After two weeks of nearly continuous touring, we arrived in Bali without an itinerary or tour guides. We chose to stay in Ubud - not because of "Eat, Pray, Love" (frankly, I did not even know that it was filmed in this town) - but because it was described as an artists' community and away from the beaches. I was ready for some downtime.
We arrived at our hotel after nearly 12 hours of driving. Both MA and I were exhausted and tired of eating bread and bananas. So I suggested that we drop our bags and go out for a meal and a glass of wine. I had just seen the sign for a restaurant that had "Trattoria" in the name. So I thought they would have non-Indonesian food and decent wine. I was right on both counts.
We had agreed not to make any plans for our first day in Bali. Our only goal was to find a place to do laundry and get a lay of the land. I saw a sign for yoga as we were returning to our hotel so I decided that I could put that on my list.
After such a long day of travel, we set an alarm for 9 am so that we would not sleep the whole day while we were in Ubud. But we never needed it as we were both up by 8. MA went in search of tourist information while I took a yoga class.
I think I fell in love with yoga because of classes like this one. It took place on a raised bamboo platform with open sides. The area around the classroom was filled with flowers and an organic garden lined the path to the studio. It was my favorite type of class - long stretches in poses, focus on breathing, few "ohms". This is the perfect way to start a day in Bai!
When I finished class, I went out to explore the area near our hotel. I had hit the jackpot! There was a laundry place across the street, several places that offered massages and pedicures (boy, could my feet use that!), tour offices, restaurants, and a few shops. But the best part was that it was away from the main tourist streets. A little quiet haven.
I relaxed by the pool (luxury!) until MA got home. She had lots of good information about our options for the next two days. We decided to take a bicycle tour of the area and then spend a day snorkeling, Now all we had to do was drop off laundry and do some shopping.
On our way into town, we passed the Monkey Sanctuary. Signs warned us to hold onto our bags and not to interact with the monkeys. Monkeys cannot read so they chose to ignore these signs and left the fenced in area to try to interact with the passers-by. Tricksters!
We wandered around the main parts of Ubud and came across the Yoga Barn. This gave me my first taste of the "Eat, Pray, Love" phenomenon. The "parking lot" was full - all mopeds and motorbikes. Classes and workshops were held all day and you could even stay here. Most of the patrons appeared to be Westerners, not Indonesians. The typical backpack contingent. The place had a good assortment of classes so I decided to try one the next day (this never happened because there was just no time!).
We skipped main meals on this day and chose instead to take food and drink stops at places that had interesting names or views (Three Monkeys, Cafe Wayan - with a view of the rice fields). While eating at one of these places, we witnessed a pretty awful moped accident, which reinforced our decision not to ride these.
We had to walk back to our fabulous hotel via the Monkey Jungle. It was dark so I am convinced that all the monkeys were sleeping. But we did have to share the narrow path with all the motorbikes that were using this as a cut through. I waved my flashlight in hopes that all the drivers were paying enough attention to avoid us. We finished the evening with pedicures and enjoyed a good night's sleep before our bike tour.
We were really lucky to get such a good group for our bike tour. MA has searched through reviews of the various bike tour options and we had seen numerous comments about the poor condition of the bikes on many of the tours. Bali Hai Bike Tours (love the name!) received high marks for both the tour itself and the bikes. They picked us up and our first stop was one of the rice terraces, Tegallang You could spend hours wandering this place, but we only had time for a brief look.
Our second stop was at a place that offered the Luwak coffee. I did not need any more of that stuff, but I did try out the ginseg coffee. It was a treat.
After lunch, which took place at a location in the mountains that was known for its amazing views (we missed this as the whole area was engulfed in clouds), we mounted our bikes to begin the tour. The first part of the tour took us through a bamboo forest, along a perfect path away from the traffic! In our whole time cycling this area, we only passed one motorbike. Most of the riding was easy, but I did take one fall into an irrigation ditch along a rice field. It was raining at this point so I didn't even mind being soaked further.
We then went to a Hindu village which gave us a chance to see how the community lived and interacted. Each household has a family temple - elaborate structures which are beautifully maintained - and the families in the community then visit each other's temples for special occasions. Only big events take place in the main temple.
We finished out our bike ride through more rice fields. By this time, it was pouring and I was ready to get off the bike. But I kept my opinion to myself and started to focus on the fact that we had to pick up our laundry on this day or we would never get our clothes back again. It was a distraction, but not a good one.
We had a great dinner with the bike company and then began the drive back into town. The traffic was horrible, which made me focus even more on laundry. MA was thinking about the same issue but she actually had crafted a plan. We eventually ditched our ride and then ran back through the streets of Ubud to the laundry. We arrived not long before it closed, for which I was extremely grateful. So I convinced MA to join me for wine to celebrate our good fortune.
Our final day in Ubud was spent on a snorkeling excursion. Many people make the trip to Bali exclusively to dive so we wanted to make sure that we got at least a taste of the undersea world. We had found a trip that allowed us to walk off the beach to a shipwreck - the USAS Liberty. The weather was perfect for this adventure. We wore short wetsuits and had clear visibility. it was a great way to end a visit to Bali, and I have already decided that I would like to go back!
We got dropped off at the airport after our adventure. Once again, we had a hideous flight time - leaving sometime around midnight with a 5 am arrival into Darwin. The worst part was that, with the time change, we would only get 2 1/2 hours of sleep before we arrived. We then had a several hour layover before we would fly to Alice Springs. We knew that we did not want to spend all this time in the Bali - Denpasar airport.
As it turns out, this brand new airport is on the edge of Kuta, a town known for its beaches. Where there are beaches, there are restaurants, bars, and shops. We checked our bags in the luggage storage area and asked the attendant how to get to town. He looked at us like we were crazy and recommended we take a taxi. Looking at the traffic, we knew that we could walk faster han the taxi so we just used Google maps to lead the way.
We had enough time to visit a Catholic church, get gelato, visit a craft brewery (MA even got a cider! What is this world coming to?) and even contemplated a massage. We eventually skipped the massage and headed back to the airport.
It was time to say good-bye to Indonesia and hello to Australia. I was looking forward to no longer hearing the call-to-prayer throughout the day and skipping rice. And I could not wait to get a piece of fish that was no longer attached to its head and tail.