After bidding my farewells to Ola the Elephant (aka Colonel Hati) I realised it was still early and I had plenty of time before my Balinese cooking class later on. It’s only midday, I thought, what to do next?
The lovely Ayu back at Nirwa Homestay had mentioned wandering through the rice paddy fields at the back of her and Made’s guesthouse and maybe stopping at a place called Sari Organik for a refreshing drink.
‘It’s a nice place,’ she said. ‘Lots of bules there.’
Bule, (pronounced boo-lay) is the Indonesian term for a foreigner, but it’s mainly used in conjunction with Westerners. When traveling I always try to stick to places that the locals go to, to get a real feel for the place. But I thought, Ah well, can’t be too judgemental. Anyway, who gets to spend their afternoon leisurely traipsing through rice paddy fields? (I then had images of myself wearing a blue dress and white pinafore, my hair twisted in plaits and holding a wicker basket with a pint-size canine friend sitting in it, merrily skipping through the fields.)
Returning from the Elephant Park, Made dropped me off just before the Snow-White gate of his homestay. There were two paths on our left, serparated by a hedge of beautiful lime-green leaves. A wooden sign-post stood before it, with the words Sari Organik etched into it pointing upwards along the paths.
‘Follow the path and you’ll find it,’ Made told me. ‘It’s quite a long walk, but you’ll get there.’
Now I truly felt like Dorothy, all I needed was my pint-size canine companion and I was set. Off up the yellow brick (well, actually quite beige, earthy and dusty) road I go!
Almost instantly, I was confronted my an expanse of green. Tall, long grass everywhere around me, and all I had was a thin narrow path to tip toe along and hope not to fall into one of the beautiful, yet sludgey looking rice paddy fields. The area looked like it had been squared off into a distinct patchwork of fields, a lot of them on varying levels of the hilly earth. The tall rice stalks protruded from the watery bases of the fields, which themselves reflected the clouds in the sky. Needless to say, these rice fields consumed a lot of memory of my camera’s SD card.
The sun glowed directly above, but thankfully there was a slight wisp of a breeze in the air. The narrow path I was one before had now widened, and I could saunter along to my heart’s content. Tall, fragile looking fixtures made of straw and what looked like a long green branch of some sort, stood in the middle of the fields. They were long and slightly drooping and at the top was attached a string with what looked like intricate decorations made of straw. I couldn’t see it serving any practical purpose, as it neither made a sound or repel any hungry birds – it just swayed there in the breeze. As Balinese culture is filled with beautiful and natural offerings and shrines. I gathered that it was perhaps an object of some cultural significance, but to this day I still don’t really know.
There were people about, but it was perfectly still and quiet. People agilely working in the fields wearing conical leaf-stitched hats, and there were others sitting lazily in the few shops that were dotted along the path, some selling rainbow coloured dragon kites, others selling spooky looking carved masks. The nice thing was, all of these people waved, smiled and nodded their heads at me as I walked passed. Who was this weird foreign girl walking in the middle of nowhere by herself?
Half an hour had passed by the time I reached Sari Organik Cafe. The sun had been heating the dark hair upon my head, so the wooden sign outside the cafe was a welcome sight or relief and forthcoming shade, so I quickly scrambled in to find a place to sit. With a garden of exotic flowers outside, multi-coloured throw cushions, wooden benches and blackboards with swirly chalk writing, the place exhuded a complete hippie vibe. The menu was written both in Indonesian and English and the selection, though perhaps a little more Western than I would have liked, looked delectable. I noticed they served hummus. At this point I had been living in Indonesia for around 5/6 months and they had been completely hummus-free ones, so I ordered some, along with a tall glass of fresh mango juice and sat down to some letter writing. I peered out from the balcony I was sitting on at the breath-taking panorama surrounding me. My mind was instantly filled with ideas. The perfect place to start writing a novel, I thought.
*Tune in next time for a traditional Balinese cooking class…
Go Go Go!
Where: Ubud in Bali, Indonesia.
Why: Rice paddy fields, culture, art, food, elephants and monkeys.
How: Direct flights from Jakarta run regularly, numerous times a day with most airline making the route. Fares can differ grealy depending on the time of year, beginning at around 400,000 Rp (approx £20) till around 2000,000 Rp (approx £100) for a return ticket. From Denpasar airport, Ubud is around a 2-3 hour drive away, dependant on traffic.