The Best of Ubud, Bali

     Actually, this is no one's idea of the best of Ubud. There is an annoying, virtually endless parade of people calling out 'Taxi?' when you walk around town. They aren't persistent, but there are so many of them, it feels that way. Even the taxi drivers are sick of parroting the same word all day, so they make signs to hold up, the more creative with a reverse for when you say, 'No.' I heard of a traveler who made a sign saying 'No thank you' that she would show the taxi drivers when they held up their sign. When the taxi guy reversed his sign, 'Perhaps tomorrow?' she would reverse her sign, which said, 'Not tomorrow either'. Genius! Imagine everyone walking around with a dozen signs of questions and answers that we use to communicate with each other.

     One reason I enjoy my time in Indonesia so much is that I can speak Indonesian, which makes even hanging out with potential taxi drivers fun. I can imagine that claiming to speak Indonesian raises hackles of Indonesians, who must be thinking to themselves, “Here we go again, another sweaty bule (white man) thinks he’s a linguistics scholar because he knows to say “ba’so” instead of “bakso” (a soup). Give me a break.”
     I’m not claiming to be fluent, but I can speak a remedial Indonesian, enough to satisfy the simple conversations I have all the time hitchhiking or on the street. That’s something, isn’t it? Throughout each day I jot down words and phrases I wish I knew and then look them up on Google Translate. “My hovercraft is full of eels” in Indonesian is “Hovercraft saya penuh dengan belut.” Now you know.

     A coconut carved in the shape of a cat!

     Women love Ubud. It’s a very feminine place. Girls are everywhere, but this is the email I get from a guy:

     “I was stopped on my motorbike at the lights earlier today in Ubud and you were walking toward me and I was wondering why I couldn’t look away, so I asked “How are you?” (maybe you remember). And of course, when I rode off I realised I recognised you because I’m a fan of your blog! Small world!
     I’ll be back in Ubud on maybe Friday or Saturday if you’ll still be around and want to meet up for a coffee, juice or beer and talk about the world…”

     Why is it always only guys who can’t take their eyes off of me? No, truth is, I’m chuffed to bits and would love to meet with anyone who takes the time to read my blog, no matter their gender.
     That wasn’t the only amazing coincidence today. I met two Danish sisters who live on the same street in the same small town in southern Denmark as my friends whom I have known forever. The coincidence was almost too spooky for them and they had no problem taking their eyes off me.

     This is an relaxing place to get away from the congestion of central Ubud and hang out by the rice fields, Sari Organik. It's only one kilometer from the market but feels far removed. Any restaurant with the words 'organic' or 'vegetarian' will have a ratio of nearly 10 women to 1 man. It's smart to appeal to women in Ubud. They are more loyal than men.

     My favorite low-end restaurant in Ubud is Puteri Minang on Jalan Raya Ubud 77 around the corner from the post office. It's western Sumatra food which is so omnipresent that it has come to be what people would call Indonesian food. I usually pay between 15,000-18,000 rupiah (just under $2) for a meal. The same owner is still manning the cash register, still making the same bad jokes ('The total is 15,000---euros!') My other go-to option used to be a fish satay guy farther down the street, but standards have dropped, I am devastated to report.

     Tempeh bacem, which Wikipedia helpfully describes as 'tempeh boiled with spices and palm sugar, and then fried for a few minutes to enhance the taste. The result is damp, spicy, sweet and dark-colored tempeh.'

     In Ubud this is a very typical $10 a night room in a family compound. I'm at Wayan 2 Homestay off Jalan Hanoman where there are only three guest rooms. The intricate wood and stone carvings almost make me feel guilty I don't pay more. Almost. A very loud caged bird wakes me up every morning at 6:30, but it's the price to pay for paradise, some would say. I'm not one of them. I alarm the sweet little girl working here by offering to pay her to fry the bird for me.

     I have to thank someone who “Likes” me on Facebook and detests me in real life (just anticipating; we haven’t met yet), Erin Fisher, who gave me the idea to visit Bumi Sehat, a natural birthing clinic here in Ubud. They offer many services; it seems to be quite a focal point in the community. Their founder, an American woman, was selected one of CNN’s Heroes.
     I got a short tour of the small facility which was limited as one woman just gave birth and another resting room was occupied with a newborn and its parents all laying on a small bed, a tender moment that didn’t seem appropriate for me to barge in, “Hi! I’m Kent! How ’bout a photo of the happy family!” They have a long list of needs if you are flying into the country. It’s a shame you can’t mail or freight them anything since they get taxed to death.

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The Best of Ubud, Bali — 8 Comments

  1. Interesting blog! I got the link from your post on CS Jakarta group. Being Indonesian I’d like to deny the not so nice things you wrote about the country, but sadly I can’t agree more. We definitely got a lot to work on, but I’m pretty optimistic. Btw, I’d like to correct something you wrote in this post. Minang (or Padang, as most people say) food is actually from western sumatera. and it’s my number one favorite indonesian food! 😀

    keep up the good blog!

  2. Did I not say nice things about Indonesia? I love Indonesia!
    Every country has a lot of things it can improve on.
    Yes, Padang is more west than north, sorry about that. I will change it next time I have good internet. (OK, I will complain about the slow internet in rural Sulawesi. HA!)

  3. Geez, I knew I shouldnt have read this blog. I found some old incense from my last visit (1996!), lit it, looked at your photos, and now …. I’ll be trolling the net for cheap flights! Thanks a lot Kent – I have more important things I should be doing.

  4. Pingback: Eat rendang, pray for Russians, love the wifi in Bali -

  5. Pingback: EPoP 040: Our Top 10 Accommodations, Food, and Travel Experiences - Extra Pack of Peanuts

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