Cindy’s Journal

July 5-10, 2001

Kuta Beach and Ubud, Bali

We arrived in Bali after a very long flight. We stopped in Brisbane on the way. We were hot and tired and so we got a room at one of the first places we saw, a place called Three Brothers Inn. We shared a taxi ride with a Welsh couple who were on their way home after two years in Australia where they lived and worked. After the two years, they spent five months in a jeep touring Australia. Very nice. Our country sucks sometimes. Short vacations are bad.

We ate at a really cheap restaurant, which was nice after Tahiti. The whole meal was maybe $5 and I was loving Bali already. Everything is very inexpensive there. We shopped up and down the streets in Kuta Beach. Love the shopping there. Everything is unbelievably cheap. There are many people trying to get you to go into their shops and I had many offers from people wanting to plait my hair or give me a massage. We shopped and shopped until we wore ourselves out—never did get that massage. We had a yummy—and cheap—lunch on an upstairs balcony and discovered that we like Bali Hai beer better than Bintang. Gotta try all the local beers. We went to a place called the Padme Club for dinner and this band—Millenium Band—did all these covers—How Deep is Our Love, Dancing Queen, Thong Song, With or Without You, and a Jennifer Lopez tune. It was very amusing. They were competent, not bad, a lot of fun, and they looked like they were having a blast. When our waiter found out we were planning to go to Ubud the next day, he did a hard sell and so we hired him to drive us there. Before we left Kuta Beach we sent off a package of souvenirs and gifts. It cost $35 and they told us it would take a month. We wondered if we’d get it at all. (We did)

In Kuta Beach, we stayed cheap, ate cheap, but couldn’t exactly mail cheap. Sending junk home is both the blessing and curse of backpack travel. You just can’t carry stuff, so you don’t. On the other hand, it can cost a lot to send things home, often more than the buying price in cheap countries like Indonesia. Here we found a mail shop (this is actually official for Indonesia), and sent our first batch of junk home. Check us out, Christmas shopping in July.


Dmitri says

This is what Ubud looks like at its best. Lotus ponds, Balinese architecture, and green everywhere. Of course, there is also the noisy, polluted street with touts calling “Transport?!” every ten steps, but that’s no fun.

A lot of Ubud is louder and more built up than the last time I was here, but there are still places worth finding, and there’s just no culture quite like Bali’s. The Hindu religion and the jungle setting make for a unique backdrop.

At left here is the view from the restaurant (Puri Saraswati) next door to our guesthouse. You eat on tatami mats and look out over this nice pool. In the evening, they hold cultural dances and the area at the back of this pictures becomes an elaborate stage.

Cindy’s journal cont.

Ubud is a little artsy area in the mountains about an hour north of Kuta Beach. We wanted to escape a bit of the tourism by going there, but we discovered that Ubud had been found and was much busier than the last time Dmitri was there.
Made, the waiter, did drive us to Ubud, but he wasn’t as chatty as Dmitri would have liked. We wanted info and a running commentary and he was pretty lackluster. We stopped along the way at Celuk, a silver village. We went into the factory and saw how it was made and of course there was a store. Hard, hard sell. We felt very uncomfortable looking. The sales people followed us around in case we wanted to take a closer look at something or ask about the price. We got out as soon as we could. Before arriving in Ubud, we stopped at an art gallery, but we couldn’t see any artists at work.
Our first stop was the Puri Saraswati Bungalows. Best thing about the place was the grounds. They have an incredible lotus pond in front of an old temple and a charming restaurant that overlooks it. We hung out for a bit on our porch area and relaxed—or tried to. It was incredibly hot and humid. But we caught up with reading and journal writing. I went for a walk and looked in the shops. Dmitri was happy to have me out of his hair for a bit since he was very into his latest book. All along, I was worried that he would be bored if I wanted down time and just wanted to sit around and relax. The opposite seems to be true. He’s into his book and I just want to see and do everything. Of course, he has been to Ubud before.

So I went for a walk and found a place to get a massage and a facial. The facial cost $5.38 and the massage (1 1/2 hours) was $7.17. Very nice. While I was on my walk and Dmitri was reading, the water in our hotel went off. We both wanted to get cleaned up and that was not going to happen. We kept asking at reception and they kept saying that they had someone working on it and who knows how long these things could take. So we went to dinner at a place called Ibu Rai. We checked internet and when we got back, the water was still off. We got fed up and Dmitri went to the place across the road (dirt alley more like)and we checked in there. It is clean, amazing, gorgeous. We were much happier right away. And the best part was that it was right next to the other place and our room was on the second story and the open air restaurant where we ate breakfast each morning had a view of the grounds of the first place—with the lotus pond and the temple.

Can’t beat the setting. The food was pretty good, too.
We stayed at the Pradha Guesthouse, a tiny little collection of rooms that we both highly recommend. We both loved the small place and kept saying how great it would have been to have a group of friends there with us. Their web site makes it look like some sprawling complex, but it was cute and about 8 rooms total around a little pool. This is the shot from our doorway.
At the Pradha’s little restaurant, ordering my 13th fruit fiz of the day.
Our front porch.

Cindy’s journal cont.

I went for my massage and facial at this place called Zen. Beautiful place. Open air rooms with a view of the rice paddies. The massage was wonderful and all was good. I was so relaxed I almost fell asleep. I felt so nice and clean after my massage w/scrub and facial after all the days of sunscreen and sweating. I decided to go back the next day with Dmitri so we both could get massages at the same time. After the massage, we ate lunch at the restaurant at our first hotel, Café Lotus. We had a long leisurely lunch and tried lots of things on the menu. It was an incredible setting with the lotus pond just a few feet away.

