Indonesia #2: Ubud

December, 2009

Indonesia. The most wild ‘n out two weeks of my life, mostly due to the fact I am traveling without any debit/credit cards and only the little cash I can borrow from a friend. The trip started by nearly missing my flight….

I didn’t nearly miss my flight because I slept to late, was stuck in traffic, or got lost. Oh no, I was sitting in the airport as my plane boarded. I was sitting at my gate as my plane boarded. Actually, I watched my entire plane board and I just sat there. Turns out there is a one hour time difference between Vietnam and Malaysia (my layover), and the entire time I thought it was an hour earlier than it really was. To make matters worse, AirAsia’s terribly inefficient manner was in full force that day, and the sign at my gate said Destination: Singapore on it. As my fellow passengers boarded the plane, I simply sat there and listened to my music. Luckily for me, the ear insert on my headphones fell off while I was flying from Vietnam to Malaysia. Because of that, I was able to hear surrounding sounds, outside my music playing. Because of that, I was able to hear “Will Tracey Kaplan please come to the front counter, your flight is awaiting you”. When I boarded the flight, everyone was already seated and waiting on me. Whoops. On the bright side, I wasn’t the only one. Another person had the same problem and that’s how I came to know Austin.

Austin is about my age, and he’s teaching university a few hours north of Bangkok. We get to talking and turns out we have a lot in common. He ends up following Mj and I to our hotel and we all grab dinner together at Kuta Beach, Bali. The next day, Mj and I head to Ubud, a quaint, artsy town an hour away from Kuta. Austin decides to stay another day in Kuta and we part ways. But that is not the last we will see of Austin…

Ubud is a serene town, rich in culture and natural beauty. Also the town where the author of “Eat, Pray, Love” lived while she was in Bali.

Ubud

Our first day in Ubud, we go to a traditional Balinese dancing show. Afterwards, I devise a brilliant plan to get money without doing an expensive wire transfer. Since my mom has the same bank as I do, I did an online transfer from my account into hers, and then she deposits cash into Mj’s account, which I can then use to access my funds. Brilliant, right?! I’m a college student– I learn good. Real good.

Traditional Balinese dancing

The second day we are in Ubud, we wake up late and meet Ellys, the Kiwi/Indonesian who is staying in the guesthouse beside us, and inUbud to do research for a book she is writing. After breakfast, Mj and I rent bikes and head off to explore the windy hills and rice paddies of Ubud. It was a great idea for the first half of the afternoon.

Though Bali has been rainy up until this point, we wake up to a bright and sunny day. The scenery is absolutely beautiful, with sprawling rice paddies, palm trees, and green hills dotted with numerous temples and cultural sites.

Biking through Ubud

A cultural site

Mj and I stop to have lunch at a side café we see on the street. We’re not too hungry, so we get one meal and share it. The meal that turns out to be the most delicious meal of my life. Peanut sauce, tofu, tempe, fresh vegetables. SO delicious, and so begins my love affair with Indonesian food. Of course, we order another dish and eat every last bit, even though we are not the least bit hungry anymore.

Close enough to our meal

As we leave the restaurant, we start cruising down a hill, with myself  behind Mj. I see a motorbike pull out of the street without looking both ways. I see Mj quickly approaching the motorbike. I sense impending doom. Before I can shout out a warning, Mj T-bones the motorbike and flips over it, with her bike crashing down on top of her; it honestly looked like something directly out of a movie. As soon as I see it happen, I throw my bike off, and run to Mj, inspecting her for blood and wounds. As soon as I notice she has merely acquired minor scrapes and bruises (and a black face from the asphalt), I just burst out laughing. I really should have taken a picture—I obviously wasn’t thinking straight. It was quite the epic fall.

MJ's mangled bike after the crash

Mj gets a ride back to town to find the owner of the bike and I’m left to bike back to town by myself. Navigate back to town with my pigeon sense of direction? I sense another train wreck. Naturally, I get myself very lost and when I finally turn around, I see a sign that says “Ubud” on it. I had gone so far in the wrong direction, I wasn’t even in the same town I started from!

I eventually find my way home and rush to get to Mj, since I have all the money, which means she can’t get water or food…she must be in so much pain! I run into our room, scream for Mj, and find her having a merry time, singing in the shower, and laughing. Whaaat? Turns out she is fine and laughing about the whole situation. Love that girl so much.

After Mj cleans up, we head to the market to buy some souvenirs, even though I only have 80,000 Rupiah on me (about 8 USD). When I get to the market, I begin some hard bargaining (always), and when I tell the girl I only have 40,000 rupiah, she looks at me and replies “But you have more, you can go to bank”. That statement definitely made me pause, as I realized whatever these locals have in their pockets is likely the sum of their money.

After the market, Mj and I meet up with Elyss (our Kiwi/Indonesian neighbor) and head to dinner. We end up at this very nice restaurant with a special Sunday satay night. I get tuna satay with peanut sauce, and it was probably the second best meal I’ve ever had. After dinner, we chat with the owners and they give Mj a special birthday cake since we never got to adequately celebrate her birthday in Vietnam. We aso meet Joe, who is the owner’s friend and a very talented painter, who has apparently sold a painting to Mel Gibson. Impressive. We continue chatting throughout the night and agree to meet up the next day for dinner and salsa dancing. On the way back to our hotel, we run into Austin, from the plane ride to Indonesia!

The next day, Mj and I decide to walk around the rice paddies. After about an hour of walking through the fields, we run into a Balinese man, who is farming. He tells us how to get back to town and then proceeds to lead the way. But not before stripping Mj to help her “shower off” in a waterfall, among other passes. He does eventually lead us out through an intricate maze, which we never would have found on our own. However, I still find a way to get lost.

Indonesian man who guides us out of the rice paddies....and so much more 😉

...the "so much more"

After the Balinese man leaves, we come to a fork in the road. I decide to go right and Mj and I proceed to get very very lost. We end up falling knee- deep in mud and rice, feeling like we are so far away from town. Turns out there was a guesthouse about 25 meters away and the boy who works there showed us the way home. On the bright side, Mj and I find this amazing pool while we’re lost and we decide to upgrade guesthouses so we can spend a luxurious day lounging by the pool (in the rain). Unfortunately, we aren’t able to find the same pool again, but we do find a nice guesthouse with a different pool, which we deem acceptable.

After checking into the new hotel, we have an amazing lunch that takes about an hour to be made, but SO worth the wait. And there was an adorable puppy to entertain us as we waited for our food.

As we were waiting for our food, some man came up to us and asked if we were the girls who were walking around “lost” in the rice fields, sinking in the mud. Turns out he was watching us for about 15 minutes in his hotel room, laughing. Love it.

After eating, we are so full and content, we decide to skip out on salsa dancing and visit mini-marts instead. Guess who we run into again? Austin! We went back to our guesthouse and played cards for a few hours, wrote a note to Ellys, apologizing for skipping on dinner + salsa, and crashed out.

Next stop:  Sengiggi, the beautiful port town en route to the Gili Islands, to celebrate Christmas!

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