Ubud, Part One (and Getting There)

I’ve been intending to make this quick post to announce that we arrived safely and to give a quick sneak-peak into Bali life for about three days now, but bad computer and Internet conditions have made it a bit difficult. Now, three days into the trip and several hundred pictures later I’m a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of Bali blogging in general, but I thought I’d go through with Post One as planned.

The trip got off to an interesting start from the very beginning, on a moderately comfortable bus from Thung Song to Phuket. Despite the plush(-ish) reclining chairs, sleep was reluctant to come on account of the traditional Thai shadow-puppet show they were playing for the entire 5 hours of the trip, with all its high pitched instrumental interludes and occasional squawking of the characters. I suppose I understand wanting to offer a bit of entertainment on public transport, but why it must come at such volume I may never know.

Our moods didn’t improve much upon arrival, as everyone seemed to be asking 600 Baht for the 30 km taxi ride to the airport (where we were intending to stay/sleep until our 7 am flight, despite it only being around 10 when we arrived). We found this excessive and so saw fit to wander the streets, away from the bus station where I imagine all farang are supposed to be suckers, in hopes of coming across a better rate. We were successful, but it all happened in a very unlikely way—we stopped at a shop for water, and Wayne seized the opportunity to practice a bit of Thai. He started chatting with the shop owner, asking if we really were being overcharged for the journey.

Before she was able to speak two words a shirtless man appeared from the back room going off about how Phuket was very expensive, and farangs especially were targeted, but we were teachers (he must have been listening in from the wings) and surely we should get an exemption to this preposterous overcharging. Or,at least that’s what I imagined the ramblings to sum up to. It then became clear (more or less) that he was arranging for someone to drive us for our desired rate of 400 Baht—I suspected a friend or a son. But next thing we knew he was throwing on a shirt and pulling his car out from the side-street. The shop owner’s husband himself would be our chauffer! And once again I broke the traditional “Don’t get into cars with strangers” advice given to all young children, and had few to no qualms about doing so.

About ten minutes into the trip we pulled over and two girls hopped in the car. The first beamed at me and said, “My name is!” I waited for her to complete the thought, only to realize she was asking me for my name. I told her and I learned that they were Oil and Ohn, the man’s 19-year-old twin daughters, who were delighted to be embarking on the journey to the airport with the strange travelers.  At some point the father must have come into the knowledge of how long we had until our flight departed and decided there was time enough for a nighttime tour of Phuket. I think we must have driven the near circumference of the island (okay, exaggerating here) and we saw some of the major beaches, one of which we stopped at for some photos. It was around midnight by the time we made it to the airport, and though a bit exhausted we were happy for the man’s kindness, his daughters’ company, and of course, the 200 Baht saved.

wayne and our impromptu and delightful chauffer, just past patong beach.

with ohn and oil

Then it was another relatively sleepless 5-hour stretch in the airport, on account of the freezing conditions and noisy floor-waxers. But eventually we were on the plane and Bali bound!

shots from airplane windows are generally terrible, but i always risk it. i guess i just love me some clouds.

finally getting some sleep! (more than i could say. hellooooo crossword book)

the island we’d like to one day own.

how’d those icebergs get there?!

first glimpses of bali. don’t think we’ll make it to those cliffs, but they look awesome.

We became that much more grateful for the 200 Baht saved by forgoing a traditional taxi on the way to the Phuket airport because when we arrived at the Denpasar (Bali) airport we found they were giving a terrible exchange rate for Thai Baht. We’d read that it should be around 300 Indonesian Rupiah to the Baht, and the airport currency exchangers were offering all of 200! The taxi to Ubud was also more expensive than we were hoping (though, don’t let hawkers fool you. The listend 195,000R price is for the entire taxi and should be split amongst all the passengers. We didn’t go that route but in retrospect we probably should have), so our stomachs started dropping, thinking maybe the money we’d set aside for the trip wasn’t going to go as far as we’d initially thought. We eventually succeeded in finding a place that gave us a rate of 285 Rupiah/Baht, but maybe a note to future Thailand-to-Indonesia travelers: convert your Baht to dollars (or… anything else, really) before crossing the border!

there are lots of gargantuan statues adorning the roadsides and traffic circles around here.

Aaand… when I began putting this post together, now four days ago, it was partially just to gush about how much I was in love with our accommodation. We were somehow under the erroneous impression that Bali was a small island when we began researching our travels. When we discovered that this wasn’t the case– we’d have to pick a few key spots and run with them, or at least use them as homebase, we were a bit overwhelmed. When a friend didn’t hesitate a moment before asserting that we must stay in Ubud, the “cultural heart” of Bali, we were happy to have the decision made for us. We proceeded to scour Lonely Planet and Travelfish and were able to find a good number of places for around 150,000 Rupiah (+/-500 Baht; $18)/night, which was right around our budget. Before even making it to the first place on the list we were expertly swept into Sagitarius Inn by one Eddie. As one of the linked-to reviews indicates, the room we were shown (presumably the cheapest one, though it ended up ringing in at all of 200,000 Rupiah/night) was “miles” from the main road (read: maybe a 2 minute walk), the scenery along those miles was more than enough to convince us to stay. And with its location in the heart of the central Monkey Forest Road, it’s really met all our needs. The staff here are wonderful, and as with most places around here, a lovely breakfast has been included each morning. There’s (usually) hot water. What more could we ask for?

sneak peak at the sacred monkey forest as we went to find a money changer willing to rip us off just slightly less than the rest

our room. spacious enough with carved teak furniture, vaulted ceilings, and an en suite bathroom with hot water.

did i mention the nice terrace where complimentary balinese coffee appears magically each afternoon?

why so glum little statue?! you’re in bali!

reminiscent of this shot taken exactly a year previous in bangkok

the crown jewel of any outdoor pool: the lactating fountain statue.

Though a bit knackered, after getting settled we decided to briefly explore our area and get a quick bite to eat at a restaurant with some sort of view. We decided being nestled right in a rice terrace would do.

monkey forest road appears to be a bustling little road teeming with cute shops and restaurants…

but it also happens to be nestled among the most charming little rice paddies.

first taste of balinese coffee (though certainly not the last!)

our afternoon snack: raw veg lumpiah with cashew nut dressing. exquisite!

me and my million rupiah. don’t spend it all in one place now… (though at just over $100, you easily could).

After our snack we had what certainly qualifies as one of the top 10 naps in my lifetime after a very hectic 24 hours. Woke up just in time for some last-minute shopping for Wayne’s birthday, which was the next day, followed by our traditional pizza-as-a-first-dinner-in-a-new-town. As well as a very welcome and delicious couple of Indonesian microbrew wheat beers at Bali Pesto, just down the street. We rounded out the evening by tracking down the acoustic music that had been spilling into our dining locale of choice from the nearby Art Café, and what seems to be the standard Balinese Bintang beer. An excellent first day in Bali, with only more good times to follow.

perusing one of the many local art shops in search of a gift.

fiendish-looking monkey statue outside of the sacred monkey forest, which we passed again on our evening jaunt taken to get a feel for our surroundings before dinner.

bintang and peanuts consumed whilst singing along to ‘wish you were here’ at art café after dinner. not pictured: mediterranean pesto pizza and bruschetta at bali pesto for dinner. we’ve been trying to document most of our meals but have faltered a time or two.

One response

  1. Pingback: Guerillas do Gorillaz; Flume does U Street Music Hall | ollie in america

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