After lunch we went shopping down Monkey Forest Street. We went to Monkey Forest and Sock Monkey had his picture taken. Dmitri got lunged at and hissed at by a monkey. There were monkeys everywhere and I was a bit nervous. There is this big sign that says, “Monkeys are unpredictable.” There were cute baby monkeys by a temple in the back of the park. As we walked back to our place Dmitri saw tons of t-shirts he wanted to buy. And I might have seen a few things for myself. I ended up getting a little silver giraffe pin that wasn’t too expensive. It reminded me of Ubud and made me look forward to going to Africa. We had dinner at our hotel, the Pradha Guesthouse, and then went to the Ubud Palace for the Legong dance (Balinese dancing). It’s very odd to watch. The dancers keep their mouths closed and shift their eyes around quite a bit. It looks very odd and there is not much variation in the music. We were glad to have seen it, but readily admitted it wasn’t our thing and left early. Definitely not as much fun as the Polynesian dancing.

Cindy’s journal cont.

We had originally planned to go back to Kuta and spend the night there before going to the airport, but we decided to stay in Ubud an extra night and go straight to the airport.

We wanted to see a bit more of the surrounding area so we decided to book a bike tour—see a little, get some exercise. Big mistake! We got up and drove about 45 minutes up the mountain to have breakfast (we had already eaten at the hotel and weren’t hungry, but we didn’t want to offend the people so we ate anyway). The restaurant really did have a gorgeous view of a volcano and Lake Batur so at least that was cool. But they kept bringing us course after course. Ugh! Then the bikes. No brakes, no gears. Bad. We should have stopped then, before we even got started.

I rode for about an hour before I had to get in the van. It was all downhill and we couldn’t even go very fast because there were literally no brakes. My hands were tired and cramped from gripping the brakes with little or no success. The view was neat and I wish I could have ridden longer and enjoyed it more. We saw beautiful terraced rice paddies. At one point, we stopped to take photos and were swarmed by kids trying to sell us things. We ended up buying an interesting carved wooden box with chopsticks inside.

We finally got back to the hotel and were glad that experience was over. Luckily, after lunch we had our massages. Dmitri also got his hair cut and the man put all this tonic in it. He asked what it was and the guy just said—“Is hair tonic. Is good for hair.” I got what is called a cream bath, which is basically a conditioning treatment for my hair with a scalp massage. We strolled home calm and clean (except for Dmitri’s hair tonic) and relaxed. We had a very long leisurely dinner at an upstairs café called Ary’s Warung. The dessert was incredible—a chocolate melting soufflé with vanilla ice cream. Oh my god was that good. Dmitri had orange pound cake with ice cream. So despite the bikes, it ended up being a nice afternoon and evening.

I loved Ubud. I want to come back and stay here again some day. I love the slow pace—eating, reading, napping, strolling down the streets and checking out the shops. And the massages!

We did go to one Legong dance show. I think that with so much culture floating around, both of us felt like slackers for just eating and staring at the foliage. Still, just because it’s cultural doesn’t mean that it’s cool. Frankly, we both found the Legong dancers slightly offputting. The girls make these elaborate hand gestures (pictured), but then they do this freaky thing with their eyes, moving their pupils around in an exaggerated way. It all connected the plot points of the mythology behind the dancing, but it just freaked me out. Thankfully, Cindy was on the same page, so we got this photo to show you and sneaked out in search, no doubt, of more food.

Cindy forces a smile, despite hanging out in the van with a creepy guide dude. Two cool-looking, if useless bikes pictured also.
At the top of Bali, we had breakfast before they let us loose on our “bike tour”. Brakes optional, apparently. I felt bad for Cindy since she didn’t have the hand strength to pump the breaks hard enough to actually slow down. And since we were on a down slope the whole way, she had to ride in the minivan most of the way. Pisser. Well, the views were still spectacular, probably even from the inside of the van. This view is at the top at Lake Batur. It’s all volcanoes, and you can see one behind me here.
This is 100 rupias. It is worth exactly nothing. In fact, it is not worth the cottom it takes to stitch your pockets together to hold it in your clothing. But one of the fun things about foreign countries is having so many zeros on your notes. And it’s not like our banknotes have Krakatoa on them, do they?
Yeah, sure they look cute, don’t they? But these little bastards hiss, steal food out of your pockets and charge at you for no good reason. They are all over the “monkey forest” area in Ubud and are protected by conservationists and monks. So basically, there’s no one you can take to task without feeling like a schmuck.
Most of the ride was beautiful, though. We wove through rice paddies for several miles, and I have always thought that paddies like these ones irrigated into the hillsides are stunning. It was overcast, but the patterns and the green still show.
This headline from the English-language Jakarta Post deserves some explanation. While we were there, Indonesia was undergoing some political flux. This is a lot like saying “while we were in Rome, there were some Catholics hanging out”.
The then-President of Indonesia, Adburrahman Wahid, was fighting (unsuccessfully, as it turns out) to retain power, and a police and military coup was in the offing. Wahid is known to the Inodnesians as Gus Dur, which is sort of an affectionate title meaning something like “doddering nice old coot”. At one point in the political struggle, surrounded by opponents on both political sides, the guy just kind of gave up and started complaining about the situation to God at a press conference. Thus the headline. And you thought American politics were fun!