nightmare. Were we going to retrace our steps to come back to this exact spot to return the hat? No.


We'd never find it again.

Buy the dam hat.


I think he was happy he did make the purchase because he was peppered with compliments all day long.


From there, we hit Ulun Danu Beratan Temple, which... in my defence... looked magical from the photos. Set on the shores of Lake Bratan in the mountain near Bedugal, the temple shimmered. As soon as I saw the photos, I knew I had to go.

"A spiritual and picturesque destination awaits."

That's what they said about it.


Hmmmm...

Not really.

Not at all, actually.

If we're being honest.


Absolutely nothing spiritual or picturesque awaited us... It was a supreme disappointment. There was nothing magical about it at all. I should have known as soon as we pulled into the large and FULL parking lot.


It was a zoo of buses.


This special place was more like a temple crossed with a fun fair. Anything sacred about this significant shrine was lost in crowd entertainment. Instead of saints, deities and sacred symbols, there were rows and rows of vendors, fruit-shaped garbage cans, cartoon character structures scattered about... and selfie stations. SO many selfie stations. The place was positively crawling with social media rockstars, lining up to get their perfect shot.


We were out of there as quickly as we were in. It was not worth the entrance fee, but well worth the scenic rainforest drive to reach it.  We even saw monkeys!


So there is one thing that really gets to me about travelling with other people. Now, don't get me wrong... I do not mind travelling with other people... but I always expect them to bring suggestions to the table.


They have to.


When they don't, I feel more like a tour guide than an actual travelling companion. I feel like the entire trip is on my shoulders. Hey - some people love that, being solely responsible for everything during the trip. I don't.


Why?


Because I feel that if I'm the only one bringing things to the table, then I'm the only one getting blamed if it's shit.


Right?

Right.


That's a lot to carry.


So yes... I felt slightly guilty for dragging Gordon all the way up to this carnival... but... what can I say?


It's a crap shoot.



See… when I’m lying in bed sometimes, scrolling through Instagram and Facebook, and I see something appealing, I ❤️ it on my Google Maps. I never write any context as to why I've ❤️'ed it... which would probably be a very good idea. Anywhere I'm heading, I always seek out what to see and where to go, the most interesting neighbourhoods, the best streets to wander, outstanding restaurants... etc etc...


I have a lot of ❤️'s on my Google Maps.


I also seek out local tours to see if they’re worth signing up for... or if it's possible to do on my own.


When fellow travellers say that they don’t mind where we go, they ultimately become subject to the mercy of my ❤️'s... whatever they are and wherever they are... They could be fabulous... they could be crap. That's the fun part... I don't know either because I've never been there before.


It's a crap shoot.

For me.

... and for you.


I do occasionally strike gold though... like I did at Banya Wana Amertha Waterfall, one of Bali's hidden games. It was a long trek down... and an even longer trek up... but well worth it because we were the only ones there. Gordon even got the chance to try Durian, or as I like to refer to it, stinky hangover-mouth fruit. He wasn't really in the mood to devour it due to his recent stomach issues, and lucky for him, for some strange reason, it wasn't emitting its usual foul odour. That would be enough to turn anyone off it immediately.

That adventure concluded our time in Bali. The six days of Gordon's visit had come to a close and he was heading back to Scotland the following morning... and I was continuing to the Gili Islands…


Until we meet again, my friend…



Recent Posts

See All

Commentaires


bottom of page