Feb. 6, Ubud
It’s incredibly hot and humid, this is the time for writing, reading, swimming, family and friends as expected. Couldn’t sleep after 4 a.m so had the rare pleasure of sunrise, the palm studded silhouette across the gorge through a waking sky. I set off at 6.30 intending to do the Ridge Walk but my hip advised me against it so did a variant of the Yellow Flower Cafe walk exploring the smallest gangs (narrow concrete paved lanes) each with a series of steps at intervals following the drop of the small rice terraces sandwiched between ever-encroaching houses, quite a number of which are rentals for tourists.
My first encounter is as follows:
Rice Field Raga
Ducks offer their early song to the paddy
more Dvorak than Bach or Brahms.
Two dogs strain on morning leashes,
more confident than I on the concrete strip
that bounds the paddy. Tiled roofs throw
shadows to the shallow water, a tapestry
of shimmering silver and tufted green, the
infant crop cool as the wading ducks.
Heat rises rapidly, sweat trickles.
The ducks have it all over me!
Jon is so sure it will rain today as huge cumulus clouds grow, and though we hear distant thunder, by 7 pm still not a drop. And just as I write a few drops fall. But that’s it! It’s our last day here for the first ’round’, Candidasa tomorrow where we will meet up with Jon’s brother Dave flying over from the USA.
Feb 7. Ubud-Candidasa
She of the cast iron stomach has come down with a bit of Bali belly and as we made our way to breakfast up the steps became very poorly for a short time so not much food today.
The 1 1/2 hour drive, like any in Bali, is interesting and most enjoyable. We pass through small streets where artisans make and sell their various products – heavy wooden furniture, doors, wall partitions, stone temple pieces and as we get into the rural, plant nurseries. The road for the first hour was familiar as it was the route to the hospital Jon was in on our last trip. So great to see him managing this trip so well.
We pass through diverse landscapes of rice paddies. The sea appears on our right as we approach the Candidasa area, to our left hills, mountains and thick groves of coconut palms. It is intensely green and extraordinarily beautiful and I am somehow reminded of Goa, India.
Our accommodation, Bali Santi Bungalows, is set back off the small but busy main road, approached through a little lane and is located on the sea. Here we have free-standing bungalows all set on a diagonal along two parallel paths surrounded by lush tropical plantings, large handsome stone tubs with plants and at night large handsome rattan lights illuminate the paths. The room is a huge 32sq.mts. with a large L-shaped couch, desk, various lighting alternatives, large glossy white tiles and an outdoor mandi (bathroom). The front porch has a rocking chair and 3-person couch. All this for $60 p.d and much better value than our Ubud accommodation. The open dining area, bar and pool face out to sea overlooking Nusa Penida, a large island. Dave arrives an hour after us having survived the long flight from USA via Hong Kong and the coronavirus scare, good going at a young 78!
The infinity pool overlooks the sea and after an always empty pool at Taman Indrakila in Ubud, it is a change to share it with a few (overweight) Poles who entirely ignore me – suits me fine. No Russians so far.
Grey skies set in during the afternoon and this time it does rain dropping the temperature several degrees immediately, so much so that we have no need of the aircon and even lower the fan. Hard to believe that outside I feel a tiny bit chilled after a sweltering eight days! It pours down for an hour or more leaving a few centimetres of water on the paths and roads and flooding the little garden beds.
A stroll around the immediate area an hour later reveals several resorts, warungs (cafe/restaurant), two rated highly by Trip Advisor and an enticing place called Loaf, tiny with contemporary decor where everything including fabulous looking breads and cakes and espresso coffee is made on site.
Feb. 8, Morning Walk, Green Bananas/Afternoon Coffee and Cake
Breakfast at Loaf, a four-minute walk away but Miss Bali Belly eats green bananas (beyond delicious) and yoghurt. I chat to the waiter, another elegant, handsome young man with pierced ears wearing traditional clothes, and learn that it is owned by an older Australian man married to a Balinese woman for whom the waiter used to clean house. They became very close, we are like brothers, and the Australian announced his intention to build a cafe which he wanted the young man to run. That was four years ago. A great business with a small menu of excellent non-Indonesian food. A lovely story.
