Ubud might just be my favorite stop so far, maybe for the wrong reason! The wrong reason is that it felt just like home. Why is that the wrong reason? We’re traveling to see the world away from home and experience new ways, not be at home away from home. Wonderfully, there was a great little library with library users just like I would see at home. (More about that another email) There was a pretty good book store and most small shops sold used books along with whatever was their main product for sale. There was a good art supply shop. Most people spoke English so communication was easy. Actually, the only people who didn’t speak English were most of the other tourists we saw. So though some things looked foreign, and the culture of the Balinese is far different than ours, the feel of Ubud center was to me like Roanoke’s market area, or the area of Salem around Roanoke College, or Provincetown, MA or Sate Fee, NM or any small art focused area that attracts artists, tourists, New Age types or people looking for a less hurried lifestyle where there is lots to see and do in a beautiful setting. People from other parts of the world come to Ubud for the same reasons they go to Provincetown, though lots cheaper and warmer! At least that’s the way I felt. Randal thinks I’m totally wrong! And we were only there a short time. But I felt totally comfortable on my own the day Randal and I did different things. No other place have I felt so comfortable so fast. Maybe I’m more used to it; but I think it was mostly Ubud that made me feel that way.
Every morning lots of shuttle vans leave our anchorage at Lovina for other destinations. Tuesday afternoon we bought our tickets for a Wednesday 9 am shuttle to the mountain town of Ubud. Our van was filled with 8 of us, backpack luggage, and a driver who smoked, talked on the phone and at the end tried to make Randal and me pay more money. There was a Brit, a French couple, 2 young American women each traveling alone, and a slightly older woman origin unknown. We all chatted; conversation and interesting scenery making the 2 ½ hour trip go fast. The French couple recommended a small hotel, Sania’s House, near the Public Market and the center of town. They said it was 200,000 rp per night, (about $ 22) lovely and clean and showed me on a map. I noticed it listed on the Ibud pages I had copied from our Southeast Asia tour guide with a glowing review. The journey’s only sour note; most people are dropped at hotels that perhaps give a “fee” to the shuttle driver. We had no hotel so our driver got no extra fee. So he told us we had to pay more for going just into Ubud where he didn’t normally go. Huh?!!! All we knew when we bought the ticked was that it took you to Ubud, no destination named. We refused to pay the “fee” and told him he was acting badly. Randal had a card from the company owning the shuttle car and called them to complain. We were told by other travelers on our return trip that our driver had been wrong and we should not pay more. But that was the only sour note of a really wonderful time. Not knowing exactly Sania’s House was, and being hungry, we picked a restaurant on Monkey Forest Road and had a wonderful lunch for not very much money. Monkey Forest Road really does have a monkey forest and we did visit it. Very fun! At our restaurant we picked up a free Ubud community booklet with a map, saw that Sania’s House was just down the street and around a corner; so off we went. During lunch I had called ahead to see if there was a room. “One left, 300,000 rp.” I said we would come see; and that we had been told they were 200,000rp. Everything here is a process of bargain and negotiation. Randal does well, I always overpay. When we got there, they showed us the room. Top level, very lovely with a balcony on all sides, table and chairs on the balcony, huge windows, and beautiful gardens to look at….. But they did have another room, ground floor, not so lovely, 200,000. We took the one upstairs for 270,000 rp (about $31.) The room itself was very spare with huge windows that opened out onto all of the balconies. There was one small table, a wardrobe, 2 large blue and green striped bath towels, no soap or shampoo. But spacious and the balcony, flowers, banana crepes and huge bowl of fruit for breakfast, thermos of hot tea at 5:30 am…made up for anything the room itself lacked. And actually all that was needed was another bedside table and a towel rack in the bathroom, and perfecto! In Ubud, the small hotels are called home stays because the entire family lives there too. (A family can be lots of small related families together in one compound all working and living together.)
You can see our room was on the second floor.
It was a four poster bed. We left all of the windows opened at night!
Though the days were warm, I actually had to ask for a blanket after being chilly the first night. All the walls but one had those huge windows and there was balcony outside. They even gave each room a big drying rack for your small hand laundry and to hang out your towels that were not replaced. Good idea. Our second night the 2 men in the room just below had a dinner party on their patio and that was a bit noisy. But they were speaking German so you weren’t kept awake listening. It was just background noise. If you wanted, the hotel would prepare a dinner if you asked in advance. Next visit that would be nice. The French couple also had a dinner party one night, but they were quieter and not downstairs from us. I did try to listen in when people were speaking French since I had it so many years ago in school. But my vocabulary is just too limited.
Randal reading on the balcony.
Each morning about 5am they would take away your old tea thermos and bring you a new one with clean cups. It would stay hot all day. The second big blue Chinese thermos was just hot water that Randal requested for the coffee packets he carries in his pack. Most days he just had the cup of coffee they brought with breakfast. The huge thermos stayed really hot all day and I mixed its water in with my tea during the late afternoon to stretch the tea and make it hotter. The tea, breakfast coffee, huge bowls of fresh pineapple, banana, and papaya and choice of eggs or crepes was included with the room. The banana crepes were wonderful and made to order when you requested it. It was like having servants, but they didn’t act subservient. They just wanted to make your stay comfortable. In some ways it was like being a guest in a home, sort of like a B & B atmosphere more than hotel.
