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Passing through... We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves--Pico Iyer---Passing through from Europe to Africa to Asia to Oceania etc.& back again! 9 mos. of dreaming and exploring!

Indonesia- Ubud, and more...

INDONESIA | Friday, 10 May 2013 | Views [404]

I had heard this was the 'artsy' capital of Bali before I also read about it in 'Eat,Pray,Love'. After reading about it in the book, part of me wanted to see it but another part of me was afraid to see it--who knows how much worse and commercialized it has become since the movie came out?!?!
Before & during our time in Bali, it was suggested to us to definitely go there, so eventually we decided to spend a few days there.
So what was my impression ?? Well.....you can definitely tell the movie has had an effect on the place with droves of tour buses coming to the art market every day.......BUT it still has its old charm if you know where to look. It's true that most of the art market is complete bullshit imports from ? China, but there are still true shops and art in & outside the market that are worth your while. The carvings, the sculptures, the paintings, exquisite! The place really has an artsy, cultural feel like no other place in Bali. It was really pleasant to walk through the streets, sometimes window watch & sometimes shop! Not that I could buy much, but some cute small stuff never hurts ;)
Ohhh & the fooooood---also full of culture and flavour---definitely the best overall place we ate in Bali (although I really can't say a bad word about most places we ate in Bali/Gili T). The first night we ate at a great 'warung' called Mendez suggested by our hotel--good seafood and avocado salad. Before I get into the rest of the food crazes, I should mention that our start in Ubud was not a pleasant one. We arrived at our pre-booked hotel 'De Munut' (booked through hotels.com) & the guy did not have our reservation at all. The worst nightmare when the hotel has no trace of you---AFTER you've paid in full for 2 nights accommodation. Learning from our India experience, we asked him to call his 'middle man' to try to sort this out, but he wasn't very helpful, insisting I re-check my email and find him another booking # (?!?!?!). I honestly think that he thought we completely screwed up in dates or locations or something because he just didn’t bother to call from his end to figure things out (?? customer service?). It took a good half hour to get him to call his Balinese agent, who QUICKLY confirmed that our reservation was indeed valid and he smiled, realizing we were his guests after all, and FINALLY giving us our room after an hour long delay!!!!! Plenty of apologies but no free things or extra perk for screwing up so badly!! I tried to hint at it, but to no avail. I reminded myself that I was in Indonesia & just dropped it, happy to have a room! A rowdy start in Ubud...

That night after dinner we caught a traditional Balinese dance show---elaborate costumes, weird and loud music (lots of bells, gongs, drums and flutes) and the beady, shifting eyes--it was great!! Their style of dance & music is so different from anything I've ever seen, I was quite captivated by the whole thing. The themes, the costumes, the characters--so unique! The shifting eyes were my favourite though--- just moving their protruded, large eyes left to right back and forth in those costumes and in that music--so cool & so captivating!!
The next day we roamed around Ubud art market and some of the art stores the next day, and had lunch at the most popular food joint-Ibu Oka---suckling pig restaurant. It's simple, cheap eats, packed with flavour. The place was packed and it was difficult to find a seat. $3--so worth it!! That night we had another top 10 place scoped out called Naughty Nuri's grill---featured on Anthony Bourdains 'No Reservations' he claimed it was a great barbeque spot in town as well as the best martinis (extra dry ofcourse) outside of Manhattan! Oh yes friends, I was there! And I can vouch for the show and say the food was fantastic (awesome marinades on the BBQ) & the martinis were sensational--and the atmosphere was just as great!! We had the motorbike for the day & it was quite hard to find but oh what a find...!!

Our adventure before that splendid dinner I would rather forget. Like I mentioned earlier, we had rented a motorbike for the day (our usual plan of action). We planned to visit Bedugul temple about 1.5-2 hours north of Ubud. It is supposed to be this beautiful temple right on a lake in the volcano mountains in the northern part of the island. Our adventure started well, & we had good directions to the place. The forecast only called for a small chance of rain, but as we neared the temple (& climbed in elevation) the rain started & would not stop. An Unrelenting, strong, windy downpour just hovered over us. We were dressed very lightly, no ponchos or rain coats whatsoever!! It was a disaster & just continued to worsen. We stopped once hoping to warm up a bit & continue the trek, thinking it had slowed down when we got back on the road. So wrong, it was getting worse!! We ended up stopping, chilled to the bone at some random restaurant, where we ordered tea to try to warm ourselves up, with no success. I am quite sure I had hypothermia because I was beyond shivering at that point. It was horrible, & no amount of warm tea seemed to help. In addition, the weather was not letting up. Gray skies & strong winds from every direction meant we were driving home in the same hell. At this point we gave up on the last 5km we had to actually reach the temple because we were THAT COLD!! Usually I'm not about quitting but this was a whole other ball game: severe hypothermia to see a random temple vs. get home as fast as possible & get under a hot shower. Option #2 please!! Newfoundland weather in Bali anyone??! At least in Newfoundland my wardrobe is ready!
We finally got a slight clearing where there was only light rain (after a good 45 minutes!!) & made our move. Still soaked, still freezing we drove in the rain for a good half hour before we felt the weather let up a bit & the air get a bit warmer......finally a little bit of relief!! I finally loosened my tight grip on Tom (gripping him for warmth) & my teeth stopped chattering. Luckily the weather improved the closer we got to Ubud, & when we arrived at the hotel & jumped under our hot rainforest shower (outdoor bathroom concept!). I swear I sat under that hot shower for a good 40 minutes! Sorry, but i completely forgot about water conservation at that point!!

