Ubud or Bust
I wake up, once again, in my luxury hotel, drink my tasty coffee out on the balcony (not really as it’s Nescafe instant; but then again, how good is hotel room coffee even when it’s in a drip maker?), and head over to breakfast. Pancakes, waffles, sausage, crispy bacon, made to order juice bar, Indonesian and Balinese breakfast favorites, fresh fruit and an omelet station; there’s breakfast food from home and I haven’t been home in over four months now so I feel as if I’ve died and gone to the most important meal of the day in heaven.
Next, I spend some quality time getting knocked over by waves in the ocean. This morning’s entertainment also includes watching a young woman take a surf lesson and cheering from the cheap seats when she successfully stands upright on her first try. (Note: I have never surfed, as I once tried snowboarding and was really disappointed as the natural ability which I was sure I possessed, seemed to break with the laws of nature and left me with a sore behind.) We also watch a photo shoot of a beautiful bride and groom and a to-die- for dress (that dress makes me want to get married).
We walk up the waterfall staircase, lounge in beach chairs on the lawn, and swim up to the bar. What? Swim up to the bar? Yes indeed, they have a swim-up bar. I plant myself on a bar stool under the water and, convinced by the nine year-olds seated next to me, order up a vanilla milkshake. After slurping down that yummy goodness (it would have been yummier with a dash of rum), I fall back off my bar stool (really, a bar where you can fall off your bar stool and the worst thing that happens is you drown?) and lay out under a tree for a few more minutes before heading in to shower and head on out.
After washing the really incredible amount of sand out of my nooks and crannies, Gina and I head to the lobby, check out and climb into our car with our driver and guide. Apparently, when you pay for a car with a driver, you automatically get a guide, as the drivers’ English tends to be less than stellar. We’re heading to Ubud (pronounced Oh-Bohd) which is approximately ninety-minutes away.
Our guide’s name is Wayan which, we learn on the way, is the first name of a huge part of the population here. Wayan is what every first-born child is named, regardless of sex. Every second-born child is called Made (pronounced Mah-Day). There’s also a name for every third and fourth born child which I can’t remember and, apparently, there less of them anyway, as many parents are now stopping at two.
On the way to Ubud, Wayan dissects the tradition of offerings for us. Thousands of years ago, Hindu’s said prayers. They were taught these prayers by parents and elders. Nothing was written down because, let’s be honest, back then there wasn’t a whole lot of writing going on. Well, it turns out that some people, not only couldn’t write, but they couldn’t remember the prayers they were being taught. This is where offerings came in. Instead of prayers, these people would place flowers, herbs and spices into banana and other leaves and offer them to the gods in place of prayers. It came to pass (sounding biblical aren’t I?) that, after a while, each ingredient in the offering (a certain flower petal, spice, or what have you) was assigned a meaning. Therefore, in order to say get your point across to the gods, you offered specific things.
I ask Wayan about those cigarettes I saw included in the offerings at the temple yesterday. He explains that offerings are made to honor gods and ancestors therefore, the flowers and herbs may have been for the gods, but the smokes were for poor dead Uncle Henry.
As the Sanskrit word for offering is Bali, offerings are everywhere and, with their colorful flower petals, they add to the beauty of the place.
We drive through many small villages seeing many temples colorfully decorated for weddings and festivals (seriously, there are festivals for everything here) while Wayan also explains rituals relating to the birth of a child; while they’re born in the hospital, the facility graciously provides a parting gift of blood, amniotic fluid, the placenta and some other organic material, all wrapped up in a plastic bag for the parents to bury in front of the house. After birth, the child is carried for six months and not allowed to touch the ground. There’s also a ceremony involving the child’s first tooth lost, and it doesn’t involve the tooth fairy (no money is exchanged).
We arrive at our small hotel which Gina made reservations at the other day. It was recommended to her by a friend and I’m letting her decide things because, well, you decided on Bali as a destination, and I decided to rent out my house and sell my possessions to do this, so it’s her turn to make some decisions. When we walk in, the lady at the desk seems confused.
“We only have one room left,” she says.
“Well, we have a reservation,” Gina responds.
“The room we have has one big bed.”
“But I requested two beds.”
“We sold every room so we have a room with one bed.”
We ask to see the room. She takes us down many, many stairs (we get the idea that we also won’t have our promised view of the rice paddies). We’re shown a bathroom.
“Um, so the room doesn’t have a bathroom in it?”
“No,” she says, simply.
“Where’s the room?
She leads us around the corner and there’s a dark room with one bed and no air-conditioning.
“Um, no, we don’t want it. I can’t believe you gave away our room,” Gina says, slightly exasperated.
The lady says something in Indonesian and, when Gina asks Wayan what she said Wayan simply says, “She said she gave away the room.”
We spend the next half-hour searching for a place on the internet. Gina and Wayan head next door where there’s another small hotel called Inata Monkey Forest Hotel Ubud. Who doesn’t want to stay in a hotel with the name “Monkey Forest” in it?) We look at a room, negotiate a price, and now have a place to stay for the next three nights. Aah yes, plans were made to be broken.
We move into our new abode, unpack a few things, and walk through the really impressive town of Ubud. I decide, this is a place I’d like to hang-out for the next week or two. We walk down to the Yoga Barn as we’ve been told there’s a free community yoga class tonight. After a half-hour or so of wandering, we trek past the Monkey Forest (yup, that’s what it’s called and that’s what it is), past some of the inhabitants who have made their way to the street outside, down a bunch of stairs and through more jungle, when we come across the large, two-story, round building. We remove our shoes and climb to the top floor which, although it has a floor and a roof, the sides are open to the jungle. We’re hot and soaking with sweat even before the yoga class begins, but the setting is simply perfect. The sun sets during our hour-long class and, though the mosquitoes apparently show up to feed off the sweaty bodies, my sweat must be filled with natural repellent as I’m not bothered. The teacher, the music, and the surroundings make for a perfect class.
After class, Gina heads off with a friend who happens to live here, and I decide to have a beer and a fantastic fish dinner at a nearby restaurant while listening to a jazz band. On the walk back, I stop in a few cottages and tiny hotels, searching for a place to stay when Gina leaves in three days and we’re no longer splitting the cost of a room. After just a couple of tries, I make a deal with a hotel and restaurant just a few doors away, leave a deposit, and now have a room for a whopping $23.33 per night, including tax, service fee, breakfast and a large swimming pool. So yeh, I’m good.
Tomorrow – temples volcanoes and coffee poo.
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