Ubud or Bust: Bali, Indonesia

We have a day trip planned in Bali, although it is not really planned. We sort of know what we might want to do, but sort of don’t. I guess that doesn’t make much sense, does it? Maybe a little better planning would have been a good idea.

We have a driver, Kadek. In my research I found that in Bali as a visitor you can’t rent a car and drive yourself, but rather when you rent a car it comes with a driver. Kadek is the driver that picked us up at the airport, and essentially he works for our villa owner, Guy. Yesterday Guy had made an arrangement with Kadek to take us on a road trip today.

I am thinking that Kadek rented the van that he picks us up in. When he arrives at 08:00 in the morning he tells us about a couple of tour options. One tour would be to several beaches around the area. Another tour option is to go to a Balinese cultural event, followed by visits to three factories. We mention that we are interested in hiking. With 13 opinions it is a little hard to come to a consensus in such short notice, so we opt for tour #2 followed by some hiking.

This morning we have Made make us a Balinese breakfast. As soon as we are done eating we will hit the road. Most of us are not that used to rice for breakfast, but it is tasty in its own way. We just need to think it’s 5 pm somewhere…..


  

Once our bellies are full we are off on an adventure. Now you can see how narrow the alley is in front of our villa. I don’t even know how a car fits down this alley. The building on the left is the Pelangibali Hotel, which apparently has security guards patrol this alleyway.


David has a bag full of snacks.
We drive and drive for what seems like forever, but when I look on google maps we have not gone very far. The streets are decorated for a festival, and the traffic is slow. The roads are narrow, too, I might mention.


There is some kind of festival going on. The people of Bali are primarily Hindu and this is some type of religious ceremony.


Driving in this city is annoying at best. It is very slow going. When we get to the Bali Cultural center Kadek begins to collect money from us for the entrance. Now, it seems a little fishy. There are no prices posted, and it seems like he can charge us whatever he wants. He is the money collector and then negotiates with the people at the desk. There is some kind of disagreement between Kadek and the people at the desk, and he comes back for more money. I guess they did not accept the discount we had negotiated for Kristoff, since in their eyes he does not look like a “child”. I wonder if Kadek gets a cut of the deal by bringing tourists in. This is weird and leaves me a bad taste.

It takes longer to get out of here than we initially expected, and with the bad traffic our day is wasting away. It also is fraying on some nerves when we finally reconvene.

No sooner than we are back into the van we get into a discussion about what we want to see and do today. Most of us don’t want to go to the three factories that Kadek has in mind. One is a silver factory, and one is a scarf making factory, and I don’t remember the third, but I have an idea about what they are like……most likely a tourist scam operation where they try to sell you their wares for exhorbitant prices. Kadek really wants to take us to the factories, and us skeptical folks figure it is because he probably gets a nice commission for bringing tourists there.

We have kind of an informal vote about going to factories, and the nays outweigh the yays by a significant majority. We want to go hiking.

Suffice it to say that Kadek is not excited about the change in plans. We decide we want to go to Ubud, up to the Monkey Forest and then hiking on the Ridgeline Trail. The Ridgeline Trail is a popular hiking trail that brings you up into the rice terraces above Ubud, and is rated on several websites as one of the top 10 things to do in Bali. Kadek tells us that there is another hike he can bring us to that costs $25 each.

By now we are getting annoyed. We do not want to spend money like drunken sailors! We are not ATM cash machines! Please, did we not hire you to bring us where we want to go? We want to go to Ubud. It is Ubud, or bust!! I want to scream at him! We want to go to Ubud! The tension is mounting. For some reason he does not want to go where we want to go.

I hear myself say, “Did we not hire you to drive us where we want to go?”

He begrudgingly relents and starts the 1.5 hour drive up to Ubud. Our first stop is the Monkey Forest.



I actually have decided I don’t like monkeys. They are disgusting little creatures, and they are nasty, especially when they are around people. People feed them, and they become greedy little critters, grabbing any food that they can find. This guy looks like he is way too fat for his own good. I am constantly on edge wondering when one is going to attack me.


  
There is a really cool bridge here at the Monkey Forest. I might even enjoy it if you could take the monkeys out of this place. Well, duh! Don’t go to the Monkey Forest if you don’t like monkeys, right?

  
  
  
When we get into the town of Ubud we are in a hurry. Kadek tells us that we don’t have much time. He wants to be back at the Villa at 4:30 pm, which annoys the heck out of us. What is the hurry? Maybe it is because he rented the van he is driving and must have it back for some reason? It is not his car, we know that. Ubud looks like an awesome town, and we are annoyed that we have to rush.

Kadek pulls into a cramped parking lot in the center of town and tells us that the hiking path that we want for the Ridgeline Trail is about 500 meters “that way”, and he points in the direction we are to go. Okay…..so we hop out and walk “that way” and after what seems like a kilometer we are at the trailhead. This hike is free, thankfully! I did see on tripadvisor that you could sign up for a tour to hike on this trail from down in the city for about $55 U.S., which seems ludicrous!

