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Sunday 29 Nov 2015
Ubud, Indonesia

Back in Bali

I was up, packed and all set to leave, when I got a call from the Radisson at 8am to say that my hat had just been delivered – hurrah! – so I asked my taxi to stop at the hotel on the way to the airport.  Happily reunited with my Ecuadorian straw hat, I flew up to Singapore and caught up on my in-flight movies (Philomena, About Time and Dallas Buyers’ Club).  I dragged my bags to the far end of Changi airport and queued for ages to collect my free Changi Dollars, only to be told I wasn’t eligible as I had booked my Singapore Airlines ticket via an agent, rather than direct from their website.  Humph.  I just about had time left for some noodles, which I ate at the gate before boarding my last flight down to Bali.

It cost me USD $25 for a 30-day Visa on arrival in Denpassar, which I can get extended once in Lombok to cover me for 60 days in Indonesia.  Unfortunately, my flights back home are in 63 days, due to a slight oversight when I made the booking.  Had I been able to get the 60-day visa in Australia and then extend it for 30 days, it would not have been a problem.  As it is, I’ll have two months to work out whether I want to stay longer and get a job as a Divemaster after the training, or just bring my flight to Singapore forwards by a couple of days.

Christina’s flight arrived an hour or so later and we got a taxi up to Ubud, about an hour north of the airport.  I was excited to be back in Ubud, having spent such a lovely week here last year.  We had decided to treat ourselves to a nice spa hotel, still within walking distance of the town, but isolated enough to be peaceful.  It turned out to be very well hidden and our taxi had to do two circuits of the town and ask for directions before we found the narrow driveway off the main road. 

The centre of Ubud is essentially a big looping ring road with buildings and narrow alleys along both sides, while the centre of the ring is open countryside, made up of rice paddies and small gardens.  Many of the hotels have very narrow doorways onto the main road, but become long meandering plots of land that weave their way back.  Cendana Spa was one of these, which is what made it so difficult to find.  The taxi squeezed in through a narrow gateway, which lead into a wider driveway behind the first row of buildings.  The hotel reception was a raised platform, open on two sides, with a woven roof supported by dark heavy wooden pillars.  Once we had checked in and enjoyed our welcome glass of chilled fruit juice, we followed the pebbled pathway away from the drive, around a corner, past a swimming pool, around another corner, along past the open-sided restaurant and another pool, before finally squeezing between two buildings and climbing the stairs to our room.  We had the whole top floor to ourselves.  The entrance hallway to our room held a large walk-in bathroom with swinging saloon doors.  The main room had beautiful twin beds with 4-poster canopies made of thick bamboo poles, with solid dark wooden tables and wardrobe.  The walls and ceiling were covered in bamboo matting woven into intricate designs.  We had a small fridge in the corner, next to the patio doors leading out onto our private balcony.  Outside, we had more chunky bamboo furniture with deep cushions.  It cried out for us to sit for a while and enjoy a cold beer… which we did.

The next morning we had breakfast and lazed around by the pool.  Ubud covers quite a steep slope, so the rice paddies in the centre are built over a series of terraces.  Because the hotel was slightly higher than the closest paddies, they’d created and infinity pool effect along that side, allowing the water to overflow and hide the edge.  Once in the water, it looked like you could swim right over to the trees on the far side of the paddies.

We eventually got hungry enough to leave the hotel, so I tried to take Christina to the amazing Baba Gulung restaurant that Sukio took us to at the end of the Intrepid trip last year.  I found the right road and recognised the place that Lynda, Chris and I had our cooking lesson.  The restaurant should have been next door but there was something completely different there now.  I managed to tell someone what we were looking for and we were directed further up the street.  I remembered that the restaurant had been one of two, as Chris and Lynda had gone to the wrong one last time, so off we went.  We found the sign and followed the directions down a very long, winding alley.  I had waxed lyrical about the delicious suckling pig we’d had last year, so good we’d gone back twice more to the same place, so I was really looking forward to trying it again.  By the time we eventually found the restaurant, it was nearly 3pm and the place was half empty.  We hovered around by the door for a while before the waiter reluctantly sat us down.  It was nothing like the warm welcome I remembered, which was a bit off putting.  Eventually, after a stilted conversation, we finally understood that we’d arrived too late and most of the pig was already gone.  All they had left were some vegetables and a few small pieces of pork, but none of the crackling and or side dishes.  Mental note for next time – get there early if you want suckling pig.

We found another restaurant with a first floor terrace where we could watch the activity in the street below us.  The Balinese were preparing for their traditional New Year festival.  They build enormous figures of their assorted animal deities which get paraded through the streets before being set alight.  We watched the construction and decoration of one of these figures – some kind of boar with devil’s horns – while we ate traditional satay and nasi goreng.  The heavens opened with an incredible downpour, which encouraged us to stay put a little longer, but after an hour there was no sign of it letting up, so we walked back in the rain.  We may have got soaked, but at least it was warm!

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