The next day we planned to do a bit of shopping. It is getting closer to the end of our trip so we wanted to get a few small things in Ubud- there was quite a bit to choose from & we only spent a few dollars here & there anyways.....!
We ate at a great Halal food spot for lunch (Halal food means no pork--Muslim). It was buffet style, you pick the dishes you want from different meats to veggies to rice to potatoes to desserts- all for $0.50-1.00/ portion! That was a very cheap, good lunch! It was also a hard to find hidden gem in Ubud (we noticed after a few days there that the hardest places to find seemed to be the best).
We also checked out the Monkey Forest, full of macacque monkeys, and my extended family as Tom so slyly puts it (if I was an animal I think I would be a monkey). We saw Tom's extended family on Gili T-turtles!

We also shopped around for the cheapest/best way to get back to Sanur, where our big bags still were (we had put them in short storage at the first hotel we were at). Funny enough, in this case, taking a private car door to door was the best way to go. Taking a minibus with other people only cost a few dollars less & didn't do door-to-door pickup & drop off. So, surprisingly, the most economical thing to do was take a private car. We got back into Sanur at about 7pm, our bags safe & sound and our room ready for us. We went for a quick swim & then decided our last dinner in Bali would be back at Lilla's Warung a few steps from the hotel (the same place we ate before going to Gili T). No surprise the food was amazing! And all in such a great ambiance--Louie Armstrong tunes, nice wooden furniture and sculptures, and a great local Rosé wine (don't worry Richard, we took a picture of it !). It was a perfect way to end our Bali adventure.

Almost the whole time we have been in Bali, Tom has been obsessed with finding the name of this instrumental breakfast song they would play at our hotel in Sanur. He kept looking for it & only got vague answers about it from hotel staff. Shazaming it at breakfast found nothing. He was determined & even went to a bunch of music shops at the airport the next day to find it. He found something similar but we are still not sure if it is the exact one. No doubt in my mind his search is not over :P

***Funny side note---After we returned to Newfoundland in late June, Tom happened to find the ‘flute song’ on you tube somehow and was playing it in the apartment one day with the windows wide open. Out comes our landlord (a Canadian from BC)  from below and yells up at us “Is that Indonesian flute music?! Omg are you playing Indonesian flute music?!”. Turns out she had the ENTIRE collection of the stuff and gave it to us to copy! LOL SEARCH OVER, SMALL WORLD!!!

The airport the next day was an interesting experience. We got there by cab no problem & had some time to spare, so we decided to eat lunch at the airport & use the rest of our Indonesian Ruppiahs. The whole airport in Bali is incredibly inefficient, but somehow still fairly fast (maybe because its a small airport?). There are plenty of checkpoints:
1. Before getting into the International departures hall you have to show a copy of your ticket itinerary.
2. After getting in, they check all of your bags through the scanner. The 'best' part is that the guy just let's the belt run, so when you go through the screening door you see everything just falling off the belt and hitting the ground or other bags--cameras, computers, etc. & nobody seems to care even if you bring it to their attention! I saw our computer bag about to dive off of the belt, so I just went through the door quickly without being prompted & caught it. Funny enough, no one seemed to care that I did that without permission AND ofcourse the belt continued to run despite all the bags smashing into one another!! No one even turned their head to check !
3. Then we went to the Air Asia check in line. We saw plenty of Asians (not trying to discrimate but all of these people were Asian) on the side of the line repacking their suitcases. They had so much stuff with them it was ridiculous--how did they expect to take all of that?! We got a bit nervous that they would give us a hard time because we had a few 'carry on' bags to work with, but we had no issues whatsoever
3. You go up an escalator and it brings you to a desk that demands 150000 Ruppiahs/person airport tax before you leave Indonesia (~$17/person)! We had just spent our last Ruppiahs on food!! We had about 1000 left! Oooops! Turns out Indonesia is still one of the only southeast Asian countries that takes airport tax separately & doesn't add it to the original or purchased airplane ticket cost. He told us he accepted US$ instead but at a terrible rate, & then it turned out he didn’t have change for our $50 US so we would lose out even more. The money exchange counters near the check in desks were also a huge rip off. Eventually, we went back downstairs & Tom watched our bags as I exited the departure building to find an ATM outside, just to get a measly $35 USD (300000 Indonesian Ruppiahs). But our other options were less appealing than a $5 ATM charge. Back up we go & paid the airport tax.
4. You think we are almost there? Guess again. Next comes the immigration line up, short & sweet (finally!).
5. Then we walked to gate #2 and before you get into gate #2 you go through another security screening to check your carry on stuff. There was a long line up but it went pretty fast. Hilarious moment---we had to take off our belts to put through the screening & Tom’s shorts completely fell down, exposing his briefs to the entire line up behind him!! Great laugh :P

Finally, we got on our flight & left the ridiculous Bali airport behind. Off to Kuala Lumpur for a food adventure for a few days and from there on to New Zealand, the last leg of our trip before Canada, & ironically, the place that is supposed to be the most similar to Canada--we will see!

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