May 18 – June 16, 2016
If we kept a diary and if we were a young girl, it would read something like this…
Dear Diary, today we fell in love. Imagine
- super kind, friendly people that smile all the time.
- amazing and we do mean AMAZING organic food.
- fresh veggies everywhere and fruit right off the tree.
- a culture/religion that is forgiving, believes in positivity, kindness and FANTASTIC karma.
- cool little shops that could make Salt Spring Island, BC jealous 😉
- walks through a thick, lush forest of palm trees, rushing water, tropical bushes, flowers, and rice fields.
- cool breezes coming off the ocean from a half-an-hour away cooling your body while you walk in the 30+C heat.
- architecture that makes your jaw drop and your eyes open wide with excitement and fascination.
- yoga (with a view of rice fields), meditation, walking, and (quite inexpensive) massage ($10-$20), Reiki ($15), Reflexology ($8.50), Shiatsu ($20) as a regular part of life.
Oh Diary, what should we do? We have discovered the Ubud area in Bali, Indonesia and it feels like we never want to leave. …insert fluffier adjectives, sprinkle some tears on the paper and call friend to chat about love for hours upon hours… “like you know…”
A bit theatrical perhaps? Indonesia was never on our radar until our friend suggested it and then we met a fellow Canadian who said it changed him. We were a bit tired and a bit numb of the “same, same but different” in South East Asia so we jumped on a plane to Bali to mix things up. It does not take much to win the heart over of the softy, wear-his-heart-on-his-sleeve Registered Nurse, but the Ubud, Bali affects on our hardcore, analytical Professional Computer Engineer after one day of exploring is something to stand up and notice. (Note: the true test of this is that the above did not get edited out of our post! Namaste)
There is a peacefulness in the Ubud area that we have not felt elsewhere in our travels. The only annoying thing is all the tourists (with selfie-sticks, or the young-here-to-party, the hippies, and the yoga-lovin-opinionated-full-of-attitude-chicklets), but we can live with it… Ubud is magical.
Admittedly, we are in herbivore paradise. Our homestay includes breakfast and we start each day with fresh papaya, mangosteen, pomelo and banana. Our other plate has a variety of traditional Balinese breakfast items. These include sticky rice or cassava balls rolled in coconut (some infused with palm syrup), fresh squeezed orange juice and herbal tea. We head out for an incredible walk/hike into the forest leading to rice fields surrounded by palm trees. We stop and eat at an organic restaurant overlooking rice fields. Salads come with roasted tomatoes stuffed with feta for $4 Canadian (Cdn) or beet, garlic salad with a coconut beet dressing. Fresh squeezed lemon and fresh mint juices cost only $2 Cdn.
This is not a steak and potato lover’s paradise!
A typical hike goes through rice fields all equipped with amazing irrigation canals and streams flowing to nourish the rice fields. While hiking, a breeze provides some relief from the hot, humid heat, birds sing, ducks (used to fertilize the soil and eat the bugs) by the hundreds quack, palm leaves rustle, and there is the musical sound of homemade bamboo wind chimes attempting to scare birds from devouring the rice.
Mother nature and mankind come together to create a series of phenomenal irrigation systems used to collect water that has travelled all the way from volcanos reaching over 3700 metres. The water gently laps through the irrigation canals, falling from one layer to the next as we meander through the fields. We stop along the way and meet locals who are painting in the fields, squeezing coconut oil into jars, drying vanilla bean pods from the tree above – with all items for sale. Many speak some English… great news for us.
Their Balinese smile, friendly hello and warm demeanor made our heart grow ten times.
We went for an amazing couples massage… one hour for $20 Cdn each. We were greeted with a welcome drink and a nicely cooled, fragrant face cloth. Next, we were escorted to the gorgeous Balinese-style massage room complete with a shower for rinsing off before the massage (good thing – we hiked 45 minutes in the heat for that massage), a toilet complete with bidet and a stone sink. The room easily belonged on the cover of a magazine. Very not-sexy complimentary undies were provided and we wrapped ourselves with a sarong in traditional style as instructed. Christine looked beautiful and Mark just looked like a dude in a skirt. A foot soak and scrub before the massage and then the rest is history. Christine opted for a traditional Balinese massage, Mark went for the “Rice Farmer Massage” – a traditional massage given to the men after a hard day working in the rice fields. Pain is a good thing! The experience finished with a shower then a pot of ginger tea and a plate of fruit. A complimentary ride back into town was also provided. Thank goodness. And all for $40 Cdn!
The magic of the Ubud area never left us. We never tired of hiking in the fields, chatting with the locals, eating terrific and healthy food and being surrounded by extremely spiritual, friendly, kind, warm, friendly Balinese people. Truth is, we never ventured too far on the island.
The guest house family we stayed with made us feel so welcome. Kadek, her sister Wayan, and her two sons, Krisda and Riki, smiled all the time. It was like there were no problems in the world. Morning customs provided blessings for good luck, prosperity, health and it included their visitors! One morning we woke with fresh incense burning and an offering on the landing outside our door. Every morning was a different breakfast adventure and they were keen to make note of the items we really loved (those banana pancakes with fresh Balinese honey were amazing – thank you Kadek and Wayan!). They also made three traditional Balinese meals for us (one involving slow cooked chicken buried under the soil). There were different arrangements on our bed in the evening and they gave us a Boma carving with our names as a gift for staying with them for so long. Their hospitality will never be forgotten.
A free thirty-day non-extendable visa is issued for Canadians on arrival in Bali. We were thinking India could be our next stop and we were investigating it closely. Unfortunately, with India reporting intense heat in the 40C+ range and the monsoon season about to begin in India, Laos, and Myanmar, we thought to ourselves, are we crazy to leave?
If there was ever an area to ride out the monsoon season, Bali would be it. But first, we have to apply for a visa and we can’t apply for it while in Indonesia.
Instead, we book a “cheap” flight and jump on a plane to a continent we have never set foot on. First stop when we land? The Indonesian Embassy. Our return flight to Bali is scheduled for June 28, 2016 and we could not be happier. Some exciting news to share will involve… rice fields, night stars, maybe some frogs, snakes or big a*s bugs, the odd naked Balinese man and woman and perhaps a furry friend (not related to the aforementioned).
…Mark and Christine
Sample Expenses in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
(Currency is Indonesian Rupiah (IDR). $1 CDN = 10,150 IDR, expenses in IDR unless noted)
- 130,000 for dinner for two (2 healthy juice drinks, veggie burger and nasi goreng)
- 140,000 ($13.44CDN) for dinner for two (beet apple pumpkin salad, veggie nasa goreng, 1 liter of fresh juice, 1 piece of vegan chocolate zucchini cake)
- 100,000 ($9.60 CDN) for garden salad, wood fired veggie pizza, coke and lemon tea
- 7,500 ($0.72 CDN) for day old gluten free cashew banana muffin
- 6,000 ($0.58 CDN) for 1.5L of water
- 59,000 ($5.66 CDN) for 2 large icey, chatime drinks (thanks again Doreen!)
- 25,000 for fan room ($24 CDN), Krisda Ubud Guesthouse
- 30,000 for air conditioned room (worth it) ($28.80 CDN), Krisda Ubud Guesthouse
- 350,000 IDR for 32 km taxi ride from airport to Ubud ($33.60 CDN), ride took 1 hour