The men enjoy delicious food before we walk into the heart of Sengkidu, a village a couple of kilometres down the road, noisy motorbikes whirring. Only now do I see a high mountain across the rice fields and notice it has a blown off top. Behold, Agung the great volcano! We take a side turn down to the beach, by now very hot, time for a cold drink and Jon has another ‘breakfast’! Cab back and into the pool to cool. The place is filling up and, while not a Russian is here, the Aussies have taken over! A respectable but uninteresting lot.
Later, leaving a well fed Jon sleeping, Dave and I try out Warung Bintang, rated #2 of 80 local places by Trip Advisor and very inexpensive. It is wonderful. Very simple, no decor a raised terrace overlooking the glorious rice fields and mountains (Agung not visible), soft Balinese music plays and the wait staff dress traditionally. These are the places we most enjoy. I figure by now I should try some rice and order a chilli-less nasi goreng, very good.
It’s starting to sound like all we do is eat but the days are hot and humid and much reading and writing goes on in between. By late afternoon it’s time to try the after-4pm, low-rate coffee-and-cake at Loaf, the reduced price aimed to clear what is there and ensure constant freshly baked produce. The coffee is excellent and Dave orders a slice of incredibly rich dense chocolate cake of which I sample a small fingernail-size bit, and Jon an apple pie, choc full of apple of which I eat a third. Oh how good!
While there, we get talking to an older American woman, a teacher who has been living in Bali for 25 years. She is the only westerner living in her area near Tirta Gangga and in recent times alcohol has become a problem amongst the locals, leaving her feeling unsafe for the first time. She needs to relocate. She was there with her friend and driver Ketut whose family owns and runs a program called Side By Side, created by volunteers and globally concerned citizens and student groups around the world. Their aim is to preserve an indigenous way of life, encourage cross-cultural understanding and help the local farmers return to an organic, green way of life. It also offers a homestay and restaurant. The American woman has been teaching English to farmers and children of the local village. While talking to them about the disconnection of city kids from the natural world, Singapore comes into the conversation as an unusual example of an intensely urbanised city which has embraced greenness. Ketut informs me that Singapore imports rich soil from the Indonesian island closest to it, and that being only 20 minutes away by ferry, many Singaporeans come over for rural, replenishing weekends!
The men return to Bali Santi but I round the corner to explore a little of the side road I have been curious about. On one side it’s bounded by paddies for some distance, with houses opposite before a considerable hill covered with more houses, rises. Some wonderful traditional architecture so shoot a few more photos. Whenever I walk in local areas, dogs bark at me – they certainly recognize a tourist as different. Turning up a short small street running off the tree-lined road, I pass a few little boys, the slightly older one speaks a little English, the younger boys none but we communicate and then the youngest ‘secretly’ follows me, so I gesture for them to come and we walk together to the nearby end. Sampai jumpa lagi (see you later) I say in my very best Bahasa and we all wave bye-bye, only to be repeated as I turn onto the proper road and head home via a short stroll through the paddies.
Jon and I go to Warung Bintang alone for dinner after 8pm, Dave worried about slipping on wet surfaces. Quite a few people are already eating and we are surprised to see at least six manning the small kitchen. I order soto ayam, chicken soup with glass noodles and a little vegetable, no chilli yet thanks, very good, Jon has calamari followed by fried chicken with a great spicy tomato sambal and we share a black sticky rice cooked in coconut milk, figuring that would serve my stomach well.
The owner joins us and we talk for a long time. Has built this business over four years, the first two tough, making just enough to pay wages. He has three trainee cooks at any time but is happy to see them move on for better job opportunities after training , just as he did. Hotels can offer better wages of course than small warungs.
Feb.9 Candidasa: The Rain Sets In
Rain overnight but a clear patch to walk to Loaf for yoghurt/boring/banana and delicious food for the men! Yep, feeling Ok but the runs remain with me after last night’s food. More green bananas. We had thought to go to Candidasa proper to have a look see but it’s torrential by mid morning.