Now I might point out that the architecture in Bali is really amazing. Everywhere you look there are buildings like this.

  

Finally we are able to break free from the horrendous traffic chaos…..and into the hills…..



We haven’t seen enough rice fields on this trip. Actually this is the closest that we have gotten to the actual rice fields. It is fun to get close.


  
  
Watering trough for the rice fields.

  
We are sort of trespassing on some farmer’s fields here, but it seems like we aren’t the first people. If someone comes to tell us to get off the land we can put up a fight. There are 13 of us!

  
  
  
Rice…..beautiful rice……

  

No one comes to tell us to get off the land. After examining the rice fields we walk on into a small town. It is so cute! We wish we could stay here a day or two. We all feel happy and carefree in these hills; we run, and we jump and we goof off……it is so refreshing! There is some kind of magic in the Ubud air.


We stop at a little convenience store, and the owner is thrilled when we decide to try out the coconuts. Now, I despise coconut….and so does Aundrea, but the rest of the folks seem to enjoy it. First the shop owner cuts the top off the coconut and punches a hole for a straw.

I make some peanut butter and jelly saltine crackers while I wait. I had brought some snacks along and this seems like as good a place as any to eat them. We offer the store owner some crackers with PB&J. At first she hesitates, but when she bites into it she is amazed…..mmmmm……


You can drink about a liter of coconut water with a straw.

Maybe Holly doesn’t like coconut either. I don’t know if I have formally introduced Holly. She is Jasmine’s childhood friend (my friend’s daugher), and she flew to Singapore to be a bridesmaid. She is now spending this week with us in Bali at our “family honeymoon”.

You might pay attention to the ground in front of this store. You will notice there are large open drainage gutters. This is how it is everywhere out here. You never know when the sidewalk might suddenly have a huge gaping hole with no warning signs. If you don’t keep your eyes looking ahead of you when you are walking, you are likely to end up falling into a pit of some kind and getting injured. Can you imagine how much American lawyers would LOVE this? They could sue people 24/7!!!

 
After the juice (over one liter per coconut) has been slurped out of the coconut, the woman cuts the coconut in half. She fashions a makeshift spoon from the outer core of the coconut that is used to scoop out the soft white milky stuff.


They have the cutest houses up here. Every home has a gate like this and a little straw covered entry like this…..and cute landscaping…..and lovely table and chairs set up outdoors……


This rice field is nice and green.


Oh man, you guys! Kadek is waiting! We have to hurry, scurry, scurry…..



Look at the incredible architecture and flowers!



We are so bummed that we don’t have more time in Ubud. It is such a nice little artsy town. Someday we will be back. We pile back into the van.


And the weary travelers fall asleep. Of course there are no seat belts in this country. You would think that everybody in this part of the world would be dead by now with the lack of seatbelts!



When we get back to the villa I pay Kadek the agreed upon one million rupiah ($75) for the car rental (includes driver and gas and rental for 8 hours), plus 70,000 for a tip. He takes the tip money without thanking me and stuffs it into his pocket. He seems annoyed. Maybe because we didn’t want to go to the factories? Maybe because we asked him to drive us up to Ubud? I don’t know, but I know that I am annoyed, too.

I don’t have time to spend being annoyed though. Today is a very special day. It is our baby boy Stefan’s birthday. Stefan would be 15 years old today, and is still very much alive in our family.

Every year on his birthday we celebrate with ice cream cake, so David and I set off with the motorbike to find some. There is a Cold Stone Creamery and a Dairy Queen that we saw the other day on our beach bike ride. It seems easy enough, but we end up getting lost in a tangle of one way streets, and blocked roadways.

The traffic is chaotic, and goes the wrong way. Sometimes when you have to make a turn you just have to break your way into the traffic and hope that no one hits you, all the while shifting gears up and shifting gears down. We finally just end up at a grocery store and buy ourselves ice cream. From there we are given directions to a bakery for a cake, which we find without incidence. The way home is another story, and we circle around for probably 1/2 an hour before we find our way back. By the time we get back everyone was worried.

Finally it is time for a birthday party. Happy birthday to our little Stefan baby. Maybe some people might think that it is a bit strange to have a birthday party for him, but to us it is a very special event. Little Stefan has remained an integral part of our family all these years. To me he is especially dear, and I often sigh in my heart that he is my anchor of faith.

  
  

And that brings us to the end of a lovely day in Bali. Kadek is waiting to hear if we want to go on another tour tomorrow, but we are planning to just relax on our beach. Makes sense to spend time on our beach since we paid to be here, and since the beach is beautiful and there is awesome surf…..and the weather is perfect….and life is beautiful…..and I can’t believe that we are so fortunate to be here in this faraway place with all our kiddos (save one)…..

Yes, tomorrow we will just enjoy the beach.

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