Behind the shrubbery on the top left of the photo is the small pool.
There was a small pool that lots of other guests used. We hadn’t thought to bring suits. It was more a stand around in pool than a swim laps pool. But a lovely setting. The pool and some greenery were in the center of the small complex and the building with rooms around the perimeter. The buildings made a J with the pool at the bottom curve and buildings along the line and top. We were at the top of the J. Below the J was the family area and the entrance way.
There were maybe five buildings of 3 or 4 levels that had 1 or 2 rooms all with porches or balconies. This building was the next one over from ours and lovely to watch as the sun rose. I also would watch one of the family tend to all of the plants each morning. The couple in the middle level was French and the woman in the one below, here for 45 days of vacation, was from Quebec. There were lots of Germans, some Asians but no other Americans. All different ages too, one couple with a tiny baby.
Just inside the gate to Sania’s House were where the family pets lived and stayed; a very quiet snobby Doberman, some fish in a tank, and a funny large black bird with some yellow on its head. He made noises like a cat and also like one of those whistles that you pulled a string and it made a crazy whistle in three stages. You could hear it all day. Very funny. No photo because the bars to the cage were too thick.
We spent our first afternoon walking around Ubud center; to the library, to the big funky public market; just soaking it all in. We went back to our balcony for a late afternoon beer for Randal and freshly squeezed papaya juice for me and a nice quiet nap. About 6 pm we walked the row of nearby restaurants stopping for dinner. One maybe shouldn’t order pizza outside Italy and New York City, but we did. Topping of tomato and cheese wasn’t bad, but the crust was like a cardboard cookie. Oh well. It really was the only food that wasn’t great while we were there. Ubud does salads really well and you get a healthy glob of it with pretty much anything you order. We did have a bottle of their local Balinese white one night. Not too too bad with food. But any wine that can’t be cellared, can’t be so great. This wine had in big letters, DO NOT CELLAR. Or it should have had; actually the letters were there, just small. It was ok with the sautéed veggies and rice I had. Can’t remember what Randal ate, some noodle dish. We had eaten a huge, late lunch that day as part of our Eco and Educational Cycling Tour. We should have had skipped dinner, funky wine, and especially the huge brownie and ice cream dessert we split. Didn’t need that at all. Or we should have only eaten that. The brownie was fudgy and vanilla ice cream tasted real. Well they do grow vanilla in Indonesia, and cinnamon and ginger and lots of other spices.
We spent Thursday doing the bicycle tour (more about that in another email,) and Friday each doing our own thing. I spent Friday morning taking a traditional Balinese painting lesson for 3 hours and Randal wandered Ubud. (More about the class in an email I’ll write about the library.) We met for lunch, a really good one! Then Randal went back to the room and his deep involvement with the book Krakatoa by Simon Winchester that he had bought the night before in one of the Ubud bookstore near our hotel. I went off on my search for the local art shop to buy a brush like my teacher had used in hopes it would work for me like it did for him. And some drawing pens. It was about a 30 minute walk to get there. I passed a telkomsel shop and stopped in to ask about our terrible service but the one staff person didn’t speak English….. I passed a fishing gear shop and made a note to stop on my return to see if they had a gaft. My art teacher, I was the only student that morning, had drawn me a map to the art supply shop and it was exactly correct so I found it. The women working there were very helpful. Two brushes, some white watercolor paint and some white acrylic paint, and 2 drawing pens later I left and returned to the fishing gear shop. The woman behind the counter was very helpful but didn’t know what a gaft was. I drew a picture and she thought I wanted some fishing hooks. A gaft for those who don’t know is a big handle with a huge hook on the end that you grab the fish with to haul it onto the boat. Randal had lost the hook part of his when he caught his first fish. Somehow the metal hook part had been unlocked from the handle. Anyway, luckily there was a customer who knew what I wanted; and the shop had one for 95,000 rupiah (about $10.) I had just enough money left to buy it. Had I known I had that much money with me I would have bought more art stuff! But we needed the gaft so I’m glad it worked out that way. I walked the 30 minutes back to our hotel and rewarded myself with some still hot tea and a ginger cookie on our balcony. Later that evening, Randal and I went off for a light dinner of wonderful made from scratch spring rolls we shared and vegetable soup for me and tomato soup for him. Then we stopped at a convenience store and bought about 20 DVDs, cheap. We don’t ask……( We watched the Bob Dylan I’m Not There last night on the boat. Very odd.)
Saturday morning it was time to leave. We needed to get back to the boat to recharge the batteries powering the frig and freezer, and to rejoin the Sail Indonesia activities. I hated to leave Ubud. There was still so much to see, and life at the beautiful hotel was so comfortable and relaxing.
The entrance to Sania’s House. In the book eat pray love by Elizabeth Gilbert (which I’m really glad I read as an intro to Ubud) she says that Balinese women are either getting ready for, participating in, or cleaning up from some type of religious ceremony. That seemed true. Each morning there are thousands of tiny flower offerings to the ancestors that must take hours to make and then replace the next day. You always saw the Sania’s House women doing something, making these ancestor gifts or cooking the meals or doing something. It seemed the men waited on the guests and cleaned the rooms.
Sania’s House granny
Sania’s House member