After far too much relaxing in our very comfortable villa, we were all probably ready to go off and explore somewhere new. From the coast we moved in-land to the “cultural capital” of Bali – Ubud.
By cultural capital, what I really mean is tourist and hippy capital. As if Bali could not get any more touristy… welcome to Ubud. Not to say that Ubud is not a fascinating and enticing place, but if we thought the taxi drivers and market sellers were not bad enough in the coastal resorts, the Ubud locals take it to a new level.
Ubud has a long tradition of luring in the world’s wannabe hippies, with relaxation spas, yoga retreats and far too many vegan restaurants littering the majestically winding streets of the town. Not everybody here is a try-hard, some people (like us) were just intrigued as to why Ubud has such a hype around it, however you can’t look around without noticing the active-wear clad Australians marching around flaunting their sports bras, because they want everyone to know that they have just done a tough session of hot yoga.
In terms of nightlife, Ubud was good fun. With almost every bar offering 2-4-1 deals on cocktails during “happy hour” which generally lasted from 1pm until 10pm everyday. I would call that a happy day more than a happy hour, but that’s fine… no complaints from my end. You have to make the right choice on which of Ubud’s bars you should grace with your presence though, otherwise you can end up with a cocktail that tastes more like washing up liquid than a Caipirinha. Best cocktails we found: Mingle Café Bar
As well as food and drink options – which seem to be the main focus in Ubud town, there are some other must-visit landmarks in the area. The first of which was the Monkey Forest. Located at the southern end of Ubud town centre, the Monkey Forest is well known for having some of the sneakiest primate residents since the Jungle Book. We entered with a few apprehensions – I think a few of us have had previous traumatic experiences with the sneaky bullying nature of packs of wild monkeys – but with an open mind. I think we expected chaos, however were somewhat disappointed to find a bunch of fairly unimpressed monkeys, busying themselves by lounging around and scratching their nuts, whilst excitable tourists shoved cameras in their faces. The best bit was seeing unprepared Chinese tourists getting the contents of their backpacks snatched by crafty teams of pick-pocketing macaques; I assume as payback for the forced, un-paid photo-shoots.
As a day trip to get out of town, we all planned to set out to tackle the well known Mt Batur – one of Bali’s volcanoes. Just outside the crisis zone surrounding the imminent eruption of Mt Agung, the slightly smaller Batur was a worthy challenge. Who knew that the day would throw up so many issues that prevented us from scaling the volcano?
Firstly we had all planned to wake up early to fill our bellies and head North towards the volcano. However, Hugo and Hannah had both succumbed to the inevitable Bali Belly, which we all at some point or other, and to varying degrees, suffered from during our two week foray into Indonesia. So the group was down to three, so off we went, Soph and I atop my shitty Honda Scoopy, and Anton nipping along on his slightly more road-worthy Honda alternative. I disliked my Scoopy from the first day that it was delivered to me by our ever-obliging, and slightly strange host, Gusti. My dislike for Scoopy was initially unfounded, and a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to the cumbersome way it tackled almost every aspect of driving on the road. Nevertheless Scoopy got us the 40km to Batur in one piece.
Along the way we stopped at the impressive Tegalalang Rice Terraces, and a bit further long the road were flagged down and ushered into a coffee plantation (I fucking hate coffee, so this was definitely not my doing!) – we accepted mainly because Anton needed the toilet. Whilst there we were offered a wide variety of “free” samples and a “free” guided tour of the plantation – you know, one of those free things that you are made to feel really awkward about until you pay something for, yep, that kind of “free”. Being Anton’s fault for the pit-stop it was down to him to make the payment, so after he had paid far too much for some very average coffee we were off again.
We finally reached Batur and found a trail that lead to the mountain. As it turns out, you cannot climb Batur without a guide – as a local man who just happened to be hanging around politely let us know, before offering the services of his friend to be a guide. It all seemed a bit fishy so we set off to the park office to find out the real deal. Things then got worse. Scoopy decided that he had done enough driving for one day and conked out at the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere! Great…
I unloaded Soph onto Anton’s slightly better bike and pushed Scoopy up hills and rolled him down hills until we stumbled across a small village of locals, none of whom spoke a word of English – unfortunately I had refrained from learning the Indonesian for “Can you help me, my Scoopy bike is a piece of shit and will not start!” That was until the main-man-about-town rocked up speaking excellent English. He nattered away to his somewhat baffled buddy, before laughing and seeming to agree to something. He then explained that they would push my bike to the local mechanic a few kilometres away. This was a real moment of ingenuity; he boarded my bike, and I jumped on behind his lunatic of a friend, who proceeded to kick my bike along the road using the back footrest and a support for his outstretched foot, up hills, precariously close to oncoming traffic and into the next village.
Within about 2 minutes the mechanic had Scoopy up and running again. God knows how, but he clearly knew exactly what was wrong. Only in Asia can you conk out on a terrible piece of machinery in the middle of nowhere, and within half an hour be back on the road again, waiting for the next calamity to occur.
After all this excitement we made our way back to Ubud, via the beautiful Kanto Lampo Waterfall for a dip, before heading to Mingle Bar to drink far too many cocktails and reminisce on our eventful day out.
Next up: Nusa Lembongan for a few days…