Around two years ago now, I went on my first ever solo trip to the alluring island of Bali, for a four day getaway from the fast life in Jakarta. I found this post stashed away, collecting cobwebs and mothballs in the labyrinth of documents I keep on my laptop and thought I’d take it out for a bit of an airing…
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Last week, I fell in love.
Exotic, adventurous, stunning and cultured – much more than the usual tall dark and handsome that we all typically (but do nonetheless) go for; it was pretty much head over heels, love at first sight… I’m pretty sure we’re star crossed lovers too.
The adjective is overused, and I will probably be culpable of overusing it myself throughout this post, but Ubud is well and truly beautiful.
I will be the first to tell you, that I am and out and out city girl. Give me pavements and traffic and skyscrapers and apartments and an overwhelming amount of people – the countryside is something I appreciate, but have little desire to live in. I wouldn’t say I’ve flipped a complete 180, but I can feel my attitude towards the natural evolving ever so slightly. And I think Ubud has been the catalyst. As much as I love it, Jakarta painfully lacks any substantial amount of natural beauty; maybe a minimal number of trees, but on a normal day, there is hardly any leafy greenness in sight. So after living in the Big Durian for almost six months, the stunning natural beauty of Ubud literally (and I do mean literally) left me in awe.
For those that don’t know, Ubud is a city located in east Bali. As I was travelling solo, I decided to stay away from the more carousal areas of Bali and save the merriment for another time with friends. The main reason I chose Ubud, was that after asking many students where their favourite place in Indonesia was, I realised that although not top, Ubud’s name kept resurfacing. Hmm I thought, I best check this place out. Culture, tradition and rice paddy fields? Sounds interesting.
I was in Ubud a total of just four days. Please find below the start of a corny, lovey-dovey tribute to Ubud, ingeniously disguised as a travel diary.
I arrived at Denpasar Bali Airport at 7.30am, and the driver from the homestay that I arranged, was promptly waiting at the arrivals gate, holding a sign with my name on it. It’s always exciting meeting people at airports after a flight, even if you don’t know them. His name was Made, and along with his very sweet seventeen year old son, they took my bag and drove me the hour and a half journey to Ubud.
As I usually do when it comes to all modes of transport, regardless of whether I have had one hour of sleep or twelve, I fell asleep in the back of the car. When I woke up, I found ourselves traversing through what seemed to be jungle. Big leafy, verdant jungle either side of the vehicle. Wow, I thought, this is nothing like Jakarta.
Made looked at me through his rear view mirror, ‘Ah morning Saira, we’ve just passed the checkpoint. We are in Ubud now.’
He took a left turn on the road and the vehicle climbed with all that it could muster up a steep and sandy hill. At the top, Made parked up and his son took my bag. A tiny wooden gate sat meekly in front of us. A long, narrow stone path scattered with petalled offerings, laid out stretched on the other side of the gate. Trickling and bubbling along next to it, was a slowly rushing stream and either side of the path and stream, grew a dense, bright green thicket, some branches here and there hanging over the stream and poking us as we past.
Butterflies daintily fluttered through the leaves and trees, dewy cobwebs with stealthy spiders hovered over the stream, and the forest was full of birdsong. Had I just transformed into Snow White within the last minute?
Partway through our merry stroll, to the left of us the wall stopped and revealed a glimpse of what Bali is renowned for; rice paddy fields. I hadn’t yet come across one in my lifetime, and the view of one so large and so serene stretched out before my made me smile with quiet excitement.
We arrived at the homestay and I was almost immediately treated to a breakfast of tea, fruit and eggs on toast, wonderfully prepared by the very warm and smiley Ayu, Made’s wife. The homestay was a gem of a hideout, it’s different levels making it seem more like a curious playground rather than a homestay. The rooms themselves are large and spacious, and most pleasingly, completely enclosed at the back by the pea-green grassiness of rice paddy fields.
After breakfast I made the short, but equally as whimsical as the Snow White stroll before, trip to my room. Making my way up some roughly carved stone steps to the higher level, the perfume of flowers filled the air. The steps were adorned by white, yellow and pink coloured flowers, and at the top of the stairs sitting in the stone wall, was a shrine for the ever radiant Buddha, gilded with petals.
Now, very much in a complete state of Zen, I unlocked the front door to my room, skipped over to my bed and plonked down on the mattress for a much needed catnap.
*Tune in next time for a whole lot of monkeys…
Go Go Go!
Where: Ubud in Bali, Indonesia.
Why: Rice fields, delicious food, cheeky monkeys and a hub of culture.
How: Flights from Jakarta to Bali are extremely frequent, with almost every airline flying there. Depending on the time of year, a return ticket can cost anywhere between 400,000 Rp – 2000,000 Rp ( approx. £20 – £100).
I stayed at Nirwa Homestay in Ubud, which I can’t recommend enough; spacious, clean rooms, hot water, western toilet, incredibly friendly and helpful staff, all set in the most scenic of surroundings and only a ten minute walk from all the buzz – all costing just 150,000 Rp for a night (approx. £7.50).