After a few days exploring Bali from the south, we decided to head up to Ubud. Many of the temples and other sites were more easily reached from there. Ubud would also provide a change of scenery – from beaches to greenery.
On the first day we visited the monkey forest then went to see the culture and fire show. The cultural part was an extract from the Mahabarata Ramayana, in particular the story of Sita being captured by Ravan and Hanuman’s subsequent intervention which led to her freedom. The performance was followed by the ‘fire show’. Honestly, the picture looks good, but the fire show was somewhat disappointing.
One morning in Ubud we went to visit the rice fields. It was an easy 3km with a beautifully paved road all the way to the village. In the village there were many arts and craftsman busy making the paintwork which is resold in Ubud town, Seminyak, Kuta and Sanur. The artwork could be purchased at wholesale prices.
After 3km a little restaurant sat overlooking one of the largest rice fields. We soaked in the views while eating some fruit and drinking coconut water.
The following day in Ubud we did one last tour. More than any of the other temples on the list for the day we wanted to see the impressive Besakih temple. One of Bali’s holiest of temples it sits on top of a pretty high hill and impressively spans across a large portion of the hill top.
I was pre-warned by the Lonely Planet of the scams the local try to pull on tourists – namely that locals will prevent tourists from walking through Besakih saying a guide is needed. We were equally warned by our driver: we would need to a buy a ticket to go in; there is then a voluntary donation which we can choose to pay; finally if we wish to have a guide we should agree a price that we’re comfortable with upfront so there’s no problems afterwards, but we are not obliged to have a guide.
So we put our Sarongs on and climbed up to Besakih. Out of English politeness I wrote my name in the guestbook and tried to tip them 10,000 Rupiah (50p, I’m not cheap just skeptical).
The guy said, “1,000,000?” looking insulted.
I said “No, 10,000”.
He replied “You mean 100,000”
I said “10,000”, holding up 8 fingers and 2 thumbs for the avoidance of doubt.
He tried one last time “Oh! 10 each”.
I’m beginning to get annoyed at him so just said “I have a ticket to go in yes?”
“And this is a donation, so I can walk away?”
So this warmed us up to what was about to come. We climbed up the hill, showed some men who requested to see the ticket the ticket, then continued. So far so good, but I was on high alert. As we continued further we saw a sign “Please be aware there is a ceremony today”. Nothing more than that. So we attempted to climb one of the three stair cases to the top of the temple. As one foot went forward towards the step, it was as if I had tripped a claymore of local aggressiveness.
Immediately I hear a voice from behind me.
“Sir, excuse me! You can not go up there without a guide. There is a ceremony today”.
“Yes, I know. But I’m allowed to go up. Look I have a ticket.”
“No, sir. Please look at the sign there is a ceremony. You cannot go up without a guide”.
“The sign just says there is a ceremony.”
“You cannot go up. You need a guide. Ask any of these guides.”
I showed him my ticket, “Where does it say I need a guide”.
He pointed to the sign again, “There is the sign”.
“Look, you’re just trying to make money out of a temple. Firstly, I’ve paid for my ticket, I’m going up. Secondly, we’re Hindus from India, so we have a right to prey here so I’m going up. Thirdly, if you have a problem call the tourist police they can find me at the top. I’m done speaking to you. Mum, Dad, follow me”.
Leaving the man behind looking very angry that he’d just lost money, we started marching up the stairs. He didn’t follow. But I had attracted a crowd, other backpackers who were loitering at the base of the temple (the guide had told them similar things), took our defiance as a cue. They followed us up the stairs, pleased that they would get to see the temple they had already paid to see.
A foody recommendation in Ubud
Naturally mum, dad and I had cravings for some spicy, tasty Indian food. We found just the place. Ganesh located just near the Monkey Forest on Monkey Forest Road serves exquisite Indian food. I wholeheartedly recommend the restaurant for its food, ambience and service.
After Ubud we took a fast boat over to Lombok for some more beach time. We opted to stay in Lombok over the Gilis more for the conveniences that came from being on a larger island. We spent the first day lazing on the private beach of the hotel.
On one of the days we did do a day trip over to the Gilis. I stuck with our main boat to do some snorkelling whilst mum and dad chartered a glass bottom boat to take them around (Mum’s not a fan of swimming or deep water and Dad was running a temperature). The main attraction I was looking for in the waters of the Gilis – turtles. And I wasn’t disappointed. I did have a blocked nose, but that didn’t stop me from trying to free dive and get close to the turtles.
Turns out free diving with blocked sinuses has the same problems as any diving with blocked sinuses. I tried too hard to equalise and ended up with a nose bleed for the following few days.
Our hotel had a live band on our last day which was a really pleasant surprise. The chef agreed to make us any meal of our choosing, a second pleasant surprise.
We took the fast boat from Lombok back to Sanur for one last night in Bali. We spent the night in Sanur, close to Bali airport. We still had enough of the ingredients left so mum whipped up one last plate of nachos which would become our last supper before they left for London.
The hotel was nothing less than fantastic:
- The staff and service was amazing.
- They allowed us to check out late because they didn’t have any other guests in our room that day.
- The massage was divine.
- The room clean, modern and different enough from any other hotel room I had been in to make it one of my favourites.
- The hotel also had a free transfer to the airport.
I went with mum and dad to the airport. We sat around drinking coffee for a while until they really needed to head through the security stuff into the departure lounge. So we said good bye. Mum held it together until she had got into the departure lounge before shedding her tears. Having never felt home sick in my life, I headed back to Sanur feeling a little sad. Their visit was a welcomed disruption to my momentum but it was a disruption that would last a few days. It’s easier when I’m the one walking away from home, not when home walks away from me.